Showing posts with label Conejos River. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Conejos River. Show all posts

August 16, 2013

Monsoon on the Conejos (3) Pagosa Springs & Assorted Mushroom Thoughts

Boletus edulis in the Wet Mountains
Saturday the 10th was our last full day of the camping trip. I put away the fly rods and picked more mushrooms (and wild strawberries) on Cumbres Pass, then drove on west through Chama, N.M, to Pagosa Springs.

I had planned to be in Pagosa the previous weekend for a state-sponsored fire class, but it was cancelled, so this was sort of a consolation visit.

In Pagosa, the weather was warm, and the San Juan River was running high and brown. Tubing outfitters were busy shuttling their customers to the east side of town so that they could ride down past the city park and the mineral springs, where the terraces were crowded with bathers.

In the midst of this "rubber hatch," I saw one guy casting a spinning rod. I thought of congratulating him for upholding the archetype of the always-optimistic fisherman, but he gave up and walked away.

We visited a couple of thrift stores—nothing exciting—where does all the outdoor gear go?—and then had a late lunch/early supper at the Riff-Raff brew pub ("Hoppy people. Hoppy earth").

I reckoned that my cabrito burger with Hatch green chiles was sort of quasi-locavore-ish.

It rained steadily most of the way back to the campground.

The next morning I observed a mulie doe moving strangely through the woods. She had her nose down like a dog following a scent trail.

Was she eating mushrooms? I had picked a few in that area, mostly Suillis  ("slippery jacks"). I tried to follow, but I could not get too close without spooking her, and there were a lot of spruce boughs in the way.

I did see some Suillis that had been scraped by what looked like a deer's lower incisors (Deer don't have upper incisors.) Were there fewer mushrooms than before? Not sure.

Two days later, having done well on a mushroom hunt closer to home, M. and I were easing down a rough forest road in the Jeep when we saw a squirrel wrestling — or something — in the road. It turned out to be trying to carry the stem of a Boletus edulis ("king bolete"), which was nearly as big as it was.

Yesterday M. was walking Fisher on lead down the driveway when he dashed into the oak brush, dragging her along. He had scented another bolete, one unfortunately past its prime. It was probably another Boletus chrysenteron, which grows under oaks, like the one he snarfed off the kitchen counter a few days ago.

Does this mean that he might have a talent for finding good mushrooms? If the French have truffle-sniffing dogs, could we have a Southern Rockies bolete-sniffing dog? Further research is required.

August 14, 2013

Monsoon on the Conejos (2): Platoro y Yo

Platoro, Colorado. The bands of light at right are windshield reflections.
With the Conejos River running high and turbid, I decided to travel upstream. That meant Rio Grande Forest Road 520, which might be described as a pretty good road — if you were in Afghanistan.

Mile after pothole'd mile crept by. I would stop now and then and check the river. Still roily.

Eventually we reached the resort hamlet of Platoro (plata plus oro — weren't those early miners clever?) which always makes me think of what the Alaskan bush might look like (having never visited Alaska) — dense forest, a straggle of modest frame and log buildings, thick willows along the river.

The old lodge, currently bearing the name Sky Line Lodge, is classic, but right now its owners cannot decide whether it is a grocery store or a fly shop and so fall between two stools. (It and I make an unflattering appearance in Ed Engle's memoir Seasonal: A Life Outside. That's what happens when you hang around writers.) A UPS driver was making a delivery, and the shelves of his van were empty. Platoro is the end of the line.

The inlet to Platoro Reservoir, managed by BuRec for flood control, etc. It's quite low right now.
Above Platoro is Platoro Reservoir, and we continued past it to the Three Forks area, at the edge of the South San Juan Wilderness Area, where the stream was clearer, and I got into a few small trout while playing peekaboo with a herd of cows in the dense willows.

Rain clouds build above Platoro Reservoir.
And then it was time for the afternoon deluge, plus hail. Too much driving time versus fishing time.

(to be continued)

August 13, 2013

Monsoon on the Conejos (1)

We brought a screen for drying mushrooms.
The campground host's name tag said "Noah." That should have been a hint.*

M. and I set out Thursday for a camping trip to the Conejos River. I had looked at the stream flow online, and it was up from July's average, but I still had this picture in my mind from other late-summer trips: clear waters, a slight crispness in the air.

Just getting there had its moments. When we stopped in Antonito to get some snacks from the trailer, people driving by kept looking at us. Sure, Antonito seems a little insular, but why the stares?

Maybe it was because the Jeep and the pop-up trailer were liberally coated with mud.

Conditions on the Secret Cut-off Road had been worse than I had expected. Seeing the trailer in the rear-view mirror going sideways is unsettling. All I could think was, "This would be worse if I were going downhill."

We kept going and later in the afternoon reached the Forest Service campground that was our destination. About 5:30 p.m. it started raining. That would be the pattern: two-hour downpours each afternoon or evening.

But with a hot meal, wine, a good book, and a Coleman lantern, all was good.

Friday morning I got up (mist-filtered sun), put on hip boots, and walked to one of my favorite fishing spots. The river looked like chocolate milk. A tributary stream was re-enacting the June run-off.

Walking back to the campground, I picked a few mushrooms. That would be the theme.

(to be continued)

* No, there was no name tag. I am joking.