Dexter Creek Run

Sprocket and I inched our way out of our summer doldrums with a run-hike up Dexter Creek trail last week. I’d muddled through summer with anxiety levels that regularly crept higher and higher but I just kept pushing through and working more hours. When I reached the end of my double shifts, I knew it was time to get back on the trail.

Mining ruins

The first half mile was a bit of a grind. It was up hill, I was tired, and it was a bit late in the morning for it to be nice and cool. After that first bit though, I found my stride, we jogged the rolling hills and hiked the steep ones. I marveled at the mountains above us while Sprocket galloped along the trail.

Dexter Creek drainageAfter a couple of miles, we came to the Wilderness boundary and decided to head back down the hill; I was well aware that we’d likely feel just this little bit in the morning.

Uncompaghre Wilderness

Back in the car, on our way down the hill I spotted this lovely looking little pool. We stopped and I took a refreshing mini-ice bath before going back to town.

Dexter Creek

I’m so glad to be back on the trail. It was almost immediately that I felt back to being myself. The anxiety melted away and the joy of the mountains happened. It’s totally magic.

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.)

River views

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.

Red Mountains

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.

Brown Mountain hike

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.

Mount Abrams hike

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.

Sunset from Brown Mountain saddle

Brown Mountain Ridge

Summit of Abrams from the RidgeSadly, 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.

Sunset streaks

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.

Summit Selfies

I regret nothing.

Dallas Trail Escape

Sprocket is really bearing the brunt of me working a ton of hours so when I got off at 6pm one evening last week, we headed up County Road 9 to take a short hike on the Dallas Trail.

Ruth XJ and Mears Peak

Beth and Sprocket on the Dallas Trail

From the minute we pulled into Box Factory Park, this cheesy grin stuck itself to my face and didn’t go away for a long time. The air smelled absolutely amazing, the rain seemed to be holding off behind the Sneffels Range, and the wildflowers are out in force.

Wildflowers

Sprocket

Beth and Sprocket

Sprocket loves our hiking runs where he sniffs his way up slopes and careens down the hills with his ears and tail whipping all over the place.

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Sneffels Range

Dallas Trail Views

Hayden Peak

Meadows and mountains

I think the two of us definitely needed that decompression time. I’m going to make a lot bigger effort to take advantage of all the hikes that are so close to me during these precious chunks of time.

To top it all off, we were treated to a gorgeous sunset on our way back to town:

Sunset

Sneffels Range Sunset

Sunset

Herman Gulch Hike

My next goal for our little roadtrip was Pettingell Peak (13,553′) just off of I-70 near the Eisenhower Tunnel. Pettingell is the highpoint of Grand County and I was itching to give it a try. Unfortunately, Sprocket seemed a little bit tired when we got to 12,100′ above Herman Lake and I wasn’t super comfortable with going up the steep snow slope (especially since Sprocket has a bad habit of rolling on snow slopes). Not really feeling up to pushing it, I decided to turn back.

The day, despite the lack of a summit, was glorious. It was beautifully sunny and we had the whole basin all to ourselves. I am so excited that it’s summer and is alpine time!

Herman Gulch

Herman Gulch

Sprocket in Herman Gulch

Hiking with Sprocket

Rocky Mountain views

Views south through Herman Gulch

Pikes Peak & Devils Playground: El Paso & Teller County Highpoints

The main goal of our roadtrip was to start checking off some peaks on the County Highpoint list again. I hadn’t gotten one since summiting Bushnell back in March so it was high time to make progress on the goal. Since this time of year is a little tough in terms of access, I had limited peaks to choose from and decided to go ahead and drive up Pikes Peak since I would not only grab the El Paso County Highpoint on the summit but also the Teller County Highpoint, Devils Playground along the way.

Pikes Peak Toll Booth

We arrived at the toll booth quite awhile before they opened but happily passed the time chatting with some other people in line. I even made some coffee on the stove in the back of the XJ for the drive. I snapped a couple of shots of the mountain going down the road but most of them turned out really well framed just like this one:

Pikes Peak

When we left the toll booth, they’d said that because of high winds on the summit, the road was closed at mile 16 although they were fairly confident that wind speeds would drop and we could continue up at some point. I wasn’t too upset since mile 16 is where Devils Playground was located. We arrived and immediately started up the small slope. Sprocket was delighted to be playing in the snow. He ran right up to the summit and stood on the rocks and waited for me. Clearly, my dog knows what’s up. Teller County marked my 46th Colorado County Highpoint!

Devils Playground from the road

Devils Playground Summit

View from Devils Playground

With perfect timing, the road opened all the way to the Pikes summit when we were just below the Devils Playground summit. I had so many good laughs watching SP frolic his way back down to the Jeep. He definitely knows how to have fun.

Sprocket on Devils Playground

Just a couple minutes up the road, we reached the summit, my 47th county highpoint in Colorado! It was pretty windy so we didn’t stick around too long before heading back down the mountain.

Pikes Peak Summit

 

 

Summer Kickoff Roadtrip

I rolled into Ridgway just long enough to cheers summer starting at Colorado Boy and then I headed out for a little roadtrip around Colorado. The sun was out and there is little that is better than cruising around listening to good music with a pup drooling on my shoulder.

Monarch Pass

We cruised through Cripple Creek, taking a little walk down the strip of casinos and then headed down the road to Victor.

Cripple Creek

From Victor Pass, we got a beautiful view of Pikes Peak (our destination for the next day!).

Victor Pass

Finding a place to camp turned out to be way harder than I’d expected: I always forget there are so many more people out towards the Front Range! Eventually we found a place to sleep although it wasn’t quite as remote and restful as many places we’ve camped!

Colorado County Highpoints: Northern Plains

After saying goodbye to Bart, Leigh, and Boone, Sprocket and I headed north from Burlington making our way to Yuma, Colorado. There was snow on the roads but it wasn’t icy (or as it would be later slushy).

Blizzard aftermath

Normally, one would be able to pretty much drive right to the Phillips County highpoint but the north-south road was drifted with about 4-8″ of snow so Sprocket and I jaunted north from the intersection just to the south.

Phillips County highpoint

After Phillips County, it was just a short drive to Sedgewick County with its short hike out to the highpoint. There was some pretty deep drifted snow on the way out past the abandoned barn but after that the going was fairly easy and the snow was already starting to melt rapidly!

Sedgewick County Highpoint

Sedgwick County Highpoint

We made our way north into Nebraska, grabbing lunch in Sidney, before making our way to Colorado’s Logan County highpoint. By the time we arrived, the snow was almost gone!

Logan County Highpoint

Logan County Highpoint

We tried to visit Panorama Point but unfortunately the snow was really drifted on the last mile to Nebraska’s highpoint. I wanted to drive all the way home that night so I was aware of time constraints, plus the landowner’s sign warned that because of bison in the area hiking wasn’t allowed.

Baby cows

Instead, we headed south through Pawnee National Grassland to Shannon Benchmark, the highpoint of Morgan County. On our way out to the highpoint, Sprocket was reminded of his hatred for prickly pear. (He used to almost refuse to walk across the field of the Log Hill property.)

Tagging Shannon Benchmark Shannon Benchmark Beth at Shannon Benchmark

I briefly debated spending another night in the area and trying to arrange a visit to the Terry Bison farm for the next day but after the blizzard adventure, I decided to put it off for another time but in the space of three days (including one mostly weathered out!) I’d added 9 Colorado County Highpoints to my total bringing me to 45 of 64 (70.3%)!

 

P.S. Ruth was the best ever: we had a tank of gas going over the mountains where we got 30mpg! (XJs love 45 mph and elevation; there’s a reason we make a good team.) I can’t imagine a better vehicle for someone with a county highpoint hobby.

Logan County Highpoint

Adventure Is Embracing The Unexpected: People

After I summited Two Buttes, I pushed north towards the Phillips County Highpoint. The wind that I’d experienced on the hike didn’t seem to abate. When I approached Lamar, I saw a sign notifying me that US 40 was closed from Kit Carson to Limon. I began to realize that the dark clouds and wind might be a little bit more than just a small storm.

In Kit Carson, I tried to take Colorado 59 north but it, too, was closed. Not really willing to hunker down in the Jeep before noon to endure what at that point were just windy conditions with all of the trucks waiting to go westbound so I turned east towards Cheyenne Wells. There, I found US 385 open to the north so I just kept on towards the goal; wind and some non-sticking sideways falling snow aside. In Burlington, I navigated through town, only to find that my northbound route was closed… and I-70 westbound was closed.

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I drove around town looking for a restaurant or a bar that I could hole up in, hoping against hope for somewhere that might look like it might have wifi. I spotted Essential Foods and headed inside. The space was simple but the lunch menu they handed me looked delicious. I’d already eaten on the road but they happily let me just sit and drink coffee for hours, understanding that I was just seeking refuge from the DOT and its road closures. Outside, the snow started, but it wasn’t sticking and I was frustrated. Time ticked by and it became clear that Denver was a mess and I probably shouldn’t expect any roads to be opening any time soon.

As I worked on my computer and the snow finally started to stick to the roads a little instead of just blowing sideways, a man walked up to me and asked if I’d found a place to stay. He had offered his vacant, for sale house to a couple also holed up in the restaurant and wanted to extend the offer to me as well. James, the homeowner, drove us over to the house to show us around the house that turned out to be a gorgeous 1919 Craftsman. James fretted about the lack of furniture, turned the heat up for us, insisted on opening the blinds so it didn’t feel like a cave, and offered to go to the grocery store for some toilet paper. Simply feeling grateful to have a warm place to stay, all I could do was reassure my host that it didn’t matter that there was no furniture, that I had toilet paper in the jeep, and that I couldn’t ask for anything more for the night.

Back at the restaurant, I got to know my housemates for the night better: Bart and Leigh (along with their dog Boone) run Be Hippy, a grassroots lifestyle brand. We chatted about social media, traveling, and marveled a little bit about the goodness of people opening their homes to us. The staff at Essential Foods continued to take good care of us stranded travelers and eventually we drifted off to our warm home for the night.

Be Hippy

I’d started off the blizzard delay so frustrated and annoyed with DOT for being overly cautious but in the end, I was filled with the warm fuzzies of making friends, being reminded of the kindness of strangers, and the absolute importance of being open to adventure. Thank you James, Bart, and Leigh for making my day and being part of a weather event that added so much adventure to my plains highpointing.

Colorado County Highpoints: South End of the Plains

Last December, I headed to the central plains to collect a few more highpoints before the end of 2015. As I start to think about attempting to finish the Colorado County High Point list before the end of 2016, I really wanted to finish out the plains highpoints. Sprocket and I started out our loop with the southern most points of the plains.

Dry Bluff Southweste

Appreciating the plains points takes a little bit of extra attention. I studied the cholla and the yucca plants. I poked around small towns and stopped at view points and informational markers:

Exploring

The highways were lonely and many of the dirt roads were even lonelier.

Plains

Ruth even summited a couple of the highpoints along with Sprocket and I:

Carrizo Mountain East Slope

Dirt roads

My ascent of Two Buttes (Prowers County HP, 4711′) came on Day 2 in some crazy winds: sustained 24mph with 51mph gusts at the time of my hike kicking up white caps on Two Buttes Reservoir. We were there, though, and it was only about 400′ of ascent to the summit so Sprocket and I decided to tough it out and get ourselves to the top.

White caps

Two Buttes

Two Buttes selfie Beth

Sprocket on Two Buttes

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.

Old Horsethief trail

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.

Ouray hiking

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

Ridge to Bridge of Heaven

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.

Mining history

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

Mining History

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

Waterfalls

Didn’t Corbett Peak look pretty across the valley?

Corbett Peak