I spent the week ending February and beginning March with three friends doing some backcountry ski exploring at two yurts located just east of the Continental Divide near Cumbres Pass. The area we visited is in the Rio Grande National Forest in southernmost Colorado. The Continental Divide Trail passes very close to the first of the two yurts we stayed in.
Here are some of the highlights of the trip.
Our trip started with a flight from Knoxville to Albuquerque from whence we drove to Santa Fe where we purchase the food we would need for 6 nights out in the mountains. The yurts have provided bunk beds, wood stove for heat and for melting snow for water, and a propane cooking stove setup with pots/pans/plates, etc. So, in addition to our food we carried sleeping bags, clothing, and whatever sundries we might want. After shopping and semi-organizing at the motel we had supper of excellent northern New Mexican fare at La Choza, a restaurant near our motel.
The next morning we drove several hours to Cumbres Pass at elevation 10,000 feet where we embarked with our very heavy packs in a snow squall. Not knowing exactly where our route left the maze of snowmobile and other skier tracks, we milled around a bit until a gracious snowmobiler got us pointed in the right general direction. We almost immediately discovered that our route had not been traveled by others for some time and a significant amount of new snow obscured the previous track. Very fortunately, Doug the yurt company proprietor, and a companion were skiing in to our first yurt to work on the cooking stove and they broke the route ahead of us. Our ski from Cumbres Pass to the Flat Mountain Yurt wound up being close to 5 miles with 1,000 feet of elevation gain. This was a tough day for us old guys acclimated to 800 - 900 ft elevations with little but the great dinner the night before to call acclimation to 10,000+ feet on the Continental Divide.
The area we were in is in the southern part of the San Juan mountains that were created by volcanic eruptions from a massive volcanic caldera within which 11 distinct eruptive centers have been mapped. The volcanic activity took place between about 25 to 35 million years ago. The bedrock of the region includes a wide variety of volcanic rock types including basalts, tuffs, rhyolites, and others. We saw the layering of various rock types that were accentuated by the basalt layers that form cliff bands along the mountain sides.