A later strike at the Bachelor Mine led to the construction of a later version of Carson, and it is these buildings near the mine in Wager Gulch that still stand today. This well-preserved site is about 4 miles up Wager Gulch from the valley road. The road is steep and rocky in places but is still easily navigated by a stock SUV. As we climbed higher, the colors just kept getting better. Finally, at a switchback about halfway to the town site, we stopped, shut down the motor, and sat in enthralled silence.
It was one of those quintessential four wheeling moments: a rocky dirt road leading upward, suffused with the iridescent golden light that only aspen trees under a sunny sky can provide, canopied with a Colorado sky so blue that it defied description. It was one of those truly special moments that, at least partly, explains our passion for this form of recreation: a place to stop, pause, and just try to soak it all in.
We finally shook ourselves loose from our own little version of gold fever and pushed on up the trail. Right at the tree line, the buildings of "new" Carson pop into view across the meadow. A relatively recent upgrade to metal roofing should help keep the severe Colorado winters and their frequent and abundant snow load from erasing these buildings. Park the vehicles, stretch your legs, and explore the properties. Remember to take only photos and memories so future enthusiasts may do the same!
The road to the ridgeline was obvious at this point, and soon a four-way intersection on the Continental Divide slid into view. The road to the right quickly dead ends on a shoulder of Bent Peak. The road to the south also terminates with a viewpoint above the Lost Creek Valley and provides some good views back toward the scattered remains of Old Carson. A turn to the left passes some of the mining buildings and then climbs still higher up the ridge to the east. There is one stretch of road that is quite steep but if you know how to actuate a transfer case, head on up! The view from the crest is dramatic with the mighty San Juan range dominating the entire western horizon. A fork just past the crest leads to the historic La Garita Stock Driveway (left) and the road down past Heart Lake, Pearl Lakes, and eventually, the highway between Creede and Lake City.
We reluctantly turned to retrace our route, marveling once again at the magic of sunlit aspen groves on the downward trail. Even with all of our "gold" prospecting, town site explorations, and numerous camera stops, we slipped back into Silverton by 6 p.m.
Carson is one of those relatively out-of-way places that provides an unforgettable window into the rich history and stunning topography of the San Juan Mountains. Grab your favorite 4WD, a map, a camera, and a friend or two. And remember, there is still gold in those hills!
|GPS Coordinates ||Lat (D,MM.MMM) ||Long (D, MM.MMM) |
|Trailhead at Wager Gulch ||37,54.359 ||107,21.649 |
|Carson (Bachelor Mine) ||37,52.156 ||107,21.745 |
|Intersection on Continental Divide ||37,51.391 ||107,22.078 |
|Road to Heart Lake ||37,51.235 ||107,21.017 |