Friday, October 23, 2015

Horsethief Trail Hike with Grandsons - to Bridge of Heaven 9/19/2015

A week before this I had a great hike with my grandsons up Bear Creek Trail.  Since their mom and dad were still hunting we decided to go hiking the second weekend as well.  I'd told them about the mountain sheep and the bears I'd seen in an earlier trip on the Horsethief Trail, so that is the one they wanted to do.  We didn't see any mountain sheep or bears, but we saw another critter that is seldom seen while hiking.  Follow along and you'll see it too!

Somehow we missed the usual trailhead shot.  But, this one was just up the trail a bit - so, it will do.

It was a cool start to the morning, but it would soon warm up as we headed up the switchbacks. There's a side trail to the valley edge with great views of Whitehouse Mountain.  There's a touch of fall going on over there!

Soon we were on the switchbacks.  Nice impromptu shot of my oldest grandson, Garrett.

Snack break taken with the Gopro.

A look down on Ouray.

As we tramped along, Dylan said, "what's that grandpa? - it's a mountain lion."  I quickly sat down and took a photo as quickly as possible.  He was about 50 yards away and did not even look at us.  He just walked to a steep dropoff area and disappeared over the edge.  I've often seen their tracks on this trail, but this is my first sighting of one.  Up at the Bridge of Heaven we ran into a hiker that had passed us on the way up.  I told him we had spotted a mountain lion just after we'd seen him.  He kind of acted like he wasn't sure I was telling the truth.  So, I asked him if he wanted to see the picture.  Of course he then believed me and asked if I'd email him a copy when I got home.  We exchanged info and I did sent him a copy.  On the way down, he was again ahead of us.  He must have told everyone he met about the lion.  They all had to stop us and see the photo.  This lion was quite the celebrity. We definitely traveled closer together after coming across this critter.

Great views abound on this trail - eye candy all over the place.

Lunch at the Bridge of Heaven.  The boys got compliments from one older hiker about what troopers they were and how few young men their age are out enjoying nature.  We all agreed that this was far better than video games or TV....PERIOD!  This was a rare time in all my trips to Bridge of Heaven that the wind wasn't howling.

Bridge of Heaven sign shot.

Zoom view of Wetterhorn (right) and Uncompahgre Peaks. 14ers

The rugged landscape to the north.  Courthouse Mountain upper center.

Red Mountains and Ironton Park to the south.  It looks like fall has arrived there.

There's a bit of fall up here too.

Mmmm - this is why I hike.

Looking back to Ridgway, Montrose, and Delta.  Grand Mesa is way off in the distance in the upper right.

Headed back down after a fantastic hiking day.  Memories are etched in our minds and hearts that will last forever.  It doesn't get any better than this!  Thank you Lord!

Bear Creek Trail Hike with grandsons 9/12/2015

As you can probably tell from my previous posts, I really enjoy hiking with my grandsons.  I think they enjoy it as well - at least they are always eager to go.  None of them had ever been on Bear Creek.  I love the trail, but don't like the hoard of tourists that use it in the summer months.  So, September tends to thin them out and it's mostly locals you see then.  My daughter-in-law had said I would never take her sons on this hike, after she had seen previous photos of the cliffs and ledges that the trail follows.  But, they are older now and more cautious.  I've hiked with them enough that I felt they were ready.  They were spending the week with us while their mom and dad were hunting. So, we decided it was time to tackle this one.  Since I've been on this trail several times, I mostly shot video so I could make a video for the boys on Youtube.  So, a lot of the pictures are actually Gopro frame grabs.

First, a trailhead shot.  Dylan (front) is giving it the somber look.  He'll get wound up shortly.

Soon the trail begins going up the switchbacks.  A lot of this area is slate type rock.  It sounds like walking on loose ceramic tile.  After the switchbacks, the fun begins.  Breathtaking drop-offs and views.

More cliffs with a little rock cribbing to keep the trail from getting too narrow.

Watch your step fellers!

Cliffs with alcoves - very cool!  Note the logs behind the bush in the lower center.  Who would walk across those?  NOT ME!  I'm guessing that was part of the way the trail used to be when used by miners.

Another one of those "faith tester" bridges.  I trust the Lord, but am not sure I trust man's bridge.  I think I'll avoid it.

Grizzly Bear Mine - how did they get this stuff in here without heavy equipment.  There are tons of cast iron mine equipment.  Those folks were ingenious and tough.

Having some fun at Grizzly Bear Mine.

About halfway up there's a side jaunt to a small waterfall.  It's surprising how many people miss it. Anyway, it's a great place to "cool the dogs" and chuck a few rocks.

After the waterfall, there are some nice aspen sections.  What a beautiful day to hike and enjoy family!

Next up is Yellowjacket Mine.  I was surprised to see the main building still standing.  I figured it would have collapsed under winter snows by now.

It's definitely showing its age.  It won't be long and it will give in to the weather.

Yellowjacket Mine.  Potosi Peak in the background.  Dylan - zeroed in on me with his hiking stick.  Glad it's not loaded because I'm sure he'd have a "hair-trigger".

Headed back down.  Several spots were showing signs of fall colors.

Straight up and straight down - no in-between here!

I can see why the tourists like this country so much.  I do too.  Thank you Lord that it's in my "back-yard".

Wow - you don't get views much better than that!

We're headed back down the switchbacks.  Ouray is in the background.  A fantastic time was had by one and all.  Thanks guys for coming along.  I can't get enough of hiking with you!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Cimarron West Fork 9/6/2015

Yesterday we were up in the Wilson Peak area near Lizard Head pass.  Today we headed the opposite direction to venture up the Cimarron West fork.  I've got my sights on Redcliff Peak for a hiking foray in the near future.  It stymied me when I got off trail a few years ago, and I can't let it go.  So, it's good to return to the area just to get the adventure juices going again.  It was a rainy day, so we didn't do much roaming around outside of the 4Runner.

Redcliff Peak is shrouded in clouds on the left side of the photo and Coxcomb Peak is in the background center.  On my first try up Redcliff I had read a guide book that said to stay to the right of the cliff band.  So, I ended up on Coxcomb just below the highest patch of snow in this photo.  I thought I would then walk across to the pass and on up Redcliff.  But, the area was very steep and full of basketball sized rocks and they all moved.  It was way too dangerous to try on my own, so I gave it up.  I've been after that peak ever since and will conquer it one day.

A shot by the stream to the head of the valley.

There was just a hint of fall color beginning to show near some of the hoodoos.  The west fork road is a good road until about a mile from the end.  Then it turns into a rock pile with dips and drops and also steeply dips into and across the stream.  High clearance is a must.  Wouldn't you know it????...right before the stream crossing we saw a travel trailer tucked away in the trees.  It was about a 21 or 22 footer dual axle outfit.  How he got it over that road I'll never know. Once again, common sense seemed to be lacking.

A last view of Coxcomb and a story.  There is a pass on the west side of Coxcomb, just out of view on the upper right of this photo.  A few years ago I was hiking into Wetterhorn basin via this pass.  I was amazed to hear the rumble of a jet coming up the valley.  They are not supposed to fly in these areas, but I was glad this one did.  It was an Air Force fighter jet.  He was going so fast that I saw him before I heard the rumble.  It looked like he was going to slam into the face of Coxcomb.  I was actually above him and remember how cool it was looking right into the cockpit.  Just as he got to the head of the valley he pointed it to the sky and turned on the afterburners.  What a sight!  It was so close I almost felt the heat of the engines...I was definitely looking directly up into the engine ports.  The rumble shook the valley and the ground, and in seconds he was out of sight behind the clouds.  It all happened so quick, I couldn't even get a photo.  I remember thinking - I'm glad they're on our side!  If he ever happens to read this, I just want to say thanks for all you do to preserve my freedom....and thanks for the airshow - it was the best I've ever seen.  God bless America and our service men and women!

Trout Lake Region 9/5/2015

I should have been bow hunting for elk this weekend, but it usually is not good hunting on Labor Day weekend due to all the motorcycles, RV's, ATV's etc.  Some hunting on Saturday morning was very unfruitful, so, Joann and I decided to take a ride up to the Trout Lake area on Lizard Head Pass. And, who knows, we might run into a critter up there didn't happen.  We then drove on up to the Hope Lake trailhead - through very soggy, rainy conditions.  The trailhead was packed with vehicles.  We then headed down the Ilium Road and turned off on the Sunshine Mesa Road.  We'd never been up there and will definitely have to do that one again.

Trout Lake was the fullest I've ever seen it.  It was nearly spilling over the spillway.  That's great news at the end of the summer!

Those clouds hugging the mountain tops look like fall to me.

Of course I had to get a few shots of the old railroad trestle.  I wonder how much longer it will be there.

Up the Sunshine Mesa Road were several structures from by-gone eras.  Those are some heavy timbers they used.  This road is quite steep and rough in spots and has multiple mud holes.  We were shocked to find a hunter that had hauled a travel trailer up to the very end of the road.  I wouldn't want his truck or trailer after that trip.  My thought was, "guess who gets to back up when he meets another vehicle on this one vehicle wide road? - yep, the other vehicle."

Wilson Peak looms in the background across a meadow.  Interestingly, though I don't drink beer, Wilson Peak is supposedly the mountain on the Coors beer logo on bottles and cans.

More structures that have seen better days.

This was my favorite shot of the trip.  I don't know why, I just like it!

View on the more tame, easy part of the road.  We had another great day in God's creation and got to travel a new backroad that we'll definitely check out again.

Red Mountain Hike and Ride 8/28/2015

I'd been doing quite a bit of hiking and decided it was time to warm up the ATV and combine a little hike and ride.  So, I headed up on Corkscrew Pass.  There's a road to the south at the top of the pass that goes down to a small parking area.  From there you can hike up a couple of the Red Mountains. It's still hazy due to the wildfires up in the northwest, so the photos are not the greatest.

View from the pass looking east.

View from the beginning of the hike.  There are mine remains all over this area.  There are only faint trails in the area.  It's sometimes difficult picking a route as some are easier than others.

Somewhat hazy horizon looking to the north toward Ouray and Montrose.

I was really surprised to still find some Columbines up here.

Headed up to the first summit.  This is looking back down on the Corkscrew Pass road.  There's a vehicle on one of the switchbacks.

Stunning views from the first summit.  Ironton Park and Crystal Lake are vaguely visible in the center of the picture.

After dropping to the "spine" between the mountains I could see a Jeep tour vehicle on the top of the Red Mountain where I was headed.  What fun is that?

Walking across the narrow ridge between the two mountains.  It's very narrow in spots and loose enough that a lot of caution is needed.  It's a long slide to the bottom.

Another shot on the ridge.  The Gopro wide angle exaggerates it a bit.  But, it's still narrow and steep on both sides.

Nice views across the valley.  Mount Sneffels is front and center in the background.  This San Juan landscape always amazes me in how rugged it is.  It's both a chore and a pleasure to hike these mountains.  It cleanses the lungs and the soul.

Lots of iron in these hills.  Plenty of sulphur too.  There were vent holes that I went by that were very strong with the smell of rotten eggs.  Upper right is Corkscrew Pass.  My ATV is just off the upper right out of the picture.  The lower summit I first climbed is blocking the view of most of the Corkscrew road.  To get back to my ATV it's back down the ridges between the mountains.

Sorry, I couldn't help another Colorado columbine shot with multiple layers of San Juan landscape.

After returning to my ATV, I decided to take a ride on down the other side of the pass to get out of the wind.  It was howling all day.  On the way down I could see the site of the Gold King Mine EPA cleanup disaster that inundated the Animas River with mine chemicals.  There's still a lot of activity down there and will be for some time to come.  The flow area is plainly visible.

Headed back down the pass to my pickup.  I never can get enough of being out in this country.

Parting shot on the way down.  Another great day in God's creation!