Colorado, August 2005
The first adventure I will share here took place in August 2005. I drove from St. Louis, MO to ABQ, New
Mexico. I could not find a suitable place in ABQ to camp when I arrived. Using my AAA campground book, I
found a campground about 70 miles further west at Lavaland Campground. I called ahead to request a campsite
and even though it was getting late when I arrived, the owners still had the office open waiting for me when I
drove in and they helped me get a campsite for the night. The next day I had a really nice visit with the owners,
got some local info, then I headed out on the road again. I elected to take the adventure path of going to the La
Ventana Natural Arch Area and from there I would decide the rest of my plan. I did visit the arch, then I
continued on to the Lava Falls trail, where I met a nice lady from Colorado. We hiked the trail, took photos and
since both of us were without plans for the evening, we elected to go to the Datil Wells area and camp. Turned
out to be a really neat drive on some dirt back roads through ranch country. We did a hike at the end of the day
around the Datil Wells Campground, then camped there for the evening. Then next morning we each went our
own way, as she had a plane to catch in ABQ and I had more places to visit for sightseeing.
I arrived in ABQ, a place I had considered as a future base for my adventure trips. I spent a few hours driving
around the area, then headed on north towards Colorado, where I planned for a one week solo backpack trip
near Aspen. I passed Santa Fe and continued on into Colorado. I camped west of the Monarch Pass. The
following day I went through Monarch Pass, and headed on to my next destination, the North Rim of the Black
Canyon of the Gunnison. I had never been there before. As I passed through Gunnison, the weather was looking
iffy. Dark clouds coming in. Along the way I ran into patches of rain, but was still able to see most of the views,
before the rain actually caught up with me. My plans were for me to be at the trail head and starting on the
backpack trip in a day or two, but the rain would not stop...I called back home a lot of times getting weather
reports for the area where I was..It did not look good...I almost headed home. But, a friend talked me into
staying. I used the rain days to explore some of the local areas. I ended up driving to Steamboat Springs and
spent a day there seeing the area. Leaving Steamboat, I camped west of there at a campground I found in my
book. The next day I stopped at a springs resort, and spent a couple hours soaking in the hot pools of
water..Leaving there, I headed south again. I traveled through Leadville, over Independence Pass and made my
way to the Snowmass trail head just before dark on a Thursday evening. I camped at the trail head and waited to
see what the weather brought during the night. In the morning, several hikers showed up and headed up the trail
before I got up...I thought that if they could do it, so could I, so I packed up and headed off on what would be
one of the best adventures of my life..The trip would prove to be awesome. Snowmass Lake was about nine
miles from the trail head where I left my car. The trip through the lowlands was slow as I was loaded heavy, I
could not travel fast, but I kept moving. My first camp was about 7 miles from the trail head, at the base of the
first really steep hill. Was a great campsite. I arrived at Snowmass Lake the morning of the second day. Took
pictures and headed for my first pass, but I had to have the help of some other hikers to find the trail to the pass,
there are just so many local paths that I could not find the one to the pass.  Climbing towards the top, I thought I
was going to die. I was hurting. But, then, out of the valley came two young people who caught up to me, smiled,
said the storms would not arrive until later in the day, and kept going. I thought that if they can do it, I can too or
I can die trying... I arrived at the top at about 1:00 PM. No turning back now! I've got it made...The trip from this
point on was just one beautiful sight after another. I did not meet very many people along the way, but all were
friendly and looked to be having as much fun as I was.
I chose  the counterclockwise path around the loop. The rains did not catch up to me until I was headed towards
Moroon Lake. From this point  I got quite a bit of rain, mixed with sun. I arrived at Buckskin Pass in nice
weather, but by the time I could eat lunch and get going again, a storm come in from the direction of Snowmass
Lake, which was my next, and last place to camp. I tried to wait it out, but the sleet, rain and lightning would not
let up, so I headed out in it. Was nerve racking to be out in the open and hurrying along to find the cover of trees
below the ridges I was hiking on... I caught up with some people traveling with lamas. There got a little turned
around a couple of times, but I helped them get on the right trail again. The Trails Illustrated maps are better
than nothing, but they are far from good. They are not to be trusted.  At the creek crossing the lama people turned
back in fear of harm to the animals while crossing. I waded the creek in the rain, waved bye and headed on to
Snowmass Lake. I arrived there just before dark. The rain had stopped. I set up camp, got some warm drink in
me and then ate supper. Also visited with the neighbors who there to climb Snowmass the next morning. The
older fellow I was talking to had climbed all the 14ers seven times, I think. He had been climbing since he was
a kid. I think his last name was Smith.
The next morning, it was sunny and beautiful. I spent a little time drying some of my clothes and gear, then I  
packed up and hiked the 9 miles back to my car. Got back around 6:30 PM on Thursday, I think. Started eating
the bag of Doritos, my favorite junk/treat food, which I had packed away in the car... Tasted GREAT!!!!!!! I took
a few final photos, and started driving home. Used the cell phone to check with everyone back home. Some
were worried about me but figured I was probably okay... I drove to a place west of Denver, slept in the car,
then drove almost non stop to Kansas City where friends let me use their shower to clean up and spend the
night... Felt GOOD!!! Saturday morning about 4 AM, I was up and gone. Arrived back in St. Louis before noon
Saturday. Was a super trip after all...
The photos you will find here should be in the order taken, but there is not much in the way of captions, yet...
Those will be added later... The photo links can be found on Page 2.

Click
here for page 2.
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Tom Ballard Photography