Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Road Through Eastland and Canyon Overlooks.

CR 312 - Horsehead Road is 11.2 miles from Main and Center Streets of Monticello; along this road is the community of Eastland.  Eastland was established in the 1920s and has not grown much throughout the years; last census taken was in 2000 of 130 in population.  It is basically a community of farms and some residential homes; there are no stores or services, so the residents come to Monticello for most of their needs.  While the majority of roads along Route 491 are comprised of dirt, gravel or a combination of both; the road to and through Eastland is unmaintained rough pavement which ends at 6.3 miles.  Four wheel drive is highly recommended for the rest of this adventure along CR 312; on the map below, follow the bright blue hi-lighted road. 

It won't be until you reach mile mark 5.2 that you'll see anything more scenic than the farmland.  The road begins a steep descent, but as it levels out you can park and take a good look at Horsehead Spring.

Then it's pretty much back to farmland; at 6.8 miles is CR 354 which looks to lead off towards Horsehead Canyon; while at 8.7 miles is CR 353 which might lead to Coal Bed Canyon.  Don't know for sure as I haven't traveled them as yet...road trip!  For now though, follow the curve to the right to stay on CR 312.

Just 4/10s of a mile (mile mark 9.1) there is an abandoned farmstead; the buildings there are old and their structures are fascinating, there is also some farming equipment sitting in the overgrown plant life.  The poor windmill has lost its blades and simply sits pointing upwards to the sky.


At mile mark 11.7, CR 312 splits around a large building; the road to the right is unmarked while the road to the left is, and goes downward towards a canyon.  None of the maps I had were a big help with deciding on which way to go; that's a huge reason Roy and I decided to begin making up our own and posting them.  Anyway, I decided to follow the sign and go left, and while a little nerve racking in spots, it was a fun drive!

Down and around to an overlook of Big Water Canyon...

Sleeping Ute Mountain in the distance.

At mile mark 12.9, there is an ATV trail that goes out into Big Water Canyon.  I was only able to travel for a mile before it became too rutted for the SUV to continue on.  Even then, it was pretty harrowing at a few spots, especially when the SUV was tilted upwards.  I do not believe I'll be doing that any time soon again.

...up and around to an overlook of Montezuma Canyon.

Along the way are many an ATV trail leading off into who knows where, but this stretch of road you've just traveled contained all these beautiful viewpoints and is only about 6.3 miles before you reach a split in the road.  It seemed a lot longer, but than I was stopping for photos and driving around 25 miles/hour.

So, mile mark 18 is the split; this is also a good area to park and have a picnic as there are grassy areas just a few feet away.

If you're curious about the split to the right, this 1.1 mile section will lead you to the Cactus Park Oil Tanks; doesn't sound too exciting, but the road will definitely get your adrenaline pumping.  I figure it this way though, if oil tankers can make it up and down these rough roads, it'll be a piece of cake for me and the SUV.

Alrighty then, taking the split to the left brings you up, up, up with a canyon to the left of you and a canyon to the right of you at one point.  Basically I was gripping the wheel and saying, "Oh s**t!" for about two miles; suddenly it leveled out and the landscape was turning into farmland again.  Horsehead Canyon could be seen in the distance past the freshly tilled fields. 

This road was only 4.7 miles long from the split and you won't guess where it lead too.  Remember at the large building I said the road split, the road to the right had no sign; well as I drove past Horsehead Canyon, the large building came into view.  In other words, CR 312 was a loop road which gave you awesome views of three canyons: Big Water, Montezuma and Horsehead.  So back up CR 312 towards Eastland, with a detour here and there, before I was too tired to explore anymore.  A most spectacular day indeed!

Mary Cokenour

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