The Road To Kootchie-Kootchie Gulch
by The Csuti & Rossie Expeditionary Company - [C-REC]
John Paul Rossie
The road to Kootchie-Kootchie Gulch is long and tortuous. To some of you, that may not mean much. To those of us from the high country, the mere mention of the name strikes terror deep in the soul; it brings on that sense of dread where the bottom of your stomach feels like it's falling out - Kootchie-Kootchie Gulch! One of Nature's deadliest traps on the planet.... worst by far than the Devil's Punch Bowl. But that's another story.
The road up to Kootchie-Kootchie is not so bad.... it's what you run into AFTER the road runs out that accounts for the high rate of annual fatalities and the history of blood-covered rocks, bones scattered for the coyote, meat scraps for the carrion.
But let's not let mere words stop the strong at heart. Hang on to your hats! We're going on a tour....
Yup! Up the pass and into Kootchie-Kootchie Gulch (Gulp).
But when the going gets rough, don't say we didn't warn you.....
The ride up to the pass isn't too bad - if you're prepared for it. It's a pretty standard, high-mountain road -- a drop off on one side with plenty of rock slides expected from the up-slope, and plenty of wash-outs ready to pull you into the down-slope. It's a piece of cake, really. If only it weren't about 20 miles long. Reminds me of that song, "40 Miles of Bad Road." But it sure makes you feel like you're headin' for the top of the world!
After a series of hills and curves and bends, you can at least see where it is you're heading towards ...... the long path up before you reach the edge of the world that drops off into The Gulch. On this particular day, we followed a County Rescue Team trying to locate some lost campers. They'd made mention of The Gulch back in Alma, and people took note. When they didn't show up again for better than a week, it was standard procedure to at least get up over the rise to see if any circling vultures could be spotted. On this occasion, the search came up empty handed. But the coyotes howling that evening didn't sound empty bellied.
That far-off shot doesn't quite do justice to the road conditions: here's what it's like crawling up the side of that pile of rocks: like crawling up a pile of rocks. If you don't carry at least two spares, you could be in for a rough time. Often, the Forest Rangers will stop out-of-state vehicles to politely enforce this piece of wisdom...... and to check for oxygen deprivation just based on being there in the first place.
Anywhere along the way, you could die of the heat, or crack your head on a rock, or just as easily drown.... as two of the unlucky passengers in this Chrysler POS discovered. This action series shows the jeep pushing water right through the center of a wash that we were smart enough to go around. Right after the third picture was snapped, the jeep disappeared -- straight down.... into that thing that sort of looks like a stream crossing from left to right: that's what they call a fissure. They don't have to be very wide, 'cause they're deeper than hell. Only three of the five occupants were rescued. The sun was beating down at a beautiful 70F, but that water was coming straight off the melting snows, at about 38F. Sort of takes your breath away, so they say!
We're about to enter the Gulch itself, but..... well, the guy carrying the camera stood too close to the edge. We were able to get the body with ropes and haul it up, but the camera had been smashed and the film totally exposed. So, you'll have to wait til our next trip for those gripping pictures of the heart of this Beast -- the infamous Kootchie-Kootchie Gulch.
But in the meantime, we'll continue on up the road.....
Click HERE for Part Two