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6-17-09 004_edited-1-2
Slip Rock Hill


5/16/10, Gypsum Gap, CO - I would define “adventure” as a series of potential near-death experiences.  This is one of the reasons that more people like the ‘idea’ of adventure, rather than the ‘reality’ of adventure. Taking a 6500 pound wagon and trailer down a six mile long hill, with hairpin turns, that drops 2000 feet is an adventure.  Doing it without dying requires; a little planning, common sense, and patience. Without brakes, the team can hold back the wagon on a 7% grade, but not for too long. So, my game plan was: 1. Keep the brakes cool and not over-pressurized, 2. Conserve the team’s legs, 3. Use my red & blue flashers for the whole way down, 4. Take my time.

I’m happy to report that plan ‘A’ worked.  That’s great; because plan ‘B’ is rough, and plan ‘C’ is desperate. (You don’t need any more details on these).

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Our first obstacle before starting down the hill - a cattle guard across the road, with a wire gate beside it.  This is one of three cattle guards I had to move around today.  Colorado is an open-range state.  In some areas, roads aren’t fenced off, and cattle are free to roam. (Hey, I’m like a cow - free to roam!)

The road down Slip Rock Hill doesn’t have much traffic, and being Sunday, there was even less. In total, I stopped about six times to cool the brakes.  Twice I had to crack a fitting and de-pressurize them. What I was trying to avoid, was blowing a wheel cylinder.  The body of the wheel cylinder is made out of cast iron and will blow out if it is over-pressurized or subject to too much heating.

The scenery on the way down was fantastic. It was so panoramic, that I really couldn’t capture it well in pictures.

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Dropping off the edge of the world on a road with “Runaway Horse Ramps”.

I breathed a little sigh of relief when I finally bottomed out in the Dolores River Canyon.  Not long after reaching the bottom, we crossed the Dolores River and I turned in at a turn out and refilled my empty water jugs.  It will be another 2 1/2 days before I get to another source of water.  I also took the time to water the team well (the camel effect works good too).

About a mile down the canyon, I stopped for lunch and gave the wagon a summer-make over job. It was pretty warm, so I rolled up the canvass.  It’s nice to look around with an unobstructed view.

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Some of the scenery on the way down the hill.

After climbing up a side canyon, I dropped into “Disappointment Valley”. Lone Cone mountain, on the western side of the San Juan’s dominated the scenery on the far end of the valley.  A lot of people stopped to say high as we crossed the valley.  But, I can see why they named it what they did; it’s dry as a bone and even the grass is made up of Spartan clumps of buffalo grass, that don’t grow very tall.  It’s ranched, but I doubt they could hold more than a few head of cattle on a one mile section of land.

Rob Howell stopped on his way to work and brought me some supplies and gifts - Thank you very much Rob!

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Stopping to cool the brakes

After a long day, the team had to climb up a ridge, gaining about 500 feet in elevation before we entered another, higher basin, where we’re camped for the night.

This was a really great day.

Post Script: In the middle of the night, the horses started stamping and blowing like there was a predator outside. I flew out of the wagon with a shooting iron in one hand and a knife in the other. But, my secret weapon is what scared it off - I was still in my long johns, so that must have presented too scary of a picture!

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Stopped again to cool the brakes.

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When I stopped to cool the brakes this time, I cooked up an English Breakfast.

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At the Dolores River where I filled up my water jugs and watered the team.

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The wagon, sporting it’s new summer look.

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Climbing up a side canyon, before descending down into Disappointment Valley.

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Never, in my wildest dreams, did I think I would be met by a Power Ranger at the entrance to Disappointment Valley. That thing in his hands looks like a camera, but it’s probably a death-ray gun!

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Disappointment Valley, with Lone Cone Mountain in the background.

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Our really remote camping spot.  Just before dark, a herd of 4 mule deer passed with 100 yards of the wagon.  I would have never known, but the horses spotted them. Before I saw the deer, I could tell by the way they looked and acted that it was either cows or grazing-type game. Since there are a few mountain lions around here, I pay attention.