Not too long ago, I asked in the comments what the commentariat’s favorite stretch of road is. The answers ranged from US 7 in the Massachusetts Berkshires to Highway 95 to Zzyzx in the Mojave Desert and everything in between. That post was a lead up to this article which I’ve been planning for some time. Most of my submissions to the site have been self-important, bloviating, pseudo-philosophical dreck best left to stoned college sophomores. For a change of pace, I thought I’d write a simple love letter to my favorite stretch of road, along with some purty pictures.
The Silver Thread
I speak, of course, of the article’s eponymous road, The Silver Thread, aka: CO-149, one of Colorado’s Scenic Byways.
I have been traveling this road to the Undisclosed Location since I was six months old and it will never be replaced in my heart as my favorite drive. While it’s most definitely beautiful, it’s more like the cute and comfortable girl-next-door. Not the popular cheerleader like US 550 from Durango to Ouray,
or the unattainable bombshell like the Richardson Highway from Delta Junction to Valdez.
It’s not seductively dark and mysterious like the Redwood Highway,
nor exotic and sensuous like US 1 from Miami to Key West.
Nevertheless, it is “my road” (not really, but I think of it that way), and I think it’s as beautiful as the day I met her.
This 117 mile stretch of road runs from South Fork to US 50 just west of Gunnison. In the process it goes over two passes: Spring Creek Pass, 10,898 feet where it crosses the Continental Divide,
and Slumgullion Pass, 11,530 feet.
Slumgullion is in an area that has been hit the hardest by the spruce beetle epidemic and the picture above shows it before the epidemic hit. The following picture is after.
This is what a good realtor would call “emerging views”. The road also passes through the charming old mining towns of Creede and Lake City.
In my opinion, of the two, Lake City is the more scenic and has the bizarre story of Alferd Packer, the legendary cannibal and subject of Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s first foray into writing (“Cannibal: The Musical”). It also sits at the base of five of Colorado’s Fouteeners; Uncompahgre Peak, Wetterhorn Peak, Handies Peak, Redcloud Peak and Mt. Sunshine.
Creede was the more productive mining town and has more Wild West heritage, counting Soapy Smith, Poker Alice, Bat Masterson and Robert Ford among its previous residents. Lake City gets its name from Lake San Cristobal, a natural lake formed when about 10,000 years ago a massive landslide, called the Slumgullion slide, broke off the mountain and dammed up the Gunnison River.
Lake City is also the gateway to the Alpine Loop, a great 4×4 trail that loops from Lake City to Ouray to Silverton and back to Lake City.
The Silver Thread represents my little slice of Heaven of hiking, shooting, fishing, offroading and drinking. Driving on it always means that I can look forward to what it’s all about.