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Trip Report: Tarryall Road, Colorado

Basic Information

Narrative

I recently took my family for a drive on the Tarryall Road that passes adjacent to the Lost Creek Wilderness in order to see the autumn colors that had sprung up throughout the high country.  We first drove to Lake George, Colorado which is located about an hour drive outside of Colorado Springs:

Just to the west of Lake George is the marked turn off on to the Tarryall Road otherwise known as County Road 77.  The road is paved so any vehicle can drive on it though some sections are a bit bumpy with potholes.  The road for most of the way follows adjacent to the scenic Tarryall Creek:

Picture from the Tarryall Mountains

Along the way the road passes many ranches and cabins with some of them appearing to be quite historic.  An example of one of these historic structures is the old Tarryall School:

Picture from the Tarryall Mountains

This one-room school served the residents of the area from 1921-1949.  The first school was built all the way back in 1889, but was replaced by the current structure in 1921 due to fire.  The bell and belfry tower are all that remain of the original structure.  A nice roadside marker has been constructed near the school that provides a good summary of its history:

Picture from the Tarryall Mountains

Passed the school the views of the Tarryall Mountains begin to come into view and they are quite impressive:

Picture from the Tarryall Mountains

As the road approaches the mountains more and more unusual rock formations can be seen near the road:

Picture from the Tarryall Mountains

There was also plenty of autumn foliage to see as well:

Picture from the Tarryall Mountains

We stopped our drive about halfway up the road at a large lookout that provides sweeping views of the Tarryall Mountains:

Picture from the Tarryall Mountains

The Tarryall Mountains are not 14ers with its highest peaks reaching to over 12,000 feet in altitude.  Its highest mountain Bison Peak reaches to an altitude of 12,431 feet and can be seen pictured below to the center left:

Picture from the Tarryall Mountains

This trip actually inspired to come back the following weekend to hike up Bison Peak.  You can read about this hike at the below link:

Despite not being very high mountains by Colorado standards they are still quite impressive due to all the unusual rock formations that can be seen in these mountains that are unlike anywhere else in Colorado.  Nearby Pikes Peak is only other place I have seen that has similar unusual rock formations such as the Crags Trail.  Something else I found of interest was that this lookout is the same view that British explorer Isabella Bird saw during her solo trip through the Colorado Rockies back in 1873.  A marker at the lookout provides a brief history of Isabella Bird:

Picture from the Tarryall Mountains

I have read her book, A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains (The Western Frontier Library Series) that provides a fascinating look into the early frontier days of Colorado.  Here is what she had to say about her trip up Tarryall Creek:

“I rode up one great ascent where hills were tumbled about confusedly; and suddenly across  the broad ravine rising above the sunny grass and deep green pines, rose in glowing and shaded rad against the glittering blue heaven a magnificent  and unearthly range of mountains as shapely could be seen, rising into colossal points, cleft by deep blue ravines, broken up into sharks teeth with gigantic knobs and pinnacles rising from their inaccessible sides, very fair to look upon a glowing, heavenly, unforgettable sight, and only four miles off.”

My family and I had a picnic at the lookout and enjoyed taking in the views just like Ms. Bird did 140 years ago.  After our picnic we then drove back to Lake George where we stopped to check out this old cabin they have on display:

Picture from the Tarryall Mountains

This restored cabin is an example of what cabins during Isabella Bird’s time in Colorado would have looked like.  At the front of the cabin there was this marker indicating that the restoration of the cabin was in honor of railway workers killed in nearby Eleven Mile Canyon over the years:

Picture from the Tarryall Mountains

The old railway bed in the canyon is now a dirt road that I drove up earlier this year with my family.  You can read about our drive and hike up the canyon at the below links:

The city leaves the restored cabin open for visitors to check out.  Fortunately no one has yet to rob the place of its various antiques.  The inside of the cabin is one very large room where the family would have all lived with the kitchen stove providing heat during the winter months:

Picture from the Tarryall Mountains

This small bowl and watch pitcher is what would have served as their shower:

Picture from the Tarryall Mountains

Considering the amount of manual labor that had to be done back then I can only imagine how smelly the homesteaders back then must have been.  Here is a view looking back towards the entrance where a bed can be seen on the left and the kitchen table on the right:

Picture from the Tarryall Mountains

Above the bed pictures of Richard and Ann Snair who first built this cabin in 1875 could be seen:

Picture from the Tarryall Mountains

After checking out the interior I walked behind the cabin to take in the views the Snair’s would have enjoyed every day of the nearby Tarryall Mountains:

Picture from the Tarryall Mountains

I wonder if they were inspired by the views of these rugged peaks as Isabella Bird was and that is why they built their cabin here?

Conclusion

For anyone living in the Colorado Springs area I highly recommend taking a drive up the Tarryall Road to see another unique part of Colorado.  Autumn is probably the best time to do this drive in order to see the colors of the changing aspen trees.  For the more adventurous a hike into the Lost Creek Wilderness I also recommend in order to really experience this unique landscape.

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