Wanda and Pete's Letterboxes - Colorado

Index to Our Other Letterboxes


54. ANIMAS OVERLOOK A lovely little loop through the mountains in southwestern Colorado for a beautiful view and stamp carved by RTRW of CT!

This microbox was planted on our 2002 Rocky Mountain trip to do volunteer trail work along the Continental Divide in Colorado and New Mexico. Having a bit of free time for hiking and exploring between CDT trail work projects, we were surprised to find that there were only a handful of letterboxes, placed mostly by out of state visitors, in the entire state of Colorado back then, and none at all in the Durango area, the nearest one probably being the "Adopted Country" placed by Jay Drew north of Pagosa Springs a year or so earlier.

So, in order to get things going in the southwestern corner of Colorado, rather than planting a box on a longer hike of the type we usually do, say along the Colorado Trail or up any of the many nearby mountains, we opted for a very short walk from the "Best Hikes with Children in Colorado" book which we had just bought as an alternative to the "100 Hikes" series that we mostly used in our travels. We thought that this walk was really far too short for a letterbox hunt, being less than the generally accepted norm of about a mile for a box, but we felt that the drive up into the mountains and the box planted about halfway around the short loop made for a nice little stand-alone adventure, and might perhaps encourage other folks later on to come explore other longer trails in the area on which to begin planting their own boxes and sharing their own adventures.

At any rate, to find this particular sweet little spot, take Durango's Main St. (Route 550) north until you turn west on 25th Street, which later becomes Junction St, Junction Creek Rd and finally FR 171. Follow this paved road 3.5 miles, bearing left at 3 miles to pass the end of the Colorado Trail, and then drive just over 7 miles of good gravel road to the Animas Overlook parking area on your right. Take the paved, wholly accessible 0.6 mile loop trail for great views of the San Juans and the Animas River Valley. About halfway through the loop, turn your back to the Basketmakers of Falls Creek sign, and go a couple of paces to the end of the railroad tie past the bench. The microbox with its lovely little mountain scene stamp by RTRW is tucked under the tie behind the smaller of two reddish rocks. Please take care to close the lid tightly and enjoy this beautiful area!

This box was reported missing on July 4, 2009, but - hey - it had a nice long run as the original box planted in this area and on such a short sweet trail that we were really rather amused to find out that in recent years it has spawned quite a flurry of "copy-cat" boxes!!!

412. HEY - THAT'S ME ON THE CDT!!! (aka "Got pulaski?") A pleasant surprise to find out that my past trail work on the Continental Divide Trail is being used as an example to show a way to "Become a part of the project"! ( and maybe find a mini letterbox specially made for me by Mama Wolf of NC, too!;-)

For many years now, seeing the Continental Divide Trail become a reality has been one of my "pet projects". After 5 "thru-hikes" on the 2,150-mile Appalachian Trail, 3 "thru-hikes" on the 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail, and dozens of treks on many "shorter" long-distance trails, certainly hiking the CDT, the so-called "King of Trails", 3,150-miles from Mexico to Canada was by far my own most exciting and memorable backpacking adventure of all!

Of course, back when I backpacked the CDT, and even through to recent times, part of what made this Rocky Mountain trek from Mexico to Canada so much more arduous and challenging than the other trails was that so much of it had no trail! Long distances with no established pathway often required "creative route-finding" or dangerous bushwhacking, so it later became my dream to help join CDTA in making one long completely built and well-established trail for future hikers to more safely and easily enjoy this fantastic journey!

Well, after many work trips in New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming and Montana over the past dozen or so years, the job is still far from complete. In late summer 2009 we had hoped to continue work on a new connector to link up some sections in central Colorado that we had worked on previously. Back when I first hiked through here in 1989, I had taken a route over the rugged Ten-Mile and Gore Ranges, then cut over to Ptarmigan and Vasquez Peak, but now the CDT is being re-routed to stay somewhat closer to the actual divide, to go from Glacier Peak east of Breckenridge over to 14,000 foot Gray's Peak right on the divide, down to Herman Gulch and then back up to Vasquez Peak and Berthoud Pass more directly.

Anyway, on our way back to Denver at the end of that Glacier Peak work trip in 2009, we had decided to check out the kiosk that we heard had been built at a major new trailhead between our last two Colorado work trips (Mt. Morgan and Mt. Flora). We had a letterbox with us containing a stamp by RTRW of CT that we had hoped to plant at Grand Lake, but we weren't going to have enough time left to get up that way on that trip, so we thought we'd leave it near the new trailhead, and maybe get back the following year to move it to a more appropriate spot.

Well, while I was searching around for a place to leave the letterbox, Pete seemed to be transfixed by the maps, photos and captions over by the kiosk. He was staring at the left side of the signboard, and finally called out, "Wanda, come over here! This actually looks like a picture from our Mt. Flora work trip a few years back, and this looks like -" he hesitated...

I dashed back to where he was standing and started jumping up and down shouting, "That's me, that's me, that's me!!!" Sure enough, a stranger would never have been able to recognize me, what with the big yellow hard hat covering my face, since I was slightly bent over digging my yellow-strapped pulaski into the ground to build the trail. However, the clothing was unmistakable! The same gray zip-turtleneck I wore for years on the CDT, the same gray socks, the same black pants, the same red bandana and the same red Hi-Tec boots, of which I wore out so many pairs during my long backpacking years, but had just dug one out of the garage recently to use as the place in which to put my stuffed rooster mascot for my "Miala Baba Koguta" stamp! Wow - now what kind of a coincidence was that!?!

Needless to say, I was tickled pink to find out that I was the new "CDT poster gal", especially since the caption above couldn't have been better suited to my love of trails and volunteerism in general. It read, "Continue the vision. Become a part of the project." What a terrific feeling to know that I was indeed a small part of this grand CDT project, that I had given back at least a little to these wonderful trails that have meant so much to me, and might perhaps even encourage others to do so, too!

At any rate, the original stamp by RTRW that we left near that kiosk back in 2009 has now been "bumped upstairs", and there is now a sweet little "drive-by" box to be found nearby that was graciously created by Mama Wolf of NC! Once you find the correct kiosk (there does exist the possibility that my photo might have been used at some other new CDT kiosk as well, but I haven't had time yet to check!), simply stand a couple of feet in front of my picture, take 2 big steps at 200*, 3 big steps at 300*, and then 5 or 6 big steps at 50*. Find an upside-down V-shaped crevice at the bottom of the wall not far from the eastern set of double wooden pillars. Note how a couple of small stones are placed inside it, and then carefully remove them and the small flat stone beneath them to reveal a tiny black pulaski holder! Don't forget to put back all your tools properly, and remember that building trails can be even more gratifying than just hiking them!

Happy Trails!

413. A Grand Little Lake for a Farmers' Market Picnic Probably not the place RTRW would have expected her Grand Lake Farmers' Market stamp to end up, but a wonderful day hike and grand spot for an alpine lake picnic, if you're prepared for the elevation!

Before presenting the clue for this box, I would just like to give a little historical background, so that the situation that resulted from another box with an RTRW stamp that we planted in the big state of Colorado many years ago doesn't happen with this box, too!

The box in question was the one we called "Animas Overlook", which we planted while out from RI exploring the southwestern corner of CO between volunteer trail work projects along the Continental Divide in CO and NM in the summer of 2002. It was the first box planted in the Durango area, on a little trail we found out about from a "best children's hikes" book, so we actually thought it was too short for a letterbox hike back then when at least a mile for a box was more the norm. But, by spacing it about halfway around the loop, we hoped it would stand as its own little adventure, and other planters who came later would have hundreds of miles of other trails in the area to choose from.

Well, imagine our surprise when we found out recently that there were now nearly a dozen other boxes on that very same little 2/3 mile loop that we had originally planted on, and that not only the intent of our box (to have folks hike the one little loop to find one box and enjoy the view), but our actual little box with RTRW's lovely stamp had gone "lost in the shuffle", too! One of the newer planters, either completely unaware of the real letterboxing history or trying to rewrite it, even suggested that this was a place started by Coloradans to show off their stamps - something that couldn't be much further removed from the truth for us Rhode Islanders and how we view letterboxing as being far more about going on individualized adventures than just accumulating stamps!

Now, I suppose it's one thing if a particular person actually wanted to have 40 boxes planted on a half mile loop of their own choosing and actively encouraged others to contribute boxes to be planted there, as Esmerelda did on Mt. Doom, and others have done in other places. However, I'm sure there are many planters who would be rather appalled to find a path that they had chosen to showcase an individual hike and box suddenly inundated with dozens of boxes! (I wonder, for example, how Jay Drew might feel if 40 other boxes were to appear on the way to his original box near Fourmile Falls, or if 14 boxes got strewn like crumbs on the way to a "fourteener" meant to showcase just one?)

Even in as tiny a state as RI, folks have always been pretty sensitive to maintaining the integrity of other people's planting areas and intentions, so this type of "overcrowding" (or "poaching", as we've heard it called in MA), generally does not occur. (except, of course, in the rare case where people who "haven't done their homework" plant a new box right next to a long pre-existing mystery box!;-) So, it is somewhat mind-boggling for us to think that people in such a huge state as Colorado, with so many thousands of miles of as yet unboxed trails, might feel the need to resort to "claim jumping"!

Anyway, we've tried to look on what happened at Animas Overlook as simply the tendency of some folks starting out to "copy-cat", not only location, but even clue and placement style. (Our original box was keyed to a sign, so I guess they figured all the other signs just had to get boxes, too!:-) And of course we've heard that "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery", so in the logbooks we've tried to be gracious about all the "add-ons" to that by now very overpopulated little trail! But, in truth, we'd really prefer for folks to go find their own trails or mountains to plant on, so this time we're saying it right out: at least for this particular 3-mile section of CDT (and there are over 3,000 other miles still to plant on, so there's no need to worry about running out of stamping space!), please keep only this one box up at the lake as a "destination letterbox hike" in memory of "Wanda and Her Man" (you'll get the joke when you're in the right gulch and in the proper frame of mind!;-)

Anyway, to find the starting place for this hike, you need to find the route that is currently being used for the Continental Divide Trail to cross a major highway east of a presidential tunnel. Indeed, there is practically nothing else at this exit except the CDT trailhead, a large parking lot and the kiosk with my picture in its frame mentioned in another letterbox clue, which was near where we had left this box as a "drive-by" in 2009!

Well, once again after my volunteer trail projects in 2010, I found that I wasn't going to have enough time to swing up to Grand Lake to drop off this box on my way home to RI. However, I did have just enough time to "bump the box upstairs" on a 3-mile climb up to a lovely alpine lake on a piece of trail that is actually one of the "show pieces" of the CDT. Yes, it starts out right behind the kiosk, wide and noisy, being so close to the heavy traffic, but before you know it, you are ascending quietly through the aspens, staying left at two marked junctions, and topping out to a view of the lake in a big cirque before you.

From this first view of the lake, continue towards the "Y" divergence of trail just before the lake and just after a huge chunky pinkish boulder on the left. Stop at the next large boulder directly on the right side of the trail, and sit on the low flat rock by its left side that points 285* towards the lake. Look down to the right of the adjoining big boulder to see how several small rocks fit together like a jigsaw puzzle. After noting their position, remove 3 or 4 of them to reveal the light blue letterbox below. Enjoy a picnic at this idyllic spot and replace the box as found, before heading back down 3 miles to your car!

Happy Trails!

534. Wanda's Wanda-rings - CDT
The Continental Divide Trail Part 1: The Route
A quick peek at one of the CDT road crossings in CO that leads to one of the best peaks for viewing a huge portion of the actual CDT route.

When thinking of where might be an appropriate spot to leave this fine stamp, one of three carved by lionsmane of New Mexico to commemorate my backpacking of the CDT from Mexico to Canada in the 1990s (after 5+ AT's, 3+ PCT's, and many, many other trails), one of the first places I thought of was Parkview Mt. just a few dozen miles west of Rocky Mountain NP. Standing almost by itself, at about 12,300', it has a fantastic 360-degree view of the CDT route, stretching on a clear day from the Snowy Range of Wyoming clear down through to the Collegiate Peaks of central Colorado!

So, after finishing up our first VOC work trip of the 2014 season, Pete and I decided to hike up Parkview Mtn on the new CDT route, about 12 miles round trip, somewhat longer than the old steep scree route to the top, but much safer and truer to the divide itself. It makes a wonderful day hike that we highly recommend. However, judging by the small number of visitors that we see signed in to logbooks of letterboxes involving hikes, as compared to those for drive-bys, we thought it would be a shame if only one or two people ever got to see this fine stamp. So, somewhat reluctantly, we decided to make this box a drive-by, too, considering that just the drive alone out to this rather "off-the-beaten-letterbox-place" might be adventure enough for most CO letterboxers!

Anyway, to find the CDT crossing where this box is located, simply follow route 125 north about 30 miles from its junction with route 40 just west of Granby, or about 10 miles south from the town of Rand, to just south of the large green sign at Willow Creek Pass. There is a sizable pull-off here on the east side of the highway with a brown carsonite post stating that this is the Willow Creek Trail. (It is also the southbound CDT, whereas the northbound CDT to Parkview Mt. is across the road to the west.) From the brown post, take about 18 steps east on the trail to a large stump on the left. Turn left and take another 15 or 16 steps north, passing a second stump on your right, to a third stump, and look for the box under a couple of rocks on its east side. Now, just think about hiking that whole CDT route pictured on the stamp!

N.B. For a more complete listing of my wanderings, please see Wanda's Wanda-rings

582. Wanda's Wanda-rings: Colorado Trail Easy scenic hike to the remains of an old Victorian-age lakeside resort for a beautiful aspen stamp by Esmerelda

This lovely hike and stamp by Esmerelda of CO represent my first backpacking foray into the Rocky Mountains way back in 1989. By that time, I had already backpacked the Appalachian Trail between Georgia and Maine four times (out of my 5+) and the Pacific Trail between Mexico and Canada two times (out of my 3+), as well as many other trails (see "Wanda's Wanda-rings").for a more complete background survey), and I really wanted to finally get backpacking along the Continental Divide Trail. The CDT was still largely an "on-paper only" trail at that time, though, so I decided to wait a bit yet before seriously undertaking that back then mostly "bushwhack" adventure and meanwhile do the newly completed Colorado Trail from just outside Denver to Durango as my "Rocky Mountain Warmup". And what a delightful warmup that turned out to be! 500 some miles of beautiful trail, gorgeous scenery, and side-trips to "fourteeners" (14,000' mountains), too!

Of course, in addition to the mountain climbs, there are many mellow easy-going aspen grove sections along this particular trail as well, so that is where I decided to leave Esmerelda's lovely aspen stamp - along one of the flattest. easiest and most accessible sections that also leads to a point of historical interest - the old Interlaken resort, which was once the rustic stomping ground of the western "rich and famous" before the turn of a previous century and before the creation of a reservoir nearby flooded much of the area. A few things still remain, however, like a large wooden ballroom building shaped like a boat and a hexagonal outhouse with leather seats. So, if you have the time, it's definitely worth going the extra mile - about 5 miles round-trip for visiting the Interlaken site as opposed to about 4 miles round trip just for the letterbox.

At any rate, to find the trailhead for this interesting and popular hike, follow route 24 south from Leadville or north from Buena Vista to route 82, and then go west just under a mile to a turnoff left on gravel county 25, which you can follow southwest past the dam to either one of two parking lots - one with a large wooden sign and arrow nearer the lake or one up a short rise north with a CDT marker. Both trails lead you to the same place, which is generally west along the lakeshore for a mile or so. After passing the" Collegiate East" trail junction, with a large sitting log on the right, continue about another 8-10 minutes to a 2-foot boulder on the right that blocks an old run-off/ sandy trail to a spiky tree overlooking the lake. From there, continue up the rise another 80 steps to a charred root ball on the right, about 5 steps off trail. Standing on the west side of the charred root ball, and perhaps noting the "V"-shaped tent under its west end, take the faint trail NNE about 35 steps to a huge beautiful old gray swirly-grained log pointing NW/SE roughly parallel to the lake, with the NW root end resting on a 2-foot boulder. The Wanda's Wanda-rings Colorado Trail letterbox rests behind a 6x8" white & gray granite rock under the protective curve of the old gray root on the uphill side of the boulder.

630. Holly & Berry First "pit stop" going west into CO after "getting' the heck out of Dodge"...

Simply couldn't resist leaving a holly leaf and berry in the town of Holly, even though no trees of that type actually grow there. The town was apparently named after a family, not a tree! Anyway, just stop at the first rest stop in CO on the south side of the highway after crossing over from KS, and make your way to the parking spots on the north side of the rest room loop. Walk west to the third large dark boulder and look under its western overhang beneath a 3" X 6" chunk of stone for a 1" somewhat diamond-shaped dark stone framing the holly leaf on its back. Then continue past two more boulders to stop at the round one just before the willow at the peak of the landscaped loop area. Sit on the western end of the round boulder and reach under a 3" dark rock shard for a 1" dark round stone that holds the berry. Stamp as many as you like, but please replace with care!

632. From the Town of Bedrock... ...it's a snake right out of history!

For this little adventure, find the tiny town of Bedrock on route 90 in far western CO. Turn south on the road just west of the Dolores River bridge and just east of the Bedrock general store. Drive down this gravel road a mile or so to where it gets steep (just past a BLM picnic area), continue on foot southerly a short distance to the convergence of dirt jeep roads atop the small bluff, and then just a bit further south to two brown stakes on either side of the path that say "No Vehicles".

From between these brown stakes blocking the old road, go back across the gully about 25-30 steps and look right to a secluded little "rock alcove" by a juniper. Sit on the lower rock to the right between sage bushes facing the trail and reach under the 6-inch pinkish stone behind your feet for the skinny gray 2-inch "finger stone" with a "snake" on its back. Continuing on the trail a mile or two around the corner of the canyon wall as we did could also net you some fine views and perhaps a sighting of dinosaur footprints and petroglyphs as well!

634. Ghost of the Outpost Arch another ghost from our past trail work haunts out west

"La Garita" is Spanish for "the outpost", so to get to this outpost of civilization, head north out of Del Norte about 3 miles on route 112, then 6 miles northwest on FR 660, turn left to pass through a ghost-related ranch, turn right .7 after a sign that says "Natural Arch 1 mile", then go another mile and a half on this last dirt road to the dead end roundabout where looking east you will find a lovely oval sky window with a "Y" tree below it near the road. To the right of the "Y" tree is a 3' sitting rock whose east side harbors a ghost under a 1"-2" gray stone that is under a 3"-4" stone tucked below the overhang. Replace with care…

635. Mariposa of the Canyon Lady a little "blue-cloaked surprise" in the "canyon of the penitents"

Find your way to Penitente Canyon either via La Garita from the north or Del Norte from the south. Continue through the campground to the trailhead at the end of the road. From the kiosk, go right past a pyramid rock to soon see the lovely blue cloaked figure high up on a rock face to your right. When you are almost parallel to it on the trail, the trail is squeezed left by a large long boulder extending about 12' directly along the right side of the trail. Near the beginning of where the boulder touches the trail, about 1' right under a tiny overhang with grass and bush remnants, look under a 2" triangular rock to find a 1" round stone with a butterfly on its back. Great solicitude is, of course, essential for its preservation.


You can find information about this hobby at Letterboxing North America (LbNA)

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