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!

July Visitors!

While my project in Washington somewhat dragged on, I had events starting to pile up in Ridgway that I needed to get back for. My boss started calling to set up some summer meetings but more pressingly, Cindy had purchased plane tickets months ago and Katie was coming out for hanging out with people during the Hardrock100.

Since Cindy was only in town for a couple of days, we went out hiking on Sutton Trail. Although it’s steep, the views of the amphitheater are amazing. Plus, we got mixed up in another group of hikers that were actually a ton of fun. After our hike we drove over Red Mountain to Silverton and then headed back to my place for lunch and some wine and porch sitting.

The next day, we drove up to Telluride to check out the views and ride the gondola. Apparently I only Instagram storied my photos since I don’t have any! Again, we basically meandered back to the house and found ourselves catching up with pretty mountain views as old friends do.  It was so much fun to share my home with you, Cindy! I know I’m in the middle of no where but you win the award for first friend to buy a plane ticket to come!

Katie’s visit out this way for Hardrock events slightly overlapped with Cindy which was actually a lot of fun. After Cindy headed back to the midwest, Katie and I decided to head up Bridge of Heaven. This is one of those hikes I’ve wanted to do but was sort of dissuaded from because of all its elevation gain!

We started from the Dexter Creek side and quickly attained the ridge line and then pushed our way up to Bridge of Heaven proper.

By the run down, my legs were feeling it but it was a good way to start getting in some solid elevation gain again!

Local Adventure: Hayden Trail, North Trailhead

I almost didn’t share these photos. This little adventure on the Hayden Trail didn’t seem all that “worth” posting. It wasn’t grand, it didn’t go for miles and miles (I think we did three miles round trip?) but it was a joyful hiking adventure after work with my buddy.

The views of the peaks over in the Sneffels range in the dramatic raincloud influenced light didn’t disappoint. (Actually, I don’t know if I’ve ever been “disappointed” with a San Juan hike.)

Beth Lakin hiking

Beth Lakin hiking

Ouray Hiking: Chief Ouray Trail

What do you do when you get to work a couple hours early?

I needed to go up to Ouray to take care of a few things and found myself with time to kill before work. I had two and a half hours before I needed to arrive so I headed up to the Chief Ouray Trail access in the Amphitheater.

The trail is only two miles long but it is steep and I was able to get in almost 2000′ of gain!

It wasn’t too too hot but I definitely worked up a sweat while taking in the awesome view.

I really loved the short shelf portion once the elevation gain was done! (I’m a weirdo who also likes shelf roads and standing on cliffs.)

Eventually, Upper Cascade Falls came into view.

Negotiating the slushy snow bridge right above a falls was interesting!

A little bit further I got to what I believe was the bunkhouse for the mine. Time was starting to feel a bit short so I turned around here and headed back to town.

Not too shabby for two hours on the trail.

Ouray Hiking: Old Horsethief Trail

When we got back from Oklahoma City, it was time to do some hiking! Sprocket and I parked at the Old Horsethief Trail near the Hot Springs Pool and headed up-up-up. Unfortunately the day was really windy so we only got up to the junction of Old Horsethief and Horsethief Trail. Instead we contented ourselves with just being happy in the mountains. It wasn’t hard.

Sorry not sorry for the obnoxious string of selfies.

On The Page: Exploring The Historic San Juan Triangle

I finally go smart this summer and made a box specifically of “books I haven’t read” since I’m on a strict “you can’t buy any more books until you finish the ones you already have” budget. One of those books was Exploring The Historic San Juan Triangle by P. David Smith. I bought this book back in 2013 when I first moved to Ridgway and it just never seemed to be accessible when I needed a book. I definitely missed out due to my procrastination!

Smith’s history of the San Juan Triangle, the area roughly bounded by Ouray, Telluride, and Silverton, is an excellent crash course in the history of settlement and mining in the region. The first chapters of the book describe the histories of the main towns in the region: Silverton, Lake City, Ouray, and Telluride. (My beloved Ridgway sits just outside the triangle and has some definite ranching vs mining roots.) Just a few pages into the history, as Smith described how miners started to drift into the San Juans while they were still officially Ute lands, I realized I know nothing really about this area. Since the book is written partially as history and partially as a travel guide there was some emphasis on the locations (past and present) of key buildings but I really enjoyed that since I could picture each of the towns.

After the histories of individual towns, there is a series of chapters that give a fairly exhaustive explanation of mines and ghost towns that existed along Jeep routes in the area. I can picture many of the places he mentions but I’m just itching to get back out and check out the rest of them! In addition to covering the “classic” routes (Imogene, Black Bear, Cinnamon, Engineer, etc.) Smith talks about spur roads and lesser known routes as well.

Beaumont Hotel Ouray,CO

As I mentioned, the book is written as a guide to travel so sometimes the narration is a bit clunky. Dividing the history up into specific locations is helpful when you’re driving or visiting one of the towns but sometimes that also makes for a bit of repetitiveness to the history. That being said, however, if you like history and context for your exploring and you plan on visiting the San Juans (or if you need some inspiration to come check out my gorgeous mountains), Exploring The San Juan Triangle is an excellent place to start diving in!

Ouray Hiking: Abrams Mountain

Abrams Mountain is visible from Ridgway, perched right above the town of Ouray. At 12,801′, it is disproportionately prominent in the skyline to its size when compared with other peaks in the Sneffels range. I’ve been up to the Brown Mountain ridge a couple of times but I’ve never hiked it all the way out to the summit of Abrams. (Abrams’s summit it hidden by the tree in the left third of the photo below.)

After work yesterday, Sprocket and I went to the river so that he could frolic and swim. I threw the stick for him and laughed as my retriever would get the stick out of the water but would not bring it back to me. He, on the other hand, would come dripping wet and look at me expectantly. Eventually, I noticed there were hardly any clouds in the sky and it only took me a second of deliberation before we were headed back to the house to get Ruth.

The climb from the Brown Mountain jeep road up to the saddle between 13er Brown Mountain and the ridge to Abrams is steep. It took me 25 minutes to attain the ridge in just a half mile (maybe I can improve on it another day when I head to Brown?). Our light was fading rapidly but there was still enough light to make our way along the sometimes rocky and sometimes grassy ridge.

The ridge was more complex than it had looked on a map and I made a mental note to stay on the absolute crown of the ridge on the way back to the Jeep. Heading downslope too early would be a huge mistake since only one drainage would take me back where I needed to go, any others would either cliff me out or drop me far from my car.

As we made our way out to the summit, I chuckled a bit at myself. I was functioning on four hours of sleep and by all logical measures, where I should have been was in bed. Instead, it was 9:30 and I was still hiking away from the car. I’d already decided, however, that addressing my mountain deficit was way more important than my sleep deficit.

Sadly, my iPhone was no help in capturing the beauty that was hiking the last bit to the summit in the almost total dark. We summited without headlamp and without a moon as the last streaks of sunset faded over the Sneffels Range and Log Hill Mesa. The wind was blowing but it was warm and I briefly regretted not having a sleeping bag to stay and wait for sunrise. Sprocket and I just sat together as the darkness became complete. I finally felt like I was breathing easy. We could see the lights of Ouray, Ridgway, and all the way up to Montrose. The Milky Way was coming out.

Knowing that I had plenty to do in the coming days and a long hike back down the ridge plus the drive down the mountain, we didn’t linger too long.

I regret nothing.

Twin Peaks Trail

Last week I had the pleasure of hosting The Bro’d Trip‘s Justin and Adam for a few days. I’ve known Justin via the internet for a few years but I interacted with Adam for the first time as he stepped out of their rental RV. Justin and Adam are traveling the country for a year in their Sprinter van but when there was a valet company … incident, they continued on in the RV. (Happily they’re back in Arizona to retrieve their van now!)

As we all know, I’ve been working a lot so I wasn’t the best host. Fortunately, the guys had some work to do so they availed themselves of all the best work spaces in Ridgway (Provisions, Cimarron Books & Coffee, and the lovely Ridgway Public Library). Life on the road can’t always be pretty views; I well know the busy life of a traveling blogger!

Sunday afternoon, however, I pretty much insisted that we all get out and do some adventuring. While they’d taken Sprocket to the reservoir while I was at work, I couldn’t let them not get into the mountains while they were here! Sprocket was clearly happy to be on the road and quickly abandoned me to hop into “his” spot in the front of the RV.

I always struggle with where to take people hiking when they visit me since most of our trails around here are pretty darn steep so combined with elevation most of my guests really struggle. (Have a Ridgway-Ouray area hike that doesn’t kill people but also shows off the mountains? Let me know!!!) We went to Twin Peaks trail because the views are pretty darn amazing but there is also some pretty good shade. It’s steep but there’s also the option to bail and do the Perimeter Trail. My guests elected to continue up the “steep and difficult trail” route towards the summit and I was more than happy to oblige.

I’m pretty sure I hiked the whole time with a really dopey smile plastered on my face because these mountain views just do not ever get old. I’m totally happy to just stare out at them. Sometimes Sprocket is a jerk and whines at slow people but I really am just happy to be outside.

Hi, Ouray! You’re really quite pretty.

I think Sprocket was pretty happy to be outside checking out the views.

We weren’t able to scramble up to the true summit (to my chagrin) since it is on a sort of separated knob with a really exposed climb to the very top. We all hung out on the almost-summit and enjoyed being surrounded by mountains. After we couldn’t handle the hunger anymore, we jogged our way down the mountain and headed to the Adobe Inn for dinner.

Hiking Ouray: Old Horsethief Trail

Last weekend, the weather in the San Juans was too good to not go out and enjoy it. Sprocket and I had never hiked the Old Horsethief trail that climbed steeply from near the hot springs pool so we headed out (and up!). Sprocket took off like a shot; he clearly hadn’t forgotten that up is the right direction to go.

While there was a little bit of snow on the ground it had been packed down enough to make the going easy. Just after we reached this gully, however, there was a really new looking gate constructed over the trail. I’m still not sure what the status here but I’m doing some digging since I found evidence that it was used for last year’s Ouray 100.

The views weren’t too shabby though so no one was disappointed.

On the way down we explored some little tracks off the main trail that lead us to some old mine adits, as is normal in the area.

The water flowing out of this adit reminded me of riding Disneyland’s Pirates of the Caribbean:

Mostly it was glorious to be outside enjoying the early spring sunshine.

Didn’t Corbett Peak look pretty across the valley?

New Adventure!: Cross Country Skiing!

A few weeks ago, I somewhat impulsively bought a cross country ski package on eBay. I had no idea if it was a really good deal but $230 to my door for the whole package seemed tough to pass up, especially when my other winter wishlist purchases came with a much bigger price tag (AT ski gear, mountaineering boots and crampons for ice climbing). They shipped out right away and I waited anxiously all week for them to arrive.

Unfortunately life intervened (Sprocket had surgery, I had some Saturday teacher duties, and a friend and I went snowshoeing) and I had to put off trying it for a week.

I found myself kind of nervous as I put my boots on at the car. Why? I have no clue…

Last Saturday it was finally time to give them a spin. I headed to Ironton, just south of Ouray on US 550 where there is a groomed Nordic area that I know to be fairly flat. I put on my boots, patted a very sad activity restricted dog, and set out on the main loop having nary a clue what I was doing.

It didn’t really matter. Although I don’t think I ever found a really good rhythm and the downhills were tricky, I couldn’t complain. It was the first time I’d ever stopped to see Ironton townsite, I was surrounded by 13,000′ mountains, and the late afternoon sun was shining. I made two big loops and one repetition of an out and back for almost 5 miles of awkward shuffling around.

My words can’t do the scene justice but I know that this is going to become a regular part of my winter fitness regimen! And continue me down the path of Jill of all trades, master of none, hehe.