The road less traveled — although Secretary Williams tried

The initial drive on Mosquito Pass seemed doable to Secretary of State Wayne Williams and his deputy, Suzanne Staiert, on Monday during their trek between Fairplay and Leadville. (SOS photo)
Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams discovers that Mosquito Pass isn’t actually a “fastest” route. (SOS photo)

By Lizzie Stephani

Secretary of State Wayne Williams and his deputy Suzanne Staiert learned the hard way this week that Google map’s choice of “County Road 12” as the “fastest” route between Fairplay and Leadville wasn’t so fast. That’s because the road is also known as Mosquito Pass.

Had they googled “Mosquito Pass” — which we all did at the office when they texted us about their dilemma — the first entry they would have seen was a website entitled “dangerous roads.”  Other entries talking about how the 10-mile pass has “humbled many egos” and features bowling-ball size boulders.

It turns out that the “fastest route” between Fairplay and Leadville features a road filled with boulders.

Williams and Staiert set off Monday to visit Park County Clerk Debra Green, then Lake County Clerk Patty Berger as part of Williams’ goal to visit every clerk’s office every year. The first few miles of the pass featured dirt, but then the stones appeared.

“When I got to the hairpin I told Wayne, ‘I’m not one to give up easily, but this isn’t a road,’” Staiert said.

Staiert was worried about damaging her Honda Pilot.  They turned around — no easy feat either — and took another route to Leadville, getting them to the clerk’s office in Lake County an hour later than planned.

Former state legislator Ken Chlouber of Leadville laughed when he heard about Williams’ and Staiert’s adventure on the pass.

“Fastest — by burro!” he said. “That’s something city folks should stay away from. That’ll eat up a Honda Pilot and spit it out.”

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams with Lake County Clerk Patty Berger in her office in Leadville. (SOS photo)
Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams with Park County Clerk Debra Green outside her office in Fairplay. (SOS photo)

With 36 reviews on trip advisor, Mosquito Pass earns 4.5 stars as an off-road and ATV trail, but a zero from Clerk Berger — and we’re guessing most Lake County residents — as a commuter route between Leadville and Park County.

Berger told the secretary and deputy that Mosquito Pass is actually where Lake County hosts an annual burro race. Unlike the many donkeys pushed up this trail, Staiert couldn’t be persuaded to go any farther after a few miles in.

According to the USDA Forest Service, the “road,” at 13,185 feet, was first traveled as early as 1861 by gold miners who founded the Mosquito District.

Legend has it Mosquito District along with Mosquito Pass got its name when, after a meeting of little agreement on what to call the town, a squashed mosquito was found on the page where the meeting was being recorded.

“Over the last four years I’ve driven a 100,000 miles on Colorado roads. With the help of maps and gas apps I have generally been able to find everything from an office in Dove Creek to a school in Yuma,” Williams said. “But I just couldn’t figure out how to navigate a burro trail over Mosquito Pass with an SUV.”

The trek to Park and Lake counties completed, Williams now has visited 20 clerks this year. He plans to visit three more next Friday — Routt, Moffat and Rio Blanco. No shortcuts are planned.

Lizzie Stephani interned at the Colorado Secretary of State’s office.