Sunday, November 18, 2007

Kennebec Pass above LaPlata Canyon

The LaPlata Canyon is between the Animas Valley and Durango to the east and Mancos to the west, in southwest Colorado. There is a 14 mile road up the canyon to the Kennebec Pass and though the road starts out paved, by the last four miles it is a rough 4WD road. The north turnoff from Highway 160 is across from the Hesperus Ski Area.

The last sement of road too rough for me to drive so I started my hike about 2 hours, or 4 miles, below the pass. It was beautiful in the canyon but relentlessly uphill. The LaPlata canyon area was originally a hot mining area and there are interpretive signs and discarded relics along the way, old industry mixing in with lush wildflower meadows.

Lower down, where there are some ranches and houses, everyone seemed to have a homemade sign protesting some new proposed mining activity and they seemed quite intense about it. "Go mine Uranus" shouted one sign.
The Kennebec pass taps into the Colorado Trail, a 483 mile route from Denver to Durango. I only went about a mile on the actual trail and encountered a mountain biker who seemed lightly loaded and was stopping to walk on a steep section. I asked if he had just started on the nearby trail head, and he said he had started at Denver, about 460 miles away.

The mile I walked was to the right, or east and leads 21 miles to the Junction Creek Trailhead near 25th Street in Durango. Turning left leads 53 miles to a crossing of Highway 550 at Little Molas Lake.

The meadows up here were as lush with wildflowers as any place I've seen, and the mountain peaks to the north seemed endless. One of the trail segments up here is also known as the Indian Ridge trail, and was used by the Utes to travel to the hot springs over by Ouray, CO. a town that calls itself the Switzerland of America.

Another trail segment is known as the Slide Rock Trail. It is possible to hike to Kennebec Pass on this trail from the Forest Road that starts at Junction Creek and continues past the Animas Overlook Trail.

A short side trail led to a small abandoned mining camp. The camp outhouse, hanging out over the edge, provided an excellent view of the Animas valley with the bustling town of Durango in the distance. I hiked in late July and didn't see any patches of snow near the trail or road. My total hike was about 10 miles.

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