06-Apr-2002 -- After a dinner at Outback after work on Friday the 5th of April, I headed south on I-25 to Pueblo which is about 2 hours south of Denver. I had reservations at the Marriott near the Pueblo Convention Center in the old part of downtown. After checking in, I decided to see the town and check out some night spots mentioned in the Fodor’s "Colorado" book. Using my Garmin eMap and looking for the intersection of Elm and Mesa, I found Gus's Tavern quickly. Without the GPS, I’m sure I would have never found this bar which was off the beaten path in the middle of a mature residential area. I was interested in visiting the place after it was described as being famous for pouring the most beer for a place of its size. There I had some Peroni’s Italian beer and spoke with one of the servers named Charnell Hall. She works there but gave me a business card that announced her as an account executive for a local marketing firm. Pueblo used to be a steel town and the beer record was undoubtedly set years ago during the reign of the steel mills. Now, the mills are closed and the neighborhood and the bar are quite tame. The original Gus and his son are now both gone but they are memorialized in huge black and white photographs on the wall above the bar. It is currently operated by Gus’s daughter-in-law who is now in her 70s and lives in the house next door which is connected to the bar. After explaining my plan to Charnell, I said my goodbyes and got back to my hotel room by 10 PM.
On Saturday, I arose early and had breakfast in the hotel restaurant. I noticed that the meeting rooms were named after individuals. Turns out they are all medal of honor recipients from Pueblo. The Convention Center is also so dedicated and there are realistic statues of the honorees outside. Continuing south on I-25, I took the exit at Walensburg to drive west on US 160. Only a few miles outside of town the unmistakable features of the Spanish Peaks were distinct to the south.
The Ute Indians in this area called these mountains "Huajatolla" which means "breasts of the world". The Spaniards gave them the name of Dos Hermanos which means Two Brothers. They are a prominent landmark for a wide area.
I was now on Colorado Highway 12 known as the Scenic Highway of Legends. I stopped in the small resort town of La Veta to fill my SUV’s tank with gas and my stomach with water. I spoke with a volunteer at the Francisco Fort Museum in town who told me that things don’t really get going in town until after May 1st. She pointed out the crocuses coming out in the small garden in front of the museum. She mentioned that it had been 13 degrees below zero just two weeks ago.
I continued south on C12 through beautiful forested mountain scenery dotted with small ranches and cabins. Around a sharp curve, I quickly came upon a herd of miniature burros grazing along the road. They seemed completely unaffected by the cars driving by but seemed a little concerned when I stopped to photograph them. I had never seen anything like them.
Next town was Cuchara, which sits in a very narrow valley and has the Spanish name for spoon. There is a ski resort here and some guest cabins and a moderately-sized Cuchara Inn. The road leaving Cuchara began climbing steeply to the Cuchara Pass at 9,941 feet and then quickly descended into the Animas County and the old coal mining towns of Stonewall, Weston, Segundo and Cokedale. I was headed towards Weston and a road called on my maps Wet Canyon Road.
At Weston, I spoke with the lady at the Weston Store and Post Office. She told me that the road south from C12 was not in good shape and I would be much better off to go back "exactly" ten miles to the Picketwire Inn and Store in Stonewall. She also told me that the area I was interested in was a part of the Tercio Ranch and private. She gave me the name of the ranch foreman, Charlie Womack but didn’t have his phone number. I thanked her and bought more water.
Reluctantly I turned back north to retrace my "steps" to Stonewall. The drive was "exactly" ten miles from the Weston Store. I went in to the store at Picketwire and told the young lady behind the counter what I was up to. She was not impressed and more than slightly bewildered. She confirmed that the road right by the store was the one to Tercio and confirmed that Charlie Womack was the foreman who’d be the only person who might grant me permission to go onto the property. However, she knew he was out of town in Grand Junction as her husband had gone there with him. Turns out that her husband works on the Tercio Ranch.
She did confirm that the road was in good shape and that I could get all the way to Tercio as there was an old cemetery there and the County Road was maintained for access to that cemetery.
It was about a five mile drive from paved C12 along this dirt road to Tercio. Right near town there were houses on both sides, but quickly I was out in the open surrounded only by trees and hills. Cattle grazed on the gentle slopes on either side of the road. This was definitely not vegetarian country.
After crossing the upper fork of the Purgatoire River on a single lane wooden bridge, I saw the cemetery on my right surrounded by a wooden rail fence. I then came upon the locked gate and I realized that my journey to the confluence was only going to be an attempt. I took photos of the GPS readout.
I had fallen short of my goal but had discovered the name of the ranch foreman and an address to send a request letter for access. I had gotten within 4.32 miles which was quite a bit short of the required "within 100 meters" requirement to call it a "visit".
The spot was so peaceful, beautiful and quiet that I spent some additional time at this spot. The weather was very comfortable with a very nice breeze blowing off the nearby snow-covered mountains in the distance. I took photographs of some of the more interesting cemetery monuments which ranged from the late 1800s to 1998. It was a truly a magical place.
Even though I had not reached my goal, I had had a great drive through some of Colorado’s most beautiful scenery on a absolutely gorgeous day while enjoying the music of Dave Matthews Band (thank you, Kim), Sting, Boney James and the Rippingtons. If this was a failure, I should wish for more.
My trip ended in the historic town of Trinidad where I had lunch before heading north on I-25 for Denver and home.
April 6, 2002