West Elk Loop Byway
Driving along Colorado Route 133, I had the bizarre experience of, for a brief moment, feeling like I had driven out of Colorado and directly into a West Virginia coal camp. Somerset, Colorado took me by surprise. It's a tiny town, and as you can see, its welcome sign proudly proclaims its coal mining heritage.
Coal isn't just an historical footnote for Somerset -- the good people who live here are still cranking out the stuff that keeps our lights on. Route 133 squeezes through town, past part of the Oxbow mining operation and the A-frame post office. Tin-roofed houses, chain-link fences, a shed, a broken-down car, and even a satellite dish all crowded the edge of the suddenly-dirty highway for a brief moment. But as quickly as it arrived...
... it ended, and I was back in the Colorado I knew.
East of Somerset, it's only a few miles to the turnoff of County Road 12 -- the dirt road to Crested Butte, Colorado. If you'd like to go ahead and jump there, you can.
Instead of making the sensible choice, and taking CR 12 over Kebler Pass, I decided to gamble on another route, CR 3, on the other side of McClure Pass, about 20 miles up the road. CR 3 over Schofield Pass looked reasonable on whatever map I was using at the time, but now I'm thankful that it was still closed by snow (in early June). Websites like this one make it clear that the road over Schofield Pass to Crested Butte requires a jeep and a foolish sense of invincibility. I ended up backtracking to CR 12 -- but if you're curious about the detour I took on CO 133 to McClure Pass, you can follow the link in the "NEXT" box below.
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