We started at the traffic light in Buena Vista and drove west on County Road 306. It was 20 miles to the pass, with gorgeous scenery all around. Cottonwood Pass is at 12,216 feet elevation.
My second Continental Divide picture
Scenery to the west of the pass.
To the southeast. The snow was still piled on the side of the parking area
We decided to try the short, but steep hike to the summit point at 12,574 feet. The trail is known as Cottonwood Pass Skyline Hike. See Al and the dogs in the bottom right-hand corner?
Found some more snow!
I know this is from quite a distance, but if anyone knows what the critter sitting on the rock is, I'd appreciate it if you let me know!
We tried going around the snow blockages on the trail, but determined it just wasn't safe...the gravel was too loose and we didn't want to take the chance of slipping. So close, but no summit for us!
The view from our picnic spot, west towards Taylor Lake Reservoir
We switch-backed down a gravel road about 15 miles to reach the reservoir. It was beautiful, the road was in good condition for a dirt road, although we did pass a pick-up truck towing a fifth wheel towing a boat going up to the pass...what are people thinking??
Taylor Lake Reservoir....you drive right down onto the beach area, and the dogs had a little bit of run time down here...there were a lot of bugs near the water, though.
The dam, where water is regulated through timed releases to help the farms and ranches down river receive enough irrigation through the growing season
At this point we had to decide which way to go for our return trip, and decided to keep going in a big loop, down County Road 742 through the Gunnison National Forest towards Gunnison, where we picked up Highway 50 back towards Poncha Springs and then north to Nathrop. The drive along the river through the forest was awesome, and gives us a taste of what we'll see when we explore the Black Canyon of the Gunnison Wilderness National Park. This route also took us over Monarch Pass another high one at 11,312 feet.
My third Continental Divide photo :-). That is snow piled behind it, and there is a ski-lift ride to the summit in the picture behind the sign. Unfortunately, it was closed for the day...another time.
So it turned into a much longer ride than we planned, but it was a very satisfying day of exploration for us. My entire set of pictures can be seen here, under the Cottonwood Pass set of photos. Today its back to work for the next three days, so we'll be busy being useful for awhile :-). See you soon!