The Devils Punch Bowl
Departing Crystal, the rough road continues toward Schofield Pass with one side road up Lead King Basin that will eventually take you back to Marble. That’s another trip worth your time.
The Devils Punch Bowl is a series of magnificently dazzling waterfalls that end in a deep set of pools that draw swimmers and cliff jumpers by the dozens. Here again, you want to take advantage of the views, but you might want to stop while doing it. The quite narrow shelf road could be unforgiving to those who lose concentration.
After the Lead King Basin intersection, the road narrows and becomes a climbing shelf road along a talus slope prone to avalanches during the winter months. Because of one avalanche area, one portion of the road does not open to most traffic until late June or much later in certain years. The scenery through the Elk Mountains and Crystal River valley would be second to none. Striking views of the steep mountains reaching from the deep blue sky down to the appropriately named river are enough to give you a headache. The water in the river is so clear; the center of the earth can be seen through it. The road has one quite narrow bridge with no sides that you want to cross with extreme caution while the river underneath will magnetically pull your attention away from your driving duties. Now on the south and west side of the river, you begin to ascend toward the upper Schofield Pass elevation with the Devils Punch Bowl off to your left.
This is a place where you want to remember that Uphill traffic has the right of way meaning that if you meet someone coming down in a place where passing is impossible, THEY must backup to where passing is possible. There MAY be times when this is impractical – like when meeting several rigs coming down and you are alone… but be VERRRRY cautious about backing downhill. Trying to stop while backing downhill can be a very dangerous undertaking. As you reach the top, you might think this is the top of Schofield Pass. It opens into a nice, wide and lush valley floor with willows and alder lining the creek bottom. Here, the road crosses the Crystal River in a fairly deep “hole”. Even though the river going over and down the falls looks like just a small stream, this “hole” can be a lot deeper than you might expect.
Published on Sep 21, 2014