Hanks Valley Road
There are a lot of things named after some guy named Hank in this area of the Uncompahgre National Forest. We have no idea who he was, but we were going to take the trail into Hanks Valley to see what we could find. We were making a big loop using Sanborn Park Road and Dave Wood Road, and we had to check out the trail because it looked interesting on the topo maps. It was squiggly and it went to the edge of a canyon, so it was promising.
The trail was more of a road in most spots at the start, wide with gravel. There were ranch houses here and there, and cows all over the place. We stopped for a little morning break and enjoyed the scenery. It was the last day of our trip, so everyone had lots of snacks to finish up, as always.
There were aspen groves, but we'd missed the yellow leaves in almost all of the spots. All of the leaves had fallen off already. On the positive side, it opened everything up to big views of the valley.
It seemed like the trail was going to be pretty flat, but then we headed down a narrow hill. At the bottom, we were going to cross Hanks Creek at a small water crossing, but there were lots and lots of cows hanging out there. It took us through a slow journey through them, waiting for them to move. As it happens about half of the time, a single cow got in front of Monica and couldn't find a way off of the trail for a bit. That made our climb up the hill on the other side pretty slow while we waited for that cow to find its way away from us.
Just after we left that cow, the trail turned from relatively smooth to very bumpy. Other vehicles had been along it when it was muddy, and the dried ruts were pretty deep and plentiful. We couldn't get going very fast, and the section was pretty long. We knew we still had a way to go before the end, and we were happy when that section ended.
We crossed through a gate and a very eroded cattle guard, the most difficult part of the trail. Mike S. has been stuck on a cattle guard before, so his name came up. We had a good laugh and we were bummed that his Jeep had broken down days earlier, forcing him to go home early.
After the cattle guard, the trail was pretty smooth to the end. The last bits were a little overgrown, with very few signs of use. The end had some impressive views, and it felt very remote.
Roger and Monica had brought only one pair of shorts each just in case the weather cooperated. It cooperated, and they ended up wearing their shorts for the entire trip. It was Day 4 for the shorts, giving us another laugh.
We turned around and headed back, and the views of the San Juan Mountains on that half of the trek were gorgeous. We also stopped to check out a huge, rusted snow plow we'd seen on the way in. It didn't look like it was used anymore, and it was pretty cool. We wondered what it had seen out there in the wilderness over the decades.
When we got back to the trailhead we turned left to finish Sanborn Park Road. It was a nice trip through the trees.