After probably more than a decade of wanting to, I finally visited the weirdly named Wheeler Geologic Area in a remote area of Colorado. I forget where I heard about it first but it sounded interesting and never forgot about it. I decided to make the trip over the Labor Day weekend. And I even planned to spend an extra day there to maximize my time in the area.
Day 1 I would just drive out to the regular trailhead and camp out. That would let me get a relaxed start to the trip.
Day 2-3 I would take the backpacking trail to the formations and spend the night there before returning to the trailhead and camping out again.
Day 4 I would sleep in and leisurely enjoy the campsite before driving home.
The trip was a good one although I must admit it really is a small area of formations with only 1 great spot for photos. It is a surprise to me that it was ever a National Monument. Also surprising were how many people were there. Of course it was a holiday weekend but still it was surprising. Also the 4x4 road that has such an offputting reputation was totally drivable as evidenced by the number of stock pickups at the 4wd trailhead. When I backpack, I like my destination to be somewhere that you can't simply drive to.
I also tested out a very minimalist backpacking load using the Blackhawk Stash Pack. That is a 1,554 cubic inch (25.5 liter) pack and certainly the smallest that I have used overnight.
History from southern-colorado.guide.com
In 1907, Frank Spencer, the supervisor of the Rio Grande National Forest, had been instructed to identify areas that might be worthy of becoming a national monument. He had heard rumors of a hidden place in the La Garita Mountain which the Utes referred to as the “The Sandstones.” He began searching for what is today Wheeler Geological Area. After finding this unique area, Spencer traveled to Washington to push for making this area a national monument.
On December 7, 1908, President Roosevelt proclaimed Wheeler National Monument. It was named in honor of Captain George Wheeler who led the War Department’s surveying team through Colorado. Wheeler Geological Area was on National Forest Land so the Forest Service managed the area. It was recommended that a good road be built to the area so tourists could see it. This suggestion was not followed and the only way to view Wheeler Geological Area was by foot. After World War I a horse trail was developed complete with a cabin, corral, and picnic area. With the invention of the automobile and no road, very few visitors ever saw the unique formations. The park service was not interesting in building a road so the local people of Creede pushed for building a road. With a lack of money this road never materialized.
In 1944, M.R. Tillotson, director of Region Three of the National Park Service, visited Wheeler Geological Area. He did not find Wheeler unattractive but was much more impressed with the ride into the monument than the formations themselves. He felt that Wheeler was not outstanding enough to be considered a National Monument and urged that it be returned to National Forest. So on August 3, 1950, only 43 years after becoming a National Monument, Wheeler was changed back to a National Forest area and today we have Wheeler Geological Area.
Lost Frontier by Kevin MacLeod is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/)
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