This blog was written by one of our guests, Kent Winchester. He recently the area around 4UR and took some great photographs. Thank you, Kent, for sharing them with us.
“I left springtime last week and drove north, up into winter at 4UR, Creede, and Slumgullion Pass. That’s one of the nice things about living in the American Southwest: If you don’t like the current season, all you have to do is get in your car and drive for half a day and a few thousand vertical feet and you’re in a different season. Go up and it’s is winter in the Rockies, go down and it’s already summer on the Chihuahua desert.
There are reasons why 4UR isn’t open in the winter. They measure snowfall there in feet instead of inches, and temperatures occasionally drop to 60 degrees below freezing. That’s why bluebirds and most humans don’t winter at 4UR. High mountains aren’t gentle places in winter and the margin for error is smaller. For instance, you drive slower – even though the Colorado road department does a superb job of keeping the roads clear – because you know that the deer and elk have come down from the high country and cross highways without a second thought. A winter traveler is always conscious of their unseen presence, back in the trees. On the way back to South Fork after dinner at Kip’s Diner in Creede – an open-faced elk burger drowning in green chile – I made some nighttime photographs along the road. Until I got home and developed one of the photos, I was unaware of two deer watching me from the deep shadows. The next day I stopped before going into 4UR and waited for a herd of elk to cross the road just south of the bridge over the Rio Grande.
Speaking of the Rio Grande, it’s frozen. Solid. Here is a photo proving it. That’s a full grown female elk crossing.
And here is Number 4 on Goose Creek on an early March Day.
It feels a bit lonely, driving west from South Fork knowing 4UR is closed, like driving by a childhood home that is no longer yours. There is nothing wrong with the accommodations in South Fork, but when I make this drive, I want it to end with a hug from Robin, a handshake with Aaron, and a warm, cozy room, with the hope of trout rising. I took comfort from the knowledge that soon the bluebirds will be back, followed by those of us who winter in softer lands.
From the top of Slumgullion (11,530 feet above sea level) I photographed and watched, for a time, a late winter storm moving in and then I headed home, back to springtime. It was 66 degrees when I returned that afternoon. I had lost 6500 feet and gained 65 degrees. It had been one degree above zero on the Big River at dawn.”