20-Jul-2020 -- Researching this confluence a month ago I resolved to approach from the north via the San Carlos Trail as all the previous visitors had. The morning of my departure from Fort Collins, Colorado I awoke to discover that the Pueblo office of the National Weather Service had issued a blanket Flash Flood Watch for the San Isabel National Forest. This was a problem for two reasons: 1) in order to reach this confluence from the north you must descend into a small canyon and cross the normally placid and low-flow Saint Charles river via rocks or a makeshift wooden bridge (who knew if it was still there), and 2) I was planning on backcountry camping at the trailhead the night before. I made a flash decision to approach from the south instead, using Forest Road 320 off of Old San Isabel Road.
The southern route is well marked with signs off CO-165 indicating the way to the San Carlos campground and southern terminus of the San Carlos Trail at the end of FR320. I arrived at the beginning of this forest road a few hours before sunset and discovered that it is impassible for a low clearance vehicle beyond perhaps a quarter mile as it rapidly descends over lurchy, lumpy earth toward the primitive campground. I set up my hammock and rain fly off the road here and spent the pre-midnight hours in the adjacent meadow gazing northwestward at the majestic Comet NEOWISE which was back for a quick visit to our Sun after 6,500 years away. I also learned to identify the constellations Scorpio and Cassiopeia.
In the morning, temperature in the mid-50s and still no rain, I donned my joggers and at 6:33am set off along FR320 toward the confluence, knife in hand in case of overly curious wildlife, arriving three miles away at the southern terminus of the San Carlos Trail around 7:15am (see photo #2). I signed the Forest Service log (the sixth party to do so this year) and continued northeastward along a less-maintained trail until I hit 105W longitude. From there I ventured 100m farther eastward, then northward until I was within a few hundred feet of 38N. It then got real steep real fast. The 40-degree downhill angle northward toward the St. Charles River was indeed challenging, and I agree with Joseph Kerski that this is the quintessential Colorado confluence, a mixture of cliffs, conifers, slopes, scree, needles, river, and backwoods allure, yet with curiously close accessibility from a trail. My visit comes almost exactly 14 years after the last visit by Kerski and Fleming.
Zeroing out took about five minutes, which was less time than I'd expected given the tree cover and towering rock formations. The pictures don’t do the angle of the slope justice.
I was back to my hammock by 9:00am. It never ended up raining, neither yesterday nor today. This was my 30th confluence of 31 total in my home state of Colorado. So, southward bound to 37N 105W tomorrow to wrap up the lot. Tonight, hanging my hammock at Purgatoire Campground in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains for another night of cookstove ramen and NEOWISE-gazing.