On the trail: Exploring Bulldog Creek
September 17, 2012
CARBONDALE – I’ve had Bulldog Creek south of Carbondale on my to-do list for a while. It’s still there.
A friend and I set off Saturday morning to explore this drainage on the south flank of Mount Sopris. If you’ve ever gone to the Avalanche Creek trailhead, you’ve driven over Bulldog Creek – it’s the water crossing with no bridge.
I had no idea what to expect but knew it was one of the so-called “Hidden Gems” proposed for wilderness protection.
Our map showed a road on the north side of the creek. It carried running water for a stretch, but we picked our way here and there, wherever travel was easiest. Shortly after we reached some old mine works and crumbling buildings, where the road/trail is quite distinct, the path pretty much petered out in dense underbrush. By this time, the creek was in a deep ravine. We scrambled down to the water and hiked upward on one side of the water and then the other, on the gravel and sandbars sculpted by high water. The actual creek was only a few feet across.
The gorge grew increasingly steep, and we eventually reached a point where there was nowhere to go, short of walking in the water, which was pouring over a small waterfall ahead of us.
We scrambled back up the bank on the north side and bushwhacked to a spot where it looked like we might have views of what was ahead. The only view corridor was the creek, cut through steep, forested mountainsides. It was indeed wild and seemingly impenetrable.
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Ninety minutes into the hike, we turned around to pick our way back. During our return, I stopped to answer nature’s call, stood to pull my pants up and caught sight of a couple peering at me from across the ravine. For all I know, they’re still trying to erase the memory of that encounter. I know I am.
Anyway, they were walking on an actual trail, having crossed the creek to the south side near the crumbled cabins and tailings piles while we stayed on the north side. When we met up later, one of the hikers said he had to skirt mudslides and traverse a tricky one, but I was unclear on whether he’d made it farther up the valley than we did.
When we got home, we Googled Bulldog Creek and found this: “The goal of the hike is a surprising waterfall near an old mining tunnel.”
OK, we saw mine ruins and a small waterfall. They were no where near each other, though. We have to go back.