A Grande Rio…

by Springer42

WWWH: Poncha Springs Colorado
There were at one time many hotsprings bubbling out of the hills around Poncha Springs. In 1935, when Forrest was just lad, all but one of the springs were capped with cement (halted). The remaining spring was then piped to the nearby city Salida who owns the spring to this day. Salida is also labeled on the map in TFTW.

The Canyon Down: The San Luis Valley
This where I should have realized I was starting to stray, it’s a valley not a canyon. But liked the Home of Brown I found on the way down.

HoB: Great Sand Dunes National Monument.
This is where all the brown sand ends up after being picked up by winds blowing across the valley. The biggest sand dunes in North America. Also on Forrest’s map.

Put In: Rio Grande
Continuing south down the San Luis Valley past the sand dunes you come to where the Rio Grande passes through the city of Alamosa (on the the map). so from here I start following the river.

No Place for the Meek: Ute Mountain
Once you cross into New Mexico, there is a big lonely extinct volcano known as Ute Mountain sitting on the east side of the beginnings of Rio Grande Gorge. There may be a couple interpretations of why it’s no place for the meek.
1. it’s a volcano
2. The infamous Meeker Massacre that occurred in Colorado was committed by Ute Indians.
3. There is Ute creation myth that essentially states that the creator specifically chose the Ute Indians to be the bravest of all the people.

The mountain is on the map just not labeled. You can see it’s little bump just below the CO/NM border along the Rio Grande.

No Paddle Up Your Creek:
There is a rocky wash on the northwest side of the mountain that looks like a creek bed (36.950290°, -105.701648°). You can’t paddle up it because it’s just made up of rocks (heavy loads) and the only water you see might be snow on the top of the mountain (water high).

Could have been the same rocks that make up the creek you can’t paddle, It looks very similar to the shape the blaze on a horse might be. But the thing that I found was what appeared from GE to be a U shaped outcropping of rocks about half way up.
(36.950154°, -105.701823°)

When I saw that on GE I just had to know what it was, so I started planning my trip. It seemed daunting at first to go by myself, but a friend of mine  agreed to go with me at the last minute.

Just getting to the mountain was an adventure in itself. It’s in an extremely remote and rarely visited location, and the only access is on poorly maintained two-track dirt roads. I am really glad I rented a Jeep with 4-wheel drive instead of just a regular car. We only saw two other vehicles anywhere near us for the entire day.


When we started our less than a mile hike from the car, the first thing we noticed was the prickly plants literally everywhere on the ground. I’m going to be picking needles out of my boots for weeks. By the time we got to the bottom of the rocks, and I saw what we had to climb I was already starting to doubt my solve. Was this something an 80 year old could do? Maybe not.


We pressed on anyway and scrambled up the side of the mountain to the U shaped object I had found on GE. when we got there I discovered that what looked like a single object from GE was just a pile of rocks and nothing more. What a let down.


We checked many of the numerous crevices and hidey holes in the area anyway and marveled at the fantastic view we had of the valley below and the river gorge.


Finally, it was getting late so we called it quits and headed back down to the Jeep. We headed over to the edge of the Gorge to get a few pictures before we left and made a new arachnid friend on the way.



I believe this search has helped me understand a lot more about where and how I should be looking, and I’m looking forward to getting out again in Spring with a brand new solution to continue the chase. I leaning more toward a smaller scale solve now, hundreds of miles between clues is just way too far.

Thanks for reading, see you on the trail

31 thoughts on “A Grande Rio…

  1. @anyone – How does a valley differ from a canyon? I thought they were the same … east of the Mississippi River = valley, west of Mspi River = canyon. What else is different?

    • From what I’ve read, a canyon has more defined walls that differ sharply from the surrounding area often carved by a river flowing through it
      A valley on the other hand can have a more gently sloping edge and blends into the landscape around it. It can also be much wider. For instance the San Luis Valley we were in gets as wide as 50-60 miles.

      • I believe that a geographic definition of canyon is: a steep sided valley which is deeper than wide. However, I would point out that some areas that are named “canyons” on maps do not fit that definition. As usual, ambiguity abounds!

        Nice write up Springer42 and I enjoyed your pictures too! Sounds like you have a good friend who agreed to join you on your adventure.

  2. Springer42 ,,, not bad at all!

    What I like about your solution…

    (1) your logic encompasses a sequential layout of the clues
    (2) Ute Mountain (I can envision FF liking this place)
    (3) I see nothing at all wrong with your idea of “blaze” ( a pile of rocks could indeed be the blaze, so long as the pile stands out from its surroundings)
    (4) your write-up (clear and concise)
    (5) and thank you for offering a solution that does not involve Yellowstone area 🙂

    Couple of concerns …
    (1) You have alluded to 7 clues; where are other 2?
    (2) Under Ute Mountain paragraph, how do items 2 & 3 relate to poem?

    (To Becky … re: difference between valley and canyon; good question … in my opinion, a valley is wide and smooth; a canyon is narrow and rocky (or rough)

    • Thanks Ken,
      The other 2 clues were heavy loads and water high that help confirm why you won’t be paddling up your creek.

      • also for Ute mountain,
        (2) Nathan Meeker (meek) was killed by Ute Indians in 1879. A mountain named after them would be the last place he would want to go.
        (3) The Ute mythology says that the Ute people we created as bravest and strongest of all the Native American people. If you were a Ute, you were certainly not meek.

  3. Great solve, story and pics! Thanks for sharing. Where can you rent a Jeep in northern NM that allows you to go off road and how much does it cost?

    • We actually flew into Denver as it was much more cost effective, and drove down across the border. We used Budget, they had several Jeeps available. Also we never actually took it off road, we stayed on the marked primitive dirt tracks.
      It’s against Rio Grande Del Norte Monument rules to drive off the designated paths.

  4. 🙂 nice adventure. As we were leaving Colorado we passed by that area I saw a sign that said meeker massacre so I looked it up and read about what happened. Very sad story.

  5. Nice information on the meeker massacre. Did not know about that one. I too looked at Rio Grande but further south between Taos and Santa Fe. There have been many solves using this as one of the nine clues. After looking at the Rio Grande, my problem was that once in the canyon, you have two huge rock walls and a river. Not my ideal place for my eternal sleep.

  6. Springer42 – nice search story, there’s something about 4 wheel drive that sets you free. I suppose the only thing better would be on horseback.

  7. Coffee, danish, and a good read… great way to start the day. Thanks Springer. Will your next route start at Poncha Springs too? Sounds like a great WWWH.

  8. I liked your WWWH solution. Now start at Poncha Springs and go south on 285. That is a canyon down. To the west is Cleveland Mountain. Flag that. To the east is Rainbow trail. Flag that. There is another Rainbow trail down to the west alongside Silver Creek.
    That is what I see right now.

  9. Nice post. Thanks for sharing. Loved the pics.

    I was just looking at Ute Mtn on google earth last week….so thank you for checking it our for me! 🙂

    I love that you rented a jeep. Great idea.

    I might do that just for fun!

    Happy searching!

Leave a comment here...