Creede Cut-off Alt?

9/16-17: 15mi

So what was supposed to be the Creede alternate for us became somewhat convoluted. With five miles of dirt road walking left to get into Creede, a couple pulled over and asked us for directions. All we knew is that we were headed to Creede. They said that’s where they were heading but got turned around. We showed them our Guthook app and our route, and that helped them get their bearings. As they were headed into Creede, they asked us if we wanted a ride. Hmmm. Continue on a dusty hot road getting dusted by ATVs for another couple hours, or get in their car.

We got in their car. In some ways I wish we hadn’t, because we missed walking the narrow canyon into the historic town. Our “ride” took us on a wider route that went by the Last Chance Mine they had just visited, as well as the outskirts of town with a newer housing development.

I think that when we do the San Juan High Route, next year or so, we will be sure to finish in Creede, having taken the full walk into downtown.

They did however deliver us to the start of the town at the edge of the canyon. They even offered to take us to South Fork, if we needed. 

Sherri and Tom, newlyweds from Pueblo Colorado

We thanked the newlyweds for the ride and looked for a place to eat. Tommy Knockers Tavern was highly recommended. Tommy Knockers it was. The fresh food, what they had left of, was good. Two PBRs later (“hiker trash” beer) lwe were off to find housing.

What we didn’t know was that old town Creede has very few hotel rooms. I believe 8 to be exact. And, as we were told by a proprietor, all the rooms are filled due to their annual classic car show, even though that wasn’t supposed to start for two days. We could always camp at the town’s baseball field we were told, or go to South Fork. So much for taking a zero in Creede and having a warm place to stay. It was supposed to get down to 22 that night. What was cool though is that the proprietor called a place he knew halfway between Creede and South Fork. They had a room. We took it. Now to get there. The proprietor offered up one of his employees, that graciously waited till we shopped for our resupply, in Creede, and while I bought a new hiking shirt at the local outfitters. My favorite Columbia PFG shirt was beyond repair. Fall had arrived. It was getting colder, and I needed actual working sleeves.

No amount of Tenacious Tape or thread was going to fix this

Turns out that our ride was a SOBO PCT “refugee”. He was more than happy to help out a fellow SOBO and to provide actual “trail magic”. He dropped us at the Blue Creek Lodge and RV Park. What an awesome place. Boy did we score! This is a place we will definitely revisit.

View from the upper balcony where we ate our dinner

Blue Creek Lodge and RV Park is family owned, and run. They used to run a popular restaurant, with a John Wayne theme room, but closed it 3 years ago, as it was just too much to operate, essentially by themselves.(The Lodge and RV park were more than enough to run, they told us.) Granny, however cooks a fabulous pie and breakfast Danishes…daily. Their hospitality was over the top. They allowed us full use of their kitchen, and access to any of the food and/or condiments in their commercial fridge. They even allowed us to do our laundry in their commercial washer/dryer. The following morning we joined the family and other guests for fresh coffee and Danishes. They were genuinely interested in our hike, and from what we could gather, had never really had SOBO hikers at their establishment. They were especially familiar with the early season NOBOs, and late season SOBOs road walking past their establishment. They’ve even been known to “rescue” a few during severe in-climate weather.

Up to this point we were still committed to completing the Creede Cut-Off, which in Guthook/FarOut is indicated as a “brown route”. This meant we had to get a ride back to Creede, to continue the remaining 28 miles of the Creede Cut-Off to where it re-connected with the “redline”. Once back on the “redline”, it would be another 81 miles to Cumbres Pass, and a hitch off Hwy 17 into Chama NM. While this route is “lower” than the “redline” through the San Juan “high route”, this still meant that we had to buy and carry even MORE food (7 days worth) to get us the 109 miles to Chama NM. Another option would have been to carry 5 days worth of food and hitch into South Fork from Wolf Creek Pass (a “hard” hitch), resupply and get back on trail. This would probably add another day, and the cost of another hotel.

We couldn’t help but notice the multiple mentions of South Fork, by our ride into Creede, the outfitters, and discussions with Bill (Blue Creek Lodge owner) that evening. What was it about the insistence of South Fork? This led to Paul discovering the “blue” Elwood Pass alt. It appeared to be a “common” route for the NOBOs to escape snow and nasty weather. We kept that route in the back of our mind, still determined to complete the Creede Cut-Off, back to the “redline”. We wondered aloud, if our “guardian angel” was pleading with us to go to South Fork and take the Elwood Pass alt. We imagine that he/she has been working quite a bit of overtime, and knew something we didn’t. But after conversation with the locals, the following morning, who were conversant in the coming weather, and more than once mentioned and recommended us just going to South Fork and taking the Elwood Pass Alt, we finally acquiesced. We can recognize a “sign”, when we see it, especially when it hits us in the face…continually. We’d also rather not spend the next two weeks in freezing temperatures, AND at mostly 10-11,000+ ft, with a heavy food carry. We were worn out, and our mileage was showing that. Heck, even my favorite shirt couldn’t cut it anymore and got “off trail”.

Because the “blue” 48 mile Elwood Pass Alt travelled 22 miles along the paved, narrow and practically shoulder less 2-lane Hwy 149, we decided that we should hitch into South Fork, and not walk from Creede. The fact that trucks and trailers towing beautiful classic cars rumbled past the Lodge with increasing frequency sealed the deal. As it turns out, no hitch was required. Our host arranged a ride for us. Another “sign” that we were to go to South Fork.

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5 Responses to Creede Cut-off Alt?

  1. Jaunting Jan says:

    Nothing forgettable about this HYOH day.

  2. Paul H Mills says:

    Creede was where I truly fell in love with Colorado! Creede is R590’s ancestral home and in 1968 (2 years before Rangering up with DPR), he and I traveled to Creede and stayed with his Grandmother Birdie in her house, which was right across from those cliffs at the end of the main street (and is still there). Using my Jeep, we spent glorious days exploring the mountains and Rio Grande River all around Creede. Julia and I were back there about 5 years ago and tried to stay at the Creede Hotel but it was “full” for the last night of their season. We did enjoy a wonderful dinner before retiring to the “John Wayne Room” at the Creede Motel. Lastly, when first visiting in ’68, I told my Mom about our visit. She remembered visiting Creede as a young girl in 1917+/- and could remember the cliffs across from Birdie’s home. Turns out Creede was and still is a play ground for Texans. By the way, a great picture of Main Street (have one or two as well).

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