After our goal was foiled on County Road 207, Sprocket and I returned to Roan Creek and headed further west. We were greeted by a herd of cows walking down the road which Sprocket found both exciting and a little terrifying. They’d snort and he would run to the back of the Jeep until curiosity would get the best of him and his head would be sticking out the window again!
As I drove up the canyon, I poked around up all the open and non-posted spur roads. I always love to see what’s just around the corner, up the hill, or in the canyon. Our explorations on Roan Creek were a perfect easy Saturday afternoon adventure:
Most of the spur roads lead to less than scenic oil and gas wells. At least there is usually a lot of room to turn around when you reach one!
Eventually, we reached a gate at the end of the county road and traced our steps back to Carr Creek and further east to the entrance of Kessler Canyon.
Sprocket and set off Thursday after school for some more fun in the mountains of Colorado. I selected the county highpoints of Jefferson and Douglas Counties in Pike National Forest. It was a long drive in the dark to get there but we arrived at Stoney Pass (not to be confused with Stony Pass in the San Juans) just before midnight and I happily crawled in the back with Sprocket and fell asleep.
Sprocket had me up fairly early and we started the climb up to Jefferson County’s Buffalo Peak (sometimes known as Freeman Peak). The reports that I had read for this hike on cohp.org and Peakbagger made it sound absolutely horrendous—from what I could tell, I’d signed up for some not-so-fun deadfall laden bushwacking.
The first stretch out of the parking lot wasn’t that bad. I’d used Caltopo to create a proposed line of attack that was direct as possible while still bypassing the miscellaneous knobs and rock outcroppings on the hike and then exported it to Gaia GPS for use in the woods. This worked out really well for me on the ascent; I wasn’t regaining elevation and was taking a pretty direct route to the summit.
The weather was everything I could have hoped for. It was sunny, there were still fall leaves in the trees (although I think they were about a week past peak) and the woods had that delicious fall smell that makes you want to hike then eat cider donuts.
After a bit, I finally got this glimpse of Buffalo Peak. The slope relented for a bit just after I took this photo and then quickly steepened again.
The views continued to improve as we moved higher and the slight breeze that was kicking up felt really good. The view below is looking back to the north-northeast looking at Green Mountain with Stoney Pass between it and the ridge below my vantage point:
Finally the rocks of the summit came into view! This actually turned out to be the false summit. If you want to avoid some extra scrambling, you can bypass this to the right (north) and climb the actual summit. Sprocket and I chose to climb the false summit then wander its ridge to a small notch that we descended before reascending to the true summit.
I don’t think this gets climbed too often…
I got a little lazy on the descent and wasn’t paying too much attention to either the GPS or to my surroundings and found myself going too far to the west. (That creek drainage made for such quick going though!) We wound up wrapping around a small knob and then making more directly for the car.
All things considered, this wasn’t nearly as terrible as trip reports would have lead me to believe. I think a chunk of that comes from the fact that Colorado bushwacks are rarely as terrible as a normal off-trail outing in the Pacific Northwest. And man, I know I said the colors were a little faded, but I am definitely not complaining about the aspen show on my 27th Colorado county highpoint.
After getting the Jeep running midday on Saturday, I loaded up Sprocket and we hit the road. We stopped briefly in Glenwood Springs to stretch a bit before pushing on to Minturn and the trailhead.
My vague plan was to hike Holy Cross but when the alarm went off at the trailhead on Sunday morning, I really just wasn’t feeling it. The weather was gorgeous, the leaves were amazing but I had no motivation to push myself at all.
What was in order was a day of epic leaf peeping.
I still wanted to be sure I got a hike or two in so since we were camped at a trail, we hiked it! The hike up to Half Moon Pass was a super enjoyable way to spend the first part of our morning in a super non-hurried fashion. I stopped at the top of the pass to enjoy the views and soak in the sunshine.
The drive back down to the highway was astoundingly beautiful. I’d gotten glimpses of aspens above I-70 on the drive east but after dinner at the Minturn Saloon, it was dark before I drove to the trailhead so I had missed the brilliant colors on the way up.
Since we had all day to explore, I turned south towards Leadville instead of going home via I-70. I stopped to check out the site of Camp Hale, the home of the 10th Mountain Division. I knew a little bit about the 10th Mountain Division but reading some of the signs at the historic site and at the memorial located at the top of Tennessee Pass reminded me of some things I’d learned watching Ken Burns’ “The War” several years ago. My grandfather loved history, especially World War II history, and to travel—I couldn’t help but think of him and how much he would have loved this interesting piece of history!
We poked around Leadville for a bit, checking out antique stores and enjoying a hot apple cider from City on A Hill Coffee. (Yes, Sprocket walks around antique stores with me.) After a bit, we continued on over Independence Pass. It looked a little different from when we were there in June!
The weekend felt really short because I was so embroiled in getting the Jeep running again but I’m so glad that Sprocket and I got out to enjoy the fall weather! You never know this time of year when the snow will start to fly!
Kristin and I need to be better at taking Selfies apparently because this whole post looks like it’s all about SP and me. Luckily, she was kind enough to share some photos of our awesome day in Telluride here on the blog. We headed to Telluride via Last Dollar Road to enjoy the last of the fall colors, walked around downtown Telluride, gorged ourselves at Brown Dog Pizza, and rode the gondola to Mountain Village for a little extra scenery.
Last week, Bob and his friend Judy were in town and wanted to head up into the mountains in the Jeep. We had just gotten snow a few days prior but it looked like there might be enough melted off that we could get up into the high country one last time. It was such a beautiful day that we decided to take the top and doors off the Jeep as well; it was a little chilly on the highway but being able to see out was well worth it up high! (And the sun was warm! I actually got a little sunburnt…)
When we stopped to air down at the trailhead, Judy and Bob were already marveling at the colors. The very beginning of Engineer Pass road is really fun; the shelf above the canyon is always spectacular and the views get better and better as you go higher.
Once we reached the snow, we realized that the north slopes were still fairly covered. Fortunately, the road towards Engineer wraps up the southern slopes of Engineer Mountain to Oh! Point before wrapping around northwards towards the official pass (actually lower than the Point).
Instead, I hiked to the top of Engineer Mountain which sits just above the pass. The views were spectacular! I headed down to the jeep where F and Bob had decided they wanted to head up to the summit as well, so I headed back up with them! From the top I definitely spent some time plotting assents of other mountains near the pass; there’s so much to explore here!
We headed back down the mountain towards Animas Forks and then on towards Silverton. Just outside of Silverton, F and I hopped out of the Jeep to explore a tight canyon (looking forward to coming back in the summer!) and to scramble up to an exploratory mine shaft. Once we were all loaded back in the Jeep, it was time to head back to the highway and home. The day was such a good way to finish out the Jeeping season in the San Juans!
One day the view out our window looks like this,
And the next it looks like this:
A Vagabond Song
by Bliss Carman
There is something in the autumn that is native to my blood—
Touch of manner, hint of mood;
And my heart is like a rhyme,
With the yellow and the purple and the crimson keeping time.
The scarlet of the maples can shake me like a cry
Of bugles going by.
And my lonely spirit thrills
To see the frosty asters like a smoke upon the hills.
There is something in October sets the gypsy blood astir;
We must rise and follow her,
When from every hill of flame
She calls and calls each vagabond by name.
I had planned on working Monday and then a half day on Tuesday before the wedding but things sort of fell apart when, on Monday morning, the office manager asked me if I was working a half day and then hitting the road. Right there my motivation to be in the office drained away. Since I’d sort of been given permission (I mean, she had suggested it, right?) I called F and told him I’d be home by 3 and we could go.
When I got home, he had the van all ready to go. We put the hitch on the front of the jeep, hooked it up, put the bike on the back of the jeep, and hit the road.
We made a stop in Missoula to hit up Costco, Walmart, and Albertsons for the fresh ingredients and food for the week. The Costco Polish dogs for dinner hit the spot! It felt really good to get back on I-90 and feel like we were on our way “for real.” Monday night we made it to the truck stop in Butte, filled up both the van and the jeep, and crawled into our cozy Sprinter bed.
Tuesday morning we were up way before the sun and it started to crest the mountains just as we were passing (back) into Idaho. We made good time down to Salt Lake, fueled up and grabbed lunch at In-N-Out. The haze we’d driven in through most of Montana and Idaho seemed to still be surrounding us but we hoped that in the next few hundred miles it would dissipate. As we descended into Price we were disappointed to note that the haze was still following us. Reaching I-70 I was elated to be almost there but really sad to note that we could barely see the La Sals.
Once we arrived in Moab though, the smoke didn’t matter at all—it felt so good to finally be there! We drove to Danette’s house where we washed the van and the jeep and just finished as she and Robin pulled into the driveway. We got to catch up and discuss our plans for the wedding and relax with a beer or two before heading to bed.