2012-05-02 40 -105
In a field just south of Prairie Divide Road, about 6 miles northeast of Red Feather Lakes, CO
Since coming across this wiki at the beginning of April, I've been checking the hash points periodically, hoping that one would fall conveniently near my home or work so I could give geohashing a try. Well, I guess was just in the mood for going on an adventure this day (which, in retrospect, seems much more in line with the "spirit" of geohashing than waiting for a convenient spot to come up), since this hash point wasn't really nearby at all, but for whatever reason, I decided to go for it. This random spot seemed like it would be a nice place to try and reach, it was a warm and mostly sunny afternoon, so why not take a little trip to a location that I wouldn't otherwise have had a reason to visit? I checked the county parcel locator to see if the hash point was on private property, found that it was in fact on public US Forest Service land, and resolved to go there that evening.
My planned route was to head north out of Fort Collins on US 287, turn west on Cherokee Park Road (County Road 80C), then head south on Prairie Divide Road (for some reason, labelled as both County Road 19 and 179 on Google Maps). The hash point would be near a little dirt trail just south of Prairie Divide Road. After reaching the hash point, I then planned to continue south on Prairie Divide Road, turn east on Red Feather Lakes Road (County Road 74E), and head south on US 287 to return home.
Though it had been a warm and sunny afternoon when I decided to go for this hash, by the time evening rolled around, it had become mostly cloudy and windy with scattered rain showers around. Undeterred, I simply added an umbrella to the pile of things I was bringing along, and set out at about 6:25 PM. After stopping for gas on the way out of town, I headed north on US 287 as planned and turned west onto Cherokee Park Road. This was a nicely-maintained, wide dirt road winding through rolling rangeland and occasional larger hills. I passed lots of cattle grazing in the surrounding fields, though I also came upon a few cattle grazing right at the edge of the road! Somehow, they had managed to push up the bottom wire of a wire fence high enough so that they could squeeze under it, and three of them had made their "escape" to the strip of grass between the fence and the road. I slowed down so as not to alarm them, but they were apparently much more interested in munching grass than in examining passing vehicles, because they didn't move or even look up from their meal as I drove past. I also came upon two groups of deer during the drive, one group which simply looked up as I went by, and another which became quite distressed by my approach and ran over a hill away from the road.
After a while, I had reached the point where I expected Prairie Divide Road to be, and I did in fact come upon a road, but the sign said that this road was County Road 67J. My Google Maps research prior to setting out indicated that Prairie Divide Road might also be County Road 19 or 179, and my paper atlas also listed it as County Road 179, but I had not seen any mention of 67J. To resolve this perplexing situation, I got out my GPS (actually my GPS-enabled cell phone) and, sure enough, my current coordinates matched the point where Prairie Divide Road met Cherokee Park Road on the map, so I set off down County Road 67J. A sign soon warned me that the road would not be snowplowed past that point, but luckily, it was not snowing, so I was unperturbed by this information.
In contrast to Cherokee Park Road, this 67J was a fairly rough and rocky, single-lane dirt road that wound up and down many hills. I switched on my car's 4-wheel drive and pressed on, hoping I wouldn't meet with any other vehicles coming the other direction. Before you feel too bad for me driving in these "treacherous" conditions, though, I should point out that the scenery along this road was just beautiful, and I actually didn't see a single other car on the road during the whole time I was on Cherokee Park Road or Prairie Divide Road, so I wasn't too concerned about encountering opposing traffic. I did find it a little ironic that I didn't come across any other people while engaging in this activity designed to help people meet each other, but I hadn't really expected to see other geohashers anyway, especially so late in the day. It was about this time as well that it occurred to me that this whole undertaking may have been a bit silly, but I also realized that I was enjoying myself greatly and it gave me a reason to explore this cool area near my home that I hadn't been to before, so I was definitely glad I had gone!
After a while, County Road 67J became wider and smoother as well, and eventually, I passed the clearing I had seen on Google Maps and came upon a dirt trail that looked like the one that led near the hash point. Another GPS consultation indicated that the coordinates were indeed nearby, so I turned down the side road. Apparently, the path where this road had been placed was also the most convenient route for downhill-flowing water to follow, since there was a network of small ditches weaving across the road. As I got closer to the hash point, some of these ditches grew larger (perhaps a foot or two deep), so I had to do a little creative driving to maneuver around and over them. I then came upon a spot where the road morphed into a sizable mud pit, with a dozen or so logs placed across it to constitute the "road." Since I was only a few hundred feet from the hash point, I opted not to risk driving across the quagmire and decided to walk the rest of the way to the coordinates.
By now, it was about 7:40 PM, so considering the gas stop on the way, the drive had taken about an hour and 10 minutes. However, it was also only about 20 minutes before sunset, and the hash point was at an elevation of about 7900 feet (about 2400 meters), so when I got out of the car, I found that it was quite chilly. I had been prepared for rain (of which there had been none thus far), but I didn't think to consider other weather conditions I might encounter, so I was wearing a T shirt despite the fact that (according to my car, at least) it was only 47 degrees F (about 8 degrees C) and a bit windy. Well, after getting this close, I wasn't about to let a little cold air keep me from the hash point, so I grabbed my GPS and camera and set out on foot across the field containing the spot.
There were wire fences on three sides of this field, so I was dearly hoping that the hash point would not fall beyond them, and as I approached the coordinates, it appeared that the spot would indeed be accessible. After doing the GPS dance for a couple of minutes trying to zero in on the exact point, I finally located it and felt the thrill of a successful geohash surge through my body for the first time! (Perhaps the cold was getting to me by this point... no, I'm sure it was the thrill of a successful geohash!) After taking a picture of the GPS at the hash point, I did a little celebratory non-GPS dance and snapped a shot of my Stupid Grin™ as well. I stuck my Google Maps printout under a conveniently located hash rock and took a picture of the precise spot. I had never before been so excited to locate a rock in a grassy field, near some trees, a few feet from some plant, in the middle of nowhere, but I readily admit that I had a great time doing it.
Now that I had found the hash point, I started to look around the surrounding area a bit. There were, of course, some scenic views of the assorted foliage, hills, and mountains nearby, along with what I now realized was a dry creek bed (the location of the log-road quagmire). However, my curiosity also drew me to two mysterious pools located just down a small hill from the hash point. One of these was a large blue plastic pool that was filled to the top with water (actually overflowing a bit on one side), surrounded by a wooden fence, with a slanted wooden board attached to part of the fence. This slanted board looked perfect for holding a helpful sign that would explain what a blue pool of water was doing in the middle of some random field, but sadly, no such sign was present, leaving me utterly bewildered. A few feet away, there was some sort of upside-down, rusting metal trough, and near that was another large pool surrounded by a wooden fence, though this one was made of rusting, silver metal instead of blue plastic, and was totally devoid of water. (OtherJack has since suggested that these mysterious pools may have been evaporation pans. This certainly seems plausible, and they do resemble the pan depicted in the Wikipedia article, though one of them was overflowing and the other one was empty, so whoever put them there is certainly not getting very good measurements from them!)
I then walked back up the dirt trail to the main road to take pictures of that, when I noticed a small sign across the main road from the hash point. Upon reading the sign, I found out that this place was the former site of the Copper King Mine, which produced copper, zinc, and uranium in the early part of the 20th century before being abandoned. In 2009, the US Forest Service determined that the deteriorating buildings and open mine shafts presented a safety hazard, so they dismantled the buildings and filled in the mine shafts. Additionally, erosion of the mine's waste rock piles had been affecting the surrounding watersheds, so the Forest Service incorporated limestone into the waste rock piles, covered them with topsoil, re-graded the piles, and seeded them with native grasses. These areas were then fenced in to allow the vegetation to become established. This explained the presence of the fences randomly surrounding the field containing the hash point, and I'd say the grasses have become well established by now, since the fenced-in areas didn't really look any different from the rest of the field!
Though I was enjoying learning about the mining history of the hash site and wondering about those strange pools, it was getting dark and I was quite cold by that point, so I headed back to my car and turned on the heat! I left at about 8:25 PM, after spending 45 minutes or so at the hash point, and continued south on Prairie Divide Road/County Road 67J as planned. I noticed lightning off to the south and west as I started my drive home, so I thought that I might still see some rain yet. After winding through some more hills and valleys, the road became paved just as I neared Red Feather Lakes, and I turned east onto the also-paved Red Feather Lakes Road. Soon after, it did indeed begin to rain, so I was glad that I was off of the dirt roads by then. I encountered several showers along the way home, but no thunderstorms, so the drive was largely uneventful. (It was a little exciting when I finally passed a few other cars on the road, though, after not having seen any other people for an hour and a half or so!) Upon reaching Livermore, I turned south on US 287 and headed back to Fort Collins. I arrived home around 9:50 PM, so the drive back from the hash point took about an hour and 25 minutes, and my whole adventure had spanned around three and a half hours. Overall, my first geohash was a delightful time, and I very much look forward to exploring this beautiful graticule further and hopefully meeting some other local geohashers in the future!
| Squenes earned the Land geohash achievement