Grin and bear it

Photo courtesy John M. Motter
The Bond House still stands up in the Banded Peaks country. It was built to serve as a boarding house by a man named Bond. It was thought that gold was discovered nearby and a short-lived gold rush ensued. Pretty soon there was no gold and no miners, but the house has served other purposes over the years.

One of the wildest and least known areas in Pagosa Country is the southeast corner. If you drive south on U.S. 84 to Chromo and then look due east, you’ll be looking at a group of mountains called Banded Peaks by the locals.
The road leaving Chromo in an easterly direction follows the Navajo River upstream and after a mess of scenic meandering reaches gates you can’t pass through unless you have permission from the owners. Behind those gates is Banded Peaks Country. We’ll talk about the Banded Peaks later, but first a little diversion. There are a lot of diversions in the high country.
Before you reach the end of the road, you’ll spot a dirt road turning north (left) toward Navajo Peaks and Price Lakes, and ending at the entrance to the South San Juan Wilderness Area. You might be walking on Kit Carson’s footprints as you bounce along this road. It is worthy of exploration and, in season, you’ll maybe catch a trout or two and likely find wild strawberries, raspberries and chokecherries, and possibly greet a black bear or two.
Black bears can be encountered in any part of Archuleta County. It is interesting to note that a former U.S. government trapper in this area, Lloyd Anderson, claimed the last grizzly bears in Archuleta County, maybe in Colorado, hung out in the mountains in this corner of Colorado. Anderson probably knew the backcountry in this part of the state better than anybody else ever did. Before he passed away a few years ago, I had a few talks with Anderson over black coffee at the Elkhorn Café. The subject of bears always came up.
Anderson had trapped what was thought at the time to be the last grizzly in Colorado. In those days, the U.S. government hired trappers to help cattle ranchers protect their bovine bonanzas from hungry wolves, mountain lions, bears and maybe some packs of wild dogs. The hunt for that last grizzly started this way. A rancher up in the Weminuche Country complained that a bear was chewing up his cows. Would Anderson do something? Quick!
Well, Anderson saddled up Old Paint and rode zig-zag across this rancher’s grazing permit. Sure enough, there were the mauled remains of a white face momma cow. After a quick look around, Anderson recognized that the perpetrator was not just a black bear, it was a grizzly bear. Like the ad on TV brags, Anderson knew a thing or two because he’d seen a thing or two. He’d been trapping these mountains since the 1930s, when wolves still howled and grizzlies still growled.
Armed with the facts he’d gathered, Anderson called his honchos in Denver and asked for permission to trap the grizzly.
“Of course not,” exclaimed the know-it-all bon ton sitting behind the desk of his comfortable Denver office while winking at his secretary and reaching for another piece of hard candy. “Everybody knows there aren’t any grizzly bears in Colorado!”
Finally, Anderson finally convinced him to let him set the trap, since the perp had to be a bear, whether black or grizzly.
Next week we’ll finish this story and more. Come back if you can bear to wait.

This story was posted on August 14, 2018.