Lately in #joyrunning: Sanborn Park

I admit it, I let the grind and the darkness take over for November through January. I was trying not to fall behind on school while working all weekend. It was kind of tough. I holed up in front of the woodstove instead of dragging myself out in the waning daylight.

As always, I suffered with that a bit. Sprocket and I are easing ourselves back into action and our February spring weather snap hasn’t hurt. We headed out to run at the top of Sanborn Park road last week and it was glorious. I wore shorts, just because.

 

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

Gear Review: Mountain Hardware Chockstone Alpine Pant

Last fall when I headed to the Sangre de Cristos to climb Mt. Blanca and Little Bear via the traverse I realized that I should probably find something a little heavier duty than my usual leggings or shorts to wear. I ordered a pair of Mountain Hardware’s Chockstone Alpine pants ($125).* Even before I had them in my hot little hands, I was excited because they came in lengths! Most women’s outdoor pants are only one length while the men’s version will come in short-regular-long.

Aunty Beth and Will

 

Once they arrived, the next thing I noticed was that they fit and that they weren’t ugly. While I know that the look of a pair of outdoor pants shouldn’t be a huge factor but it’s really nice to not feel like you’re wearing a burlap sack, you know? The pants are roomy enough to comfortably wear a baselayer underneath and not feel at all restricted but yet they do have some curves so you still look like a woman. I do live in Western Colorado and clothing choices that would not fly elsewhere work here but I’ve never thought twice about going out to dinner wearing them.

Photo Kami, Follow The Bear Tracks
Photo: Kami, Follow The Bear Tracks

More importantly, they’re functional. I think the highest praise I can give them is that when I’m wearing the Chockstone pant, I don’t think about them. They move with me which is most important. I’ve never been a “hiking pant” fan preferring instead to hike in shorts or leggings but I really needed to add this option (and level of protection) to my wardrobe. Although it isn’t advertised, they seem to be somewhat water resistant, at least in dry Colorado and Utah snow conditions. The softshell material seems to breath well in high activity situations which is fantastic. Furthermore, the stout fabric isn’t just great for rocky situations but for bushwacking.

image

I’ll probably purchase another pair of these (when my size comes back on the Mountain Hardware website; I hope, hope, hope these aren’t being discontinued but instead just waiting for new colors or such for spring?!) soon since I often find myself wearing these Friday-Saturday-Sunday on adventures.

Lake Como

While the pants might be overkill for many casual hikers, if you enjoy active snowsports (cross country skiing, snowshoeing) or more than a few times a year find yourself scrambling around on rocky slopes or pushing your way through scrub oak (aka Rocky Mountain Shoulder Season Shit) these might be worth the price to you, they certainly have been to me.

*Note: These are not the “Chockstone Midweight Pant.” I haven’t tried these but I believe they’re lighter weight than the Alpine.

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

Cross Country Skiing: Grand Mesa

Sprocket and I decided to follow up our hike of Mt. Garfield with an afternoon of cross country skiing on Grand Mesa. Sprocket had missed out on my first cross country ski adventure due to doctors orders so he was still anxious to get outside and play when he saw the snow boots:

Sprocket and shoes

He was ON my shoulder the whole way up to the Mesa and when we arrived at the County Line ski parking lot he was all worked up and ready to run! 

Cuddle dog

There were quite a few people leaving the parking lot at the same time and Sprocket was just excited to see people all over the place. He hardly seemed to notice all the skis and poles around (can you believe this is really his first experience with skis of any type??) and was, in typical Sprocket fashion, happy to see people but also happy to take off down the trail in front of the crowd.

Sprocket Cross Country Skiing

Once he figured out what I was doing, he trotted happily in front of me. (And he somehow knew to stay out of the groomed tracks?)

Happy Dog

Sprocket's first Cross Country Ski Adventure

We headed out to a viewpoint, looking south over Delta towards the San Juans. This photo does nothing to show how amazing this view was.

Delta, Sneffles Range, Black Canyon

Beth selfie with views

Taking in the views

After taking a few photos, Sprocket got impatient and sent his message loud and clear “Mommy, let’s GO”:

Sprocket Nose

In all, we went about six miles before heading back down the Mesa to De Beque.

Driving down the mesa

I think I tired out the puppy.

Tired dog

Snowshoeing: West Fork of the Cimarron

From Ridgway, the Cimarrons look like a single ridge but what is visible from town is really the two ridges that surround the West Fork of the Cimarron. This basin is astoundingly beautiful and isn’t that hard to get to, provided that in the winter you have access to a snowmobile. The basin is accessed from Owl Creek Pass which is groomed from the Forest Service boundary on the west side (Ridgway) down to Silver Jack Reservoir and parking on the east side.

When a plan was hatched to go snowshoeing in the basin a small problem was presented: there were three people and one snowmobile. Turns out, that if one person is willing to brave some bruises and an awkward ride (ahem, that person was…me), crazier things have happened.

As silly as the ride to the basin was, just being in the basin was the highlight of the day. Initially, we’d hoped to head up Courthouse Mountain but with an unsettled snowpack, we decided to spend our time in the shadow of Dunsinane, Precipice Peak, Redcliff, Coxcomb, and an unnamed 12er.

Snowshoeing, West Fork Basin

Not only were our views of the peaks immediately surrounding us awesome, but so were the views north towards the Elks and Mount Lamborn.

Views to the Elks and Lamborn

As we climbed higher into the basin the views just got better and better. The sky was an amazing amazing blue and the temperatures were perfect for ambling around the snow.

West Fork Basin

Cimarron Basin

Carefully, we made our way through the trees to the western rim of the basin between Courthouse and UN 12725. I always love getting up above Ridgway; while the Sneffels Range and the Cimarrons are very visible it’s really easy to forget that Utah’s La Sal and Abajo Mountains aren’t very far away. Even the Henry Mountains are visible south of Hanksville, Utah.

Beth

Ridgway

Ridgway

After enjoying the view, we descended back into the basin and headed back to the snowmobile. It’s been a long time since I’ve done almost five miles on snowshoes and my legs were feeling it! It didn’t help that my snowshoes are designed for snowshoe running and are a bit small for the task of tromping around in powdery stuff but the day was so glorious I didn’t care one bit.

Cimarrons

New Adventure!: Cross Country Skiing!

A few weeks ago, I somewhat impulsively bought a cross country ski package on eBay. I had no idea if it was a really good deal but $230 to my door for the whole package seemed tough to pass up, especially when my other winter wishlist purchases came with a much bigger price tag (AT ski gear, mountaineering boots and crampons for ice climbing). They shipped out right away and I waited anxiously all week for them to arrive.

Cross country skis

Unfortunately life intervened (Sprocket had surgery, I had some Saturday teacher duties, and a friend and I went snowshoeing) and I had to put off trying it for a week.

I found myself kind of nervous as I put my boots on at the car. Why? I have no clue…

Cross Country Skiing

Ironton, Colorado

Last Saturday it was finally time to give them a spin. I headed to Ironton, just south of Ouray on US 550 where there is a groomed Nordic area that I know to be fairly flat. I put on my boots, patted a very sad activity restricted dog, and set out on the main loop having nary a clue what I was doing.

Ironton, Colorado

It didn’t really matter. Although I don’t think I ever found a really good rhythm and the downhills were tricky, I couldn’t complain. It was the first time I’d ever stopped to see Ironton townsite, I was surrounded by 13,000′ mountains, and the late afternoon sun was shining. I made two big loops and one repetition of an out and back for almost 5 miles of awkward shuffling around.

Ironton bridge

My words can’t do the scene justice but I know that this is going to become a regular part of my winter fitness regimen! And continue me down the path of Jill of all trades, master of none, hehe.

Ironton sunset winter

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

image

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

West Baldy

Here’s some photos from a hike Sprocket and I took at the end of March that somehow I just never got around to blogging.

Sprocket really enjoyed just walking along San Miguel County Road 62X sniffing everything!

County Road 62X

County Road 62X

Snowshoes on the pack rather than on my feet was pretty standard this winter:

Snowshoes on pack, shadow

On the far left in the distance are the Abajo Mountains near Monticello, Utah and on the right horizon are the La Sal Mountains above Moab (nearly impossible to see in the middle are the Henry Mountains but they’re there too):

West Baldy

Horsefly Peak:

West Baldy

West Baldy

Sneffles Range:

Sneffels Range