10-Jun-2012 -- This begins an expedition west of Colorado Springs in an attempt to visit eight confluences along 38 and 39 North with the goal of completing two unbroken lines of 26 confluence visits from 123 West to 98 West.
My daughters had finished the USAF Academy Summer Seminar on Friday, taken the ACT college entrance exam Saturday morning and then, one flew home for a basketball camp -- getting onto the same airplane her mom had just arrived on.
My wife had flown out to be part of this western confluence expedition. Today, we dropped our other daughter back at the Academy for a week long volleyball sports camp and then started our journey west towards Crested Butte.
The previous month had been a whirlwind as this confluence plan evolved. The eastern twelve visits accomplished last week were added on at the last minute. The primary focus of my planning for the past couple of months had been these remote confluences.
New tires, a rack to carry a second spare tire (outside the vehicle) and all sorts of self-recovery equipment were packed into our Tahoe, now it was time to have some fun camping and exploring!
A last minute schedule conflict prevented our planned joint confluence visit with Sam Gallucci.
The temperature change as we rose in altitude was certainly welcomed. It was our first time through the aptly named Crested Butte. There was a lot of green and other colors on the mountains as we continued north on a very nice dirt road through aspens and open fields. We passed the town of Gothic and the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory and into the Gunnison National Forest passing the Gothic Campground which looked like a great place to camp! We turned east on the road towards Rustler Gulch and the road quickly changed in character. After crossing a stream, we decided to park and hike the remaining 1.3 km. A low clearance vehicle could easily make it up to the turnoff just beyond the campground.
We hiked up the road until we found the trail head for Rustler Gulch Trail Number 599 where there was a registration box for horse users. The wilderness boundary was to the east. A high clearance or 4wd vehicle could make it up to this point only 275 meters away from the confluence.
We followed the trail north until the treeline and then continued east. Familiarity with the Google Earth imagery paid dividends here, hiking north of the point makes for a much easier stream crossing where we were 200 meters away. We found a fallen tree to use as a bridge. Up a slight hill and into a clearing and we were only 57 meters away. This is where some of my pictures were taken as the actual confluence is in a heavily treed area.
The confluence dance lasted quite a long time as multipath and other factors conspired to keep the computed position wandering. Remembering that Joseph Kerski had located the confluence at the intersection of two diagonal trees, I set up my Trimble to begin capturing data on the end of the larger log as shown is his Picture #1. The post processed GPS position in my Picture #6 is in close agreement with his location.
On our way back we decided to take a short detour to look at the stream. I believe we found the same vantage point that Russ Cooper and his group were at in his Picture #2. I am amazed my Picture #8 shows fallen trees on the far slope in the same relative position almost 11 years later! The slope exceeds the angle of repose. I would have thought that snowpack and runoff would produce more visible changes in this extremely steep ravine.
By now, the sun had gone behind the mountains and we continued back to our vehicle in twilight. We found a great place to stay in Crested Butte. You can experience this part of our journey in a short time lapse movie made from our GoPro camera that was taking pictures of our entire trip every 10 seconds. Follow along on a YouTube video here. It’s HD so you should be able to select full screen.
As we were leaving the next morning, we saw the coolest supersized polished metal dragon and knight statues right across the street from our hotel. The temperature was also below freezing – a very welcome change from Arizona this time of the year!!
What a great start to our confluence adventure! Next stop, 38N 108W!