Birthday Loop: High Above Ouray

When Katie was visiting earlier in the summer, we’d planned a long run high in the mountains above Ouray. Enjoying the run without running from monsoon thunderstorms meant pushing the run off until fall. Part of me was afraid to try it because it sounded like a ton of elevation gain and I was pretty sure it was going to hurt (spoiler: the uphill at mile 12 did hurt). Yet, Katie didn’t let it go and finally I agreed that it would make for a badass birthday hike-run.

It totally was.

We left Ridgway early and hit the trail in the dark. I love hiking through sunrise in the mountains: seeing the light hit the ridgetops and work its way down into the valley is really a wonderful feeling.

The colors were just starting to pop but fortunately, completely fooled us on how wonderful they’d be in a few weeks:

The uphill hike seemed to go super fast and I was surprised how quickly we found ourselves on the ridge. I’d looked at this ridge a million times but standing on it for the first time, I got to add to my mental map of local geography.

I also added several peaks to my list from up there within just a few minutes.

Then it was time to set off down the ridge. There were lots of ups and downs and we had to decide which peaks to skirt and which to climb (the only non-optional one was the ranked 13er on the ridge)

The ridgetop was pure giddiness. Including Mountain Prancercise…

This photo was taken on the shoulder of an unranked 12er bump on the ridge that didn’t, at first glance, have a clear cut route to the top. As we traversed around it I found a gully that I thought might go to the top. We carefully picked our way up the loose rock and pulled a couple of stout scramble moves and found ourselves on the top.

I think Katie and I would both agree that although the unnamed peak wasn’t our actual highpoint for the day, it was actually the emotional high point.

Just a few minutes after our unoffical climbing objective, we found ourselves on the actual highpoint of the hike.

These mountains, man. From here, if I’d have had binoculars I could have picked out my house to the north and mountains every other direction as far as I could see.

From there, we had a small (500′ climb) that felt like 2000′ and then the huge descent into town. After eighteen miles and 6600′ of gain, we were both worked. Quickly completing the car shuttle we hustled home to our crockpot dinner and devoured all the food.

Thank you so much Katie for going along on this dream adventure of mine! I had a blast!

Slacker Saturday 13ers: Canby and Galena

A few weeks ago, I had a friend offer to let me borrow her Jeep while she was out of town in case I wanted to tackle a big hike. I didn’t particularly have a big hike in mind but I told her that I would certainly come up with one.

I called Nadia and asked if she and Stella would want to join me for a ridge hike to some mountains.

It turned into the best ridge walk slacker Saturday of 13ers.

The weather was fantastic. The company was great. The views were mountains in every direction.

 

Corkscrew, Hurricane, California Passes + Mineral Creek

Earlier this summer, my friend Molly asked if I would pilot her Jeep up Yankee Boy basin while her mom was visiting. Molly drives a JK with a pretty good size lift but wasn’t really comfortable driving it off-road herself. A girl needs to know how to drive her own Jeep so we decided to take a little adventure so she could get that experience.

Cruising around the San Juans is always such a delight:

Homecoming Runs

School is almost out and I’m busily wrapping up my life in De Beque. I had a lovely year there but I miss home in Ridgway. I’ve been going down quite frequently this spring, working on some projects and I’ve also taken on a side job in a restaurant. In between everything, I’ve squeezed in a few runs that just make me smile SO MUCH.

A couple of weeks ago, we got to the property just as town was going into shadow but the Cimarrons were starting to get that gorgeous low angle light.

Sprocket even mostly forgave me for running past the river since I promised him he could climb Mt. Sneffles this summer (pictured just over his shoulder).

I mean, really:

And then the moon rose over the Cimarrons. The photo does not do any sort of justice to how gorgeous the full moon was coming over some of my favorite peaks.

Just as it started to get dark, we finished our run at Colorado Boy where no one seemed to think it was the least bit odd that I’d get to town on a Thursday, run, have a beer, and then go back to my little shed home.

I cannot wait for this summer. I’ve missed you so much, Ridgway.

Brown Mountain Jeep Road

I’ve been just dying to get up into the high country. Just after I left for my trip with Amanda, I found out that the Brown Mountain road was open. I remembered Brown Mountain having a pretty good rock base to the road so once I was back in Ridgway, I decided it would be a great first outing in the San Juans for the spring and a great first San Juan outting for Francis.

Just as I’d hoped, the road wasn’t really muddy at all until just below the small lake near the top of the road. With such a short distance to walk, it wasn’t worth tearing up the road so I parked the jeep and started walking.

The hike up Brown Mountain from the end of the road is steep but it’s short and always worth it. As it was, there were still some pretty big snow cornices at the top of the ridge and the snow definitely did some settling as I walked on it so we called it quits up there pretty quickly (having already gotten our 1,000′ of elevation gain already!) and headed back down to the jeep.

I kind of always get a kick out of driving the FSJ. As we were coming down the mountain, Rage Against The Machine’s “Renegades” came on shuffle and I just couldn’t help but smile. What a life?, right?!

Even Sprocket had to agree although he wasn’t happy with his seat choice in the passenger footwell (he chose it, I swear!):

Spring Break to Mexico, Part 4: Picacho del Diablo

After consuming way too much pollo in San Telmo (we accidentally got two plates of chicken instead of one… probably should learn Spanish to prevent incidents like that…), we turned east towards Parque Nacional Sierra de San Pedro Martir. I was really excited about making this drive all the way from the ocean to our trailhead at about 8,000′.

At the lowest elevations, the vegetation was decidedly desert like. I oggled some new cactus species along the way although I didn’t grab a lot of photos for some new cactus of the week photos. (I’ll try harder next trip!) As we climbed, my excitement for the hike kept building!

Eventually we reached pine trees! Big, beautiful pine trees surrounded by gorgeous exposed rocks! It was an astounding change to be in this environment and is definitely not anything I’d have expected to see in Mexico before researching this trip.

The signage for the park made me so happy. It was totally reminiscent of US national park signs but it was still … different.

After passing through this meadow that totally reminded me of Yellowstone, we turned south on a dirt road to our trailhead.

Although a day ahead of schedule, we loaded up our packs to head for our first camp. After a few miles we realized that something wasn’t quite right. I powered up my phone to check the GPS and we realized we’d walked down an old road instead of following the trail. We decided to return to the car (especially since my hiking partner realize that the drivers side door might not have gotten locked!), spend the night, and begin all over according to plan.

The morning was cool and made for great hiking weather. We set out towards Blue Bottle Pass. We didn’t make great time but we really enjoyed taking in everything:

As we reached the Pass, we finally got a look at Picacho del Diablo. Holy cow: that mountain is intimidating looking!

Crossing over onto the northeast face of Cerro Botella Azul, we also found some snow!

Then it was time for the descent into the canyon towards Campo Noche. Unfortunately, following the trail here was really difficult. Most trip reports emphasized the need to traverse as far as possible towards the saddle between Picaho and Cerro Botella Azul and … we didn’t. Quite a ways down the canyon, we realized we’d been cliffed out since we were in the wrong chute. We tried to traverse to the east but were faced with more cliffs that we didn’t feel comfortable negotiating with full packs. Sadly, we realized that going down the wrong way was pretty much the end of our adventure. We’d have to climb back to the saddle, then down the tough terrain, then up the mountain, then up to the saddle again. I took next to no photos of that descent or of our reascent–it was a real butt kicker! (I’ll be back. Who’s with me?) This is the one photo I have of the canyon:

Camp at the pass was beautiful though. The wind was blowing pretty hard but we had a nice windbreak. Since we were shortening our hike we at all the food, drank some hot chocolate, and enjoyed the light on the rocks around us.

The next morning, we made quick work of our hike back out to the car and decided to run up and check out the observatory before heading to San Felipe.

View of Picacho from the observatory:

Ridgway Life

Lately, life has been a little rough at times. I’ve been adjusting to life on my own and taking on a new career all while tackling my #damselNOTindistress projects.

However, looking back at the last week, I can’t help but smile. I attended an awesome Halloween party at The Sherbino:

Monday, I went out for burgers and beer with friends. Then Wednesday, we gathered again to eat cheese, drink wine, and play Cards Against Humanity.

Yesterday morning, our whole school gathered to send off our volleyball team to state. It didn’t hurt that the volunteer fire department escorted the bus out to the highway with lights and sirens.

Then last night, I was driving home from yet another Home Depot trip and was absolutely astounded by the quiet beauty of the mountains in the moonlight.

Sometimes it’s just the little things, you know?

What little things are making you happy this week?

Sunday Sermon

“We are now in the mountains and they are in us, kindling enthusiasm, making every nerve quiver, filling every pore and cell of us.”

 

 

 

 

 

–John Muir

West Fork Cimarron River

Sunday, Sprocket and I drove up Owl Creek Pass to go play in the snow. At the top of the pass headed up the West Fork Road. I’d never been up that way and really enjoyed the views of all the mountains surrounding the basin.

Sprocket was mostly just glad to be playing in snow again:

Little Trip to Durango, 3Up Style

Sometimes, although not often, we have to use our gas money not for driving to a trailhead or for Jeeping at 13,000 feet but to go to a city and take care of those “big city” shopping needs. For what was on our list yesterday, Durango (population 17,000) fit the bill.

We’ve teased Sprocket about stopping at Andrews Lake several times but we had some extra time and we know how much our puppy loves swimming. Turns out it is a beautiful spot. Just far enough off the highway to be quiet but close enough (less than a mile) that it’s an easy stop along US 550 (“The Million Dollar Highway”).

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While Sprocket was swimming, an older gentleman and his dog came down from the Crater Lake trail. Sprocket and the pup had a blast running and swimming together. Finally, though, it was time to hit the road and keep heading south. Sprocket promptly gave us the sad, “But why am I not swimming anymore?” eyes.

After running errands in Durango (and an early birthday lunch at the Indian buffet), we headed north. It was a bit late in the day to plan for a hike since thunderstorms could threaten anytime so we chose to take the Old Lime Creek Road as an alternative to US 550.

As soon as we turned on to the road, we saw this sign and had a good laugh:

The road wound up past Scout Lake where we all looked for moose and Sprocket contemplated how great it would be to splash around in the shallow water:

After Scout Lake, the road climbs a bit more and the views open up to Lime Creek’s valley. The road is on a shelf high above the creek giving some amazing views of the surrounding mountains.

When the road came down to meet the creek, we noticed an abundance of beaver chewed trees. As we poked around, it became apparent this was one busy beaver! Poking along down the creek we found his two dams and the beaver lodge. Sprocket was really thankful for that pond!

Old Lime Creek Road reentered US 550 just north of Coal Bank Pass…and just in time for us to stop off at Molas Lake for Sprocket to do some more swimming. Standing next to the lake looking around at the mountains everywhere was perfect.

On our way to Silverton, we tried out a new dirt road. For awhile, we thought it might actually reenter the highway. Instead, we hit a cliff looking down onto the pavement… We got a cool view of Silverton though!

It’s nice we have such pretty Alpine Tour Co. Jeeps to adventure in, no?

Once we hit the road out of Silverton, Sprocket’s content sleeping said it all: there’s no such thing as a bad day in the mountains.

I forgot my camera so all photos from my iPhone.