De Beque Canyon Project: Running Wagon Track Ridge

Last Friday, I headed out V 2/10 Road towards the Wild Horse area looking for a spur road that I could go explore on my run. I settled on the road heading down Wagon Track Ridge and got in a great almost six mile run. The only downside was that the whole return run was uphill but I figured that it all equaled out.

Wagon Track Ridge

I was a little bit bummed that I only made it partway down the ridge but some pretty solid elevation gain and an unknown precise mileage was a little bit more than I wanted to bite off so I simply enjoyed the sunshine and headed back to the jeep.

Beth

At home, later, I started studying the map and realized that I could access the base of the ridge at the river baring any crazy washouts or mudholes so Saturday, Sprocket and I set off to run the lower part of the ridge and hopefully meet up with where I left off the day before.

We parked Ruth just above the Colorado and then the road pretty quickly started climbing up the ridge. The very bottom of the climb was pretty washed out and I might have been able to maneuver the XJ up but I was happy to be running up instead.

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Once we reached the high part of the ridge, we trended upwards as the road went up and over what seemed like many small hills. The weather was excellent, however, and I had absolutely no complaints.

Sprocket above a canyon

One of the things I really like about running here is that I almost never see anyone so it’s quiet and relaxing. We did run into a couple people in ATVs today, one of them assumed that I must be broken down somewhere—I don’t think they see a lot of runners around here.

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At almost four miles, we reached the point where I’d turned around the day before and headed back. I’m loving that my mileage is starting to stretch out which lets me do some of my exploring on foot: jeep + run = amazing exploring.

De Beque Canyon Project

Joy Running: Mud Season

In the past year, I’ve found myself in this weird place of not knowing how to describe myself as an outdoor blogger. I hike but my hiking is more than just hiking. I’m not a mountaineer, I’m not a climber, I’m not a runner but my hiking has elements of all of those things. When I decided to get my butt in gear for 2016, I realized that I wanted to grow each of those elements within myself. I really wanted to be a Jill of All Trades in the outdoors. So, one of the easiest (and cheapest) things to get better at is running.

Happy dog

I’m not fast and I’m sure my form is terrible but I’ve been loving my runs. Why? Because they’re joyful. I look down and see Sprocket loping along, pausing for sniffs, and then sprinting to catch me. I find myself smiling ear to ear because it’s sunny. Clearly, I prefer running on either less traveled gravel roads or on trails where I can let Sprocket be himself (although we won’t shy away from a road run, especially in the gorgeous sunset light).

Joy running

It’s mud season though, which presents its own host of issues. I don’t have a lot of actual trails to run around here but there are a ton of small spur roads and ATV trails and we’re trying to work around the mud as best as possible trying to stay off of muddy trails until they dry but sometimes, this time of year, you unexpectedly find yourself in the middle of it. Considering that I’m joyful running though, I usually wind up giggling through it.

MUD

And then, there are the views that just make me smile. I’ve felt a little weird sharing some of my paces on Twitter lately because they’re slow. They’re slow because I’m slow. They’re slow because I’m taking photos. They’re slow because I’m battling mud. But ultimately, I don’t care. I’m outside, I’m active. My mood is better every day because of it.

Grand Mesa

I seriously think “joy running” to myself because no matter what problems I’m facing in the “real world” (money, relationships, job, etc.) it doesn’t matter when I’m running. It can just be me and the pup loping along enjoying the world.

Sprocket

 

De Beque, Colorado: Samson Mesa

In a move totally unlike me, I decided to use this long weekend to Get Stuff Done. Taking breaks to enjoy being outside was totally necessary thought! The weather on Saturday was really fantastic so I broke out the shorts and we headed on another exploratory drive, this time south of town. Parts of the road were muddy but we made it out to the end of the road on Samson Mesa.

Samson Mesa Pano

With less than a quarter mile to the top, I decided to skip the snowshoes and see how well the crusted snow would hold me. The answer was really not at all, it was super warm for February and things were turning a little slushy. Sprocket and I didn’t really mind and away we went.

Postholing

The view of the Housetop Mountain-Castle Peak-Horsethief Mountain basin was amazing! It definitely had me pondering routes up all three peaks, of course.

Samson Mesa pano Samson Mesa views Sprocket on Samson Mesa Selfie with Horsethief Mountain in background

The hike even had a little reminder that this is pinon high desert hiking: I stabbed myself with this little cactus!

Cactus

After the summit, we headed back to the jeep and it was time to get productive! (More on that later!)

Views

De Beque, Colorado: Twin Peaks

On an absolutely gorgeous Saturday morning, Sprocket and I set off to climb Twin Peaks (7400’+) above De Beque. On one of our De Beque Canyon Project drives we’d found a fairly major drill pad up towards Twin Peaks and I had a sneaking suspicion that it might be one that was going to be accessed during the winter and I was right! We drove right up and headed out.

Twin Peaks

I had a vague idea of how to go about getting to the summit but I have to admit that I could probably have done with more map and satellite imagery study before we left. I definitely broke trail up a gully … and at the top ran into the same road that we’d been on. (We took the road down and although it was a lot longer, breaking trail there would have been a lot easier).

Views

Sprocket was not impressed with the foot deep snowshoe trench I was making for him. Although he was following the trench, he kept finding himself punching through to the sage below.

Sprocket with snow trench

I chose to pretty immediately head for the ridge, aiming for the end of a cliff band on the south eastern end of the Twin Peaks ridge. I made pretty good progress through the trees but Sprocket wasn’t having a very good time. A few hundred feet shy of the ridge and about a mile from the true summit, he started whining and in short order made it clear he was not having a good time. There was no need to push the pup more than he was willing to do so we paused for a photo and headed back down the mountain.

Beth and Sprocket

The next morning, sans puppy companion, I headed right back up. I reasoned that I’d already trenched in a good chunk of the trail, had a hunch about a slightly higher parking spot, and not only learned about the road but had walked it down so now was as good of a time as any. Besides, it looks like it’s going to be pretty warm this week and the road was definitely better driven snow-covered than muddy.

Along the way, I rather impulsively decided to attain the ridge closer to the higher of the Twin Peaks rather than the spot I’d been aiming for with Sprocket reasoning that I wouldn’t have to walk over the lower summit, down to the saddle and then up.

Twin Peaks, Part Deux

I’m not sure that was the best plan. Going uphill in the trees was a lot easier than walking across a flat meadow and ascending a slope of sage, Mormon’s tea, and some unidentified leafless things. Unlike the trees that seemed to encourage compacted snow, these “fluffier” plans stood above pockets that compressed unexpectedly under my snowshoes.

Selfie

Not really wanting to need to come back yet again, I pushed on. The summit looked so close and the ridge didn’t look THAT steep.

Slow progress

ha. Ha. Ha. Ha ha ha. Between the aforementioned plants plus the challenge of moving upwards in really fluffy not so kickable snow, it took me almost two hours to go the mile from where I left the road to the summit. (It had taken me 40 minutes to that point and only 1:10 from the summit all the way back to the car…)

Finally, I attained the ridge and realized it was all worth it. I could see all the way to the La Sal Mountains in Utah, way out onto Grand Mesa (even spotted Leon Peak!), an amazing view of the Battlements, and sweet views of the Roan Cliffs around me.

Ridgeline

It didn’t take me long to walk up the ridge to the true summit. I’d worked hard to get to this summit but the whole time I felt capable, strong, and confident and on top of that, to be rewarded with this view? Amazing.

Twin Peaks Panorama Views Excitement selfie

On the way out, I was tired but made good time. My pants were drenched and I was ready to get a shower ASAP!

Descent Look back to Twin Peaks

De Beque, Colorado: Castle Rock

Looking for a quick Friday afternoon hike, Sprocket and I set off towards Castle Rock (5,200+’). We drove as close as snow covered roads would allow (which was actually pretty close, I guess it’s the one benefit of oil drilling activity around here? It certainly beats in roads!).

Friday adventure.

After traveling cross country for awhile, we ran into a snow-covered road and followed it south to the base of Castle Rock, passing some sweet rock walls that looked much brighter than usual against the white snow.

Castle Rock

Rock formations

Castle Rock

Desert in winter

The closer I got to the rock, the more I started to doubt whether I’d be able to summit it. As much as I tried to pretend that my goal for the day was to be out in the sun and snow (and it was, kind of!), I couldn’t deny that I wanted to get a February summit in the books sooner rather than later.

Castle Rock

As I reached the base of the tower at its southeastern corner, my hopes fell even further. I walked around the rock counter clockwise, looking up at the northwestern side and thought, no way is this happening:

Nope. Not going up here

This rock on the western side looked really promising but with snow, wet boots (and boots at all!), and pretty much nothing to hold on to I wasn’t going to be making any progress here either.

Maybe here?

I got to the southern corner/face and pondered this for awhile because this looks totally reasonable to scramble alone on crumbly wet shit in snowboots, right?

Castle Rock

ADORABLE Castle summit register

Well, I did it (sorry, Mom). I was delighted by this AWESOME castle summit register and the views were incredible. I didn’t stay on top long because Sprocket was having a panic attack about what he perceived was a VERY BAD PLAN and the longer I stayed up there the more I was agreeing with him and worrying a little bit about getting down safely. (The up is always easier than the down…)

But mostly, I’d say I was psyched about the whole thing:

Summit Selfie

So basically, Castle Rock is falling apart. As I descended, I realized that very little is holding the top of the rock on so definitely approach this one at your own risk!

Summit

We were running a little late on getting back to De Beque for a meeting but we hustled back to Ruth and on the way, I think Sprocket forgave me for “abandoning” him for my perhaps ill-advised climb.

De Beque, Colorado: Mt. Low

Climbing Mt. Garfield had me scheming of what other summits I could grab this winter even with snow on the ground. With a large snowstorm predicted, I decided to head up Mt. Low (5,801′). Mt. Low stands immediately above De Beque which meant I’d spend very little time traveling and more time out hiking the impending snow.

Mt. Low

I couldn’t find any information about Mt. Low (which I have seen as Mt. Law somewhere but of course I can’t find that now) so this was all just a giant experiment. My thought was to head up one of the ridges coming off the summit and then shoot for a break in the cliffs—pretty typical desert country sort of thing.

Mt. Low

Sprocket was having a much better time sniffing deer and rabbit tracks than this photo makes it appear that he was:

Sprocket

Mt. Low selfie (Beth)

Forever Buddy Sprocket

“Hey, Mom? I think I need a boost.”

Boost please. Sprocket

Summit

We sat at the stop for a bit taking in the views and procrastinating on getting laundry, house cleaning, grading, and other mundane life tasks.

Summit Selfie

Summit Sprocket

De Beque Canyon

As we descended, a little snow began to fall and I realized that each of my boot prints had a perfect Sprocket stamp. <3

<3 Paw in boot print

Pyramid Rock: Final Summit of 2015

New Year’s Eve morning, I woke up to a glorious sunny day. I was just 0.4 miles shy of 200 miles hiked on summit hikes in 2015 and I decided to head up to a local summit to round out the year and enjoy the sunshine. Sprocket, as always, was very excited with this plan so we headed out into the hills.

V 2/10 Road

We made our way to a ridge that looked like it would go fairly easily and started making our way up towards the summit. The views got better and better and being out in the crisp winter air was the perfect way to wind down 2015. The sparkles were everywhere and there wasn’t a hint of darkness to be found.

Ridgeline

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I had debated at the car whether or not to wear snowshoes and I’m glad I didn’t. The snow was only ever more than 5″ deep once (and then I managed to bury myself up to my waist) and I was glad I didn’t wear them.

Hiking with the best dog

We walked across a small flat area and then made couple of small scrambly moves among the snowy rocks and found myself at the summit.

Summit Selfie

Summit views

Final summit of 2015

Summit views

Panorama

When we got back to Ruth, I was in such a wonderful mood. I had planned to spend a low key New Year’s at home with Sprocket and decided that was not the right choice. I scrambled together a shower and headed home to spend the evening with my friends in Ridgway. <3