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Last week, we took an imaginary step back in time to the early 1920s. Our step involves motoring from downtown Pagosa Springs to the Upper Blanco Basin, commenting on points of interest as we go. Last week we got as far as today’s intersection of U.S. 84 and Mill Creek Road.
And so we continue south approximating the route of today’s U.S. 84. As we pass near Echo Lake, there is no lake. Echo Lake was built after WWII. But we proceed southerly across Echo Creek Valley. This area was referred to as Flaugh in the early days and the community had several homes. The low, east/west hill we cross next was known as Four Mile Hill. When Fort Lewis was in Pagosa Springs, this was a military route connecting the Pagosa fort with Fort Marcy in Santa Fe. The Army identified landmarks by the number of miles they were from Fort Lewis in Pagosa Springs. The hill past Echo Creek was Four Mile Hill and the next hill after crossing Squaw Valley was Eight Mile Hill. The name Eight Mile Mesa remains to this day. North of town, the same logic was used to name Four Mile Creek.
As we continue south to the bottom of Four Mile Hill, we are entering Squaw Valley, so named because the Ute men reportedly left their families in this valley while they visited Pagosa Springs.
Almost immediately at the bottom, the road forked, as it does today. The right fork went westerly to the foot of Eight Mile Mesa. There it turned south again through a small valley to the Blanco River. During the early 1980s when I was researching my history book, a dirt road ran through the little valley. Along the road were short telephone poles, surviving from the 1890s when Welch Nossaman installed a telephone line to Edith, connecting Pagosa Springs with the outside world for the first time. Since this route takes you to New Mexico, but not the Upper Blanco Basin, let’s return to where our southbound road forked as it entered Squaw Valley.
Now we take the fork in a southeasterly direction and cross the upper part of Squaw Valley to the stretch of low hills forming the northern rim looking down on the Little Blanco River. We cross those hills through a small pass and turn left along the northern bank of the Little Blanco and travel about a mile until we reach the point where Blue Creek runs into the river from the south and there is a log cabin on the left.
The road continues easterly until the Little Blanco swings more to the east and the valley widens. Several ranches straddle the river as it swings easterly on the north side of Squaretop Mountain. One of the ranches was run by Jule Macht and another by Denver Latham, both the subject of stories told by old timers.
Next week, we’ll cross the next set of mountains and enter the Upper Blanco Basin.