Jackson County Highpoint: Clark Peak

With all my focus on getting the house built, my Colorado county highpoint quest was temporarily delayed. (Over a year has past since I grabbed Pikes and Devils Playground!)

When I managed to find myself with a three day weekend, I started scanning my list deciding where I should go. I finally settled on Clark as a primary objective and getting something else (perhaps a third try at Pettengel) if my old pup was up for two consecutive days of hiking. Clark Peak is not quite a 13er, measuring in at 12,951′ but it does have the dubious distinction of being the “tallest Colorado peak this far north” aka there are no peaks in Colorado north of Clark that are taller. A much less random assertion is that Clark is also the highpoint of the Medicine Bow Range.

I’d heard rumors that the 4×4 road approaching the trailhead to Jewel Lake was in pretty rough shape so when I entered State Forest State Park in the waning daylight hours I didn’t really know what length of hike we were in for the next day. As it turned out, I was able to make it 2/3 of the way up the 4×4 road and on some more examination on the way down from the peak in the morning, I’m pretty sure the obstacle where I stopped was totally do-able by Ruth (although perhaps a spotter would have made me more apt to take it on) and was also the last piece of any consequence on the drive.

The hike up to Jewel Lake went quickly and I refrained from letting Sprocket swim as I wanted him to save his energy for the stiff climb from the lake to the summit (about 1600′ in less than a mile!).

The weather was glorious so we didn’t hustle ourselves too hard up the grassy slopes, pausing frequently to enjoy the view.

I tried to spend some time at the summit but Sprocket seemed anxious to get moving so I took some photos and we started to make our way down the mountain.

Clark Peak marks my 48th highpoint in Colorado. Of the ones I have left Blanca Peak (and its associated slope point) is the highpoint of three counties and Crestone and East Crestone can be combined leaving me with 13 more outings. I’m going to try and get a couple more in 2017 but summer 2018? It’s on.

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 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.

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

image

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

Benchmark

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