Basic Vehicle Recovery Kit

Last spring, I wrote a post about how to get your vehicle unstuck from a slippery situation whether it’s sand, mud, or snow. As we enter the fall, it’s time to start thinking about winter driving. Here’s what I carry in my jeep

  1. Valve stem remover: I talked quite a bit about airing down in my Guide to Getting Unstuck. Although you can airdown using a stick or a rock or your pocket knife, dropping from 50 psi to 10 psi goes a lot faster with a valve stem remover.
  2. Tire pressure gauges: I carry both a high and a low pressure gauge because that allows me to measure air pressures <10psi however you should at least carry a high pressure gauge.
  3. Recovery strap and D-ring: Sometimes you need a little bit of extra help. And if that help comes along, you don’t want to have to say, “It’s okay, nevermind” because neither of you has a strap! It’s also a good idea to figure out where you can attach the strap or D-ring to on your vehicle before you need to use them.

Recovery Gear 1

  1. Shovel: If you’re stuck, a lot of times it’s important to dig yourself out a bit before getting going again. I carry a small shovel like this one.
  2. Compressor: While a compressor is not strictly necessary, if you’re going to spent a lot of time far from main roads and travel routes, the ability to put air back into your tires can be really important. Driving 50 miles to a gas station for air on really flat tires will do a number on your tires and put you at risk for a blow out. Airing back up, to at least 35 psi, will help prevent more issues!
  3. Tire repair kit: Being able to fix a puncture to your tire can be a life saver! I’ve even heard of people using the tire ropes to temporarily fix small slashes in the sidewall!

Recovery Gear

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Ignite Sherbino! Tonight!

I’ve been busy this week preparing for my talk at Ignite Sherbino! on top of my normal teaching duties and writing a subplan for today. (I’m at another high school observing their science classes today.) I’m sorry I didn’t get a more “official” post ready for today but if you’re in Ouray County you should come join me!


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Thunder Butte: Douglas County Highpoint

After our hike of Buffalo Peak, Sprocket and I headed down Stoney Pass and for Thunder Butte. I wasn’t totally sure I was going to tackle it that day but it was certainly our next objective for the weekend. When we arrived at where we would begin our hike, it was just after 3pm and although the skies to the west were looking a little unsettled, it appeared that the weather would hold for a couple of hours so off we went through the patchy burn.

Thunder Butte

This hike was one where we walked along on almost entirely flat ground for a good chunk of the distance and then did all of our climbing at once heading fairly directly up the southwestern slopes.

Thunder Butte

As we climbed, Pikes Peak came into view to the south and I could better see the storm clouds building to my west. I hustled Sprocket upwards but we were only making marginal time. Sprocket was clearly tired from our adventure on Buffalo Peak earlier in the day and he was taking his sweet time.

Thunder Butte

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect since some internet sources suggested that this climb would be made a lot less fun as a result of increased brush on the slopes after the fire. Maybe it was a result of some fall die back but this wasn’t too big of an issue. Of more concern was not brushing up against charred trees.


Finally, we found ourselves on the summit. A few photos and a look around and it was time to head down. I was starting to hear thunder rumble in the distance and my fellow #omniten and #teamawesome member Justin had burgers waiting down in Woodland Park.


The light on the way out was amazing. I was so happy to spend another fall day out enjoying nature with Sprocket.

Thunder Butte

And the light on Sheep Nose with Thunder Butte lurking in the background? That’s pretty awesome too.

Sheeps Head and Thunder Butte

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Stoney Pass

After we climbed Buffalo Peak, Sprocket and I loaded up and headed towards Deckers, Colorado.

FSJ at Stoney Pass

This area was heavily burned in 2002 during the Hayman fire; the largest in Colorado history. Now, over 13 years later, the area has an almost beautiful surrealism.

Hayman Fire

Through the desolation, I had some glimpses back towards Buffalo Peak:

Buffalo Peak from Hayman Fire

I find forest fire to be really fascinating. The Silver Valley of Idaho where I used to live had been heavily burned in the Fire of 1910 (that fire burned huge chunks of Idaho and Montana) and if one watched carefully snags from the fire could still be seen around the area. Driving thorough this area was a really similar experience—while it is really sad that many people lost their homes and it might not be as traditionally beautiful as a lush green forest, it has its beauty.

Hayman Fire

Our next stop was Thunder Butte which is also located in the Hayman burn area.

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Buffalo Peak: Jefferson County Highpoint

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.

Thursday Jeep

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 and Peakbagger made it sound absolutely horrendous—from what I could tell, I’d signed up for some not-so-fun deadfall laden bushwacking.

Buffalo Peak

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.

Buffalo Peak

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.

Views northwest from Buffalo Peak

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.

Buffalo Peak

Views from Buffalo Peak

Buffalo Peak

Buffalo Peak

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:

Near the summit of Buffalo Peak


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.


Buffalo Peak

Buffalo Peak

Lost Creek Wilderness

Lost Creek Wilderness

Summit with Sprocket

I don’t think this gets climbed too often…

Summit Register


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.


Fall leaves and Columbia Peakfreaks

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.

Fall color on Buffalo Peak

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