20-Nov-2014 -- This confluence has not been visited since September 11, 2001 and for good reason: it lies on Ute Mountain Ute land and is off-limits to anyone unauthorized by the tribe. I was lax in my preparation for this and didn’t end up calling the tribe’s headquarters until the day before, stupidly. However, upon calling the switchboard number and explaining to the operator my mission and asking whom I would need to go through for permission, he suggested that he, as a member of the tribe, could just accompany me to the site I wished to visit if it were just off the road and all I needed were a few pictures. What incredible luck! We exchanged numbers and agreed to meet at the tribe’s casino at 8am the following morning.
I pulled up to the casino outside the town of Towaoc (improbably pronounced Toy-yock) and Merlin hopped in. We journeyed south on 160 until reaching this pull-off. Here we traveled in my Jeep for another half mile, through one gate, before the trail became impassable due to wet, marshy ground and close, scratchy vegetation. From here the GPS said 1.1 miles to the confluence. It was 8:45am and 29°F when we began walking.
Having seen from a satellite image that this same trail ventured quite near the point, we attempted to follow it pretty closely through the marsh. This proved difficult at times, particularly with the wet melting ground and the dense network of branches. We exited out of this after a third of a mile and it was smooth sailing and a straight, flat shot to the confluence from there. The point lies on a flat floodplain north of the San Juan River that must take a crazy flash flood to see any water coverage. The view was incredibly expansive all around. I tried to imagine what the mood was like the last time the site was visited, the day of the 9/11 attacks. I also showed Merlin the GPS zeroes and tried to convince him of the specialness of the site. He was mildly suspicious at best.
Upon hitting the marsh again on the return trip we decided to skirt the edge of the marsh where the north canyon wall begins to sharply slope upward to meet the rim, out of the vegetation. This was a much better and drier decision, cutting this portion of our traverse in half. We arrived back at the car at 10:00am on the dot, an hour and 15 minutes after beginning. I profusely thanked Merlin, dropped him off back in Towaoc (remember: Toy-yock), and then headed east toward my final confluence of seven on this trip, 37N 106W.