Colorado River Headwaters
Rocky Mountain National Park West Slope
The Colorado River takes on an entirely different character when its headwaters begin their accent from the flat openness of the Kawuneeche Valley into the cool shadows cast by towering spruce and pines. Here the river begins to narrow and acquire a new and exciting mystique. Each of its endless meanders holds a new challenge as it gently gains elevation and passes the historic Lulu City gold and silver mining town’s ghostly remains about three miles along toward its origin just below La Poudre Pass high above.
For a short distance at first you may encounter a Plein Aire artist in a nearby meadow trying to capture in his brush strokes the grandeur of the Grand Canal hanging from the majestic peaks immediately to the West. Or after a young couple has just flitted by with hands clasped desperately trying to find a hidden niche to share private moments, you spy through the brush an elderly couple seated in the shade of a sprawling fir tree on lawn chairs just inside the warmth of the meadow’s sun line—quietly escaping life’s fast pace. One can’t walk these banks without reflecting upon the history that unfolded along these same banks a hundred years ago. And then suddenly behind you just out of sight there sounds thundering hoof beats that send chills up your back...and you freeze in your tracks, then slowly turn your head to see a large moose striding off across yet another small meadow into the trees edge. She looked almost like the one you guardedly watched several turns back, ploddingly cross the river that had by then already narrowed even more, just a couple strides ahead of her calf.
What a wonderland; every bend holds a new scene, a new allure, a new mystery that your imagination helplessly creates.
These historic headwaters are such an easy walk that it’s never tiring; the river channel so very gradually inclines upward. Along your stroll you will be traversing beneath the peaks of the Never Summer Range whose spine boasts the Continental Divide. It’s almost surreal. And then when the afternoon shadows begin to lengthen and you know you need to turn around, there’s always another, and another beautiful pool just ahead at the next bend...and the next...and so on.
It’s beauty is magnetic; I hardly can allow myself to turn around...but of course, I must, and I begin the quiet walk back downstream, drinking in again the feelings I’d experienced as I revisit so many of the scenes that had engulfed me at first encounter.
Nonsense, you say? Not so. I’ve personally experienced every one of these actual occurrences and more, on this my absolute favorite stretch of pristine, Colorado mountain stream. For me, it offers the essence of fly fishing. And you too can experience this almost out of body peacefulness.
Oh, yes, I almost forgot to mention...you could also easily have a 45-50 fish day, not to mention all the spine tingling misses that wriggled off your hook...colorful brookies and possibly a cutt if you walk up high enough.
Submitted by Dennis Cook
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