Trip Date: July 14, 2013
On the fifth day of our vacation, Wendy and I decided to return to the Piedra River to hike along the main trail, rather than trying to ascend Ice Cave Ridge.
Day 5: PIEDRA RIVER & A MELODRAMA
Wendy started the day in Pagosa Springs by walking across the street to Higher Grounds Coffee, bringing back a delicious lemon square and milk for me and a peanut butter chocolate chip bar and coffee for herself.
We then drove northwest to the east trailhead of Piedra Trail 596, hiking the trail to the bridge over Williams Creek and back, a total of 3.8 miles. A sign at the trailhead warned us to be aware of lingering conditions from the recent trail closure by the Little Sand fire, but we never saw anything of that nature on the section of the trail we traversed.
A group of equestrians was unloading at the trailhead as we embarked, and soon passed us. We’d be dodging their traces now and then for the rest of our hike. While I was gazing out across the river, Wendy was examining the rocks, flowers, and wildlife.
I took a shot of Wendy as we entered the canyon cut by the river, and she returned the favor as we approached the cliffs. The trail led past a hillside of wildflowers and beside tall cliffs. Wendy’s sharp eyes picked out a yellow spider on a flower.
We walked south through the tall trees, noticing the damage wrought by bark beetles. Other hikers with dogs passed us, pausing at the end of the canyon where the Piedra River joins with O’Neal Creek. One fellow even floated in the cold water.
We turned west to walk to Williams Creek, with a rainstorm building ahead of us. We climbed over the edge of the Williams Creek valley, finding a stick and stones arranged as a trailside marker, its meaning obscure.
We reached the bridge over Williams Creek, watching the creek flow south to the Piedra River and Wendy having me use my camera flash to highlight a spiderweb on the bridge.
I walked on for a ways, but with the approaching weather I realized it was time to turn back. Wendy paused beside a baby tree, and then lightning flashed to the north, thunder crashed, and raindrops began to strike. We quickened our pace, retracing our path through a gentle rain. As we passed the high cliffs, we saw a couple up on the Piedra Road overlook. We exchanged waves, with my superzoom camera providing a good look at them, high up and across the river.
Wendy paused to shoot a wildflower in front of a grove of aspens with her iPhone 4, and I worked to get a depth-of-field shot of the same subject with my Canon Powershot SX260 HS.
At the end of the four mile hike at an elevation of 7600 feet, Wendy said, “I used to think I was tired. I had no idea what tired was.”
We returned to Pagosa Springs, with rain showers in the distance across the pastures. We had a late but tasty lunch at Chavolos Taquiera, with Wendy noting how the Piedra Road had coated Princess the Camry with dirt.
We stopped back in at Higher Grounds to purchase more lemon bars and a lemon crumb muffin for future breakfasts, and then drove an hour westward to Durango, arriving in the rain at the hotel to clean up before dinner. Best Western seldom disappoints, but I have not been impressed by either of the old-style Best Westerns in Durango with their outside entrances and cramped bathrooms; next time I stay in Durango, I’ll look for something newer, although it will likely cost more.
We forwent the many nice restaurants in town for the McDonald’s at the depot to ensure we would be on time for the melodrama at the Henry Strater Theater. The Dirty Deeds at the Depot show was nonstop laughs, with a fun cast, and I was picked to start the show. After some vaudeville acts, the mayor Gerri Mander, played by Leslie Hoxworth, was up on the stage and I was sitting in the audience. I donned a big black cowboy hat, stood up, and asked, “So, when will that noon train arrive?” She mercilessly mocked my question and the laughs began.
I enjoyed hissing and booing the villain, Professor Thaddeus Mack, as played by Jacob Buras, and Wendy and I both enjoyed how Megan Moran, as the heroine Lacie Camisole, would stop, gaze out into a yellow spotlight, and plaintively say, “I didn’t know!” We would use that catch-phrase for the rest of the trip.
It was a splendid end to a fine day, with us looking forward to a long ride on a steam train the following day.
Click for a slideshow from this day hike