Colorado Trail Journal

I tried to keep a trail journal for awhile.  A lot of this overlaps the photo reports, and the future photo reports became a more reliable way to document the trips.  But here’s what I wrote at the time.

28 Jun – 3 Jul 02 – Wind River Range, Wyoming

21 Jul 02 – Gibson Lake and Whale Peak @ 13,078 feet – Near Webster Pass just east of Kenosha Pass off Hwy 285 – First 13er, first mountain above about 12,300; had hiked to Gibson Lake once before, but this time there was no snow, and the hike was much easier; after reading at the lake for nearly an hour, I decided to tackle Whale Peak; I went cross-country, straight up the crevasse north of the lake; it took me nearly 2 hours to make the .4 miles and 1100 feet of elevation gain; it also took me nearly an hour just to come back off of it; I didn’t experience any altitude issues, although I did experience vertigo a couple of times on the steep slopes near the top; I did get too much sun…take the sunscreen from now on.

28 Jul 02 – South Williams Fork Trail – Near Ptarmigan Wilderness – North-east of Silverthorne – Trail was very flat, but didn’t stay as close to the river as hoped; there weren’t a lot of views of mountains, water or meadows; it did rain and lightning for a few minutes, and the sound of the thunder echoing up the river valley was interesting; we only hiked a little over 2 miles up the trail, because it was 6 miles one way to Ptarmigan Pass, and we had a late start on the day, so we decided that we couldn’t make it to anything different than what we had been hiking, so we might as well turn around since the trail had not been that interesting.

18 Aug 02 – Huron Peak – Collegiate Peaks Wilderness – Between Buena Vista and Leadville – We nearly died. This was our first attempt at a 14er…I figured it would be okay since it was a modest 14,003 feet. Unfortunately, though, I took the Òmore rugged alternativeÓ according to the trail book. The result was 2700 feet of elevation gain…while still 300 feet shy of the peak…in less than 3 miles. But that wasn’t the bad part. The bad part was the nearly vertical scree slope that we had to overcome. I still don’t know how we didn’t die. That was, without a doubt, the most dangerous hiking I’ve ever done. We made it to 13,700 feet, but we were losing time, and the weather seemed iffy, so we turned around. We slid back down, literally, and somehow survived without breaking anything or dying…I still don’t know how we managed that. Hiking like this may someday become second nature to us, but for this time it was awfully scary.

23 Aug 02 – Indian Peaks Wilderness with Scott M. We went to Long Lake and Lake Isabelle. I had been to Long lake right after I first got here in November 2000, but there was so much snow, and I was not used to the altitude, that I only made it to the beginning of the lake. Since then, I haven’t gone back because either the road was gated, the trail was too crowded, or you had to pay to park. We went because I thought it would be nice, big mountains and lakes without being too hard. Long Lake was very nice…Isabelle Lake, which is supposed to be prettier, was virtually dry. The mountains were pretty, including Isabelle Glacier, but it would have been nicer with more water in the lake. After this, we drove through the park, and hiked a little ways up the Colorado River headwaters on the west side of the park. That trail was pretty uneventful, and not worth taking others to unless you can hike further up the trail.

24 Aug 02 – 25 Aug 02 – Backpacked at Lost Creek Wilderness with Scott M. We camped just south of The Carrock (the rock at the intersection of the Lost Creek and Wigwam Trails). We hiked about a mile into the Lost Creek canyon. There was a great rock overlook, looking down into the canyon, with large rock spires and cliffs everywhere. The surrounding mountains were also covered with Aspen, but they hadn’t changed yet. We ended up going back to camp because it looked like a storm was coming through. This was definitely a place to return to when the Aspen are changing. We hiked a little way down the Wigwam Trail, then sat on The Carrock and watched the sun set…until it got cold. We hiked out the next morning.

25 Aug 02 – Gibson Lake. Scott and I hiked up to Gibson Lake. Since I had climbed a 14er and this 13er in the past few weeks, I waited at the lake while Scott climbed Whale Peak. He took the same route up that I took, but someone else was climbing up on the south side of the bowl around the lake…that route looked much easier. There were four other people climbing the route that day, which I thought was unusual since there was no one else up there the day I climbed it.

31 Aug 02 – Grand Mesa and Black Canyon of the Gunnison. We didn’t hike a lot at these places, but they were really nice places. The Grand Mesa was surprisingly flat and surprisingly high up. It was flat, but was over 10,000 feet, so it had a sub-alpine feel to it. The Black Canyon was pretty, but small. Both places were nice to visit, but did not have a lot of hiking, and didn’t really inspire a desire to return.

1 Sep 02 – West Elk Wilderness – The Castles. This was a VERY nice place. It had huge spires, cliffs and other rock formations. There was a lot of color in the deciduous trees, and the place was just very relaxing. I fell in love with this place. We only hiked about 3 miles up the trail, because we just kept stopping and taking in the sweeping scenery. The first 3 miles of the trail were very easy…after that, according to the map, the trail began to ascend rapidly. The hike to the Castles would be pretty tough, but well worth it. The entire area had lots of Aspen groves. This was definitely a place to return to.

14 – 15 Sep 02 – Working.

21 – 22 Sep 02 – Buffalo Peaks Wilderness – Buffalo Meadows Trail. This was a very nice backpacking trip…this was also my first solo Colorado backpacking trip. The area reminded me of Lost Creek, with its expansive meadows and slow creek. It was much higher in elevation, though. The meadow was at 11,100 feet, and I gained about 1,000 feet from the trailhead. The trail was deserted, though. I passed one very large group near the trailhead, a trio of hunters near the trailhead, and then one couple in the meadow…that was it. After 2 pm, I didn’t see another soul. The wind was howling when I topped out into the valley, though. It calmed down after the sun set, but it still got really cold at night…I learned to appreciate the down bag. I only hiked about 4 miles in…I wasn’t sure about being out there solo, so I chickened out with hiking further in. I’m glad I stayed, though, because it was a great, quiet trail.

28 Sep 02 – Lost Creek Wilderness – Lost Creek Trail. Jessica and I hiked the same trail Scott and I had hiked a few weeks earlier. This time the Aspen on the Lost Creek canyon ridges were in full glory…plus it snowed on us. It was a very nice hike. There was thunder in the snow storm…and the snow didn’t lay, but it snowed hard. The aspen were spectacular, though.

4 – 14 Oct – Went home…David and I hiked a little at Walden Ridge in Dutch Valley up to Starlight Rock, but that was it. It was still nice to see fog, though.

20 Oct 02 – Mt Evans Wilderness – Beaver Meadows Trail. Tracy and I both love this area because it’s so quiet…we hiked about 4 miles up the trail, and didn’t see one other person. There were lots of hunters in the Forest Service area along the road to the wilderness, but there was no one in the wilderness. The trail climbed up the ridge above the Beaver Meadows, and there were nice views back over the meadows and over the surrounding ridges. The trail is only around 9500 feet, so it has a foothills feel to it, even though the mountains are much steeper…after all, these trails lead, more or less, to two 14ers.

26 – 27 Oct 02 – Working.

3 Nov 02 – Rocky Mountain National Park – Cub Lake Trail. This hike was VERY cold going in. The wind was terribly strong coming across the valley…I think this was why I got sick. We hiked up to the lake, which was frozen and snow covered. There wasn’t much snow until we got up to the lake, where the snow was around 2-3 feet deep. On the way back, though, what snow there had been had mostly melted. The trail was mostly deserted going in, but we passed a bunch of people on our way out. We were looking for bugling elk…we saw just a few elk, but none bugling. I think it was too late in the year already…it got cold early this year.

9-10 Nov 02 – Sick

16-17 Nov 02 – Sick

23 Nov 02 – Byers Peak Wilderness – I hiked up a road towards Vasquez Creek, because the road into the wilderness was already closed because of snow. I wanted to hike to Byers Peak, but with the road closed, the hike was too far. The hike up the road was quiet, deserted and uneventful. After hiking, though, I found some access points to Indian Peaks, Never Summer and Troublesome on the Granby side of the mountains. Those look like some good places to go in the summer.

28 Nov 02 – Lost Creek Wilderness – Ute Creek Trail. We hiked about 2.5 miles up the trail on Thanksgiving. We stopped when the trail began to really climb. This looks like a really nice side of the wilderness to hike. The forest is mostly montane below 9500 feet…looks like good mountain lion country. The entire area is nice with a bunch of 4×4 roads and campsites. I don’t know why we haven’t gone to this end of the wilderness more often…it’s really nice and quiet.

31 Nov – 1 Dec 02 – Working.

22 Dec 02 – Rampart Range – We hiked around on the Rampart Range some looking for places to play paintball. We found one place where other people had been shooting paintball guns. We also drove around near Woodland Park and Deckers.

28-29 Dec 02 – Home

1 Jan 03 – Commanche Peak Wilderness – Got stuck in the snow trying to get to the trailhead, and got pulled out by some people. We cross country snow shoed up a mountain to the Commanche Peak Wilderness boundary. It snowed really hard while we were out, and the temperature dropped tremendously. May need to add more warm clothes to my pack.

4-5 Jan 03 – Working

19 Jan 03 – West Elk Wilderness – First backpacking trip in the snow. We just hiked a couple of miles up the closed road, then climbed a steep hill and carved camp out of the snow at the top. The snow was 3-4 feet deep, which was a whole lot of fun. We ended up sleeping for an hour or so, playing cards for half an hour, and staring at the tent for an hour. About 9 pm we decided this had gotten terribly boring, and we packed up and headed out. That was actually the best part of the trip. The forest was silent, and there was a full moon shining brightly over the snow covered mountains. The mountains looked massive in the dark of night and the light of the moon. The temperature was in the low teens, but our gear kept us comfortable. The other-worldly feel of the mountains, and the silence of the forest were just phenomenal. We learned, however, that if we’re going to camp like that, we need to do it in less snow. In other words, we should probably just stick to closed roads in the winter, and forget about the wilderness trails. Also, we should take better games to keep ourselves entertained when it gets dark at 5 pm. Also, we need to be willing to get out of the tent in the dark to just enjoy the nighttime. It may take a lot of trouble, but it’s worth it.

25-26 Jan 03 – Running

1-2 Feb 03 – Running

8-9 Feb 03 – Running

15 Feb 03 – Arches and Canyonlands National Parks – Another trip to Utah. We hiked up to Landscape Arch, which we hadn’t gone to last year. The hike was nice, just because it reminded us just how quiet and remote the desert can be. We also hiked back up to the Windows. We then went to Canyonlands and hiked back up to the Mesa Arch…that is a really nice, relaxing place. I really like that area, but I think it would be most enjoyable in the backcountry on a 4 wheel trip or a long hike. The desert is just unbelievably quiet…and the canyons are just amazingly pretty.

16 Feb 03 – Great Sand Dunes – Didn’t do a lot of hiking here because we didn’t get there until almost dark. But I stayed out on the dunes to watch the full moon rise over the San Juan Mountains…that was really nice. The wind was really strong, but it was a great place to watch the moon rise…I had the dunes all to myself. Can’t beat that.

22 Feb 03 – Never Summer Wilderness – We started on the west side of the Rocky Mtn Natl Park and snow-shoed up to the Never Summer Wilderness on the Baker Gulch Trail. We only hiked about 1.5 miles up the trail. We were hit by a couple of good snow storms while on the trail, though, and the snow on the ground was over 5 feet deep. The hike was nice…there was nobody else on the trail.

1-2 Mar 03 – Sick

9 Mar 03 – South Platte – Buffalo Creek – We just hiked a short trail about a mile along the river until the trail became completely covered in snow. The snow was over 10 feet deep on the side of the river banks, and it was impossible to tell where the river bank stopped and the snow/ice bank started, so we stopped. It also looked like the trail stopped. So we sat by the side of the river and tried to knock huge chunks of ice into the water. We actually managed to break off some big blocks…we were just having fun! Then we sat and read for a while and then headed back. This was nice, because it was a very warm day, and we just didn’t feel like getting into the snow at the higher elevations.

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