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

Ridgway Reservoir Run

My friend Heather is training for her first marathon and I’m always seeing her posts on Facebook about wanting running buddies and it totally kills me; I want to but I’m just too far away for it to be practical most of the time. Last weekend, though, I was in Ridgway so I joined her for a 10 mile run. She left planning the route up to me so I made the most of the fact we’d have two cars and mapped out a route from Ridgway to the north end of Ridgway State Park at Pa-Co-Chu-Puk.

We’re really spoiled with a pathway that runs from Town Park along the river to the State Park that only climbs above the river and near the highway for a short distance. Otherwise, it’s quiet and relaxing down along the Uncompaghre. I’d never run in Ridgway State Park but there are really nice gravel and paved paths that run the whole length of the park!

 

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We ran northbound because the general trend would be downhill but I’m not so sure that’s the best way! The elevation gain would be pretty minimal to go back to town except for the steep climb right at Pa-Co-Chu-Puk which I’d be fine with and then you’d look at these mountains the whole way. Talk about amazing.

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Heather’s been running a lot with her marathon training and I really started to struggle a bit for my ninth mile. I alternated running and walking but was able to push through all of the final mile though. Besides, those aforementioned views didn’t hurt anything.

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After we wrapped up the run, we loaded up the pups in the Jeep (Heather was dog sitting for Meadow) and took them down to the river.

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Sprocket always loves the river:

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After our swim time, we headed back north to get ready for the school week!

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De Beque Canyon Project: Joy Running the Arroyos

As convenient as it is to just walk out the door of your house and start running, I’ve really started to embrace driving a few miles out of town to explore. Sprocket seems to hate running on the road and his pace literally drops minutes when we’re out on the trails.

I have found some good trails but dry washes also make good runs this time of year and provide Sprocket with all the sniffs that he could dream of.

De Beque Running

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This time of year is really busy for school teachers so getting out for happy runs is totally necessary for my sanity and I’m so happy that I have places to do that!

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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: 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

Mt. Garfield: First Summit of 2016

Going into the last weekend of January, I started to panic a little bit. Last year, I’d hoped to summit at least one peak per month, I figure that way I can’t ever get too removed from doing something that really revitalizes me. I didn’t quite make it and scratched in both January and April of last year. Not wanting the same thing to happen this year, needing some good elevation gain, wanting to capitalize on a brilliantly sunny day, and celebrating Sprocket’s return to activity, we headed for Mt. Garfield.

Grand Mesa Sprocket and I had attempted Mt. Garfield last April with Josh but we started too late in the afternoon and the southern facing slopes that make for such amazing winter hiking were way too hot for late April. (We did have a sweet beer sampler at Palisade Brewing so all was not lost.)

Grand ValleyMount Garfield has a reputation for being steep and that reputation is definitely deserved (it gains about 2000′ in a litte under 2 miles). Sprocket and I slowly made our way up the slope enjoying the views to the south that just kept getting better and better.

Beth and Sprocket

Sprocket

Plateau

I found that about 1300′ of the elevation happened in about 0.7 miles, after that the grade flattened out a lot and we made even better time. Sprocket loved the flat snowy sections of the trail.

Hiking Sprocket. Snow

Slopes of Mt. Garfield

Blue sky selfie

Finally, we were almost at the summit. The last bit of elevation gain was on a more northerly aspect so there was a lot more snow. I hadn’t tossed any traction devices in my bag which would have been really nice for the ascent (and especially the descent on this section!) but we made our way up pretty easily.

Summit bowl

Snowy trail

The summit was amazing. I couldn’t see as far into the Book Cliffs (or Roan Cliffs…the nomenclature changes right about on top of Mt. Garfield so I think either is okay) as I thought I might but it was still amazing what I could see: the Book Cliffs stretching off to the west, Battlement and Grand Mesas to the southeast, the Sneffles range to the south, and the Uncompahgre Plateau to the southwest.

Book Cliffs. Roan Cliffs.

Sprocket on summit

Sprocket with Roan Cliffs

After taking in the views, we ran down the trail and made it back to the Jeep pretty quickly. I’m sure this is a hike I’ll do again, the option for snow-free elevation gain in the winter is a huge, huge plus.

Grand Valley

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

Central Eastern Plains Highpoints

I have been very adamant about one goal for 2015: I was going to reach 50% on Colorado’s County High Point list. I spent most of #SummitSummer working to make this a reality. I’d secretly hoped to make it to the 50% mark with “real” highpoints (aka mountains and not flat plains points) but that was just a secret hope. When I’d summited Douglas County’s Thunder Butte that had put me within four high points of my goal. I’d toyed with plans that would have let me get a few of the “real” highpoints before the snow fell but thanks to life, they didn’t quite work out.

But, the goal was still in reach, I had the Eastern Plains in my back pocket and I really hoped to make one of what I figure will be three trips before the end of the calendar year. I got distracted by Christmas things (getting my tree and crafting) and before I knew it, I was down to just two windows of time. Pushing it off until the last second seemed a little bit dumb knowing that a winter storm could roll in and make driving hundreds of miles on dirt roads the opposite of fun so we seized on last weekend.

Shay was kind enough to let Sprocket and I spend Friday night at her place. We got up early on Saturday morning to begin our adventure. Just outside of Byers, we saw a herd of bison then a herd of antelope. I decided this whole flat land thing wasn’t that bad.

Bison

We pulled up to the Washington County High Point, wandered around the side of the road matching up the GPS point with what appeared to be the highest non-road spot and snapped a photo with our new selfie stick; Sprocket was a little bit unsure and is demonstrating pro side-eye.

Washington County Highpoint

Washington County Highpoint

Washington County Highpoint

We headed back to US 36, passing through Last Chance, and headed on to the Yuma County High Point, another road side “attraction.”

Last Chance

We wandered around on the side of the road being sure we touched the high ground and enjoyed the sunshine a bit.

Yuma County Highpoint

Yuma County Highpoint

Yuma County Highpoint

Getting to the Kit Carson County High Point and Overland Benchmark East (the Cheyenne County High Point) was a little interesting. Some of the roads I attempted to travel southward from Flagler were just two-tracks between two fields. The dirt was mostly dry but there was some snow drifted in as deep as 9″ in some places but they were just small and never encompassed both my front and rear tires at once. Since, there were ample turn around possibilities and the snow wasn’t that deep so I just kept pressing forward. Ruth didn’t miss a beat and plowed right through the narrow slushy “drifts” and we eventually made it to a windmill near Kit Carson County High Point. Afterwards, we hiked south to Overland Benchmark East where I reached my 50% Colorado County High Point goal for the year!

Overland Benchmark East

It was only about 12:15 when I got back to the Jeep from Overland BM so we headed south to the Kiowa County High Point. Along the way, we reached a fork in the road.

Fork in the road

And then we found an interesting monument:

Interesting historical monumnet

Somehow, the flat wasn’t boring, just kind of relaxing, actually.

Flat.

We saw some more pronghorn:

Pronghorn

We hiked out from the end of County Road 44 to the Kiowa County High Point and enjoy some pretty views of mountains off to the west.

Kiowa County Highpoint

Kiowa County Highpoint

Kiowa County Highpoint

I knew I was starting to run low on daylight so I sadly had to forgo Crowley County’s High Point in order to reach Lincoln and Elbert’s high points while it was still light (they were fairly directly on my way home).

Lincoln County Highpoint

Returning to the mountains

It felt a little bit like we were racing against dark to get to the Elbert County High Point:

Approaching Elbert County Hihgpoint

But we made it, just as darkness was falling, for our 7th county highpoint of the day.

Elbert County Highpoint

Elbert County Highpoint