David on Earth: Blog http://www.davidonearth.com/blog en-us (C) David J Ashley davidjashley@live.com (David on Earth) Sun, 08 Jul 2018 18:59:00 GMT Sun, 08 Jul 2018 18:59:00 GMT http://www.davidonearth.com/img/s/v-5/u768046660-o700400916-50.jpg David on Earth: Blog http://www.davidonearth.com/blog 120 120 Fires be Done http://www.davidonearth.com/blog/2018/7/fires-be-done Fires be Done

The smell of soot, tiny particulates as light as the air rising from burning pine and scrub oak, carried by dry winds across mountain ranges to where I am standing right now. The stench begins to erode the euphoria of my upcoming Colorado Trail hike. One thought consumes me. I simply cannot have these forest fires ruin what I have been planning over the past two years, the hours and layers of details, lives shuffled to accommodate this adventure.

I will begin this trek in less than two weeks. I refuse to allow the distraction. What I am smelling, what I hear reported on the evening news, what I read about streaming on social media – they are all attempting to combat but will not succeed against what I know has been determined for me. I am hiking this trail. The rains will come soon. The fires will diminish. The path and the air will be cleared for me. I summon the heavens and earth to confirm my faith in dreams, my inner-knowing that this shall not be removed from me.

That sounds selfish, like a demanding little brat. It’s how I feel some days. But on other days I am balanced with the idea that all we ask of this life contains an inner core of self-desire. When we pray for the survival of a hospitalized loved one, is not some of that plea to save us from the hurt of loss? Self-preservation is human nature; maintaining and defending a peaceful existence is a core trait. It is not dishonorable to seek well-being, to be happy. In this case I embrace my selfishness; I proudly announce my pursuit of happiness and my means of achieving it.

Happiness (well-being) in a clinical sense is either classified as hedonic or eudaimonic.  Hedonic well-being focusses on pleasure attainment and pain avoidance; it’s nature is experiential; it’s a feeling. Whereas the eudaimonic well-being focuses on achievement of meaning and self-realization; it’s a measure of the degree to which a person is fully functioning as designed and intended.

Mahatma Gandhi says: “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”

When I say the trail makes me happy; it’s all those things. It’s a feeling experienced. It’s an act that defines and fulfills meaning. It’s an alignment of thought, words, and actions – achieving a degree of harmonious existence.

To some, the smell in the air offends only the senses. To others it’s simply the smell of nature; that in the natural cycle of any forest, a fire signifies the end of one cycle and the beginning of another. In any other year and time I could agree with both perspectives.  But in this moment, it offends all my senses and my well-being; it threatens divine purpose.

So, be done, fires. Clear away, smoke. There is something greater happening here. It’s me, David on Earth, ready to receive and exercise a divine calling.

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davidjashley@live.com (David on Earth) backpacking Colorado Colorado Trail hiking http://www.davidonearth.com/blog/2018/7/fires-be-done Sat, 07 Jul 2018 02:27:44 GMT
Life Changes http://www.davidonearth.com/blog/2018/6/life-changes Life Changes

Some things, no matter how crazy, are the right things to do. I put in my resignation at work a couple weeks ago, even though I really like my job.  Today was my last day, for a while. I’m taking the summer off to pursue life; to, as some have suggested, live the dream. I’m going on a 500-mile hike through the Colorado mountains. And after that I’m taking a few weeks to go back to my childhood home to spend some time with family and probably a few old friends.

I get it.  Not everyone can do this. There are weighty financial obligations, the uncertainty of employment options, anxious family members, and the falling out from what might be considered “the norm”.

But, you know what? On my way out the door today at work I had more expressions of envy than any other reaction.  I had some “take me with you” comments. I had some “I need to do something like that” remarks. I even had a couple “you lucky bastard, run while you can” statements. And I definitely had some “we’ll miss you” sentiments, which was really nice. All of this was a strong confirmation that I’ve made the right decision. I’m encouraged more than ever.

I am, in fact, one of the lucky ones (if there is such a thing as ‘luck’). I am financially set to do this. I have the resounding support of friends. My community of friends think this is the coolest thing, almost normal. And most important of all, I have a wife and family who are incredibly supportive – even if they don’t completely understand my love of backpacking – and even if they might be a bit and understandably anxious about my ambitions. Call me blessed, because I am in so many ways. And because I am blessed, I want to make the most of the 86,400 seconds of every day.

Next week I’ll do a shake-down hike in the Lost Creek Wilderness Area. This is a hike that helps me determine final adjustments to the contents of my backpack and the routines of trail life. I’ll keep a journal and take pictures, as always. And I’m sure I’ll come back with some gems to take with me when I leave for the big hike in July.

Please stay tuned. My full expectation is that this will be a transformational few months in my life. I can’t wait to tell you about it!

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davidjashley@live.com (David on Earth) Colorado hiking job mountains http://www.davidonearth.com/blog/2018/6/life-changes Sat, 23 Jun 2018 04:33:57 GMT
Sleeping Pad Reviews http://www.davidonearth.com/blog/2018/6/sleeping-pad-reviews Sleeping Pads Review

There is hardly anything that is more of a game changer on a backpacking trip than a good night’s sleep. And there’s no greater factor to a good night’s sleep than the perfect sleeping pad. I have several sleeping pads. It’s not because I need several sleeping pads. It’s because I’ve been on a quest to find one that works for me on the trail.

I’ve been reading about pads and sleeping systems – that’s good. I’ve even tried some out in a store – that’s better. But the real test only comes in a tent at the end of a long day on the trail. I need to experience how I feel after a night’s sleep. It seems to be the only true evaluation.

Everything about a good night’s sleep is individualistic. Some people can sleep on the ground with little padding. That’s not me. I need something to separate me from the ground I’ve been pounding with my feet all day. Maybe I’m too domesticated; certainly I’m not young anymore; but there’s no denying it: I need a comfortable place to rest my bones.

There are several key factors I’ve toiled over these past couple years that seem to matter most when selecting a pad. Here they are in no particular order:

Type: foam, self-inflating, and air

Set-up: how much work is involved with making my bed?

Pack-up: will this take me 30 seconds or 10 minutes to get the pad back in/on my pack?

Durability: does this thing leak or does it easily wear out?

Weight: spanning from several pounds to several ounces

Bulk: some are too big to fit in a pack and some are the size of a water bottle that can easily fit in a pack

Size: the need here is more about how big a person is and how they sleep. Side-sleepers can mostly do with narrow sizes. Back or front sleepers need wide sizes. Tall people may need long sizes. But some people choose just a torso length to reduce weight.

Ground contact: Do my bones touch the ground?

Price: ranging $30-$300

Insulation value (R-value): How much of the cold ground do I feel? (Winter sleeping is a whole different category - I'll only refer to 3-season options here)

In this article I’ll run through a few types of pads that I own. There are dozens of other models to choose from, and the ones I've purchased aren't necessarily the top picks. I’ll offer some pros and cons regarding each type (self-inflating, foam, and air) to mull over. At the end of this I won’t tell you what the perfect pad is for you – because I don’t know what you would define as comfortable, but you should have a clue as to what might be worth checking out for yourself.

Self-Inflating

My first pad was a self-inflating pad. Ingenious idea: a pad that inflates itself. It’s actually open-cell foam that is sealed in an outer casing, letting air in and out through a valve. Think of a foam seat that expands when a person isn’t sitting on it; control air leaving and entering the foam through a valve and you have a self-inflating sleeping pad.

At the time I bought it I was thinking more about sleeping comfort than anything. I did give a little thought to bulk and weight, but I was only doing short distance backpacking and so weight and bulk didn’t matter much. This is different than long distance backpacking. We can tolerate some discomfort from carrying weight and bulk for a short time. But heavy weight for a long period isn’t just uncomfortable; it can be downright painful and could actually cause long-term issues for knees, back, or ankles. The pad is bulky and heavy. Today, it’s a pad I would use if I didn’t have to carry it anywhere – like car camping. It’s just a monster. 

Pros. Easy setup. Relatively inexpensive. High R-value. High durability.

Cons. Longer pack-up. Bulky. 4-5 times heavier than air mattresses. Medium ground contact.

However, to be more fair to this type, if I were going to recommend a self-inflating pad today for lightweight backpacking I might choose something like the Therm-A-Rest ProLite. It's very reasonable in price, weight, R-value, and quality. 

Foam

I bought a foam pad as an experiment. They aren’t very comfortable for an old guy who sleeps on his side. For me it’s not much different than sleeping directly on the ground. But if I used it as an insulation layer under an inexpensive air mattress it could give me increased R-value, protect my air mattress from punctures, and give me added comfort. It seemed worthy of an experiment. So I strapped one of my air mattresses to the foam pad – nice… really nice. But the deal breaker was that it doubled the weight of my sleeping system. The pad below is a Therm-a-Rest Z-lite Sol; it's 14oz - ultralight - but, it's bulky. So, maybe on short trips or in car-camping situation I would use this, but not without an additional mattress.

Pros: Light weight. Easy setup. Easy pack-up. Inexpensive. Highly durable.

Cons: Bulky. Lower R-value. Excessive ground contact.

Air mattress.

There are all kinds of air mattresses. I own three. It seems that the industry has been focusing on air mattress engineering more so than any other types. The pros and cons here are wide ranging. I can buy an air mattress that has a high or low R-value. I can buy one that is ultra-lightweight or relatively heavy. I can buy thick or thin. There are all sorts of design patterns that claim benefits.

I have found that comfort in an air mattress is more about design than anything else. However, know that thicker does not mean more comfort or greater R-value. I’ll give you a couple examples of how these pads can vary. Bottom line: you just need to spend a few nights on one before determining what’s right for you.

Thick. I have a 4” insulated mattress that looks hefty and almost too luxurious for a backwoods adventure. It’s a Big Agnes Double Z, 25” x 72”. I like this mattress for its comfort. Some have complained that it sleeps cool; I did not find that to be true.  It does tend to leak more than other air mattresses I have and it is significantly heavier (26.5 oz), as might be expected from a thicker structure. They no longer carry this model, but they do carry a similar model: Big Agnes Insulated Double ZZ Air Mattress.

Thin. I was first leery of this 2.5” mattress. Can 2.5” of lift really be comfortable? It’s a Massdrop X Klymit Ultralight V, 20x72” It has a very unique design pattern that I thought might compensate for its lack of lift. It did indeed surprise me with its comfort and insulation value (4.4r). The design pattern caused me to search a bit to find the right spot to lay on my side without discomfort, but after I found the spot it was very nice. It is very quick to set up and pack up. It also has a very small pack size. This will be a great backup or even primary pad for my long hikes. It weighs 18.4 oz.

Thinner. Here’s another one that is even thinner - 2” thick. It’s a Sea to Summit Ultralight Insulated mattress, 20x72”. The design pattern is what you might find in a mattress on your bed at home – and so follows its comfort; it’s the most comfortable pad I own. And it is ultra-lightweight; 17 oz. It’s not the lightest in my collection - but it is my lightest air mattress. The bonus here is that the stuff sack it comes in is also a pumpsack (a pad inflator). With air mattresses, the moist air from our breath tends to cause mold and deterioration on the inside over a period of time. Inflators keep that to a minimum, increasing longevity. When I add the weight of an inflator to any other ultralight air mattress on the market, this setup is very competitive. So, for me this mattress has become my primary for long hikes.

Sidenote: Some of the Therm-a-Rest evangelists out there may wonder why the NeoAir XLite isn’t on my list. It weighs in at an impressive 12 oz for the 20x72” size, has a decent 3.2 R-rating, and has a 2.5” lift. This pad is absolutely a great option. I just don’t have it in my inventory. What turned me off from the purchase is the claims of it being noisy, slippery, and some complained about the durability. I can’t confirm or deny any of these claims but it was enough for me to investigate other options. Several of my hiking friends like this mattress a whole lot and I’ve read many good reviews. So, judge for yourself.

There you have it – a review of my sleeping pad inventory. If you don’t already have your favorite sleeping pad figured out, I hope this helps you along the way. Happy, comfortable trails!

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davidjashley@live.com (David on Earth) backpacking hiking mattress pad sleeping http://www.davidonearth.com/blog/2018/6/sleeping-pad-reviews Tue, 12 Jun 2018 01:35:25 GMT
The Mystical 41 Days of Trail Time http://www.davidonearth.com/blog/2018/6/the-mystical-41-days-of-trail-time The Mystical 41 Days of Trail Time

Numerology, I’m not into it. But, it’s interesting. Numerology promotes the idea that there is a mystical or divine relationship between numbers and events. Take the number 41. This is the number of days I intend to be on the Colorado Trail this summer.

In looking at the meaning of each number:

  • 4 has a focus on building a secure foundation for a future of long-term security
  • 1 is self-determined and self-sufficient, comfortable with being alone but can coexist well with others

Considering that I am planning to be on the Colorado Trial for 41 days:

  • this trail for me represents an activity that is to serve as a demarcation between my full-time working life and a transition to retired life, giving me time to formulate a solid plan for this next venture - represented by 4. 
  • this 500-mile trail requires much self-determination with periods of aloneness but coexistence with other trail mates – represented by 1. 

One could draw a curious parallel between the event and the number.

Further, the number 41 is a number that expresses an innate sense of personal freedom with building a secure foundation for the future. Personal freedom is a theme I’ve been working through as one of the primary reasons for this hike. The freedom of the trail is a common reason for many that hike.

One could conclude a connection between the number of days for this venture and the venture itself – that this trek of mine was meant to be on some sort of divine level.  

Go ahead, tear this crazy idea apart. I know I could on several levels. But, in being a little open minded, I think this is interesting, at least.

Then I thought: If I spend 40 or 42 days on the trail I don’t think it’s really going to matter. But wait, 41 days from now I’ll be 1 day into the trail… what?!?

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davidjashley@live.com (David on Earth) http://www.davidonearth.com/blog/2018/6/the-mystical-41-days-of-trail-time Wed, 06 Jun 2018 03:21:55 GMT
5 Lessons from Heavy to Lightweight Backpacking http://www.davidonearth.com/blog/2018/5/5-lessons-from-heavy-to-lightweight-backpacking 5 Lessons from Heavy to Lightweight Backpacking

Backpacking excited me. I had done many day hikes, including the highest peaks in Colorado. But there was something about experiencing the wilderness in a multi-day adventure that had such a strong attraction for me.

It reminded me of my younger days… much younger days as a Boy Scout. I slept in a canvas pup tent with a flannel lined sleeping bag and no mattress. I ate from a metal mess kit and drank from a saucer shaped canteen that I slung over my shoulder. My leather boots were tough and rugged. And I carried all my gear in a sturdy external frame pack.  

Eager to relive my youth, I dove in deep at my local outdoor gear store and bought a bunch of stuff that looked like what I had seen in those great outdoor photography shots. I definitely had the cool stuff. I looked the part for sure.

Off I went, my first overnight backpacking trip in many years. I was carrying 45 pounds of all this great gear. It was a 3-mile 800-foot elevation gain hike into camp. My shoulders went numb, my head was pounding, and my feet ached like I had hiked all day. The gear was luxurious when I wasn’t carrying it. I didn’t complain. I didn’t care because I was returning to the glorious memories of my youth. "This was fun", I told myself.

Fast forward a couple years. I’ve learned a few things. It turns out this whole backpacking thing would be much more enjoyable with less weight. It didn’t take long for the novelty of having all this cool gear to ware off and for me to consider other options.

But I want to pause here to explain something.

The trend in the backpacking community these days is to go as light as possible – ultralight, they call it. That’s fine. But in some circles the trend has risen to the point of shaming people with heavy packs and glorifying those who are obviously more enlightened. So, I want shut that down now. It’s a joy thief.

People learn at their own pace and in their own way. And we’re all at a different place in our journey. I vote that we do away with competing in the gear contest. Let’s not dole out judgment on those who have chosen a different way. Instead, let’s simply accept each other’s place along this path… or trail… or whatever.

Resume play. 

Less weight is good for me. I’m not a young chicken, so that’s working against me. Plus, one of the meds I’m on lessens my bone density. More weight causes more stress on these ol’ bones, and I'm very much interested in extending my vertical days.

The third reason is that my feet are much happier when they aren’t supporting extra weight. I like it when I can feel my toes and I'm not constantly aware of achy, overused appendages.

Everyone has their own reasons to pack light or not, but this is the place I find myself; this is the choice I made. Happy me.

Here are five lessons I’ve learned along my path toward lightweight backpacking:

Nothing escapes close scrutiny. 

Not a single thing I’m carrying has not been subject to the gauntlet of exclusion or alternatives.  My nearly 5-pound pack was replaced by a 2-pound pack. My 4-ounce knife was replaced by a 2-ounce knife. My 9-ounce tripod was replaced by a 2-ounce tripod. But I’m keeping my 9-ounce Garmin Inreach Explorer+ because I paid a lot for it and it helps my wife worry less. And yes, it does eventually come down to counting ounces/grams. I set a goal to have a base weight of 15 pounds and I did it by raising a defense for everything. And if it didn’t pass the scrutiny it was gone or replaced by something that did.

The value of a good night’s sleep.

This might seem like a strange lesson to have in this list. But the reality is that a person could chose to carry near nothing if there was a strong enough willingness to sacrifice both safety and comfort. When it comes down to it, we carry things for those two reasons: we need to feel and be safe and we need to live within the boundaries of what we define as comfortable. A good night’s sleep falls into both of those realms. Exhaustion is a threat to safety; we need rest to avoid exhaustion and to help recover the body from a long day on the trail. And comfort goes a long way toward making a good night’s rest. So I created a sleeping system that works for me.  I have a MassDrop Klymit Insulated V Ultralight SL air mattress that has a 4.4 insulation rating, a Loco Libra Operator Series Ghost Pepper 20 degree down Topquilt, and a Klymit X large pillow. I have a set of night cloths that includes thermal mid-weight long underwear, a Thermowave Marino extreme long sleeve shirt, a Mountain Hardware Caelum Dome Beanie, a Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket if it gets cool, and Possum wool socks. This combination sleeping system and cloths is 4.5 pounds. And then I have a Zpacks Duplex shelter with ground stakes coming in at 1.5 pounds. All together my sleeping system, sleeping cloths, and shelter are 6 pounds. It works for me in the Colorado Mountains. I am safe and I sleep well. Of course, I would change out a few things if I was in a different climate.

Multi-purpose is a multiplier.

The fastest way to cut pack weight in half is to have one item that serves two or more purposes. For instance, my pad inflator is homemade from a garbage bag and serves as a doormat and works well as a relatively clean surface to prepare my meals. My night socks can be used as mittens. My rain pants can be used in town while I’m doing my laundry and are good for keeping me warm by blocking the wind on ridges above tree line or even as an extra layer on extra cold nights. My bandana has many uses like keeping the sun off my neck, a handkerchief, wash cloth, water filter, and a first aid sling.

Ignore the hype.

Sometimes the most marketed or most talked about product isn’t the best product for you. One example for me was the NeoAir XLite mattress that is talked about like a must-have for light backpackers. I found it to be too noisy and slippery, and it has a lower insulation rating. The much praised Lone Peak 3.5 trail shoes don’t fit me like the 3.0’s did. There is obviously much good advice among those with vast trail experience. Product reviews can also give you all kinds of perspectives.  But balance all these voices against your personal preferences to find the right thing for you. You are not hiking their hike; you’re hiking your hike.

It’s a learning experience.

Figure it out along the way. Enjoy the journey. Try out different ideas. Read everything. There is much to learn, and some things can only be learned by doing. So, just go with what you have or can afford to have. Take it all in.  But at the end of it all, do what’s right for you.

There are many more lessons I’ve learned along the way. These five should offer a decent start for anyone on a similar path than I’ve had. Whatever path you take, trail you trod, or avenue you travel, remember it’s all yours.  Make it so.

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davidjashley@live.com (David on Earth) backpacking lightweight weight http://www.davidonearth.com/blog/2018/5/5-lessons-from-heavy-to-lightweight-backpacking Mon, 14 May 2018 03:10:52 GMT
Thru-Hikes, a Rite of Passage http://www.davidonearth.com/blog/2018/4/thru-hikes-a-rite-of-passage Thru-Hikes, a Rite of Passage

An aboriginal boy in his early teens becomes a man by going on a journey, a walkabout, living in the wilderness for months. This is his spiritual and traditional transition into manhood.

A young Native American ventures off to a sacred place chosen by the elders and prays in search of a vision that will help define purpose in his life. This type of vision quest is a critical first step in mastering his new found purpose. When he returns he will prove out his vision under the supervision of a mentor.

Many religions around the world have locations of importance. Followers embark on a pilgrimage to these places in search of answers, healing, or to fulfill a religious obligation. For some, the pilgrimage results in meaningful change or brings a deeper meaning to life.

Those who hike long trails of hundreds or even thousands of miles are called thru-hikers. A thru-hike is many things to many people. For some people a thru-hike is a segue by which they depart from their old life into something new or different, a reset of purpose and meaning, a type of vision quest. It can be a time of reflection to help come to terms with a part of their life not yet understood. It can be a means of unplugging for a while to rejuvenate the mind and spirit. For some it’s an opportunity to run away or to escape something negative in their current situation. And for others it has nothing to do with anything emotional or spiritual; it’s as simple as “I like hiking”.

In any case and for whatever reason a person would hike a long distance, it is a rite of passage at least in one sense: a thru-hiker cannot claim the title until the hike is actually accomplished. Like an aborigine cannot earn the right to be called a man in his tribe without having completed a walkabout and the full benefit of a pilgrimage cannot be realized without having reached the destination, a person does not earn that title “thru-hiker” until they have joined into the fellowship of those who have experienced the fullness of the trail from one terminus to the other.

Whether a person completes a thru-hike or not may be significant, but the act of finishing is not the capstone of the event for most people. Cheryl Strayed in Wild, writes about it. So does Carrot Quinn in Thru-Hiking Will Break Your Heart. As does Bill Bryson (A Walk in the Woods), David Miller (Awol on the Appalachian Trail), and many others. Pacific Crest Trials: A Psychological and Emotional Guide to Successfully Thru-Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail is another good resource. As is Backpacker Long Trails: Mastering the Art of the Thru-Hike

Surviving for weeks in the wilderness with many miles of self-powered travel is a dichotomous experience. There are trials and victories. There are pains and bliss. There are tears of anguish and overwhelming joys. The trail will absolutely break you down and build you up. This is why it seems to me that it’s important to define a purpose before venturing a thru-hike. This purpose is what drives a person through the tough times and what makes the good days even better. The purpose is what defines the greatest intentional value from the experience.

When I began looking into the idea of associating a thru-hike with a rite-of-passage, I discovered that there are three distinct phases: separation, liminality, and incorporation. These phases perfectly describe the experience of a thru-hike.

Separation: Separation is an intentional withdrawal from the current status and a preparation to move on to the next place. It’s the initializing, the action of detachment, the initial move to cut away. Separation develops during the planning for the trip and reaches its apex when the first step is taken at the trailhead. When a person takes that first step and has that first “I’m actually doing this” moment, this is separation.

Liminality: As separation matures, into view comes liminality, literally meaning: a threshold. It’s the transition, the space between old and new. A leaving of the present while not yet joining the next. This is the most delicate space because here is ambiguity and disorientation. It’s were the greatest doubt creeps in. It’s where the will to continue is the toughest. Liminality happens after the initial excitement wares off and a full realization of purpose has not yet happened, but the anticipation is building.

Incorporation: After making it past the threshold sometimes there is a breakthrough moment where a person has fully embraced the purpose of the venture. This is where acceptance of the new state is first experienced. This is when the greatest feeling of freedom happens; this is where a new found joy fills the spirit – at first in moments but eventually filling more and more of each day. And then after having completed the rite and assumed the new identity, something sacred happens: a thru-hiker is born.

There are rites of passage in each of our lives. It might be a difficult period or a significant loss. It might be a religious pilgrimage or a cultural tradition. It could even be a thru-hike. These are earned. The resultant titles have deep internal and individual meanings. They are a source of pride and fulfillment, but they are not to be flaunted. They are a gateway and a power source for what life becomes.

So, for all those (including me) who have set their sights on becoming a member of this next season’s thru-hiker alumni, I wish you well and hope you gain the fullest from your experience. Happy trails!

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davidjashley@live.com (David on Earth) hiker thru hike thruhike http://www.davidonearth.com/blog/2018/4/thru-hikes-a-rite-of-passage Sun, 08 Apr 2018 03:28:49 GMT
Hiking The Colorado Trail – The Planning http://www.davidonearth.com/blog/2018/3/hiking-the-colorado-trail-the-planning Hiking The Colorado Trail – The Planning

Nine hundred years before Christ patted the earth with his sandals, a guy in Greece, an historian by the name of Hesiod I’m told, first penned the phrase, “… moderation is best in all things.” Then some English guy, Chaucer, trying to be clever among his fellow countryman 1500 years later, said it in a way only the Brits could understand, “In every thyng, I woot, there lith mesure”. No, I didn’t misspell any of this. But I felt it necessary to give the passing of time no credit for improving the original. I like originals. I’m going with the Greek on this one.

Some people plan things more than others. Some are grossly under-planned. Some are excessively over-planned. If you are guessing this article will be promoting a moderate planning approach, you may have ruined the punch line, but you would be correct.

It’s entirely possible to hike the Colorado Trail with a few days’ notice. I suspect there are not many people who do this, and probably few among them finish the whole trail. They might plan their first leg and leave the rest to whatever happens. Or with a little bit of forethought and thereby increasing their chance of success, they may plan a couple resupplies and chance the rest. I’ve known some hikers who live by the idea that planning ruins the experience. With no planning, every day is full of the unexpected. How adventurous is that, right? If the idea is to live on the trail opposite to our daily lives, then this might be a worthy consideration.

Then there are those who plan every last detail. The act and process of planning becomes part of the adventure. It’s a process that gives insight and possibility to experiencing everything the trail has to offer. For instance, researching the history of every section of the trail, knowing every possible water resource, taking inventory of every amenity and resupply option in every town along the way, or the exact location of all the best vistas or camping locations. This is about knowing all the options and choosing the best and most exciting – not missing a thing and getting the most out it. There are certain advantages to doing a deep dive in preparing for any trail.

In my wilderness adventures, I have been completely spontaneous and I have been ridiculously planned. I have realized the advantages of each.  I’ve also experienced the disadvantages of each.

No planning means being least prepared for the worst situation. This can lead to a quick ending to the adventure, sometimes in great discomfort or injury. Or it could simply mean that you miss the benefit of having predicted the perfect place to stay the night and learned to be content with whatever the universe gives you… which, is a great state of mind. 

On the other hand, planning like crazy is a time sucking exercise that can bring on too much stress before and during the hike; it can also cause burnout or unrealistic expectations. But comes with it the assurance that the best effort was put forward to gain the most out of the experience. And you didn’t get yourself in a bind over something completely preventable with a little planning, like not bringing enough water containers for that 25-mile stretch without water sources or that 10-hour stretch above tree line with thunderstorms looming and no place to escape the lightening.

Like that age old advice to take all things in moderation, so has been my approach to planning my Colorado Trail hike. I’d like to highlight a few elements of my planning.

The Why.  Taking on such a challenge without a compelling reason is foolery. I’ve been on enough trails in Colorado to understand that it will get tough. There will be plenty of temptation to get off the trail. My mind will battle my will to continue more often and with greater intensity than I can probably understand at this point several months before departing. If my reason for doing this is not stronger than the mental battle of the trail, surely the stronger will win. I’ve written about my “why” in my last article.

The when.  This is purely a logistical matter with my calendar. First I decided on the direction. It will be south bound (SOBO) for me because it’s the most common and easiest start. SOBO has a lower starting altitude and easier climbs in the beginning. Going from easy to difficult seems more logical to me. I will inevitably face the monsoonal weather patterns (lightning in the early afternoon above tree line), but I’ve become accustomed to planning around that obstacle over the past several years spent hiking in these mountains. I’m starting on July 15th.

Itinerary. There is much to consider here, but I’ve intentionally left out some detail and built in extra days by slowing down my pace.  Reason: to give me options for spontaneity and to enjoy those captivating moments of beauty and freedom. This is where I refer to my “why”.  I’m not looking to put in 20+ miles per day; this kind of accomplishment means nothing to me.

There are many other things besides pace and miles per day to consider in the itinerary.  Among them are: resupply types and locations, zero days, terrain, route (Collegiate East or West), camping locations, water sources, 14er summit opportunities, fishing days, considerations of a hiking partner, hiker town activities, personal schedules before and after the hike, other trail activities (journaling, photography, videos, meditation), physical and mental capabilities, etc.

My itinerary includes these resupplies and zero days (days of no hiking, only rest):

  • Kenosha Pass - friend will meet to drop-off supplies and nero (near zero) day
  • Breckenridge - shipping supplies to and taking a zero day at The Bivvy Hostel
  • Leadville - family will meet to drop-off supplies and taking a zero day at the summer home of a friend
  • Twin Lakes – stopping at the general store for a top-off before heading into the Collegiate West
  • Monarch Pass – shipment of supplies and stopping for some ice cream
  • CO-114 intersection – family will meet to drop-off supplies
  • Lake City – shipment of supplies and spending a zero day at Matterhorn Motel
  • Molas Lake Campground – family will meet to drop off supplies and spending a zero day, may go into Silverton

This is a total of 41 days from start to finish, nearly 500 miles, an average of 13 miles per day.

A few resources I recommend for planning the itinerary: The Colorado Trail Guidebook, The Colorado Trail Databook, and the Colorado Trail Map Pack Bundle:

   

Food. I’m a foodie, so stuffing my face all the time with food I wouldn’t normally eat is not the type of diversion I find attractive.  I will, however, take part in consuming some calorie dense processed food, but only because getting the caloric intake I need from my normal diet would be very difficult… it would be a LOT of food, which would weigh far too much for me to carry. Look at the Trail Food section of this site to get an idea of my meals, most of which I will prepare myself. Not many people make most of their own food they will eat on the trail. But I’ve chosen this because, as I say, I’m a foodie… I can’t help it.

And for keeping the critters (big and small) out of my food, I did some additional research and planning.  Every trail presents its own challenges. For the Colorado Trail, the population of bear is not dense; bears are rarely seen. It is black bear territory, however. 

One thing to remember is that black bears only want your food; they don’t want to eat you. Still, the situation requires precautions, but for reasons you might not think. Bears are attracted to camp sites because they smell food.  Bears that return to camp sites do so because they have been successful in the past at eating someone’s food. It's learned behavior. So, protecting our food source is not just about keeping our food; it’s also about teaching the bear that it’s not worth the effort. The more difficult you make it, the less you will see of them. This is why bear canisters are required in places like national parks.

My experience is that it’s rodents of all sizes that pose a greater threat to getting into my pack and food. So I’ve chosen to protect my food using a Ursack Bear Resistant Sack Bag. It’s a very tough sack that, when used properly, neither bears nor rodents can tear it apart to get to your food. Bear canisters are too heavy and are not necessary on the Colorado Trail – at least in the opinion of nearly everyone who has hiked this trail. Hanging food from a tree in a sack is not convenient or possible on several segments of this trail. And one last option is to just sleep with your food. Some long distance hikers have done this successfully for years. But to me it just goes against everything else I’ve read on the matter. So, pick whatever method makes sense to you – as long as you are not endangering others around you.

Gear. This is the subject that seems to be on every hiker’s mind all the time.  And everyone has their own approach to selecting their gear. Some people are more insistent that their way is the best way and will even look down on those “less advanced”.  Yes, unfortunately, it’s a thing. But, to me that’s just the kind of narrow minded, macho trail attitude we can do without. My advice: since everyone is in their own place, everyone should select whatever gear makes sense to them; enjoy what you have and learn as you go. There are lots of reasons to do whatever you want to do. No judgement here. Just embrace your decisions and roll with whatever comes your way.

I’m pretty much settled on my gear for this hike. See my post on this website about my gear.  I’ve kept it updated. It’s not ultra-lightweight. It’s practical for me and where I’m at with what I like to take with me. And I guaranty that it will change. I have a couple shakedown hikes planned for later this spring that will help me adjust my gear based on functionality, convenience, and comfort.

The gear that deserves the most attention is shelter, sleeping system, and clothing – especially shoes.

Feet are essential for hiking (understatement of the year award candidate) – so, dig deep into figuring out how to care for your feet. Find the right shoes, socks, and foot care method.  You simply can’t bring along too much gear to take care of your feet. Don’t go with the shoe brand that everyone likes.  Instead, go with the shoe that best fits you – it’s that simple. If you have the opportunity to consult with a hiking foot ware specialist… do that.

The thing about a shelter is that it’s a balance between weight and comfort. It’s your shelter (home) for a month. Some people do fine with just a tarp.  Others, like me, enjoy a full-size two-person tent. This is another one of my “do your own thing” things.  It’s about safety and comfort.  Find your balance and you’ll be fine.

There is nothing that will ware me out more than putting in an exhausting day in the mountains and then getting no rest because the sleeping system is inadequate. I’ve chosen a light weight air pad with a high R (insulation rating): Klymit Insulated V Ultralite SL with a 4.4R. And I've opted for a quilt instead of a sleeping bag - a 20-degree down quilt from Loco Libra: Loco Libra Gear 20° Operator Series Ghost Pepper Topquilt. There are tons of options out there and each person seems to have a near custom solution for them. So, find what works for you. I might also take a liner because I sleep cold... although, I do have my night cloths because sleeping in cloths that are dry will assuredly keep you warm. But, whatever you choose, be comfortable.

And so, there’s a little primer for planning a Colorado Trail hike. Whatever level of planning you choose, do at least enough to give yourself a reasonable shot at completing your goal. 

That’s all until next time. 

 

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davidjashley@live.com (David on Earth) colorado hike planning trail http://www.davidonearth.com/blog/2018/3/hiking-the-colorado-trail-the-planning Thu, 15 Mar 2018 03:21:12 GMT
Happy Trails – My Reason for Hiking the Colorado Trail http://www.davidonearth.com/blog/2018/2/happy-trails-my-reason-for-hiking-the-colorado-trail Happy Trails – My Reason for Hiking the Colorado Trail

I’m seriously considering quitting my job to spend 40 days on the Colorado Trail.  According to CNN Money, I make 75% of what an average CEO makes in the U.S.  Why would any sane person consider walking away from that? I’ll tell you. Peace and happiness are worth far more than all that comes with a fat pay check. The cost of money is sometimes greater than its value. And since I’d rather have peace and happiness, the fat paycheck isn’t the most valuable thing at this point in my life.

Truth be told, I’m not really planning to walk away from all my income. I have a few options. One of them will work out. If it’s less money, that’s OK.  My current employer is cooperating with my crazy idea, so that’s good. But if that falls through, I have a plan B, and a plan C. I’ll be fine. 

I’ve learned a few things in my most recent years. If anyone would listen, I would recommend not to waste a second on anything that is taking away from what brings true peace and happiness. This includes the job. And that’s where I am at in my life. I’m all about pursuing a smile over all things.

It only took me 50ish years to get to this place. It takes some people less time and others more. We all find our right place at our own pace. For me, I think I’m right where I need to be right now, and that’s a great feeling.

If you know me, you know how impactful the trail is on my wellbeing, physical and mental. It changes me.  It resets me. It helps me put all things into perspective. It’s home. It’s invigorating. It’s fulfilling. It’s where I need to make a significant investment. Because I live in beautiful Colorado, the Colorado Trail seems like the obvious place to start. I’ve been considering and planning this 500-mile trail for a couple years. And now it’s time. This year is the year. I’m hiking the entire trail this summer. And not many other things could make me more excited!

Over the coming months I’ll be writing about my thoughts and what I’m doing to prepare for this life-changing event.  God willing, in mid-July I’ll be on my way to west Denver to begin this epic journey on the trail toward Durango.  Please, stay tuned.

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davidjashley@live.com (David on Earth) colorado colorado trail hiking thru hiking http://www.davidonearth.com/blog/2018/2/happy-trails-my-reason-for-hiking-the-colorado-trail Thu, 22 Feb 2018 04:29:53 GMT
Colorado Trail Gear List http://www.davidonearth.com/blog/2017/12/colorado-trail-gear-list Colorado Trail Gear List

It's December 2017.  My ambition is to hike the Colorado Trail in July-August 2018. It's not too early to be obsessing over my gear list for that hike... because that's what I do. And it's not just over gear; I do the same over maps, routes, resupply... the whole thing.

Below is a list of what is in my base weight... the things I am planning to take on that hike, less consumables (food, fuel, toothpaste, soap, vitamins, baby wipes, etc.).  Total weight is: 16lbs.

(a few small items are missing from this photo... but, it's close)

Pack - Gossamer Mariposa 60 - 37oz

Shelter

- Tent - Zpacks Duplex - 21oz

- Stakes - Boundless Voyage Titanium V-Shaped Nail Tent Stakes Ultralight - 3.2oz

Sleeping System

- Quilt - Loco Libre Gear 20° Operator Series Ghost Pepper Topquilt - 18oz

- Pad - Sea to Summit UltraLight Insulated Mat - 17.4oz

- Pillow - Klymit X large pillow - 2.9oz

- Light Thermals (night) - Duofold Mid Weight Wicking Thermal Pant - 6oz

- Long Sleeve Shirt (night) - Thermowave Merino Xtreme Merino Wool Performance Base Layer 200 GSM - 6.8oz

- Night Socks - Possumdown Possum and Merino Wool Bushman's Friend Sock - 3.1oz

Clothing

- Rain Coat - The Packa - rain/wind coat and pack cover - 10.5oz

- Rain Pants - Outdoor Research Men's Helium Pants - 5.7oz

- Rain Mitts - Mountain Laurel Designs eVent Rain Mitts - 1.5oz

- Extra Socks - Darn Tough Hike-Trek Merino Wool Micro Crew Cushion Sock - 2.2oz

- Extra sock liners - Injinji liners - 1.2oz

- Puffy Jacket - Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket - 11.9oz

- Camp shirt - 8.4oz

- Gloves - Running Sports Gloves - 1.9pz

- Cold Hat - Mountain Hardware Caelum Dome Beanie - 2oz

- Cloths Sack - zPacks Food Dry Bag - 1.6oz

Personal Care

- Trowel - The Tentlab Deuce of Spades Backcountry Potty Trowel - .6oz

- First Aid Kit - Small assortment of ointments, bandages, optional meds (like an antidiarrheal) - 2.9oz

- Bandana - Pendleton Men's Jumbo Bandana, Warrior Rock Navy - 1.6oz

- Toothbrush - Compact, something like the BCB Adventure Folding Toothbrush - .7

- Consumables: floss, toothpaste, camp soap, Gold Bond powder, toilet paper, Repel bug spray, meds, laundry soap, sunscreen

Misc

- Fire Starter - 2 mini lighters - 1.3oz

- Headlamp - Energizer Vision HD+ LED Headlamp - 3.1oz

- Knife - Gerber Ripstop I Knife, Serrated Edge - 2.2oz

- Cord - 50' zPacks Z line slick chord - .9oz

- Databook - portion - 1.5oz

Electronics

- Charger - Anker PowerCore II 10000 - 6.8oz

- Camera Charger - 2.4oz

- GPS/Communicator - Garmin Inreach Explorer+ - 8.8oz

- Carried in a fanny pack: Camera spare battery, Sony a6000 w/16-50mm lens, camera remote control, dual wall plug w/2 cords, tripod

Kitchen/Hydration

- Spork - Tritan Spork with Full-Sized Spoon, Fork and Serrated Knife Edge - .4oz

- Water Purification - MSR Guardian Purifier - 22oz

- Stove - MSR PocketRocket - 3oz

- Cup - 750ml Titanium Outdoor Camping Pot Cooking - 4.4oz

- Oil containers - empty for olive oil - .7oz

- Food Koozie - homemade from reflective blanket - 1.6oz

- Wind Shield - Docooler Ultralight Ultra-thin Titanium Outdoor Camping Stove Wind Shield Screen Windproof Plate - .7oz

- Food Bags - LOKSAK Opsak Barrier 12 X 20 - 3.1oz

- Hanging Bag - Ursack MAJOR S29.3 All White Bear Resistant Sack Bag - 9oz

- Water Bottle - empty Smartwater bottle - 1oz

- Water Blatter - Platypus Platy Bottle, 2.0-Liter and 1-Liter - 2.3oz

 

Adjustments I could make, but I'm reluctant:
I could leave my camera behind - this would save me 22.4oz.  It's hard for me to not take my camera.

I could get a lighter stove - this would save an ounce, maybe 2. Concerned about durability and performance.

I could bring a lighter weight hanging bag - this would save me 6 ounces. There are a few places along the trail that I won't be able to hang, putting my food at greater risk. The URSack doesn't need to hang to protect my food.

I could not bring night cloths - this would save me 12.8 ounces.  Because I sleep cold, dry cloths will help keep me warmer and will cause less ware on my quilt.

I could bring a lighter weight water filtration/purification system - this would save me 1 pound. With the very reduced and more common stagnant water sources I'm going with the less risky option, even though it's quite a bit heavier.

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davidjashley@live.com (David on Earth) colorado hiking through-hike thru-hiking trail http://www.davidonearth.com/blog/2017/12/colorado-trail-gear-list Sat, 23 Dec 2017 23:24:36 GMT
A Tour of Jones Park - Then and Now http://www.davidonearth.com/blog/2017/12/a-tour-of-jones-park---then-and-now A Tour of Jones Park - Then and Now

Before there was Barr’s Trail, the Cog Railway, or the highway up to Pikes Peak there was a different trail, the Historic Trail. 

The trail started at 26th Street and High Drive to Josephine Falls along Bear Creek, connecting with Captain Jacks Trail through Jones Park to Lake Moraine and the Dead Lake area. It then went up to Windy Point and on to Pikes Peak. The Bear Creek portion of the trail was initially created by the native Ute tribe and in 1874 the US Army used the trail to create a weather station on top of Pikes Peak. The trail was 10-feet wide all the way to Seven Lakes. It was a mule ride from there to the summit.

This was the trail Katherine Lee Bates took to Pikes Peak in July of 1893, a trip that inspired the writing of America the Beautiful. Jones Park is along that trail. All you hikers may be disappointed to know that she didn’t hike the trail, she rode in a wagon with a team, renting both for about $2 and also paying a 50 cent toll. The sign on the back of the wagon read “Pikes Peak or Bust” an adopted phrase from the gold rush miners who had traveled to the area 40 years earlier.

Jones Park has a unique history during the late 1800s. This was the period immediately following the Homestead Act (1862) when it was easy to acquire large plots of land for nothing or at a very low price.  And since it was along the route to a popular destination it presented opportunity for the entrepreneur. Hotels and rest points were being built along this route for the many tourists seeking to scale the mountain.  Also, by 1881 the Ute Indians were forced out of the area to Utah, and so the unrest between the new American settlers and the natives was no longer a point of concern for those wanting to freely tour and develop the area.

Several homesteaders settled the area with hopes that the rumors of a railroad soon to be built would bring them their American dream. People by the name of Irvine, Lindsay, McDonald, Lavigne, Morris, Senkapaul, Hale and Corliss were among the first to make their claims. Joseph Jones (1830-1882) was one of those opportunist. He came to Colorado as a prospector during the gold and silver rush of 1859. He built the first log building in 1873 in a place that would eventually take his namesake, Jones Park. It was part of his plan to build a thriving business with a hotel, restaurant, and opera house for those on their way to Pikes Peak. What Manitou Springs later became is what Jones envisioned for his plot of earth. Participating in the Homestead Act, Jones paid $200 for his parcel. 

Jones Park - Kineo Peak on the leftJones Park - Kineo Peak on the left

Looking east from Jones Park - Mount Kineo on the left

Jones Park - Pikes Peak in the backJones Park - Pikes Peak in the back

Looking west onto Jones Park from on top of Mount Kineo - Pikes Peak in the back

There are reports that Jones was a “tall fierce looking man” with a “wild look in his eyes” proclaiming to be the “greatest man in all this region” and the “first to discover gold in the Rocky Mountains”. He did manage to fulfill part of his dream by building his log house, gardens, fishing ponds, and bird houses but that’s about as much as he was able to achieve before his passing in 1882.

It was Jones who is credited with unknowingly saving the Greenback Cutthroat Trout when he had a few of them captured and planted in his ponds. The species still exist in Bear Creek.  More on that later.

Five years after the death of Jones it’s 1877. Edward Tenney (1835-1916) is the President of Colorado College in Colorado Springs. Tenney was also involved in housing developments and he owned property adjacent to the Jones plot. He recruited Frank Loud (1852-1927) to come out from Boston to be the first head of the mathematics department at the college. 

Interesting tidbit about Loud:

Loud has a long list of accomplishments to include working with Nikola Tesla on his project to blast radio waves to space and then listen for answers.  Reportedly Tesla heard aliens respond. The event was dubbed the “Mars signals”. The media promptly ridiculed him and his discovery, even back then. Make your own judgement. It was enough for Tesla; he moved back east for his next adventure in discovery.

Here are a couple other less juicy items about Loud:

Loud and Melvil Dewey were classmates. Remember the Dewey Decimal (Classification) system that we use in our public and school libraries? Yes, that “Dewey”. He first published his system in 1876. So, fresh off the press, Loud used the Dewey Classification system to set up the library at Colorado College.

Loud was a mathematician. With no experience in astronomy, he set up the Wolcott Observatory at Colorado College after obtaining a telescope and coaxing some astronomer friends to come out to Colorado for the 1878 solar eclipse where it could be best viewed. He is also the founder of the Colorado Meteorological Association. In 1903 he set up a lab to provide photography from a telescope using the special Cooke lens. That venture had an unfortunate and abrupt ending when the caretaker, Lew Warriner, lit the place on fire with coal oil then shot himself. Space photography is a rough business. Notice this article has no celestial shots. You're safe. 

Point 1: For those who have made a career in space technologies in Colorado Springs, you have Mr Loud to thank.

Point 2: Scrap the resume’ and connect with some influential people. Apparently anyone can do great things even without experience… or even some negative experience.

Loud had purchased 108 acres north of the Jones parcel in 1884 for $147. He built a 16-foot square log house that was later destroyed by a snow slide. The picture below is believed to be the location and remaining foundation. It is located west of the Chipmunk Lodge (see below) not far along the creek, right next to the trail.


In 1902 he built a new cabin and called it the Chipmunk Lodge.  See below.  He also built two other cabins, one burned down and the other lasted until around 1960.

Louds Cabin - Jones ParkLouds Cabin - Jones Park

Well, it was after the death of Jones that his estate sold for $400 to Alwyn Partridge (1848-1931) who had also worked for Tenney at Colorado College and had graduated from Amherst College two years before Loud.

It turns out Tenney was forced to resign as the President of Colorado College in 1885 because he defaulted on payments for a housing development on the “North End” of Colorado Springs along with his parcel adjacent to Jones Park. History never forgets, but it often forgives. Tenney’s Crags, north east of Jones Park was named after him (see pic below). Unlike what the current social climate might have you believe, it seems faulty people can still be honored.

There are several other homestead finds in Jones Park. This is a site east and within sight of Chipmunk Lodge that was once a 1.5 story cabin where once John “Fez” Bryant (1908-1974) practiced his jazz tunes. He worked for the Colorado Springs Music Company, playing at Shakey’s Pizza Parlor, which is still in business today.

There are other sites further up the creek from Chipmunk Lodge, ones I have yet to identify. Maybe another time. These old dwellings are mysterious to me. They are full of untold stories, happy and sad, good and hard. They are reminders of lives lived in different times. They are monuments to those who came before us, in whose old paths we walk, and who in many connected ways have secured our great inheritance of these wild places. For these reasons, I believe these sites are to be preserved for their sacred contribution. 

Both of these shots were taken from Mount Kineo over a century apart.

I won't go through much detail of my trek into and through this park except in general terms and to highlight a few noteworthy items.

From the parking lot above Helen Hunt Falls at the intersection of North Cheyenne Canyon Road, Old Gold Camp Road, and High Drive I took Old Gold Camp road to trail 622 (Seven Bridges Trail). And, yes, Seven Bridges Trail has seven bridges. Here they are in order:

After the bridges is a destination for some: Undine Falls. I didn't stop to take a picture - just kept climbin' and soon crossed a scree field.  Looking back is a nice view of Colorado Springs. 

Two miles up Seven Bridges Trail is the edge of Jones Park in a slowly slopping meadow of quaking aspens.  This intersection offers a couple choices, connecting with different trails in the Park. 

To the right is trail 622a and straight is a connecting trail that leads to trail 668, Ring the Peak Trail... which doesn't yet actually go all the way around Pikes Peak, but plans are to connect that last segments in the coming years. At the top of 622a is where an unmarked trail leads to the summit of Mount Kineo.

Any map older than 2016 will surely confuse anyone trying to find their way through this area. The Bear Creek trail running parallel to the Bear Creek watershed was decommissioned in 2016 in an attempt to save the Greenback Cutthroat Trout found in the creek, formerly believed to be extinct and believed to have been originally planted by Jones in his ponds up stream.  So, the forest service rerouted the traffic to trail #667, Cap'n Jacks Trail, along with rerouting some of the interconnecting trails. So if you are wondering these parts, be aware that the trail layout may be different than your map.

I did take a little time out to set up my Zpacks™ Duplex Ultralight Two Person Tent.  Pretty sweet! The primary material is Cuben Fiber and it weights only 21oz!  I plan on doing some long hikes with it soon.  

I've also been experimenting with my Vargo Triad Multi-Fuel Stove. It weighs in at 1oz.  And the Vargo Alcohol Fuel Bottle holds 8oz of fuel which is just right for a 4-5 day camping trip for me, as I would typically only use it to heat up less than a half liter of water per day. Some folks use isopropyl alcohol, which works fine, but some tests prove that HEET Gas-Line Antifreeze and Water Remover is a more efficient fuel (hotter faster).

On my return trip I took Cap'n Jacks Trail (#667) that follows the north side of Mount Kineo to the intersection with Mount Buckhorn Trail (#776).  Mount Buckhorn Trail then switches back to follow the south side of Mount Kineo until reaching Old Gold Camp Road and then back to the parking lot.  This route has several nice view points.

I've put nearly 30 miles into exploring this area and I'm looking forward to exploring much more.  So, until next time... happy trails! 

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davidjashley@live.com (David on Earth) colorado hiking jones mountains peak pikes http://www.davidonearth.com/blog/2017/12/a-tour-of-jones-park---then-and-now Mon, 11 Dec 2017 04:49:00 GMT
Mount Rosa and ol' Zeb http://www.davidonearth.com/blog/2017/10/mount-rosa-and-ol-zeb Mount Rosa and ol' Zeb

The year is 1806. An ambitious 27-year-old Zebulon Pike (Zeb) under the command of Army General James Wilkinson set out on an expedition from St. Louis to find the headwaters of the Arkansas River. The General also secretly commissioned the young soldier to spy on the Spanish who ruled Old Mexico at the time including much of the land which is modern day Colorado and New Mexico.

In late November, Zeb and his dwindling number of men were in what is now Pueblo, Colorado. He selected three of his men to scale Mount Rosa with him as part of their attempt to reach the top of a mountain that eventually took on his namesake, Pikes Peak. They made the summit of Rosa but were undersupplied and inadequately clothed. A winter storm was brewing. Without a shelter in their supplies the best available hold-up was a natural cave in the rocks on the south east ridge of the mountain. They stayed there for one unpleasant night. They made it out alive.

Several months later they were captured by the Spaniards and confined for a year before they were released. Immediately upon his return he was accused of being a co-conspirator in Wilkerson’s snaky dealings. Zeb was later cleared of all wrong-doing in the matter and eventually made the rank of General before being killed in the war of 1812.

It would have made a great story if I took the same route up Mount Rosa, became caught in a winter storm, and spent the night in the same cave. But – that didn’t happen. I did, however, hike a different route up to the summit of Mount Rosa today… so, that’s about all I have in common with ol' Zeb.

Mount Rosa is a favorite local hike. The route I took was via St Mary’s Falls. It’s not for the beginner, it’s a 4000-foot elevation gain and 14 miles (out and back) trail. I wrote about it a couple years back in My Sweet Rosa, promising I would update the post later that year. I didn’t update the post that year and not even in the several times I’ve been back on that trail since then.  Shame on me.

So for those of you who have been waiting… here it is… summit and all:

A 7am start time was reasonable for me today. There were to be no afternoon thunderstorms, a bright sunny forecast, and nothing on my schedule for the afternoon. I was free and needed some trail time.

Directions: Follow North Cheyenne Canyon Road from Cheyenne Blvd off of Highway 87/115 (Nevada Blvd) just west of I25 in Colorado Springs to a dirt parking lot several turns above Helen Hunt Falls.  It’s here you’ll see a gate blocking Old Gold Camp Road. This is the starting point.

You’ll follow this old road as it circles to the left until you reach a Gated Tunnel. 

Go to the left of this tunnel and up. When you reach the top, turn right and follow the trail for a short distance until reaching the first of several signs.  Go right or left; it doesn’t matter they both lead to the same trail up Buffalo Canyon; Buffalo Creek will be on your left.

A few steps up the trail (I took the trail on the right) is the boundary to Pike National Forest. Note that there are federal regulations that are enforceable in a National Forest. They are designed to protect and preserve the area.  Here are the rules for Pike.  I like the one about not blasting your music so I can hear it; it’s all about the sounds of nature out here, folks. Oh, and don’t shoot your guns in a way that the bullet might hit someone… especially one of the good guys… I like that rule too.

Walking along Buffalo Creek with the sound of its many small cascading falls is a great way to say good morning. There is some minor incline alone this portion of the trail, but nothing compared to a few places coming up.

The trail becomes more separated from the creek and the ascent becomes more pronounced. Log steps help keep the trail from erosion.

And then the first glimpse of Stove Mountain (Cookstove Mountain) comes into view. This is the most prominent landmark along the first half of the trail.

At the first switchback is now a sign letting everyone know that St Mary’s Falls is still a bit further up the trail. It seems some people (me) thought the series of cascading falls at this site was St Mary’s Falls. This sign wasn’t here the first time I was on this trail a few years back. They put the sign in a place that blocks the old trail to the upper cascade in this area. It’s a nice place to get all artsy with the photography if you are so inclined.

 

From here the trail continues to climb. But with the elevation comes more expansive views from the foothills into the famed fruited plains… or in this case, Colorado Springs and eastward. 

The trail has a few switchbacks but eventually aims in a familiar direction toward Stove Mountain. The sharp sword leaves of the yucca plants next to the trail may challenge those who ware short pants. 

Side note: the UV at these elevations warrants covering exposed skin – I do not recommend short sleeve shirts or short pants. There are varying opinions, but I like mine.

The trail splits before arriving at the falls. The sign is easily missed in the tree branches. Take the trail to the right and up.

This picture is looking back down the hill in the direction we came.

I didn’t go to St Mary’s Falls on this hike… but, here’s a picture from previous hikes for those who are interested:

The most demanding part of the hike is what follows the split from the trail to St Mary’s Falls. It’s 800 feet of elevation gain, rising onto the ridge above the falls.

This is the half way point of the ascent. This is where I typically stop for a few minutes to rehydrate, have a quick snack, and enjoy the views.

Then the trail begins to level off; you’ll still have a slight incline, but not like the previous section. The elevation here is between 9500 and 9600 feet.

Maybe a hundred yards up the trail is a nice rock formation begging you to climb. Some small fire pits are a testament of its popularity.

From the place of great climbing temptation, the trail descents slightly and soon a glimpse of Rosa will come into view while entering a clearing, the rush of the creek below.

After the clearing the trail widens; I believe this was an old forest service road. The trail will dip down slightly to a stream. This will be the last water source of the trail; so, filter some if you need to.

From the stream the trail will begin to rise again onto rockier terrain until reaching a gate. Walk through the opening on the gate.

The path after the gate can be a little confusing. I’ll make it simple: repeat after me, “go right on the road”. Here’s a picture to illustrate.

Then in about 100 feet, turn left. Note the trail marker near the base of a large pine about 20 feet off the road – trail 672.

The trail alternates between open rocky areas and heavily wooded areas with some switchbacks until reaching a flat open area. This is the north east ridge of the mountain. This section is 1000 ft of elevation gain. It will feel like you have arrived; but, no, my friend; it’s just a cruel joke. 

The rest of the way isn’t very far – less than a mile and around 600 feet of elevation before reaching the summit. Rosa is within reach!

Glance over to the right to see the south ridge of Pikes Peak. 

Notice the ground is granite gravel with very little vegetation due to the intensity of the wind. On this day the wind was quite mild, but I’ve been up here when it has been forceful. The air is noticeably cooler, now at nearly 11,000 ft.

The trail winds through the trees until reaching the trail marker for 673, an arrow pointing the way.

The trail from here can be a little difficult to find from time to time as it makes its way through the pines up to the next area of open granite gravel very similar to the previous.

The remaining hike is through a forest of pine and increasingly more abundant boulders. The trail switches until finally reaching the summit. And what a glorious summit it is, with great views of the foothills, Almagre and Almagre South, Cheyenne Mountain, Pikes Peak, Rosemont Reservoir below, and the Sangre de Cristo Mountain range in the distance.

To see all this for the first time through the eyes of a soldier from the flatlands of the Midwest in the early 1800s must have been otherworldly. At times I feel the spirit of the early explorers, the amazement and awe, the trepidation and anxiety of the unknown, and the sense of fullness and utter oneness with my surroundings like a purpose fulfilled. Yet it’s never enough. I want to return home to tell a story and then immediately prepare for another journey, like ol’ Zeb.

Yes, ol’ Zeb was one of the great ones. I didn’t climb his side of the mountain. I didn’t stay in his cave. But I did reach the summit and I did take in the greater wonder of our world as I’m sure he did on many occasion in this beautiful place.

Happy trails, my friends!

 

 

 

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davidjashley@live.com (David on Earth) colorado hiking mount mountains rosa springs http://www.davidonearth.com/blog/2017/10/mount-rosa-and-ol-zeb Tue, 24 Oct 2017 02:59:45 GMT
Sky Pond – Not a Bad Hike http://www.davidonearth.com/blog/2017/9/sky-pond-not-a-bad-hike Sky Pond – Not a Bad Hike

“I’ve never had a bad hike.”  Laura’s words were met with consent from Anne and I.  We reminisced about our previous adventures, about how tough, cold, windy, wet, painful, and exhausting some of them were; but they were never bad.  None of us had never said, “I wish I had never done that hike.”  It seems the sum of all the misery this activity has brought us has never been greater than the joy we’ve received from it.  Perhaps this is a sign that we are doing exactly what we were meant to do. Today’s hike was another one of those confirmations of purpose.  The views: amazing.  The trail: fantastic.  The company: excellent.  The experience: not soon forgotten. The destination: Sky Pond in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado.

Colorado cannot be described in a word or a sentence.  Even books about Colorado do not adequately do justice to the diversity of beauty contained within its boundaries. From the gently rolling fields in the east to the majestic snowcapped peaks in the west, Colorado is an endless inspiring parade of wonder that begs the adventurer in all of us to explore. 

Among all this there is one epicenter that perfectly captures much of what attracts people to Colorado: Rocky Mountain National Park. 

The native Ute and Arapaho tribes lived in this area in the early 1800s, and before them, 10,000-year-old evidence bares signs of Paleo-Indian tribes.  The Louisiana Purchase secured the land for the advancing new Americans, and under the idea of Manifest Destiny came expeditions, fur traders, miners, settlers, and eventually politicians.  In 1915, President Woodrow Wilson signed into law The Rocky Mountain National Park Act to establish the park boundaries and to protect the area against selfish, destructive pursuits.

Four and a half million people visited this 415 square mile park in 2016.  Some of the less adventurous drive Trail Ridge Road through the park across the Continental Divide, which is wondrous even from a paved road. And others walk along its 355 miles of trails or gaze over the waters of its 156 lakes.

Over one hundred years later, today I joined a small group of adventure seekers to experience 10 miles of those trails and three of its lakes, intersecting with cascading creeks and waterfalls before rising above timber line to a prize of magnificent granite spires shooting up from the shores of Sky Pond.

This is a popular place for all the obvious reasons.  We arrived early to beat the crowds.  And later we were glad we did, as busloads of people were being escorted to the trailhead only a few hours later.

Not a mile up the trail, just after sunrise, we paused to take in the early morning alpenglow.

The trail is described as “strenuous” in some online descriptions, but for avid hikers it could be categorized as something less than that.  The path is not technical and well maintained. With the exception of a couple very short sections, incline on this trail is mild.

The Lock or Vale Lock is the first lake along the way.  The trail circles to the right, but for those who might want to explore, there are social trails that lead to other parts of the shoreline and above on the surrounding rock formations.

Portions of the trail are marshy as it generally follows Icy Brook.  The forest service has created log paths through these areas.

Not long after crossing Andrews Creek the trees start to thin and the trail soon opens to an expansive view of surrounding granite walls.

The approach to the falls below The Lake of Glass became icy with patches of snow and cold from the previous week still in the shadows. 

The way up to The Lake of Glass is via the right edge of a minor falls to the right of the larger falls.  At this time year and at this hour of the morning the rocks are icy. This requires extra traction devices, micro-spikes.  I didn’t get any pictures of this section. It’s only around 30 feet. I guess I was too busy preparing for and negotiating the way up.  And on the way down we had a line forming. So, I suppose instead of messing around with the camera it’s a great idea to focus on the task.  Yes, pun intended.

The wind was calm below the falls, but today it was a whole different matter above the falls on the shore of The Lake of Glass.  But that didn’t stop us from snapping a few pics.

The route to Sky Pond from here is only about a quarter mile, but it isn’t clear at first.  My advice: climb up a little over some rocks and then drop down toward the lake.  You’ll follow the lake on the right side, the trail will show itself.

Just below the pond is a small water fall.

And then Sky Pond.

Turning around offers a nice view of the path already traveled.

And circling the pond to the left is the iconic view of Sharkstooth.

Of course, being that I can never get enough of this, we decided to climb up to a vantage point above the lake on one of the rock formations.  This is my climb up the chute (pic by Laura).

And this is our view from up on top.

So, as you can see, not a bad hike… like every other hike… right? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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davidjashley@live.com (David on Earth) climb colorado hike hiking mountains rmnp rocky mountain national park sky pond http://www.davidonearth.com/blog/2017/9/sky-pond-not-a-bad-hike Sun, 01 Oct 2017 02:36:00 GMT
Top 100! http://www.davidonearth.com/blog/2017/9/top-100 Well, all this musing results in something.  

I made the top 100 hiking blogs... on earth!!

 

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davidjashley@live.com (David on Earth) http://www.davidonearth.com/blog/2017/9/top-100 Mon, 11 Sep 2017 01:37:21 GMT
Blue Lakes, Come Fill Up My Senses http://www.davidonearth.com/blog/2017/9/blue-lakes-come-fill-up-my-senses Blue Lakes, Come Fill Up My Senses

This year I purposely planned hikes into alpine lakes. I couldn’t bare another year of looking at pictures; I had to go experience it.  This trip was one of those experiences. The contrast between rugged granite peaks patched with snow, alpine tundra saturated with wild flowers, and the purity of aqua blue lakes all bundled together in one eye soaking moment is indescribable.  And although even the best pictures and carefully chosen words are still desperately inadequate at capturing this experience, it’s all I have for you. Here goes…

For some folks, their introduction to the San Juan Mountains is a drive into Ridgeway, CO on Highway 550 from Montrose.  The skyline here ranks among the best in the Rockies.  The most prominent peak from this view is Mount Sneffels, where nestled on the shore of a lake in an alpine valley just below I’ll pitch my tent tonight… Blue Lakes here I come!

A few friends and I had just finished climbing Mount Uncompahgre on the other side of this range earlier in the day.  One of them, Ryan, joined me.  We were to meet his friend near the upper lake.  The plan was to summit Sneffels the following day. 

In Ridgeway we turn to the right on Highway 62 for 5 miles before turning left onto Highway 7.  The trail head is 9 miles up that road.  It's all gravel; 4WD not required.

I have 25ish years on Ryan.  It shows in my physical inability to keep up with him.  Honestly, I don’t try very hard to match his performance in these hills. He’s been patient enough to have had me join him on more than one occasion this year; and I’m grateful for the company. His goal is to climb all 58 14,000-foot summits within a year. And he’s also training for a marathon. He’s an inspiration for the couch potatoes who are still young enough to move. Get out and get active; thank me later.

We didn’t arrive at the Blue Lakes trailhead until after 4pm. We were hoping to make it to the upper lake by 7pm.  I had my doubts because my left calf had tightened up and it had become painful enough to slow me down on any ascending pitch, which was most of the trail ahead of me on this afternoon. 

It wasn’t long before Ryan left me behind to meet up with his friend. His friend didn’t have a shelter, the clouds were beginning to darken, and the skies had begun to rumble.  Normally it’s not good to leave someone behind, especially with an injury.  But, I was very glad he did because I was fully equipped to set up camp anytime I needed to, whereas his friend was without shelter in threatening weather and probably at or above tree line.

Here’s what the weather looked like:

I made it to the lower lake as the rain started to fall and set up my tent without getting too wet.  It turned out that Ryan found his friend right at tree line and the weather didn’t get nasty.  It all worked out well.  

One thing I learned on a high activity day such as today: increase caloric intake to at least meet the caloric expenditure of the day. I was running very low on energy on this last leg of the trail.  It was only 3.5 miles and 1700 feet elevation to the lower lake, but it felt like it was much more.  I had to stop and down a bag of dried bananas.  These are great for fast absorbing energy. 

I was excited for the morning, as it would bring views I had only seen in pictures. So, immediately after a healthy bag oatmeal I went down to the shore of the lake to absorb with every one of my senses.  I tasted the water and touched the rocks on the shoreline while my eyes and ears noted every detail of the rippling water and multi-dimensional peaks surrounding me. The pine forest filled the air. Definitely not disappointing.  And this would be just the first of many of these moments on the day.

After a short while I proceeded up the trail to find Ryan.  Here are a few views from along the way.

I found them near tree line, expressing my gratitude for the decision he made to move on without me.  Here’s where they set up camp.

He was going to press forward with his bid for the summit of Sneffels.  My calf would not allow me to put that much more stress on it.  So I decided to hike on for as long as I felt was supportive of my condition.  I would make it half way up the pass; I needed to save some for the hike back.

I went ahead of them while they finished preparing for their day and met them at the upper lake to filter some water. Here is the trail through the alpine tundra.

This is the middle lake.  Sneffels is center-left, the trail leads up over the pass center-right.

This is the creek that drains out of the upper lake and into the middle lake.

Ryan and friend are coming down the trail to meet me at the upper lake.

This is the upper lake. 

They pressed ahead.  We would connect the next day via social media to compare notes. The picture below is the upper lake taken from half-way up the pass.

This is S4, sometimes referred to as Wolcott Mountain.  The lower lake is at the base of this mountain.

This was taken along the trail up to the pass.

Yours truly above the lower lake with S4 behind me.

The return leg of any trip like this is important for closure.  As much as we want to preserve our time in perfect places, we know we must return to the part of our lives that serve to support further opportunities like these. The trek back to the Jeep is peppered with conversations of encouragement for those heading up the hill and thoughts of what other adventures might come next.  It seems to be some sort of transition therapy for me.

When I was a young kid growing up in Upper Michigan there was a period I listened to John Denver’s music.  One of his lyrics came to mind today: “…like a night in a forest, like the mountains in spring time… you fill up my senses, come fill me again” I know, it’s a corny love song but it captures the vulnerability and depth of being in places like this.  (Side note: did you ever notice an almost creepy moan in the right channel at 14 seconds into this song… ya… weird.)  It’s this depth we just can’t get in a two dimensional picture.  So put down the picture, reject the couch, and go! Get out and experience the adventure!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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davidjashley@live.com (David on Earth) 14er alpine backpacking blue lakes climb colorado hiking lakes mount mountains http://www.davidonearth.com/blog/2017/9/blue-lakes-come-fill-up-my-senses Sun, 03 Sep 2017 21:17:00 GMT
Uncompahgre and Senseless Bugs http://www.davidonearth.com/blog/2017/9/uncompahgre-and-senseless-bugs Uncompahgre and Senseless Bugs

Splat! Another bug liquefied on the windshield. I wonder what that bug was thinking. Could this “accident” have been a surprise? My Jeep isn’t exactly silent on the road. The bug must surely have heard or seen me coming. The road just didn’t appear; it’s been here for a while and it’s quite an obvious hazard among all that makes up the ecosphere of a bug’s life. Considering the thousands of acers where it could have been flying, it chose here and now, where cars go fast all day. Was it not paying attention? Does it not have the intelligence or basic fear or threat instinct to know it can’t survive a head-on impact with an object much larger than itself moving 80 miles per hour?

It all seems so senseless. And now I have to clean off my windshield.

I must be tired.  Who thinks about these things during the course of a normal day? 

Ah, but today is not normal. And, yes, I am tired. After only a couple hours sleep, I woke at 4:30 a.m. to hike up a 14,000-foot summit in the beautiful San Juan Mountains in Colorado. And after that 7-hour trail, I’m now driving a few more hours to my next trailhead to hike another several miles up to an 11,000-foot alpine lake.  

But, I don’t mind being this kind of tired and I definitely don’t mind this kind of out-of-the-norm activity. In fact, I love it! 

Let’s review the hours preceding the bug incident. 

It’s Friday morning at the onset of a 3-day weekend. I’ve been monitoring the rapidly changing weather reports for the mountains over the past couple days. And now I’m ready to make a decision to either pass on the long drive with the risk of an unsuccessful summit attempt due to bad weather or to dismiss it all and go for it. I finally decide that if no lightning is in the forecast, I’m going. I look one more time. No lightning. 

My friends are notified of the decision and everyone is on board. I’ll leave tonight with one of the crew and I’ll meet the other two sometime on Saturday somewhere on the mountain. We leave at 7pm for a 6-hour drive and decide to camp at the lower Nellie Creek road trailhead.  It’s 1:30 am when I finally crawl into my hammock. It’s comfy.

At 4:30 am we are heading up the 4 wheel-drive road, crossing two creeks, and finally arriving at the upper trailhead about an hour later. It’s still dark. Headlamp’s on and up the trail we go.

Uncompahgre Peak is the destination. It will be a 7.5-mile hike with 3000 feet elevation gain. At 14,321 feet, it’s the 6th highest summit in the Rocky Mountains and the highest in the San Juan Range.

At about a mile into the hike, dawn is upon us and the peak reveals itself to us for the first time. Rising 1500 feet above the alpine basin we admire the nearly solid 700-foot vertical north face. It’s ominous. 

The native Ute tribe, specifically the Uncompahgre band (sometimes called the Tabeguache – pronounce: TAB-uh-wahch) populated this area for generations. They traveled the area in family units, gathering food and hunting.  The practice was to only take what was required, never over harvesting, in order to give the environment time to replenish. It was a way of ensuring their survival. They are the oldest residents of Colorado. The Utes occupied the entire great basin territories of Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Eastern California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Northern Arizona and New Mexico.

The name of the peak is disputed, but many agree that it is a loose translation of the Ute work meaning “dirty water” or “hot red spring water”. There are hot springs in the area with rocks of red hue.

The approach to the ridge is a nice casual ascent. We were talking about how this might be a nice hike for those looking for an “easy” beginner 14er. 

The trail meets the Big Blue Trail near the bottom of the basin. It also meets the Driveway Trail on the approach ridge, which leads to Wetterhorn and Matterhorn Peaks. 

An unnamed 13,000-foot ridge circles to the south. It’s along the same ridge we gain for our approach, where we would meet our two other companions. 

With higher altitude comes more rugged terrain and a series of switchbacks. Here’s a view from near the top of the switchbacks.

The trail winds around to the south side of the summit where we had the option of taking a short lower class three route. A shot from on top of that section:

This leads to the last push to the broad summit. 

The arrival on the summit was celebratory, as always.

Some of the more iconic San Juan peaks can be seen from up here: Wetterhorn, Matterhorn, Fortress, Precipice, Coxcomb, and Redcliff. 

And there are great views of lesser known but none-the-less spectacular mountain scenes. The dark line is the sky is smoke from the dozens of fires burning in the western states.

The summit is essentially the top of the north face – remember we saw that from below. And it allows for some spectacular photo opportunities.

The return trip was somewhat leisurely. I’m always fascinated by the descent when the ascent was in the dark. It’s like a whole new trail.

And the arrival back at the trailhead means the end to another great summit adventure.

As noted earlier, this was just the beginning of our day. With just a few hours’ sleep, we still had the rough road back to our camp and some backpacks to prepare. It would be several more hours before we started the next trailhead and hike in to Blue Lakes on the other side of the range. I’ll write another blog post for the Blue Lakes. It deserves its own.

So you see, this was not a normal day for me - although, it would be wonderful if it was. What is not wonderful are the senseless and tragic encounters with bugs on windshields… followed by further senseless thoughts about the reason for those encounters.

Enough of all that – let’s move on to Blue Lakes!

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davidjashley@live.com (David on Earth) 14er climb colorado hiking mountains peak san juan uncompahgre http://www.davidonearth.com/blog/2017/9/uncompahgre-and-senseless-bugs Sun, 03 Sep 2017 03:51:00 GMT
South Colony Lakes – Humboldt Peak http://www.davidonearth.com/blog/2017/8/south-colony-lakes-humboldt-peak South Colony Lakes – Humboldt Peak

I’ve spent a lot of time in Buena Vista, where the Sawatch Range consumes the western skyline. From the first time my eyes took in this sight I knew I was destined to become part of it. Indeed, it has taken many of my weekends over the past several years. I have now hiked to the top of all 15 of the peaks over 14,000 feet in this range at least once. That’s not impressive to the real mountaineers, but for this “over the hill” Midwesterner, I feel it’s more significant than counting binge TV weekends. No judgement; the world needs everyone; I just have other ambitions.

As the southern portion of the Sawatch diminishes, the earth gives rise to the Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range. The view from Westcliffe is equally as attractive as the Sawatch is from Buena Vista. And since prior to this year, I had not put one footprint in those hills, it too had given me that same feeling of destiny. I need to get to know these hills.

A little more about the Sangres: The Sangre de Cristo Mountains extend from Salida, Colorado to Santa Fe, New Mexico – 200 miles long. It is the southernmost subrange in the Rocky Mountains. Within this range there are 86 peaks that are over 13,000 feet and 10 that are over 14,000 feet. Blanca Peak is the highest at 13,345 feet. If the summits are not enough, there is rafting, fishing, skiing, and many miles of trails for hiking, backpacking, and mountain biking to enjoy. The area contains four National Forests and two Wilderness Areas all within ten subranges. The Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve is part of these mountains. The geology is fascinating, but too much to go into here.

This past winter I took a couple snowshoeing hikes in the Sangres, up South Colony Lakes trail. This trail ends in an alpine valley. The main attraction: The Crestone Peaks, and their identifiable gendarme formations.

But the Crestones are not the only residence guarding the valley. Humboldt Peak, Broken Hand Peak, Milwaukee Peak, and Marble Mountain all contribute to the surrounding grandeur. Here are a couple winter views from within the valley.

I chose today for my first non-winter hike into this valley, backpacking in to the lakes on Friday and climbing Humboldt Peak on Saturday.

Ok, let’s review. What happens to best-laid plans? That’s right; they go awry. I wanted to leave by early afternoon, but my Jeep had other plans. It decided that I should fix its pinion seal and leaky shocks first. I ended up running only an hour later than planned.  My mechanics put a rush on it, probably sensing my desperation to get out of the city. And it’s a good thing I made the repairs since the 4WD road to the upper trailhead was rough in a few places. It turns out that I needed fluid to stay in my differential… and in my shocks. Who knew?

I met a few folks with similar plans at the trailhead at 5pm. Some had an attempt at the Creston Peaks in mind, others were to attempt Humboldt Peak, and still others were on a scouting mission for their hunting trips planned for later in the year. The trail started at just under 10,000 feet. It’s an abandoned road walk until the last mile of the 2.5-mile hike. I pitched camp at near 11,500 feet not far below the lower lake. There are a few other camp sites near the lake that are slightly off the trail, either hidden in the trees or in small clearings among the willows.

Cooking on the trail. I typically cook (rehydrate) my evening meals by simply pouring hot water into the freezer bag that contains the ingredients. But the problem with high altitude cooking is that things cool fast, too fast for some ingredients to adequately rehydrate. And so, you end up with a lukewarm meal that isn’t fully rehydrated. The solution: a cook pouch. A cook pouch is a sealable pocket made of heat retaining material (like a space blanket or reflective car windshield shade). Placing my freezer bag containing a rehydrating meal inside the pouch allows for slower cooling, and longer cooking (rehydrating) time. The result: I get a hot meal that is fully rehydrated. There’s nothing like a satisfying meal at the end of a trail day. Here’s a DIY video to show you how to do this on the cheap.

I sipped my chamomile tea next to a small camp fire before calling it a night.

I was up at dawn heating some coffee and enjoying some breakfast biscuits. My feet were on the trail at 7am and in a short while I caught the early sun on Crestone Needle.

As the trail split to go in one direction up to the saddle below Humboldt and in the other direction to the upper lake, I took the opportunity to refill my water bottles at the upper lake before heading up the hill. From the lake the breathtaking view of Broken Hand Peak and the valley I had hiked up made me pause a few minutes to take it all in.

This view shows the path up to the false summit from the saddle. 

Along the trail to the summit of Humboldt there is one false summit and a fair amount of scrambling. The rock hopping is quite fun. Just so we're clear, when I say "trail" I mean a somewhat marked path through a field of rocks up the side of a mountain. 

The view of Colony Baldy to the north is also magnificent.

A reasonable amount of cairns marks the way. This picture is looking back toward the Crestones.

The trail doesn’t actually go over the false summit, although there’s nothing stopping the more adventurous folks from doing that. The trail veers to the right side of the summit then becomes a grassy area with the north east face cliff on the left. Tundra vegetation is tough but delicate; tough because it withstands the harsh environment, but delicate because it's difficult to rejuvenate after it's been destroyed. Plus it provides the scarce food for the animal life that live up here. So, please try to avoid walking on it as much as possible.

There is some exposure here for folks who want it. I generally don’t, but I moved close enough to the edge to take this shot just for you.

There are a couple rock shelters near the summit. I walked a little further along the summit thinking it was higher, then when I looked back the place I came from looked higher. So, in any case, I was at the summit – shown here with the Crestones behind me.

The southern view of the rest of the Sangres is worthy of a good stare.

I lingered on the summit long enough to take a few pictures, enjoy some conversation with fellow hikers, and eat some summit food. Today it was tuna and crackers, complemented by peanut M&Ms.

The down-path allowed for views that were to our back on the way up.

I've shown a couple dozen pictures here. But I don’t want to make all this seem like it's only a place of beautiful mountains. It’s deeper than what my camera can show or my words can express. Call it destiny; call it adventure; call it whatever you like. These places are magnificent, not just because of the scenery, but also because of what it does to the people who spend time here. We are inspired; we are humbled; we become stronger in spirit; we are reminded that our modern lives lack perspective. We find that these places restore our faith in humanity and help us recognize the miracles and goodness around us every day. And I think we all need some of that. Maybe those of us who go here are destined to find adventure so that we can be the best people we can be.

I encourage everyone to step out into whatever adventure you are drawn to so that you can become part of the thing that makes you great!
 

 

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davidjashley@live.com (David on Earth) backpacking climb hike humboldt mountain peak sangre de cristo south colony lakes http://www.davidonearth.com/blog/2017/8/south-colony-lakes-humboldt-peak Sun, 20 Aug 2017 02:39:00 GMT
Missouri and Fancy Pass Loop (a story of second best options) http://www.davidonearth.com/blog/2017/8/missouri-and-fancy-pass-loop-a-story-of-second-best-options Missouri and Fancy Pass Loop (a story of second best options)

“We’re out of Jolly Roger,” my usual waitress at Eddy Line Brewing told me. 

It was one of those times when my brain was trying to process what I thought I just heard.  I paused, unable to verbalize a response.  My favorite microbrew from Eddy Line was not available; it’s a yummy black lager; I couldn’t order it; it wouldn’t satisfy my thirst today; I couldn’t fulfill the final act of my hike.  But, it’s what I always drink after a long day of hiking when passing through Buena Vista.  What am I going to do?! 

I picked up the brew menu and stared at it.  The waitress, obviously aware of my distress, slowly backed away, pointing her index finger up in the air and gently telling me she’d be back in one minute.  I had one minute to recover and decide if another beer on the menu was worth a consideration. 

I tried to reason that it was “just” a beer.  “You can do this,” I heard inside my head.   So I focused on the menu and decided that their amber beer, Kick’in Back, would be a reasonable alternative.

These are things we do when our best option is no longer possible, when our plans are interrupted.  We focus, consider other reasonable options, and make the best second choice.  This was not the first time I went through this exercise today.

Last year I had set out to do the Missouri Pass – Fancy Pass Loop in the southern part of the Holy Cross Wilderness area in Colorado.  I couldn’t finish the loop because we had just had a bad hail storm at the house and I needed to get back to help clean up the debris. 

It was a very memorable hike; quintessential Colorado scenery.  This year I was determined to complete the entire loop.  And so this past weekend I did.

I won’t spend a lot of time writing about the Missouri Lake trail section since I already wrote about that in last year’s blog post.

I left work early on Friday and started my hike up Missouri Lake Trail at 5pm.  Knowing that I had only 3.5 miles ahead of me, with some reasonable elevation gain (1500 ft), I calculated that I could make it to the lakes and setup camp before sunset at 8 pm.

By 6:30 I had found my camping spot for the night just a couple hundred feet from the largest of the Missouri Lakes. It didn’t take long to set up camp and prepare my dinner.  Dinner was a very delicious truffle couscous.

I was in my sleeping bag as the sun was setting, penning an entry in my journal about the day.  I recalled that there was much more water in the creeks and the trail was muddier compared to the previous year. 

One last swallow of my chamomile tea was the final act before closing my eyes.

At 6am I was boiling water for my coffee with a breakfast of English biscuits and my homemade granola bars.  By 7am I was packed and on the trail.

The lake was looking spectacular again, still partly in the shadows, eager for a new day.

This is where I had plans.  After arriving at Missouri Pass and before heading to Fancy Pass, I wanted to get a view and a few pictures of Blodgett Lake.  Blodgett Lake is .7 miles west of Vault Lake.  Vault Lake is between Missouri Pass and Fancy Pass. 

There are effectively two options to get to Blodgett Lake from Missouri Pass: 

  1. Roughly follow the same elevation as Missouri Pass (~12,000 ft) over rough terrain then dip down to the lake.  There is no trail on this route but it has less elevation gain of the two choices. Or…
  2. Go down to Vault Lake and then follow Cross Creek up to gain Blodgett Lake. There is a mostly established social trail on this route, but it adds about 1000 feet of elevation gain on the day. 

The information I received in my planning was that it would be best to take the unestablished and more direct route – option #1.  It seemed a bit rugged on the satellite views but, there’s nothing like firsthand experience to influence a decision.  So I made my own way through the loose talus.  It was slow going, but the view of Vault Lake below was impressive.

About half-way through my trek, I came up against a sizeable snow field.  Last year at this time, there were no sizeable snowfields in these mountains.  This year, all different.

I tried a few steps into the snow field.  It was still crusty enough to be concerningly slippery. I didn’t bring any traction devices for my shoes and I couldn’t dig in enough to give me the traction I needed.  I was facing a reasonable possibility of uncontrollably sliding down the side of the mountain into a pile of unforgiving boulders at the bottom. It was much like the waitress would be later in the day: you can’t go across this thing; you need to decide on another option. 

Above me the snow field started at a wall of granite – no good crossing to be had up there.  The only other option was to go down to reassess a route from lower, which meant regaining the lost elevation through the talus.

When I arrived at a safer place to cross, the traverse route didn’t look promising – no clear path and lots of rugged and likely unstable rocks to maneuver.  I could figure it out; I’ve done this kind of navigating in the past, in worse conditions. So, it wasn’t my ability in question. It was the timing. In addition to gaining Blodgett Lake, I had Fancy Pass to cross and a mountain descent ahead of me yet.  The weather forecast for the afternoon was stormy, which means a good chance of dangerous lightning.  

So, I did a quick calculation of when I would arrive below tree line to be in a safer place from the potential storms on the other side of Fancy Pass.  It didn’t seem to matter if I continued on this route (option #1) or abandoned this route for the other route (option #2).  The timing didn’t feel right.  I didn’t want to be rushed.  I didn’t feel all that motivated to step beyond my risk tolerance for the sake of a low priority goal.

I had to abandon my plan for Blodgett Lake. Other people might have taken on the adventure; good for them, not for me. In exchange, I had more time to enjoy the trail without being rushed… and that’s never disappointing. 

Here’s a picture of what I was facing.

I made my way down to Vault Lake where I met two couples camping for the weekend.  I talked with them for a few minutes.  Their plans were to explore the area for the rest of the weekend.  They pointed me in the direction of the trail to Fancy Pass and I was on my way. 

The elevation gain from Vault Lake to Fancy Pass is around 900 feet on a well-defined trail.  Here are a few pictures from that trail.

Initially I thought that Fancy Pass was named for some unique, elaborate decoration to its facade.  Wrong again. Fancy Pass was named after Joseph Fancy, an 1880’s prospector in the area.  The Pass was originally a knifelike ridge that was not particularly convenient for hauling mining equipment across. And so they blasted it with dynamite until it was level enough to serve their purpose.

Even if this place isn’t named after its appearance, I very much enjoyed the view from up here.  Looking east is a nice skyline of the Gore and Mosquito Ranges.  Looking west is Avalanche Peak on the left, Mount of the Holy Cross on the right, and the western edge of the Holy Cross Wilderness in between.

The wind was calm all day, with the exception of the top of Fancy Pass.  But the breeze was refreshing after climbing the pass.

The descent down the couloir was loose in some places, but it was mostly a stable and well-maintained trail.  There were some small snow fields that were of lower risk than what I encountered earlier and easier to maneuver around if a person chose not to walk through them.

I met a U.S Forest Service ranger who was coming up the pass.  Her name was Nichole.  She is from MI, as I am. We talked about her wanting to hike Isle Royal, an island national park in Lake Superior; I insisted that it be on her bucket list; she didn’t protest.  She was out doing minor trail and campsite maintenance for the week in this area.  I thanked her for her service.  We really can’t thank these folks enough. They are not paid well; it’s a labor of love, love for the wilderness and all the great things about these places. They care for the 193 million acres of national forests and grasslands across America.  That’s a big job!  It’s partly because of them that we can enjoy these trails as we do.   

Soon after, upon the approach to tree line, Fancy Lake came into view. 

The flora was capturing.

A runoff creek forms to the left of the trail as we get closer to Fancy Lake.  Eventually this runoff creek crosses the trail.  Not long after, notice a sign off to the right indicating the split for the trail to Holy Cross City. 

Holy Cross City is an abandon mining town that still has a few standing buildings and rusting equipment. It’s a favorite destination for serious 4WD enthusiasts.

Turn to the right and cross the runoff creek. Follow the path down to the lake then turn sharply to the left at the lake just prior to crossing Fancy Creek. 

My second plan-thwarting event of the day was at Fancy Lake.  This event didn’t immediately disqualify an option, but I still had to weigh a few things and make a tough decision.  Initially I had set out to camp here for the night. But a storm was rolling in, as predicted.  The ranger spoke of the multiple severe hail storms in the area over the past week. I also had a birthday party for my oldest granddaughter on Sunday, meaning I needed to be back home (over 3-hour drive away) early on Sunday.  I didn’t want to stick the wife with all the prep work for the party in addition to the normal weekend chores. So, I did the adult thing – I headed for the trailhead so I could be home Saturday night.  No regrets.

The trail follows Fancy Creek on the right as it forms a canyon of cascading waterfalls.  Really nice!

So, let’s talk about the very cool looking red mushroom with white dots along the trail.  This is the Amanita Muscaria (Fly Agaric) mushroom.  I saw several batches of these along today’s route. Most mushroom experts will tell you to leave this gorgeous specimen alone, while stoners will tell you to enjoy the high.  If consumed raw, the ibotenic acid in it has been known to cause extreme nausea, vomiting, loss of coordination, hallucinations, and alternating agitation-sleep patterns. Others will heat them (decarbonoxylation) to transform the compounds and claim they have a psychoactive effect.  But, please don’t get curious.  Let the mycologist figure this stuff out – go about your hike.  But they do look cool.

The trail has a number of switch backs below the canyon and the terrain along this end of the loop is gentler than the Missouri Lake trail.  And like the Missouri Lake trail, the distance from the lake to the trailhead is around 3.5 miles, it was a bit muddy, and a good population of mosquitoes are waiting to greet anything with warm blood.

This was definitely a two-thumbs-up hike! I am super happy that I decided to come back to finish the loop this year.

And since Kick’in Back is a choice beer, having more time to enjoy the trail is fantastic, and being home to be a bigger part of a birthday celebration are all great things – don’t sweat it when plans need to changed or when options are limited.  It seems that when circumstances blast away our plans, there is always a pathway to make the day pretty special.

Enjoy the trail, my friends!

 

 

 

 

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davidjashley@live.com (David on Earth) area backpacking colorado fancy pass hiking holy cross missouri pass mountains wilderness http://www.davidonearth.com/blog/2017/8/missouri-and-fancy-pass-loop-a-story-of-second-best-options Sun, 13 Aug 2017 02:58:00 GMT
The Elberts http://www.davidonearth.com/blog/2017/7/the-elberts The Elberts

If we take away all that confines us to discover the most natural state of mankind we would find the species living in perfect freedom.  “Free to order their actions, and dispose of their possessions and themselves, in any way they like, without asking anyone’s permission—subject only to limits set by the law of nature.” These are the thoughts of John Locke. You might recall that he wrote of freedom in Two Treatise of Government of which in great part was derived the U.S. Declaration of Independence

But in this modern life we have so many forces working against this idea of living free. Government, corporations, religious and civil powers, political institutions, and general expectations of society are just a few examples of that which erodes this pure state of living free. 

I think about this concept of freedom every time I am in the wilderness. Perhaps these thoughts have been suggested by a book I refer to often: Mountaineering, The Freedom of the Hills

The wilderness governs itself; it’s truly free. This is the basic premise from which wilderness area rules and regulations are established. 

John Muir famously wrote, “The mountains are calling and I must go and I will work on while I can, studying incessantly.” He wasn’t always a student of nature. He had an accident that left him temporarily blind while working as an inventor of industrial efficiency. This accident changed his life, helping him realize his true calling: to “devote the rest of my life to studying the inventions of God.” 

I believe this sense of freedom and the wonderment of God’s handiwork is why I feel so strongly compelled to be surrounded by unspoiled nature.

And so I went to spend another weekend in the splendor of this creation and to taste again the freedom of the hills.  I chose to do a sunrise summit on the highest peak in Colorado – Mount Elbert at 14,433 ft above sea level.  What could be more inspiring than that? How about a second summit, South Elbert at 14,134 feet?  So, that’s what I did.  A couple friends joined me. 

A few logistical delays kept us from our intended plan of meeting at the 2WD trail head of the east ridge route before 7pm on a Friday night.  And so after only an hour of attempted sleep we were out of our tents and preparing for the 4+ mile hike up the mountain. 

At 3am after a 2-mile 4WD road drive we arrived at the upper trailhead to begin our trek for a short stent on the Colorado Trail before turning left onto the South Mount Elbert Trail. It was a steady climb up to treeline until the break of day.  We didn’t make the summit by sunrise, but we paused to enjoy the sun breaking through the remaining clouds from the rain storms of the previous day.

On the way up we met a Colorado Trail hiker breaking camp who took a detour to gain the summit of Elbert along his journey.  I later quizzed him on his gear and thoughts of the trail, as I have a keen interest in hiking that trail in its entirety someday. 

The hike up the east ridge is a bit of a slog after gaining the ridge at about 12,250 feet.  But it makes for a peaceful morning.  The trail becomes less steep and quite enjoyable after 13,750 feet.

The first views of La Plata Peak come into view.

The arrival at the summit is as spectacular as I remember it from a couple years ago. Mount Massive is such a fresh view. 

A panoramic view of a group of 13ers on the left (Casco Peak, Frasco Benchmark, French Mountain, Mt Champion, Deer Mountain A, K 49, and Mount Oklahoma) and the series of 14ers on the Mount Massive series is a sight worthy of some study.

And then the view to the east is not less impressive.

Looking deep into the western ranges one can quite readily point out Snowmass, as it still contains the most obvious mass of snow on the horizon, even well into July.

The shiny rocks on the summit are witness to the previous day’s weather and what most probably would have been a slippery experience a short time before the sun lessened the risk for us later arrivals.

The summit does get a bit crowded not long after sunrise.  So, the advice of this adventurer is to arrive as early as possible, if a little serenity is on the agenda.

One of the most unique experiences of this summit was witnessing how clouds are formed at these altitudes. Seemingly without source, clouds started forming from the updraft of the valleys below.  Clouds were formed literally out of thin air before our eyes.  They would soon block out the sun, dropping temperatures and increasing humidity.  And then moments later they would pass and the warming sun would return.  Simply an amazing experience!

Undoubtedly, I very much enjoy my time on the summit of these great mountains.

The descent path for the day was the Black Cloud Trail, which follows the south ridge and circles east to gain the South Elbert summit.

After a couple hundred feet of elevation gain and a mile of trail, we reach the second summit of the day: South Elbert.

The trail down from the South Elbert summit is not always obvious. There are many social trails up here.  We eventually hooked up with the real trail - not in great condition.

But the flowers were blooming.  We sat for a short rest and appreciated the view – no need to pass many words.

The trail fell into the forest.

Soon after we witnessed the recent results of a devastating microburst; severe weather events with winds nearly as powerful as tornadoes that can lay down young-growth forests.   

The sound of rushing creeks reminds us that the end of the trail is drawing near. 

The day was just over 4100 feet of elevation gain and nearly 10 miles of trail.

A couple tips:

  • Footware. By the end of the day a couple of us had achy and even blistered feet.  We had worn waterproof boots because we expected a fresh layer of snow on the peak.  That didn’t happen.  But, because we took the extra precaution of wearing a warming/heavier boot we also took the risk of discomfort.  Whereas if we wore shoes that were not water proof and could breathe better, perhaps our feet would have felt better.  It’s about risk management and tolerance. 
  • Team hiking.  There are different schools of thought on how close groups should hike together. My thinking is to default to the idea that everyone hikes their own hike.  It’s OK to separate for a period.  But it’s not OK to leave a team member behind without checking on the progress and health of the person from time to time. It also depends on trail conditions, weather, and experience.  Use good judgement and be a courteous trail mate. 

This brings me back to thoughts about the freedom of the hills. It is one thing to selfishly seek out things of nature for ourselves, but there are others trying to do the same – sometimes in the same place and time.  John Locke also talks about freedom co-existing with peace, good will, and equality – that the law of nature is based on reason and justice. So while we are out in the wilderness living and being free – be sure to also engage in civility and respect for all of God’s creation.

I love the idea and practice of living free.  These mountains offer me opportunities for peace and freedom I don’t often experience in any other activity. I hope you find your freedom in the hills too!  


 

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davidjashley@live.com (David on Earth) 14er climb climbing colorado elbert hiking mountains peak http://www.davidonearth.com/blog/2017/7/the-elberts Thu, 20 Jul 2017 05:45:07 GMT
South Loop Lost Creek http://www.davidonearth.com/blog/2017/7/south-loop-lost-creek South Loop Lost Creek

OK, imagine you are an outdoor enthusiast. If I invited you to hike a National Nature Landmark… or to experience rare granite arches… or miles and miles of spectacular towering rock formations… or to see rivers that flowed partly above the ground and partly below the ground… or to backpack in an area that received the most recommendations from the U.S. Forest Service to become designated a Wilderness Area in Colorado – would that inspire you to strap on your hiking gear? This place is 120,000 acres just 60 miles from Denver and 70 miles from Colorado Springs. It’s the Lost Creek Wilderness Area. And for those who like solitude, it is one of the least visited Wilderness Areas in Colorado. See map.

I took a long weekend and spent three days backpacking the 26-mile south loop that begins and ends at the Goose Creek Trailhead near the south-east corner of the area.  The route: Goose Creek Trail -> McCurdy Park Trail -> Lake Park Trail -> Hankins Pass Trail.  CalTopo has a nice map. And the Forest Service has some important information about the status and rules.

Expect rolling hills the entire way. Some are more challenging than others, but the total elevation gain for the entire loop accumulates to 5500 feet.

In 2002 the Hayman Fire burned 138,000 acres in Colorado (see details in the Forest Service report), some of the burn area can be seen from the Goose Creek Trailhead. Indeed, this portion of the Wilderness Area is part of the burn scar. It’s a great reminder that extreme care should be taken to preserve this beautiful landscape.

I arrived at 9:30am. The parking lot was nearly full. A short walk down to the creek offers the option to take Hankins Trail to the left or Goose Creek Trail to the right. Following the recommendation of other bloggers, to the right I went. This picture is looking back at toward the beginning of the trail.

The trail follows the creek for a little over a mile before heading to higher ground. This is the best spot to fill up on water because many of the feeder creeks along the trail only have flowing water in early-late spring. The next reliable water source isn’t until Refrigerator Gulch. Of course, depending on the time of year and snow/rain levels, there could be water in places that would otherwise be dry.

Here are a few pictures of Goose Creek Trail before we turn on McCurdy Park Trail.

At approximately 3.25 miles up the trail I took advantage of a very short diversion to the scene of the Lost Park Reservoir Site. Several log buildings are still standing, with signs explaining the history of this area. It turns out the reservoir was not completed. 

Getting back to the trail, after the historic buildings, the trail raises. The reward: great scenic views!

At about 8.25 miles, turn left onto McCurdy Park Trail. More scenic views ahead.

The trail descends until reaching Refrigerator Gulch at a creek that can easily be stepped over. I continued another 1.7 miles to my camp for the night, on the banks of Lost Creek. It was a spectacular spot. I soaked my feet in the cold mountain water, appreciated the trout spooked by my presence, met my camp neighbors, cooked my evening meal, and took in a restful night. There are several very nice places to pitch a tent in this area.

I brought my bear canister this time.  It was my first time using it. I've heard many long distance hikers prefer not to bring one, mostly because of the added weight and they tend to bulk up the pack.  They typically weigh between 2-3 lbs.  Pros: very convenient - just place it on the ground 100 feet from the tent, no searching for the perfect tree to hang your food; it doubles as a stool; it's the most sure way of keeping food away from any critter, no worries about having no food half way through a multi-day trip; some National Parks require them; and canisters frustrate bears and discourage them from trying again. Cons: weight, no one wants to carry more weight than necessary; and they are bulky - if it's not filled up completely it's wasted space in a very limited pack and some packs don't accommodate the sizes very well.  Alternatives are water proof hanging sacks and Ursacks (made out of bullet proof material) that can be strapped to a tree without hanging. I usually use a hanging sack, with some reservation - because out of the three options, this one is the most risky (bears and other critters can more easily get to a hanging bag) and inconvenient - but it tends to be the most light weight. 

This is one spot where the cinquefoil bushes and wild roses are abundant.  The flowers attract humming birds.  I was entertained by the dive-bombing variety, apparently protecting its territory from other humming birds. 

This is also one place where you can see the river reappearing out of the rocks.

It cooled off quickly, a refreshing alternative from the day's heat. I slept directly on my insulated air mattress, using my down sleeping bag as a blanket zipped up just enough to form a foot box for my usually cold feet.   

Day 1: 10 miles and 2200 feet of elevation gain, 6 hours trail time  

I woke shortly after 5am as the dawn slowly lit my tent, gentle but with purpose. As soon as I touched my vestibule fly I knew my departure would be a bit delayed: condensation.

It is estimated that we exhale about 1 liter of water every night. If the tent isn't ventilated everything inside the tent will absorb that 1 liter of water. So, the trick is to find the balance between keeping the rain out, staying warm, and allowing air to flow through the tent.

My Big Agnes Copper Spur UL1 is double-walled so the condensation was on the outer shell. I shook out the shell and draped it over a large rock in the morning sun as I was having my breakfast. By the time I was ready to pack it up it was mostly dry; a quick wipe-down removed the remaining droplets and made for a nearly perfectly dried tent. However, lesson learned: open up the vestibule more to allow more airflow.

Other tips for managing condensation:

  • Sleeping near bodies of water usually increases condensation; camping just 30-50 feet higher can significantly help.
  • Anything wet in a pack adds weight and can make other things in your pack wet as well. Carry an kitchen garbage bag for such cases when you can’t wait for things to dry.
  • Use a camp towel to wipe off most of the moisture; this will speed up drying and/or reduce the negative impact of packing wet things. Then hang your towel on the outside of the pack to dry.

Back to day 2. This day would likely be the longest of this trek due to infrequent good water sources over the coming 13 miles.

There is a bit of a strategy involved with how much water to carry and how much water would be available at the end of the day. I was reminded that just because the map shows blue doesn't mean a good water source is available. My research was mixed; I was not assured of any or many good water sources along the way.  So, I left camp with 5 liters on my back. It was heavy. At 2.2 pounds per liter, I increased my pack weight by 11 pounds. That is not insignificant over the course of a long day. But, it’s better than not being hydrated.

The first cool site just minutes into the hike was seeing where Lost Creek disappeared into the rocks.

And a short distance from there was the creek crossing. It would have soaked my shoes, which isn’t bad, because my Alta Lone Peak trail runners are designed to dry fast. But, I didn’t feel like starting my day with wet, cold feet. So, I put on my sandals, rolled up my pant legs, and waded across. The logs in this picture show exactly why I chose to not use them to cross; very unstable and slippery. This is also why I don't go barefoot; sandals increase stability. Hiking with a soaked pack after falling in a creek isn't my idea of a fun ride. 

Less than a mile into the hike is a fantastic view of the departed valley and craggy landscape.

From here it’s a steady climb for several miles until reaching McCurdy Park where the terrain levels with some open spaces. But, you may also encounter some mosquitoes. Today the bugs were not bad.

The trail begins another ascent to the top of McCurdy trail where we cut off onto Lake Park Trail.

It’s here where the trail takes its steepest ascent of the trip. The good news is that it’s only for 1.3 miles and it’s only 900 feet. You will experience many naturally downed trees in this area, which is likely do to a storm with strong winds.

The view as you start to descend again is amazing. Rounded and towering granite formations rise above the native pines. This is not unlike the scenery so far, but this time we’re close up. It’s worth a stop for a snack just to soak it in.

The descent into Lake Park is a nice change from the mostly ascending day so far. But one does wonder about the absence of lakes in a place with such a name.

Along this section of the trail there are small aspen groves as it switches back and forth.

I encountered a few young people from Kansas along this trail. They were dangerously low on water. When they asked about the distance to the nearest creek, I volunteered to give them a liter and a half of my own water. I tried not to lecture, but I couldn’t help but warn them about the long uphill trail ahead with such limited resources.

I wished them well and not much later I was at my final trail intersection – Hankins Pass Trail. At now just a little over 9 miles into the day, I was grateful to be on the home stretch. Turning left, three miles down this trail next to a creek, I would find my final camping spot for this trip.

The trail would eventually open up to sections of the Hayman burn scar.

I camped for the night under tall Aspens. The day had me travel 12.2 miles with 3300 feet elevation gain.

The creek here was small, but it was enough for me to wash up and replenish my water containers.

With just 3 miles remaining I could have finished in a little over an hour, but I was eager to put my pack down and spend one more night in the tent.  My shoulders were achy and I was tired.

There were lots of birds here… and bugs, but nothing too annoying. I ate my dinner, a delicious rice vegetable dish I had dehydrated, like most of my trail meals. Then I reflected on the satisfaction of my day over a cup of relaxing chamomile tea. 

The clouds were rolling in; I heard thunder in the distance. Thinking it might rain, I tidied up camp, turned in early, did some journaling, and drifted off to sleep to the sound of the breeze in the quaking aspens. Perfect!

As I stumbled out of the tent the next morning I startled a young doe and watched it bounce off a safe distance before looking back to satisfy her curiosity.

Some oatmeal and coffee for breakfast, a quick pack, and one more check of the campsite before I was back on the trail.

It was a spectacular morning through meadows, alongside a creek, and down through a small canyon. There were several easy creek crossings on logs and rocks before I found myself back at the first creek crossing of the trek.  It was a short climb back to the trail head I had started at 3 days earlier - finished!

OK, imagine you are an outdoor enthusiast. I think you would love to go on this backpacking trip. But, even if you can't go on a 3-day adventure in the Lost Creek Wilderness Area, I hope I've inspired you to get outside and enjoy whatever nature you can surround yourself with today.  Happy trails!

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Topo map:

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davidjashley@live.com (David on Earth) Colorado Lost Creek area backpacking hiking wilderness http://www.davidonearth.com/blog/2017/7/south-loop-lost-creek Tue, 04 Jul 2017 05:46:33 GMT
Rich and Rough Loop http://www.davidonearth.com/blog/2017/6/rich-and-rough-loop

Rich and Rough Loop

“Backpacking the Rich Creek and Rough and Tumbling Creek Loop Hike in the Buffalo Peaks Wilderness Area.” It’s too many words for a title.  So, I shortened it. Four words is enough. Did you ever pay attention to professional journal article titles? Far too many words. Not here.  We like our titles like what we put in our packs: only what is necessary.

Backpacking.  I found 82 synonyms for a backpacker. Some of the more interesting ones: rambler, excursionist, tramp, vagabond, cragsman/woman, wanderer, dirtbag… that’s my favorite… it seems I may have used this term in a different context a time or two.

This is the year of backpacking for me. I’ve been on top of some of the highest mountains in America 31 different times.  I’m looking for something to add to the adventure. I want to see if I have what it takes to live in the wilderness with only what I carry on my back. I backpacked when I was a Boy Scout, about a thousand years ago. Why backpacking? Many reasons and at least one aspiration; I would like to complete a thru-hike.

What’s a thru-hike?  It’s a long end-to-end hike. I have been thinking quite seriously about doing my first thru-hike next year. Some thru-hikes are thousands of miles long. I have my eye on the Colorado Trail; it’s only 500 miles through the mountains from Denver to Durango.  I’ve hiked that mileage over the past few years.  Can I do it in one year?  Can I do it in one summer… or 5 weeks?

To be sure, a backpacker and a thru-hiker are not the same. Enthusiasts will gladly set the record straight for you. But to be a thru-hiker one must hike with a pack that contains life-sustaining essentials on their back.  So it seems like back-packing is a reasonable first good step.

So, this year I’ll take baby steps. Some people don’t, with mixed results. As for me, I would rather test the waters before committing to something as crazy.  This has not always been my tendency. Time changes people.

Baby step: this past weekend’s hike, the Rich Creek and Rough and Tumbling Creek Loop. I chose this loop hike because it’s short for a two-day backpacking trip; it’s 12 miles and the elevation gain is also not too taxing – 2200 feet. 

I suppose this hike could be called a shakedown backpacking trip.  A shakedown is when a backpacker goes on a short backpacking trip for the purpose of determining what absolutely needs to be carried. Usually shakedowns are longer, maybe a week-long.  But, as I said: baby steps.

Shakedowns are slightly different for everyone, because we all have different needs and priorities.  For instance, first aid and sanitation kits, navigational gear, clothing, shelter, and cookware can vary significantly from one person to another.  It often depends on the person’s experience, preferences, and budget. I’ll likely get into this more in a later post. But for now, let’s get to today’s adventure.

Logistics:  I started at the Rich Creek trailhead. Take CR 5 off of CO 285, then turn right onto CR 22.  The road turns to dirt and is passible by any 2WD vehicle.  At the trailhead, there is room for maybe 6 cars before parking overflows onto the side of the road.  This was the case when I arrived at 8:30am on Saturday. It was more popular than I had anticipated.

The trail immediately crosses Rich Creek on an easy foot bridge. The recommended route is to turn right after the bridge; going counter clockwise in the loop.  I came to appreciate that the ascent is less aggressive and shorter when going this direction.  The ascending path is indeed pleasant as it runs adjacent to Rich Creek most of the way, crossing once before gaining the upper valley.

I forgot my trekking poles.  So I went old school and made some poles out of downed aspen and willow branches.  Not as fancy, but it did the trick.

At about 2.5 miles into the hike the trees start thinning.  Looking back offers an appreciation for the trek so far.

Looking forward is the first glimpse of an open alpine valley complemented with a blanket of short willow brush.

This is a good time to mention that there are approximately 10 creek crossings along this route. The time of year will determine how messy and challenging this may be.  On this hike I had some muddy crossings, some big steps, rock hopping, and some places where the trail was the creek.  And some are reasonably established log crossings.

You’ll follow the valley for a while until entering the forest again. Tall lodge pole pines and aspens are most prevalent throughout the trail.

And then the trail cuts back out of the forest and into the open valley again, which circles to the left… because that’s kinda how counter clockwise works.

Soon the trail picks up Rough and Tumbling Creek and leads out of the valley and down into a rocky canyon. It’s here where the name of the creek becomes apparent.  And it’s where I decided to camp for the night.  Most people camp with a view of the valley, an excellent choice as well.

I didn’t see any big wildlife on this hike.  But it was reported that the person traveling a mile ahead of me spotted a cow moose with two calves. Maybe next time, at a distance, of course.  I don’t need another moose charging episode like last year.

The last portion of the trail is rolling with some minor ascents and descents with views of beaver ponds, aspen groves, and mountain wild flowers.

And don’t forget to look back to enjoy the Buffalo Peaks.

What did I learn on my shake down?  I will bring less cloths and less fire starting gear. I’ll leave my pillow behind and use a mesh bag filled with all the cloths I’m not wearing to bed. I need to figure out a better camera; I brought my DSLR, tripod, lenses, and chest harness. I’ll be shopping for a decent lightweight mirrorless camera with similar specs to my DSLR.  I have my eye on a Sony model.  I’ll leave my cup behind and consider bringing a small mat to use outside my tent to keep the dirt out and that will double as a table/food prep mat.  This shakedown will continue over the course of the year.  I have much more to experience and consider over the coming hikes.

I also brought new gear: Big Agnes Copper Spur UL1 tent, Alta Lone Peak trail runners, and a Gossamer Gear Mariposa backpack.  All items performed very well as expected.  I may do a review of these items in future posts.  

So until then, remember: Shorter titles are better and it’s good to be a dirtbag!

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davidjashley@live.com (David on Earth) Buffalo Peaks Colorado Rich Creek Rough and Tumbling Creek Wilderness Area backpacking hiking loop http://www.davidonearth.com/blog/2017/6/rich-and-rough-loop Tue, 27 Jun 2017 04:01:39 GMT