Colorado's Stone Quarry Trail
Remember playing Follow the Leader as a kid? Everyone in a line, mimicking the actions of the first one in the column. The evil grin the leader took on was an early indication that you were in for it. It is much the same when following trail leader Nancy Bailey through the granite of the Stone Quarry Trail. She may know exactly what she's doing, but you can't help but think her senses have left her when you're trying to follow.
We were on day six of a nine-day extreme rockcrawling marathon across New Mexico and southern Colorado. Jim and Nancy Bailey live in nearby Alamosa, and as we were in their backyard, they were responsible for finding us appropriate rockcrawling diversions and serving as our trail leaders for the day. That wicked grin told us we were in for some wild fun when Nancy chose the Stone Quarry Trail.
The Stone Quarry Trail is located just off Hwy. 160 (trailhead:37o38.684'N, 106o16.120'W) between Del Norte and Monte Vista in southern Colorado. Immediately off the pavement is a designated staging area big enough to handle trailers, tow rigs, and recreational vehicles. The road leads back past a local gun range, through the fence designating the beginning of public lands, and out into the rocks. While the towering mountain ranges framing the San Luis Valley serve as the backdrop, The Stone Quarry Trail itself winds through terrain of far less visual impact. The area consists of thousands of acres of low rolling hills covered with granite outcroppings. These eroded outcroppings are Nancy's playground and the scene of many hours of Follow the Leader.
Locals have been playing here for many years. The Bureau of Land Management is currently working on revising the Resource Management Plan to include The Stone Quarry Trail as an official route. This area was formerly known as Travis' Trail (see "What's in a Name?, March '01 issue). Disputes with the management agency's vision for appropriate use had severely limited the amount of use and certainly curtailed the creation of additional fun until recently. Jim and Nancy Bailey, along with their fellow Blanca Peak 4X4 members, were successful in lobbying the BLM to allow the creation of an extension to the original pioneering work done by Travis Steffens. They then plotted out an extremely challenging path through their traditional play area and worked with the BLM to ensure that the trail was included as a designated route.
The club also helped the BLM with a recently approved grant request. Soon, The Stone Quarry Trail should be well marked by signs and directional markers. This future signing is important. The area is currently a baffling maze of almost indistinguishable mounds of rock, small canyons, and interconnecting two-track roads. The proposed trail itself is really just a route that strings together a remarkable series of obstacles and areas of challenges. In many ways, the area is reminiscent of Chokecherry Canyon in Farmington. If a single obstacle is examined and found to be a bit too intimidating, you can easily just turn out and drive around it, rejoining the group at the next level of difficulty.