Wolf Creek Pass, Way Up On the Great Divide

If you're young enough or sophisticated enough that the title of this post didn't trigger a tune in your head that involves trucks and chickens, you might want to do an Internet search for C. W. McCall. Another choice would be to call me and have me sing you the chorus. I recommend the first option.

For the rest of you, feel free to hum along while you read. You can thank me later for getting the song stuck in your brain for the rest of the day.

Traveling spontaneously, without a schedule or advance reservations, can be wonderful. It gives you the freedom to change your plans, go where your fancy takes you, and follow your impulses.

After a hike down into—and back up out of—Canyon de Chelly on the Navaho reservation in northeastern Arizona, we headed for Colorado. Our plan was to spend the night at Durango and then head east and north in a relaxed and spontaneous manner. It was an excellent plan, made in blissful ignorance that on Labor Day weekend there is a motorcycle rally in the southern Rocky Mountains.

When we ambled into the Comfort Inn at Durango about 7:00 p.m. and said we wanted a room, the young woman at the desk was too polite to say, "Are you nuts?" She merely explained that every room in Durango was full. She suggested we might find one 60 miles east at Pagosa Springs.

A bit discouraged but still spontaneous, we drove on to Pagosa Springs, where we trotted into the lobby of the first motel we came to. "Sorry," the clerk said. Everything in town was full. He did think, though, the very expensive lodge just down the street had a couple of suites left.

We negotiated our way through a maze of service roads to find the very expensive lodge, screeched to a halt in front of its very expensive looking lobby, girded up our wallets, and hurried in—just in time to hear a biker tell the desk clerk, "Your last room? We'll take it. Guess it's our lucky day, huh?"

Certain that this same biker had passed us on the road a few miles outside of Durango, and wondering why there was never a highway patrolman around when you needed one, we went back to the car.

According to the map, the next town was South Fork, 44 miles away. The road, up and over Wolf Creek Pass, was marked as a "scenic route." Since it was after 8:30 and full dark by now, this designation did not cheer us. We were tired, cranky, and carefully not thinking about either the possibility of sleeping in the car or the intermittent grinding noises the brakes had been making all day.

In a dogged but spontaneous manner, we headed up Wolf Creek Pass. It was a classic mountain road, winding its way higher and higher around sharp curves and steep grades and switchbacks. There was an occasional scenic overlook. We didn't stop.

Finally, near the top of the pass, we did pull over and get out to stretch and wake ourselves up with a little fresh air. It felt fresh, all right—about 40 degrees fresh. Still, we stood outside for as long as we could, looking at the scenery.

Yes, scenery. Stars. At that altitude and distance from any town, the stars were visible in a way most of us in our street-lighted communities rarely see. The Milky Way was a bright path across the sky. Constellations were vivid shapes against the darkness. It was (at least to the non-geologist in the party) even more awe-inspiring than the grandeur of the canyon we had explored at the beginning of the day.

Eventually, shivering, we got back into the car and headed down the mountain. A few miles further on, we found the elderly but clean Wolf Creek Ski Lodge. It had one room left. We settled in gratefully and slept the sound sleep of those who enjoy relaxed and spontaneous travel.

We were even more grateful the next day that we hadn't had to drive another 120 miles to Walsenburg. They were hosting a classic car rally.

Categories: Just For Fun, Living Consciously, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “Wolf Creek Pass, Way Up On the Great Divide

  1. Ginny Putz

    In the year of 1957[or was it ’58?]we were to leave our house in town and spend the winter with Frank’s dad in Los Angeles. We left town in the wee hours of the morning, and drove and drove and drove and DROVE into the dark hours of the night…..Frank was determined to get from point A to point B in the least time he could. Somewhere in the wilds of Utah, the moans and cries of myself and our son, persuaded him to stop for what remained of the rest of the night….we found a little motel and fell exhausted into bed around eleven o’clock, and five hours later were on the road again. We arrived in Covina, California around 3pm that afternoon. But we were younger then……The tables were turned in my favor YEARS later, in1978,when on the way to Arizona, I had Frank stop at every historical marker along the road so that I could copy in my notebook, every word on the plaques……Ginny

  2. Frank

    Ginny and I don’t drive to see our son and family in Montana during the Sturgis Bike rally. We made that mistake once, when they first moved out there. We found that one can’t find an unoccupied rest room or fast food joint between Mitchell and the Wyoming border as there are hundreds of bikes in all the parking lots, to say nothing about them all over the roads. Thanks for the blog. Frank

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