Tom Ross: Prime time on Buffalo Pass
July 16, 2012
Steamboat Springs — The rain storms that crashed through the upper Yampa Valley during the weekend helped to relieve our drought symptoms and put a little charge in the river, but it's another world above 10,000 feet on Buffalo Pass, where the wildflower meadows are lush and the little creeks are still flowing.
Take the 40-minute drive up Forest Service Road 60 from Strawberry Park and you'll find yourself asking, "Drought? What drought?"
The forest of ferns beneath the aspen groves is shoulder high on a tall man in places. The only thing that seems to be missing are the columbine wildflowers.
In place of columbines, there are intense patches of crimson Indian paintbrush showing up in the midst of lavender fireweed, and the bluebells are blooming in profusion almost anyplace a seep comes out of an east-facing hillside.
The best news of all? The mosquitoes are a nonissue on the Continental Divide right now. At least, that's the case in the middle of the day. I slapped one bloodsucker Sunday and shooed one other away. That was it — two skeeters in four hours. That's unheard of on Buffalo Pass in early July. You should take advantage of the heck the drought has wrought on mosquitoes.
Buff Pass was off limits for fall colors and big game hunting last fall unless you wanted to go far out of your way and drive to North Park to come up FSR 60 from the eastern side of the Continental Divide. That regrettable circumstance was due to construction work to install a significant number of shiny new culverts beneath the road to channel away snow melt.
FSR 60 remained closed early this summer in spite of the early snow melt. Now, the road has reopened, and with six dependable summer weekends remaining on the calendar, it's time to head for the high country. But remember, Stage 2 fire restrictions are still in effect, so no matter how lush the landscape on Buff Pass, absolutely no fires or smoking are allowed.
To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com