De Beque Canyon Project: Oh, Hey Shoulder Season

Towards the end of last week I could feel my anxiety levels creeping up. I spent a couple of days simply just feeling sorry for myself because of things that I can’t control and in general I was a giant blob of bummer. And then I started thinking…when was the last time I was outside? I’d had a little bit of snowy fun with Sprocket on Halloween but mostly I’d been freaking out about the website being down, about my school work, about teaching, about relationships (or lack thereof or my inability to even contemplate one right now), and so on.

Sunday afternoon, I took a break from cleaning the house and doing work to do some exploring and hiking. My exploring was not quite as thorough as I would have liked because the roads were pretty muddy. I drove quite aways up South Fork Dry Creek Road before calling it good; the spur roads all looked to treacherous to have fun exploring alone (especially without a winch) and even the main roads were showing the effects of recent snow and rain.

X 5/10 Road

While it might not look like it, this road was muddy, Sprocket and I both had mud absolutely caked to our feet. The sunshine couldn’t be beat however and we wandered around in the sage for awhile soaking it in.

Mud walk

Hike selfie

Eventually, I had to call it since I still had some work to do. We hopped back in the Jeep and Sprocket made it clear he wasn’t really happy with my decision to head home.

Pathetic Sprocket

While I was driving, something caught my eye. The sun was shining on the rock in the middle of the picture below just right and it showed that something wasn’t quite normal about it. It looked like there might be an arch (or natural bridge depending on your personal nomenclature preference).

Natural bridge

Sprocket and I set out to investigate it. This photo from above the bridge doesn’t do a very good job of showing that there is a substantial hole right at the center of the photo and it was in fact an arch!

Bridge from above

Sprocket and I scrambled down to stand below the arch. My pup is such a trooper for navigating terrain like this and trusting me so much!

Puppy scrambles

Arch!

Bridge from below

For fun, we worked our way back to the car via the watercourse. Sprocket looked at me skeptically but made his way down falls like this quite handily!

Badass dog

De Beque Canyon Project: Road 209 and “North Switchback Road”

Check out the first two posts about the beginnings of our De Beque Canyon Project here and here!

We tackled one last canyon spur after reaching the gate on Garfield County County 204 before calling it a day. This time, we headed up Brush Creek also known as Garfield County 207 or by the name of the private ranch in the canyon “Kessler Canyon.” This road passing through the Kessler Canyon gates is actually the county road, so we headed up through the gates.

Kessler Canyon Entrance

Kessler Canyon Entrance

Although there were some oil and gas spurs along the way, there were fewer than we’d seen on other roads in the county. Finally, I saw a spur heading towards the east canyon wall. I was a little skeptical at this point that it would lead to anything at all but the rules of the project demanded that I explore it.

The road continued all the way to the base of the steep wall and then switch backed a couple of times and appeared to be preparing to actually climb the wall. And then I reached this debris slide. While it would be easily passable on a quad and even though it probably could have done it in the XJ, I played it conservatively and Sprocket and I started hiking.

Road damage

The road climbed steeply for about a mile. Although I didn’t notice any more major washouts, it had clearly not been traveled by a vehicle in a long time.

Hike

Brush Creek/Kessler Canyon

Hike

Finally, we reached an oil and gas site as the grade of the road lessened. According to my map, we were near a road that ran along the top of this ridge and I decided that road (potentially accessible from the Douglas Pass area) would be our turnaround point. The gas site is clearly still used for something as the route down to it from the main road on the ridge had been mowed. Finally we reached the very well traveled route on the ridge.

A prominent sign pointed to where we’d come from and proclaimed them to be the “North Canyon Switchback.” It did not designate whether that was a “trail,” a “route,” or a “road” but I’d go with the first two and not the latter.

North Switchback Road Sign

Top of Brush Ridge

Sprocket and I took a peek off to the other side of the ridge and then headed back to the Jeep.

Views to the northeast

The downhill hike went quickly. There were some storm clouds gathering but nothing too serious. Mostly it was getting later and I was getting hungry!

Near the top of Brush Ridge

Sprocket on descent

Before we turned for home, however, we finished driving up canyon. We ran into this “No Trespassing” sign about two miles from where the county (aka public) road was supposed to end (AGAIN). Not wanting to make enemies or call attention, I obeyed but I’m looking in to it!

No tresspassing sign

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De Beque Canyon Project: Garfield County Road 204

After our goal was foiled on County Road 207, Sprocket and I returned to Roan Creek and headed further west. We were greeted by a herd of cows walking down the road which Sprocket found both exciting and a little terrifying. They’d snort and he would run to the back of the Jeep until curiosity would get the best of him and his head would be sticking out the window again!

Cows on Garfield County 204

Garfield County Road 204

As I drove up the canyon, I poked around up all the open and non-posted spur roads. I always love to see what’s just around the corner, up the hill, or in the canyon. Our explorations on Roan Creek were a perfect easy Saturday afternoon adventure:

Garfield County Road 204 cabin

Cars, Garfield County Road 204

Old truck, Garfield County Road 204

Most of the spur roads lead to less than scenic oil and gas wells. At least there is usually a lot of room to turn around when you reach one!

Gas wells

Garfield County 204

Fall Colors Roan Cliffs

Eventually, we reached a gate at the end of the county road and traced our steps back to Carr Creek and further east to the entrance of Kessler Canyon.

204 Road and Carr Creek

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De Beque Canyon Project: Garfield County Road 207

Since we can’t always go galivanting off to the high mountains, Sprocket and I started a little project exploring the De Beque area a little closer. De Beque sits at the confluence of Roan Creek and the Colorado River. Roan Creek drains a surprisingly large area among the Roan Cliffs and so we’re out to explore as much of the area as we can.

De Beque Canyon

Grand Junction is located in broad valley you see in the lower right (just southwest out of the frame) and Highway 139 visible on the left leads north to Rangely. Private land is really common here so the trick is to find public lands to play on close to home!

We started out driving from De Beque to the far northwestern reaches of the canyon system. I had hoped to drive out of the canyon and link up with Highway 139 and although it seems so possible, I’m pretty sure all roads are gated preventing the linkup. (But finding out for sure is half the fun of the project!)

De Beque Canyon

De Beque Canyon

Our adventure really got down to business on Garfield County Road 207 up Carr Creek. We were hoping to head up the Left Fork of Carr Creek to Upper 4A Mountain but we found the road gated just before we would have started climbing out of the canyon.

Gated County Road 207, Garfield County

Plan foiled.

County Road 207 Highlight

Interestingly, the gate came just before a very prominent jog in the road as shown on the county road map. If this jog in the road was open, the road would be reentering public lands just as the county road ended. I’ve emailed the county road and bridge director to see if I can get anymore information on exactly where the road should be closed.