June 21, 2022

Looking for Monkey Creek, Part 1: What Monkey?

It was a 2.5-hour drive just to get somewhere near Monkey Creek.
Here we are entering South Park on Colorado 9 – too late for the auction.
(Click photos to enlarge.)

Goin' up to Monkey Creek, goin' on the run
Goin' up to Monkey Creek to have a little fun*

About twenty years ago, I was looking at a some now-vanished Rocky Mountain Bigfoot research website, where someone posted a question about Monkey Creek, on the Pike National Forest in the Tarryall Mountains.

It was like, "Monkey?? Did a Bigfoot sighting inspire that name?" No one seemed to know.

Dad's US Forest Service career had him moving in and out of that general area several times between the late 1930s and about 1970. I asked him about the name. He knew where Monkey Creek was, but he had no clue how it got its name.

I am not a "Squatcher" or Bigfoot researcher, or it would not have taken me twenty years to follow up. I have my thoughts on the issue of large hairy critters, and I will get to them eventually in this blog post series.

But yes, it's an unusual name. Colorado (and the Rockies in general) is full of streams named for their characteristics — Swift Creek, Rock Creek, Sand Creek, Hardscrabble Creek, Troublesome Creek. For plants — Oak Creek, Cottonwood Creek, Spruce Creek, Pine Creek, Willow Creek. For animals — Bear Creek, Turkey Creek, Dove Creek, Beaver Creek, Elk Creek, Deer Creek, Trout Creek, Lion Creek, and of course the Conejos (Rabbits) River.

There are multiple Rock Creeks and Beaver Creeks and so on, but I have heard of only one Monkey Creek.

Still crossing South Park on Colorado 9 — I love how the ancient glacial morraines shaped
the valley floor,  giving hints of a more  northern, boreal landscape.

I had been feeling fidgety, and the forecast for Monday, June 20th, was mostly sunny, no rain. So I packed up Marco the dog and other essentials, even a 5-weight fly rod in case there were brook trout in Monkey Creek (none that I saw), folded a Pike National Forest map to show the area, and set off for what would be a 275-mile (440 km) round-trip drive.

Finally, we are approaching the lower end of Monkey Creek.

* With apologies to that prolific songwriter, Anonymous.

Part 2: The First Hike

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