Monday, July 11, 2011

Baldy Hike - June 11, 2011

This was my first hike this year.  This hike is a fairly low altitude hike; topping out at 10,600 feet.  But, the snows in the San Juans have been so heavy this spring that it was impossible to go anywhere else.  When you're a hiking fool and have itchy feet; almost any old hike will do.  It also wasn't very photogenic on this particular day.  There was a lot of smoke drifting in from the south from the Wallow fire in Arizona.  Praying for those folks in that area.

The trailhead. Duhh

The hike zigzags up some fairly steep terrain until it opens up on a bench for a mile or so.  The destination for today is Baldy Peak which is in the center background.  On the way up I spotted several elk grazing on the side of Baldy.

The grass as you go through the oak brush is waist high or more.  It's full of wild roses - man did they chew my legs up!  Plus, they hide things really well - more on that in a minute.

As the trail rises; the San Juan mountains around Ouray look so close you could reach out and touch them.

Baldy Peak also provides some great views.  The pasque flowers were just blooming which added a nice touch.

Yours truly counting his blessings on top of Baldy Peak!

Back to what that deep grass and shrubs sometimes hides.  On the way down the trail - less than a mile from my truck - I was just moseying along when I heard something off to my right rustling in the grass.  It was less than 20 feet away - and I ain't exaggerating!  I walked a little closer and saw brown fur and knew immediately it was a bear.  But, all I could see was the top of its back and it didn't have a clue I was around.  I've encountered our typical black bears many times while running around in the mountains - and they always make a horrible commotion as they make their escape.  But, I'd never got up on one this close.  So, I thought this was just a bit too close to be surprising a bear.  I quietly began backing up the trail.  I'd only gone a step or two when the bear apparently caught wind of me.  It snorted and grunted; but didn't immediately run away.  That was odd.  So, I started talking to it in my most authoritative voice - hey bear;  you hear me?; hey bear; get out of here.  It began to slowly trot off, but it was grunting and growling the whole way.  I could hear it's teeth chopping together; which is not a good sign!   About 40-50 yards away it stood up on its hind legs to get a good look at me.  The whole time it was snorting and snapping its jaws.  I was thinking of turning on the video camera when I saw two little black fur balls go up a tree behind the big brown bear.  Uh oh - this was not a good thing - now it suddenly came together why this bear didn't make a beeline for parts unknown.  Well, momma bear then dropped down on all fours and started walking toward me.  That was all I needed to hightail it back up the trail.  I really didn't anticipate she'd pursue me with her cubs up a tree - though I didn't stop my jog through the brush until I felt I had a comfortable distance between us.  But, they were right on the trail where I needed to go to get back to my truck.  No way I was going to cross her again.  So, I bushwacked through the nastiest tangle of brush I've ever encountered.  Plus, it was on a very steep slope.  I wiped out once and put 3 or 4 vertical cuts in my upper right arm.  Some that saw my arm said that I could really embellish this story; as the cuts looked just like bear scratches.   Anyway, I made it back to the truck without further incident and was never so glad that a hike was over.  Thank you Lord for protection from YOUR critters!

On the way down the one lane steep road,  I took this parting shot out my passenger window.

In the end - no video - my mind was on other things I guess!

Lamphier Lake/Gunsight Pass Hike

On Saturday the 9th; my good friend Rex and I did a hiking/fishing trip to Lamphier Lake in the Fossil Ridge Wilderness of western Colorado.  I'd been there a couple times before, but it was a new treat for Rex.  Due to winter snows, it was only my second hike of the season - so I was more than ready!   There are several lakes in the area:  Lower Lamphier, Upper Lamphier, Mill Lake and a couple others.  There are cutthroat trout in the lakes.  But, on this day they were typical cutthroats - finicky!

There are some really nice cutthroats in the lakes; if only they had been hungry!

So, for me anyway, the trip quickly turned into primarily a hiking trip.  I'm definitely a "fair weather" fisherman.  If they are not biting, I quickly lose interest.  This is a great place to get lost in the beauty of God's creation.  The picture below is from a prior trip - sunrise from Upper Lamphier lake.

It doesn't get much more beautiful than that - unless it's alpenglow on Squaretop Mountain which is just to the west of Upper Lamphier lake.

I hiked up on Squaretop on my last trip to the Lamphier area.  The view from there rivals the view from any 14er in Colorado in my opinion - though I haven't been up every 14er.  Others have said so as well.  The Collegiate peaks are off to the east; the West Elk peaks to the northwest; the San Juan peaks to the southwest.  It just plain has incredible views - you can almost see right into heaven from there!

Gunsight pass is also a great attraction.  It's a small notch in the rock wall to the north of Upper Lamphier.  It does resemble a gun sight.  It's just wide enough and tall enough to walk through.  The view to the other side opens into the Taylor Park area drainage.  It's about a 15-20 minute hike above Upper Lamphier.

From Gunsight pass you also have great views looking down on Upper Lamphier Lake.

But, Lower Lamphier is an often overlooked gem as well.  It is several hundred feet lower than the Upper lake.  The trail is easy to overlook.  This was my first trip to the lower lake.  I'm sure I'll go back.  It doesn't get the activity that the upper lake does.  Rex and I were the only ones there.  The morning light was just right and the lake was calm and peaceful - reflecting the mountains perfectly.

A spotlit grassy meadow on the north side of the lake made a beautiful contrast with the darker pines.  Wow, it was one of those mornings that can easily make you forget the poor fishing.

After the jaunt up to Gunsight Pass; I stopped for a couple more photos at Upper Lamphier.  The marsh marigolds were in bloom and it was a perfect setting for a photo or two.

All in all it was a great day.  Good fellowship, great scenery and God's grace and blessing.  I'm so thankful for healthy legs, heart, lungs, eyes and ears.  It's only right to share these places via photos with those who cannot go there for one reason or another.  Our Lord has done so much to help us see Him and His grandeur.  He's an awesome creator - if this sin tainted world is so beautiful - just imagine what heaven will look like!