Sunday, July 25, 2010

Colorado - Summer 2010 Part Two

 please remember you can click on a photo to see a larger version

Saturday, Mount Harvard, 14,420 feet, 14 miles round trip 4500 vertical feet gain and loss.

This was probably the best day of the 14ers climbs, for surprising reasons. We started out before dawn at 5:30. The trail stays fairly level for a couple miles before climbing into the high Horn Creek Basin. Very quickly it was obvious the Lady was not feeling good. She is one fit determined Lady and was mad for feeling the way she did. It was time for her to turn around. Disappointment. Tears. She and I headed back to camp.

Stew and Fastshot decided they would continue on - the weather was good. They said they would at least like to get up into into the high basin. The Lady and I slowly wandered back to the trailhead, left a note on Fastshot's rig (stating we were returning to camp), and hiked back to our camp where the Lady slept hard for several hours. I read and listened to the buzz of the hummingbirds.

In the afternoon, the Lady felt like trying to eat; we put the camp chairs next to the creek and relaxed and waited for the boys. And waited.

It was the day of the Geezers! Dusty, tired, they drove in at 5:30 in the afternoon, thumbs up and grins a mile wide. Eleven and a half hours round trip to the summit of Harvard. We were so happy for them.

Here are a few photos that Fastshot passed on about the boys' day of triumph.

Here's high above timberline looking ahead at the route to the summit.

A summit shot back down Horn Creek Basin and their route up. Another worthy fourteener, Mount Columbia is on the left.

Stew is working on the final scramble to the summit.

Bear Lake and many other climbers far below.

Stew the man, with a well deserved thumbs up.

The Harvard Graduates, Fastshot and Stew at 14,420 feet.

I won't speak of Stew's age but he does have a geezer card. I am 57. Fastshot is eleven years my senior. Impressive job boys!

It was a great day! We then cleaned up, hopped in Fastshot's rig, and drove up toward Cottonwood Pass to join Fastshot's daughter's camping group for a great dinner.

Tuesday, we (Ski3pin, the Lady, and Fastshot) hoisted the packs on our backs and hiked into the Mt. Zirkel Wilderness. We hiked back out the following Tuesday. Wilderness fly fishing, exploring and hiking, solitude, high country visuals, rejuvenating our souls. These were our goals.

Cutthroat cruising the shallows. The Lady called them "Osprey Bait."

Atop the Continental Divide looking toward the home waters on the Pacific side.

One thousand one, one thousand "BOOM!" One thousand "BOOM!" We wondered if Stew was also counting the seconds between the lightning flash and the thunder.

Our adventure into the Mount Zirkel Wilderness left us with moments we will not forget.

Wilderness fly fishing. I love to sight fish for large trout in crystal clear water. Spot a nice trout, figure out what it is feeding on, a good presentation usually demands a lot of stealth and long fine tippets. The fishing in Mt. Zirkel I would rate as good, for mostly Cutthroats. I caught a few large Rainbows and a few Cuttbows. In three days of serious fishing I caught about 48 fish. Most were in the 14" to 18" range. I caught only four or five smaller. Fastshot caught a couple 20"ers. Many were on the thin side, maybe not fattened up yet after a long winter. My largest was a 18" female Cutthroat, easily twice as heavy as any other trout I caught here. Nice and fat.

My most satisfying morning of fly fishing was on this meadow stream. These were very demanding conditions with the slow moving clear water. A wise angler carefully approaches and then spends time observing before beginning to fish. Fly fishing this morning was as close to perfection as I have experienced with careful presentations in gin clear water without spooking the fish and catching and releasing two large cutthroats..

All trout were carefully released.

Our last evening.

Our last morning.

Please allow me to tell one story. One thing I've mentioned before is one of the joys of exploring is the chance to meet different people. My brother Fastshot wanted to see the Continental Divide. On Sunday he and I hiked up. The ridge top is wide, a couple of feet under 12,000 feet. The Continental Divide/ Wyoming Trail runs along the top.

Here's the story:

As we walked north on the Continental Divide, we watched as a pack string with two riders came slowly gaining on us;  lots of room to move off the trail on this rolling terrain, no problem there. We ambled along enjoying the walk. I heard something on the wind.
“Hear that?” I asked.
“Hear what? Fastshot countered.
“The voice I heard. One of those cowboys is a cowgirl.”
“Well, we have to stop. I reckon it wouldn’t be neighborly of us not to stop and chat with these pilgrims”, Fastshot said. He was grinning big. He does not like to pass on a chance of meeting a woman.
As they got closer, yes, the rider behind was a lady, slim and tall and drinking from a can of Budweiser.

They pulled up beside us and the man grinned and said “Howdy”, slow and purposefully, just as a cowboy should.
“How ya doing?” Fastshot asked.
Before either of them could answer, I caught the lady’s eye. “Ma’am” I said, “Not to be too forward, but we stopped because we heard the sweet sound of a woman’s voice on the breeze. We wanted to meet you.”
A wide smile brightened her face. The Irish Wolfhound walked over to Fastshot and gave him his head for a little gentle rubbing.
“These Irish are the best dogs aren’t they? Great dispositions. How old is he?” Fastshot talked as he rubbed the big dog’s chin. The large dog made Fastshot look small.
“He’s about five. Hey you guys want a beer?” the cowboy was opening up a pack.
Fastshot replied, “If I had a beer, I’d lay down right here and go to sleep. Probably be a long time before I woke up!”
“Well then, take some back to camp for later. We have a lot more beer than we can drink!”
“Friend”, I said, “Thank you very much, but no. It is very kind of you to offer.”
“Well, we do have another dog in a pack here, you want to see him?”
“Another dog?” I asked.
“Yep, a hound pup. We thought we would let him ride. He’s right in here.” The cowboy reached over to a pack flap. A hound’s head lazily popped out.

We chatted a bit more. The stock was getting antsy, they wanted to either eat or move.
“Best be goin’”, the cowboy said.
“Ma’am, it was nice to meet you and it was nice to hear your voice up here. Thank you.” I said.
“What did you hear?” she asked. This was the first time she had spoke since they stopped.
Fastshot jumped in, “Just the sweet refrain of a woman’s voice.”
“You didn’t hear what I said?”
“No, we didn’t”, I answered.
She just smiled, took a sip of her beer, and they headed off to the north.

We parted ways with Fastshot in Walden. It was time for the Lady and me to head home, We had a few days, no real need to hurry. I'll share a few of our stops.

The remains of Camp Hale, the 10th Mountain Division's WWII training camp is on highway 24, south of Minturn and Interstate 70. My Dad's brother, my uncle who I am named after, was in the 10th. The Lady and I ski and mountaineer so we have connections.

The thunderstorms subsided so we could spend a couple of hours here. This place evokes emotions of all sorts. There appears to be lots of opportunity here for dispersed camping but looks also to be heavily used by the ATV crowd. We headed up to Tennessee Pass.

We headed over Tennessee Pass and down through Leadville, thinking about getting a spot below Independence Pass to camp for the night. Black and ugly clouds, thunder and lightning, incredible downpours, hail, flash flood warnings; thanks Stew! We got a motel in Buena Vista, their last room.  We had a great dinner in downtown at Mother's Bistro. Got drenched on the walk back to our room. Another long hot shower. It was good.

Whenever we pass through Glenwood Springs, we think about Doc Holliday. On the northeast corner of Grand Ave and 8th St., downtown Glenwood, is Summit Canyon Mountaineering, a gear shop we stop in at. As you enter the corner door off the street look down and to the left. There is a small sign that reads "Doc Holliday died here on Nov. 8, 1887." Doc's Grave is in the Linwood Cemetery. Walk east on 11th street and up a hill to pay your respects to this probably questionable character.

That night we camped up on the Grand Mesa, south of Interstate 70 on highway 65, east of Grand Junction. This place is grand, indeed. A basalt mesa 10,800 feet high, alpine tundra, big game, lakes, fishing. In the morning we drove out to Lands End overlooking Grand Junction. The views are incredible, including the Wilson group of 14ers, Uncompahgre Peak, the La Sal Mountains, Colorado National Monument.

and the old Lands End Observatory.

In the early morning, Golden Eagles glided right along the edge of the mesa.

Our last night was spent in Great Basin National Park, but not out of Baker, Nevada. Having an interest in native trout of the west, I have read about the reintroduction of Bonneville Cutthroat in streams that fall down out of the Snake Range, including those in Great Basin National Park. I have wanted to get up into Strawberry Creek and I had heard there were 3 or 4 dispersed campsites available. We found the turn off of highway 50. It is now marked, and the dirt road goes up about 5 miles in to a hiking trailhead. Almost to the end, a road goes off to the right and in about 200 yards to a grove of aspen, an old corral, a fire ring, two tables. The Lady says it was her favorite camping spot of the whole trip for the camper. We made dinner while the thunderstorm passed, and then wandered to enjoy the evening light. This was a weekend and there was no one else along this road.

And, as the storm passed............................

Sunday afternoon, we are almost home. We turned off of highway 50 in South Lake Tahoe onto Pioneer Trail and into a hell of a thunderstorm. We heard later that the mast of a sailboat was struck by lightning sinking the boat. We are not blaming Stew. But, we have not seen a drop of rain since we arrived home.

And, with this, the end of our adventure.


  1. Ski you are getting out more than us retired guys. Another fine report. I enjoyed the pictures of the remains of Camp Hale, the 10th Mountain Division's WWII training camp. I did not leanr to ski until I was in my 20's. I worked in a tomato cannery then. Talking about going skiing an older (my age now) worker named Ray Montanez told me he skied when he was young. Ray did not look like someone who would ski. I asked where he skied and he said in WW2 he stepped forward and next thing he knew he was jumping out of a plane in CO with skies on his back. I had a lot of admiration for Ray after that.

  2. I've really enjoyed your blog. This one was especially dear to my heart as I live in Montrose, CO; grew up in Delta, CO and spent a lot of time on Grand Mesa. I too love hiking the San Juan Mtns of Colorado. You do a great job on the blog and also the photography. Enjoyable reading! Happy Hiking and God Bless!

  3. Another adventure beautifully recalled.