TransAmerica Trail – Day 17

Salida CO to Blue Mesa Reservoir CO

We woke around 6:30, gassed up the car and picked up cinnamon rolls and coffee for breakfast. Pulled my air filter expecting it to be full of dust but not as bad as I thought. Just a little shake and it was good as new.

The word for today is YELLOW! Colorado is ablaze with color.

The trail started out down US Route 50 west for a few miles then took a turnoff for Marshall Pass. All Trails has this rated as very easy but as a very inexperienced 4-wheeler it was enough for me. The trail immediately started to climb and the drop off at the side made us both clench a bit, especially when we were on the outside edge. The road was graded and most of it was wide enough to pull to the side and let another car pass. Luckily it wasn’t very busy so we wound our way toward the top. Most of it was through either BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land or National forest. The east side was St Isabel National Forest and the west side was Gunnison National Forest.

Lots of people wild camping in some beautiful spots all along the trail. At the summit there was a pull off with vault toilets. A sign marked this as the Continental Divide. Rivers on the east side ultimately flowed to the Atlantic and rivers to the west flowed to the Pacific.

As we pulled up a fellow called us over and pointed out a moose in the trees just below. It was hard to see and didn’t photograph well but the thing was huge. It struck me that it was much darker colored than the moose we’ve seen in Alaska, almost black. Got to talking with the guy, his name was Bill Powers and he was originally from Lansing, he moved to Colorado as a young man in 1968. What a character! Told us about playing semi-pro basketball back in the 60’s said he had college offers but wanted to get paid. He told us about his girlfriend, his daughter, all the people he had known back in Michigan. I’ll bet we talked for over a half hour he went on and on. His home was a pickup truck and a small trailer that had seen better days but he was completely content. I think he doesn’t get to talk much so we just let him go and really enjoyed it.

Continuing down the mountain the colors were breath taking! We found a nice spot next to a stream and made toasted bacon and tomato sandwiches, they were very yummy.

As we left dirt and continued west on US Route 50 we started having fewer trees, when we saw the Blue Mesa Reservoir we knew we wanted to camp somewhere along there. There were several National Forest campgrounds and we chose one at the west end near the dam. There ended up being three other vehicles in the 100 site campground.