Platte Canyon Drive

Samain and the Gratitude Moon

Wednesday gratefuls: Seeing Kate cheered by her fellow Bailey Patchworkers at their holiday luncheon yesterday. A drive yesterday along the Platte River Canyon from Bailey to the Shaggy Sheep. The partly running, partly frozen North Fork of the South Platte River. The black squirrel that played along its banks. Finding my heart so exposed.

While Kate had lunch with the Bailey Patchworkers at the Riverbend Restaurant in Bailey, I drove out to the Shaggy Sheep, headed toward Kenosha Pass, Fairplay, and the Pacific Ocean. The Platte Canyon runs from Bailey to the Kenosha Pass which, at 10,000 feet marks the transition to the high plains of South Park, a broad expanse of relatively flat land all above 9,000 feet. The Platte Canyon is around 7,700 feet above sea level, carved out by the South Platte River’s north fork. That makes it a gorge, as well as a canyon, since Highway 285 follows the fairly straight run of the river. A gorge always has a river like most, but not all, canyons.

Sometimes the mountains on either side of the canyon floor come close to the road, gray and rocky, closing the canyon off from the sun. At other points the South Platte runs through long, but narrow fields and pastures. Glen Isle, a beloved and historic resort with a round main building, is on the canyons western side. North Fork Ranch, an Orvis approved dude ranch, features fly fishing, kicking back, horse rides. It’s just beyond the small National Historic site of Shawnee.

Not much further along 285 is the national YMCA camp, Santa Maria, with its not so obviously needed statue of Jesus on a cliff face high above the camp. I passed it looking up at the statue, wondering why it was there.

My destination was the Shaggy Sheep, a restaurant opened by New York City chef fleeing the city. It’s a quirky, but good menu. It has, however, also quirky hours since it sits 14 miles west of Bailey and nowhere near any other towns. Georgetown can be reached between, oh, say, May and November, by the Guanella Pass not far from the Shaggy Sheep, and Jefferson, a very small town in South Park, is a few miles on beyond the Kenosha Pass. Billing itself as a casual mountain cook house, the Shaggy Sheep depends on tourist traffic which slows down in the winter months. Closed Monday-Wednesday during the winter, I learned.

The drive out there was the point though so I wasn’t disappointed. I turned around, drove back to the Riverbend and had a hamburger with truffle fries followed by an excellent canoli. Since I was waiting on Kate and forgot to bring a book (a rare occurrence), I read the articles of impeachment plus commentary and other stories on the NYT.

The wonder of living here is the chance to take a trip through the Platte Canyon just because. Or, up the Guanella Pass to Georgetown. Or, over the Kenosha Pass into South Park and onto Fairplay. And still be home for supper.