Chuck Mack: A different type of beautiful day

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Autumn in Northwest Colorado is just as colorful as anywhere we've ever been. The only thing I can see wrong: It just doesn't last long enough. It keeps Alberta and I busy trying to make a circle drive each day while the colors are beautiful.

On Sept. 22, we went up U.S. Highway 40 to Milner and turned off on the county road that crosses the Yampa River and Trout Creek and then followed Trout Creek for a ways. The road branches, one branch going to Steamboat and the other across and intersecting with the 20-Mile road. We took the road into Steamboat.

From Steamboat, we got on the Elk River Road driving up past Clark, Steamboat Lake, the settlement of Hahn's Peak and the little settlement of Columbine.

Just past Columbine, the road forks. We chose the fork that took us through Red Park, then across the Continental Divide. This is a very beautiful stretch of road that was very rough and washboard-y, which gave us a very rough and jolting ride. This road took us past Hog Park Reservoir and finally to the paved Battle Mountain highway that connects Baggs, Wyo., and Encampment, Wyo.

The only thing wrong with this trip, it clouded up about the time we left Steamboat, and then started to rain. The road we were traveling was supposed to be gravel but also plenty of mud. When we got about 10 miles from the end, before reaching the pavement, it turned into pure mud. So, naturally, we were slipping and sliding. Then, to top it all off, about the time we got to the really muddy section it started to snow. Before long, it was really snowing, and I was beginning to wonder if we were going to make it through the mud, which seemed to be getting slicker with each flake of snow.

Just before we got to the pavement, we turned off and went through the Bottle Creek Campground. Most all of the Forest Service Road, from the time you turn off near Columbine, is open to ATV travel. We were thinking the Bottle Creek Campground would be a good place to camp, and we could ride the ATVs back into Colorado and explore all those roads and trails. To make things even better, there are miles and miles of Forest Service Roads that are open to ATVs throughout the Medicine Bow National Forest.

One of these is only a mile or two from the Bottle Creek campground. This road alone leads you to so many of the other roads that you would be riding for a week before traveling them all. We camped in this campground several years ago, and Nathaniel was with us. Maybe next summer, we will camp again in the Bottle Creek Campground.

About the time we got on the pavement, it turned into a world of white. Before we reached the summit of Battle Mountain, I was beginning to wonder if we were going to make it to the top because, by then, it was white-out-blizzard conditions. It still was snowing hard when we broke over the top; by then, there were a couple of inches of wet sloppy and very slick snow covering the pavement. We got about halfway down this side of the mountain before the road finally cleared off and it quit snowing. Of course, we didn't get very many pictures.

By the time we got home, it was beautiful sunset time and nearly dark. The end of a beautiful day - snow, mud and all.

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