02-Nov-2014 -- On a cool, windy, dark November morning Kurt and I began our trek to this confluence, its first visit since 2001. We tore down camp right near 40°N 107°W at 4:30am the morning after Daylight Savings Time ended. After breakfast at the 24-hour Penny’s Diner in Yampa (great food and friendly service), we drove north on Route 131 until turning left onto CR 27 in Oak Creek; here we gazed back at an amazingly colorful sunrise and an unbelievably vivid morning double-rainbow as we drove northwest toward Craig under increasingly ominous skies. By the time we turned west on Route 40 and reached Craig it was 38°F and absolutely pouring rain. Turning north on Route 13 we drove out of the rain and almost into Wyoming before turning left and heading west along the well-maintained CR 4. About 20 miles later, right after crossing a small bridge across the Little Snake River, we turned north onto CR 21N. This road turns northeast and then east, and as each natural gas site is passed the road gets slightly worse (I would recommend 4WD). We eventually reached a fence with an ungated cattle guard through which we drove east, now along a two-track trail. When the path became even too rough for my Jeep we parked here at about 9:00am, approximately 0.7 miles from the confluence.
We had driven back into rain but as we stepped out of the car it was 33°F and the rain was just turning to snow. Ten minutes into our hike the precipitation was exclusively huge, fluffy flakes. There was no snow on the ground, which was covered in scrub grass and many cacti. This made for a surreal and beautiful desert scene.
A large descent into the canyon to the north of the road by which we approached is required to reach this confluence, which sits at the bottom. I would recommend veering around the smaller “tributary gullies” that lead to this larger canyon and trying to drop down directly from the top, particularly if the ground is wet. We learned this the hard way – the muck in the first gully made our boots weigh twice as much as it accumulated on our soles! We rerouted essentially due north until we achieved a clear vantage of the canyon (see photo #2); from here we dropped down into it and adopted a northeast trajectory directly to the point, crossing the dry riverbed of the East Fork Cherokee Creek. Ducking under a final obstacle, a maintained barbed wire fence, we arrived at the site around 9:30am.
The snow stopped as we lingered at the site, easily zeroing out and taking pictures of the austere canyon environment. The silence and desolation was awe-inspiring. We then made our way back to the car a bit quicker, now knowing the appropriate route. At the top of the ridge exiting out of the canyon we stopped by a post we had seen from afar on our way in (see photo #9): an Enron survey post dated 10/26/14, exactly 20 years and one week ago. If only the placers knew what we know now…
We were back by 10:00am for a round-trip hiking time of one hour. The sun was just starting to peek out of the clouds. I would estimate that the hike was two miles round-trip. Of the five confluences in northwestern Colorado that Kurt and I visited this weekend, this was my favorite. The desert snow was really cool, and the short hike was perfect. Next up we continued west to 41°N 109°W
to the very northwest corner of the state.