After completing Nellie Creek, and returning to Lake City to say goodbye to Monica and Gary, the remaining crew headed back down highway 149 to the Bristol Head trailhead. We soon were at the turn off and quickly aired down and disconnected. The day was beautiful with clear skies and no threat of rain. We proceeded across the meadow and into the trees. The trail was smooth and we made good time. As we climbed, the trail became a little rougher, with occasional small potholes and some mud, but nothing that any vehicle couldn't navigate.
We passed a large campsite with several trailers and tents, and it looked like someone was setting up their elk hunting camp. Could it be that time of year already? We just weren't ready for summer to be over! We passed the turn off to Crystal Lake spur, wanting to make sure that we got to see Bristol Head before any afternoon thunderstorms developed. It turned out that the weather stayed clear, so we enjoyed the sunshine.
We met a few small groups and single vehicles but each time there was ample room to allow our groups to pass. We paused for lunch at a meadow with a good view of the approach to Bristol Head and we enjoyed the views. After lunch, we continued toward the summit. As we approached the last turn before the steeper rise, we came upon some mountain sheep. They didn't seem bothered by the attention and after checking us out they resumed their grazing.
We soon reached the first overlook near the end of the trail with its tower and solar panel arrays. We all parked and walked around enjoying the views down into the Rio Grande Valley and Santa Maria Reservoir. It was fun to check out the mountains to the west, noting possible trails for future exploration. After a while, we drove over to the second overlook just around the corner from the first one. Once we were done, we headed back down.
We soon arrived back at the spur to Crystal Lake. This spur quickly proved to be of a different nature than the main trail because it was lesser-used and definitely tighter and more varied. We wound our way through the trees and rocks, up and down the hills, and were soon at the lake. There was one fisherman on the opposite side of the lake and a group of ATV riders at the parking area. We talked with them and after a while they left, heading further up the trail, apparently on their way back to Creede. We didn't follow as we were uncertain if the trail was open to Jeeps, ATVs, or limited to foot traffic. While there were tracks of full-sized vehicles proceeding past the lake, we opted not to risk driving in a potentially closed area. It's so hard to tell what's legal sometimes, especially when there's evidence of prior use by others.
We left the lake and quickly drove back to the end of the trail. As we reached the end, we all had fun splashing our way through the creek crossing. We aired up and headed back to Lake City in time for dinner. Another great day in paradise!