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

Tacoma at Christmas: Sledding at Snoqualmie Pass

The day after Christmas, my sister and I decided to take all three of the boys up to Snoqualimie Pass to play in the snow. She said that Will and Kevin (the middle one and the little) didn’t really remember snow so we figured they’d like some sledding and playing in the fluffy white stuff.

They were a little rambunctious on the ride up (Will’s face just says it all about his older brothers…) but they were super excited when we hit snowline just outside of North Bend.

Nephews

Kevin (aka Junior)’s excited face selfie:

Junior

I kind of sent the two older boys to the first pile of snow I saw and they promptly lost gloves and got buried in waste deep powder. Fortunately, Junior was wearing my GoPro and captured some of the carnage.

GoPro

Will and Aunty Beth

The sledding hill that was going on was a little bit intense. There was a giant bump in the middle that none of the adults appeared interested in addressing. Andrew and Junior both tried it a couple of times and then they were pretty done with it.

Digging

Andrew made friends with another little boy who had a shovel and he proceeded to spend the rest of his time in the snow making tunnels and forts.

Junior and Andrew

Will

Junior mostly belly crawled around in the powdery snow.

Brothers

Digging

Will wasn’t totally sure about this whole snow thing but eventually he figured out that being pulled around in the sled was kind of fun.

Aunty Beth and Will

Eating snow

Sledding

Junior

We left with a very tired crew of boys who wrapped up the fun with some “Mick and Donalds” and headed back to Tacoma!

Summer! Roadtrip!: Part 3

After meeting up with Amanda, we adventured in the Bookcliffs and then again on Pinõn Mesa. Since we were right by Colorado National Monument we needed to at least go and do Rim Rock Drive.

I’ve done the drive before but it was a lot of fun to do it with someone who got so excited about the views! Since my iPhone camera did so well with the gorgeousness, it’s going to be awesome to see what Amanda came away with!

Colorado National Monument

We ran down to get gas in Fruita and returned to shadows forming in Monument Valley:

Colorado National Monument

The decision was made to head back down for sunrise and while I’m not a morning person, it’s hard to ever regret spending sunrise in nature:

Colorado National Monument

After sunrise proper, I headed down to Grand Junction and spent some time blogging at Trailhead Coffee (it was a super chill place to hang out for a couple of hours!). Then it was time to head off to Grand Mesa! Unfortunately, Lands End Road was still closed so we had to go up and down the Mesa via Cedaredge instead of making it a loop.

Grand Mesa 3D Map

As of last Tuesday (June 2nd) there was still a lot of snow around. Sprocket didn’t mind and gave himself a fantastic snow bath!

Grand Mesa lakes

Roadtripping with Amanda

Sprocket on Grand Mesa

The views from the Mesa are always pretty darn fantastic:

Descending from Grand Mesa

Since there was so much snow and only one pair of snowshoes between us, we headed on to the north rim of the Black Canyon. More on that Monday!

What Happened To My Sunshine?

This spring has been … challenging in the weather department.

After a warm, dry winter (although less dry than California and not as warm as the Pacific Northwest), I was looking forward to early high season access. And then came May.

It will not stop being stormy, windy, and rainy! And perhaps just as bad, snow keeps accumulating at the higher elevations.

Red Mountain Pass Snowtel 5/24

I’m really not kidding. Check out these two graphs from the Grand Junction NWS office:

NWS Wet Spring 2015

 

2015 Wet Spring

So yeah, it’s been wet and windy.

I’ve had work to do on the Jeep but taking out the back window seems a bit risky when I can hardly find a three hour window to work on it when it’s dry. I went for it yesterday and now Francis is wearing a diaper until it quits raining again. I guess that’s a plus of living in De Beque next school year: my house has a garage.

Francis without rear window

I grew up in the Pacific Northwest but living in sunny Colorado (well, sunny up until lately anyway) has made me soft: I haven’t gotten out out hiking much and after winter I’m pretty over working out indoors.

All things considered though, cuddling with this pup isn’t too bad:

IMG_2878.JPG

Snow! Finally!

I know this winter has been a weird or bad one for a lot of the country. Boston and a good chunk of the North East is buried. California’s wildfire season may start tomorrow considering their very low snowpack (with the Northwest not far behind). Even the south is getting hit with a winter storm right now.

Here in Colorado, we had no snow in town at 7,000′ and most of our south facing slopes up to almost 12,000′ were getting patchy. They were calling for some snow and although during my hike with Sprocket Saturday it looked like the snow might actually be coming it didn’t materialize before I went to bed that night.

I woke up Sunday morning to some wet, heavy snow falling. I had to go up to Ouray and when I returned, I shoveled about 3″ from my driveway and headed inside. It never seemed to snow hard but it snowed pretty constantly the rest of the day. I got a phone call as I was getting in bed that school would be delayed 2 hours the next morning. I shut off my alarm (Sprocket would be alarm enough with a delay!) and went to bed.

In the morning, I learned school was canceled. There were about 16″ of snow on the ground and it was time to get shoveling.

FSJ in the snow. February 2015

Shoveled driveway

Sprocket with snow on nose

Clinton Street

Last Dollar Road: Hastings Mesa

Saturday morning Sprocket and I headed out to get in a bit of an adventure before the snow blew in. (As it turns out, it held out until Sunday mid-day and then it hit but that’s a story for tomorrow.) We drove out to the end of winter maintenance on Last Dollar Road and headed out for a jaunt along the road. Last Dollar is fairly heavily used by snowmobiles so I didn’t even need to use my snowshoes as we ambled along the road, enjoying the view.

Sprocket on Last Dollar Road

Last Dollar Road is a fun place with views towards the Wilsons (and yes, I totally think, “I’ve climbed those!” when I look over there) and Lone Cone:

Wilson Group

And then you look on the western flanks of the Sneffles Range at North Pole Peak and it’s brethren:

Sneffels Range: North Pole Peak

Hastings Mesa panorama

Beth Summit Selfie

As we were heading back to the trailhead, it appeared clouds were gathering but it felt so good to be out wandering with Sprocket.
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Views Aspens, Last Dollar Road

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Thanksgiving 2014: Connecticut Peak Bagging

Thanksgiving morning I headed for the airport bright and early. After grabbing a spot in the second to the last row of the economy parking, I watched the sunrise from inside the DIA terminal and let myself feel a little bit sad that I wouldn’t be watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade with some coffee and Bailey’s. All things considered, I was super excited to be headed to see Lucy and Franz get married and have a bit of an adventure.

DIA sunrise

Adventure? In Connecticut?

Yeah, I’d decided since I was spending all the money on a plane ticket and rental car that I might as well create a bit of a challenge for myself. I decided that I would try to hit all eight Connecticut pseudo-county highpoints along with the wedding in the 48 hours I’d be in the state. (They’re pseudo-counties because Connecticut dissolved them as governing bodies in 1960.)

After landing at Bradley, I got my rental car and immediately headed for South Johnson Hill, the highpoint of Hartford county. I arrived at the trailhead around 6pm, donned my headlamp, put on my snowpants, and headed out for a dark and snowy walk. The quiet and peacefulness was really appreciated after a long day of travel. (Seriously, this post can be summarized as “snowy selfies.”)

Summit of South Johnson Hill

I’d been pretty lucky with my travel plans as the state had gotten pretty hammered with a big winter storm the day before. The storm had left a lot of people without power as trees lost branches. As I walked back to my car, I saw flashing lights near the trailhead. Initially, I was pretty sure that I was going to be ticketed for parking at the end of the road even though it was clearly plowed out as a trailhead parking area. Turns out it was just a power company truck fixing some lines.

As I drove towards the trailhead for Mt. Frissell, I started looking for food. At about 7pm on Thanksgiving night in rural Connecticut (and Massachusetts) I wasn’t really sure what I would find. Fortunately, I located a Dunkin’ Donuts and snacked on a bagel and cream cheese as I continued out to the trailhead. It occurred to me that there was a good chance that the snow would be more than I wanted to tackle without boots or snowshoes but I put the decision off until morning. Once I arrived at the trailhead, I crawled into the back of my rental car and got to sleep.

 

Car sleeping

In the morning, I got out of the car to investigate the conditions. It was a really hard decision to make but faced with four mile postholing hike without appropriate footwear when I had a wedding that promised a fair amount of awesome dancing coming up that night I decided it was best if I put aside my adventure goals to be sure I was more fresh for the real point of the trip: the wedding.

Deep snow

 

I headed out for the next high point in Fairfield County. The drive took me into New York State and was absolutely gorgeous. It was a bright, bluebird winter day and cruising around and seeing the small towns was making me so happy.

Welcome to New York?

Winter driving The Fairfield County Highpoint:

Fairfield County Highpoint

From there it was off to the Southwest Lindsley Peak Hills of New Haven County:

Southwest Lindsley Peak Hills

 

After that quick jaunt, I decided I had time to squeeze in Middlesex County’s Bald Hill Range. It created a little backtracking for the next day but I was worried about time before catching my plane. I’m so glad I did. Friday had better weather than Saturday and it was a gorgeous walk through the woods!

Trail to Bald Hill Range

Bald Hill Range

Then it was wedding time! After a quick sponge bath in a McDonalds bathroom (seriously, I guess I’m still a dirtbag at heart), I made myself presentable and headed out to celebrate with my friends. Congratulations you two. You’re an adorable, awesome couple. And you threw one heck of a dance party.

Franz & Lucy Wedding

I got a late start the next morning. Since I’d already blown the goal of hitting all the highpoints for the weekend, I figured it was way more important to spend some more time relaxing at Lucy’s parents with the newlyweds and their families. After a leisurely morning, I drove off to Gates Hill, a rather unimpressive roadside stop:

Gates Hill

I reasoned I had time for one last stop, Windham County’s Snow  Hill. I wasn’t sure what the snow conditions would be like and if I’d be able to drive my rental car up near the summit. As it turned out I had to park near the highway and hike a mile each way. I start to get antsy on days that I’m flying about getting to the airport on time and it was reaching that point. I started up the rutted icy road fretting a bit about making this happen. I decided that my mood would be drastically improved if I turned it into a bit of a run. I was wearing my TurboDown so I’m sure that my plane-mates for the rest of the day didn’t really appreciate it but sometimes you just need to go for it!

Snow Hill

All in all, I made it to the wedding, danced my face off, and got 6 of 8 county highpoints. I’ll be back for that slope point on Mt. Frissell and also for little Burley Hill!

Piñon Mesa Ridge

Sunday Sprocket and I drove up to Grand Junction to do a bit of shopping. I wish I would have had the stroke of brilliance just another hour earlier but at about 2pm I decided I’d had enough of the “city” and decided to head for Piñon Mesa—the prominence point of Mesa County. As it turned out, the short mid-November day was too short to accommodate about 13 miles of snowy driving and the short, but partially off trail, hike to the summit. I’ll definitely be back though—I couldn’t believe how close the La Sals and the Abajos looked from here!

Road to Pinon Mesa

Grand Valley

Snow and sunshine

Sprocket

Even though we didn’t get to the summit, walking through the cold, crisp sunlight made my heart so happy. Spending some time outside with Sprocket doing a bit racing and laughing through the snow and a little quiet staring off in the distance was just what I needed.

View from Pinion Mesa ridge

Snow and sunshine

Late afternoon. Early winter.

Sprocket

Sunset over Grand Valley

Courthouse Mountain

My friend Kristin came to town a couple of weeks ago for a visit (Krisin featured me in a Writer Wednesday post last year and did a guest post here about cross country skiing). I had hoped to drive her over one of our high mountain passes but the snow arrived just three days before she did. Ridgway, however, has a lot to offer so I started her out Friday evening with pizza and a beer at Colorado Boy and later we walked over to Trail Town Still (aka “The Still”) for a drink.

In the morning, we relaxed around the house with coffee looking out at the morning chill (I cannot wait to have my house cozy enough that this isn’t taking place in camp chairs!). Mid-morning, we headed up Owl Creek Pass to hike Courthouse Mountain. Courthouse has been on my list for a long time! It sits right above Ridgway and I look at it everyday. (Yes, it’s going to take me awhile but I do intend to climb all of them that I can see from town.)

Sprocket on Courthouse Trail

I was a little bit concerned with how snowy it might be on the trail but decided to forge ahead with the plan anyway. It was such a lovely day with the snow dusting all of the mountains around us. Sprocket was loving the snowy trail and urged us to keep moving upwards.

Kristin and Sprocket in sunglassesThe views just kept getting better as we looked out over the West Fork basin.

West Fork Cimarron River

Courthouse trail

Sometimes, I think Kristin was less than pleased at what passes for a “trail” in Colorado but she kept with it.

Kristin on Courthouse
And the views were worth every bit of the mud, snow, and elevation gain. I can see myself coming back to this mountain frequently. I don’t think Sprocket will mind:

Summit of Courthouse Mountain

Sneffels range from Courthouse Mountain

Courthouse Summit

Courthouse summit selfie

Sprocket on the summit of Courthouse

Slopes of Courthouse Mountain