Story and photo by Ericka Kastner
When I venture into the wilderness, I frequently experience a shift in my perspective on life, a fresh way of seeing things. My recent visit to Turkey Rock on the first day of spring offered the perfect metaphor for this experience.
Driving along U.S. Hwy. 50 and looking north while passing through Howard, the cliffs of the Bureau of Land Management’s Turkey Rock Recreation Area are visible; yet although I’d passed through the valley a hundred times, until a friend told me about Turkey Rock, I’d never noticed it. And although the cliffs are visible, the namesake rocks making up the head of the turkey are barely discernable from this vantage point.
Locating a trailhead to get to Turkey Rock required a bit of exploration. I found three possible spots along Sand Gulch Road in which to park to access the area, but as is common on BLM land, there is no clear trailhead marker. Ultimately I decided the best spot to start was along the road to the northwest of Turkey Rock, just upon entering the canyon. From here, a short half- to three-quarter-mile walk of moderate difficulty on sandy singletrack takes hikers to the base of the cliff making up the feathers of the turkey, and the opportunity to view a fascinating vein of conglomerate rock along the wall.
Returning to the trail and continuing southeast of the rock outcropping for another quarter mile, a number of spots open up, allowing hikers to look back to the north and gain a broader perspective and clearer view of the rock wall. And it was there that the metaphor ensued: not until I stepped away could I gain any perspective, could I see the “turkey” clearly. And then, standing in the exact same spot on the trail but looking instead away from the rocks, toward the south, I experienced heart-stirring views of the Sangres, more metaphors, and a reminder for me to look around every once in a while and not be so fixated on my goal.
Turkey Rock is one of my new favorite places. Horses and foot traffic are allowed, and at times the area sees heavy trials bike use. However, on the weekend that my pup and I visited Turkey Rock, we didn’t see one person on the trail during the three hours we explored the area. This is a fabulous hike for children, as there are boulders for scrambling, rock-hounding opportunities and countless sun-dried bones to discover.
Dog owners take note – water is in short supply along the trail and due to the arid, desert-like topography, rattlesnakes are likely during warmer weather.
Getting there: From Salida, travel east 10.5 miles on U.S. Hwy. 50 and turn north in Howard at C.R. 4 at the sign for Howard Hall. Stay on the road, turning east at the T and staying on C.R. 4. Continue through old Howard and at about a half-mile from where you left U.S. Hwy. 50, make another turn east, this time onto C.R. 45. Another half mile down the road, turn left at Sand Gulch and look for parking for the Turkey Rock Area on your right, just before you enter the canyon.
While you are in Howard: Take a drive through the old town and peek inside the original Howard church, built in 1898. The building is currently undergoing restoration funded by a grant from the Colorado State Historical Fund.
Logophile and “Places” columnist Ericka Kastner looks forward to exploring more wild places this spring just outside her door up Bear Creek Road. View more of her work online at erickakastner.com.