RAS and I haven’t done much camping this summer like we normal have, probably because we’ve had an unusually rainy summer here in Colorado. Sure, we still could go out there, since we have a hard-sided 23-foot hybrid trailer that’s climate-controlled and has a complete kitchen and bathroom (although the tiny shower is only meant for use for people under 5’2″).
But we did that a few times last year, and it wasn’t fun camping in a near-deluge. So we’ve minimized the outdoor experience these past few months.
When we did manage to get out in July, we first headed to Kenosha Pass, which is the last descent before you head into the vast high-altitude plain called South Park (NOT the raunchy Comedy Central animated program, but it’s set there, sort of). What we didn’t count on was the narrow placement of trees on a rutted dirt road leading to the dispersed campgrounds. Because of these unexpected obstacles, the automatic rolling awning on our trailer was shorn off, and we couldn’t get through.
Eh, we didn’t need shade anyway…
Thanks to some very helpful fellow campers, who noticed the cacophony our crunching metal awning made, we somehow extricated the trailer from its arboreal grip. We then hightailed it out of there, to another campground with much wider roads.
I told RAS that I wanted to try going up Boreas Pass, which was about 30 minutes down US 285 and another 30 up a Forest Service road. I had heard it was a pretty cool place to camp…and it turned out to be just that.
Boreas Pass played an important part in Colorado history. Originally called Breckenridge Pass, for the closest town just down the western slope, it was changed to Boreas in honor of the Norse god of the northern winds. When the late nineteenth-century mining boom near Leadville resulted in the excavation of precious metals, people needed to find an efficient way to get them to Denver. Mule trains just weren’t going to be fast enough, and traditional railroads were impossible to construct. So railway companies constructed a narrow-gauge railroad specifically designed for steep mountainous routes on this former trail and stagecoach road. They built the line from Leadville to Breckenridge, up Boreas Pass, down to Como, through South Park and up again through the mountains, and finally all the way to Denver.
We found a spot at the Selkirk Campground. Normally, if you’re going to reserve a space at a Forest Service campground in Colorado, you have to book it weeks in advance, or take your chances on a first-come first-serve availability. Maybe because of its isolation, we lucked out and settled on this one. It’s a beautiful setting, hidden among lodgepole pines that haven’t yet been decimated by pine beetle kill, with singing mountain creek winding through a brushy valley.
On our first morning there, we hiked up the road from the campground to Boreas Pass Road, the main route you take to get to the pass. About a mile down from the turnoff, we discovered remnants of the old railway:
After lunch we tested out our mountain bikes on a very bumpy fire road. I wish I took pictures of this, but I honestly didn’t want to get my camera all muddy and nonfunctioning.
Later on, we drove to the pass, where weathered buildings told the story of the 150 people who lived here year-round to serve the railroad and its passengers. No doubt these people were the heartiest of folks (maybe even a little masochistic?).
Now these structures serve as overnight cabins for snowshoeing hikers and backcountry skiers in the winter, usually coming up from Breckenridge:
Hopefully, we’ll do more camping next summer if it’s not too wet again (and we don’t tear off our trailer awning).