Colorado July 2013
Dates: July 18 - July 27, 2013
People: Mark, Luke, Jonah, Seth, Denny, Marcia, David
- 7-18 (Travel Day)
- 7-19 (Quandary Peak)
- 7-20 (Travel Day)
- 7-21 (Mt. Wilson)
- 7-22 (Wilson Peak)
- 7-23 (Mt. Sneffels)
- 7-24 (Kilpacker Basin/El Diente)
- 7-25 (Chicago Basin)
- 7-26 (Mt. Eolus)
- 7-27 (Travel Day)
THURSDAY JULY 18
Colorado 2013 for myself began with leaving the house with Sarah for the airport at about 4:30pm. She was ultimately heading for Chicago, I was heading for Denver via the airport. She dropped me off at DTW a little after 5pm. I made it through check-in and security without any trouble. I found myself pretty hungry already, and knowing I didn't get into Denver til late I figured I needed to fill up while in Detroit. So I walked down to Villa Pizza and grabbed a slice of meat-lovers pizza. I sat down by the gate for awhile to eat and to read my book for the week, Annapurna by Maurice Herzog. I was still hungry 30 minutes later so I walked down to McDonald's and got a snack and drink. I headed back to our gate which was still pretty crowded.
A little after 7 local time I started watching our flight which was supposed to come from Chicago. Takeoff time came and went. As I watched more we come to find out a big storm in Chicago had delayed things. The flight would end up taking off about 45 minutes late. Adding another 10 minutes to go the long way around the storm and it ended up arriving in Detroit about 55 minutes late. The gate officer was kind of funny. He took a informal vote of everyone on the Denver fligh at our gate, asking if we wanted the stewardesses to take the time to clean the plane before we boarded. All but 4 people voted no. Of course this may not have made any difference but it was humorous he asked it with the hopes of getting us out quicker. It was nearly 7:20pm by the time we actually took off. The last estimate was we'd make some time up but would still arrive in Denver about 30 minutes late. In flight went smoothly. I sat next to an older woman who I helped out with a few things as we went. We ended up arriving at the gate in Denver about 10:10pm, almost an hour late. I rushed on down to baggage and when that arrived rushed on out to the Rental Buses Lane. I just caught the Advantage guy before he took off. It took awhile before we actually got out to the Rental Area as he also had to go over to the West Terminal and sit for 5-10 mins to see if anyone showed. The lady at the Advantage counter was perfect. Asked the basic questions including about their over-priced coverage and mileage, but wasn't pushy at all when I declined and had me through there pretty quick.
I was heading out in my Chevy Malibu rental at about 11pm with some showers coming down as I motored through Denver. As I entered the mountains the showers stopped. Traffic slowed near Idaho Springs as they had a bunch of construction going on. I made it to the condo in Frisco at 12:30am. They left the door unlocked for me so I entered with everyone else asleep. I spent about 30 minutes getting all my luggage and gear resituated for the morning hike. I was finally falling asleep about 1am with a 4:30am wake-up scheduled.
FRIDAY JULY 19
We were successful with the 4:30am wakeup. I was somewhat concerned how the boys would wake up to get ready for the hike. Luke got up well. He had actually awoken with me at 3:30am when I got up for the bathroom, but I told him another hour of sleep was in order. Seth also got up on his own when he heard us. I woke Jonah up and he was pretty easy to rouse as well. We cleaned all our stuff out of the condo and into the vehicles and were on the road by 5:05am. It was an uneventful drive to the Quandary Peak TH.
We were out sometime around 2:10pm and the skies were looking a little better. After the hike we were pretty hungry so we decided to picnic in the lower parking lot to fill up the hungry tummies. There was leftover sandwich meat and bread in the cooler as well as a few other snacks. Dad and I partook of some Coors light we had stashed in the back end. After filling up on the goodies we hopped in the two vehicles and started on the road to Denver.
The drive to Denver was exhausting, at least for me. I was indeed running on 3 1/2 hours of sleep and now almst 8 hours of hiking as well. 2 of the 3 boys at least go well deserved naps and only Luke managed to stay awake for the drive. We checked in at the Sleep Inn DIA for the night. The six of us all packed into a 2-queen room and with lots of gear and luggage. We walked over to the KFC/A&W restaurant nearby for supper. We were hopeful the boys would get some swimming in this night but the hotel had the pool closed for repairs. In fact, they had the pool completely drained of water so we knew that wasn't happening. At about 8:30pm or so I drove my rental car back to DIA and Dad picked me up at the Advantage Car Rental at the airport. We got Mom and the boys all packed up tonight for the early run to the airport in the morning.
SATURDAY JULY 20
We had everyone awakened at about 6:40am today to get the group going to the airport. We did breakfast in the hotel just a bit after 7. It was a very generic continental with cereal, toast, donuts, and juice. It was 7:35am when we left for the airport. We decided to all go together for this to help Mom out with the boys. We parked in the garage in the east terminal. It was $3/hour which seemed somewhat reasonable.
Upon making it inside Southwest had a sizable line and it was past 8am now for their 9:20am flight. When we checked the boys booster seats they had us drag them to a cart for oversized luggage, which surprised us, as the boosters were considerably smaller than the suitcases. We helped them as far as getting into the security line and then said our good byes. Dad and I hopped on the escalators to the 2nd level in the terminal and waited and watched the others while they made it through security. As they ran the group's bags through the xray machines we noticed they stopped the belt. The TSA agent looking called another agent over to check something out. They then pulled Seth's backpack off the belt and checked it out. We could see the TSA agent pull out a small blue squirt gun and that was what had caught their attention. Mom later told me eventually the agent smiled about it, but did comment that he probably shouldn't play with that on the plane.
Dad and I headed back to the Explorer and back to the hotel. It was just past 9am when we got back which gave us several hours to sit back and relax. Dad worked on e-mails while I popped the TV on. On the Nat Geo channel I found an intriguing show called Ultimate Survival Alaska. Each episode follows 8 explorers who are given 72 hours to go from point A to point B while demonstrating various survival tactics. We ended up watching 2 1/2 episodes while we remained in the hotel. I took some time during the 2nd episode to go sort out gear in the Explorer and fix that up for our trip. Just before noon, with our late check-out, we got things loaded and filled the cooler with ice to head out. We did lunch at the Taco Bell/Long John Silver's just down the road. We had lots of time so we decided to do groceries now and hit the Safeway for that armed with David's list as well. We still had another hour+ to kill after Safeway so we decided to head into the airport, park, and just walk around. Dad walked several laps in the baggage and check-in areas while I sat back and read. David's flight thankfully came in about 15 minutes early, about 2:15pm, which bought us some extra time. We helped him and his bags back to the Explorer in the garage and we hit the road.
The drive out of Denver met us with much traffic. We debated whether to do I70 to Grand Junction or US285 to 50 to Montrose. The 285 route through the mountains was 32 miles shorter but I70 was arguably about 5 minutes faster. We opted for the cross-country route. We made quick time through the mountains and South Park. We decided we were going close enough to Bob and Joyce's cabin that we ought to stop in for a few minutes. We called ahead and made plans to stop in for no more than 10 minutes. We did so, Bob was very involved in a VHF radio contest. We talked to Joyce for almost 20 minutes and Bob stopped for the last 5 to say hi. Our next stop wouldn't be til Gunnison where we hit another Taco Bell. It was after 7pm at this point so we were pretty hungry. In true Taco Bell fashion they botched our order up good forgetting one item, putting wrong ingredients on two others. I did the driving for awhile after Gunnison while we ate in the car. I drove til we hit Montrose where we stopped to fill up with gas.
Montrose was a pretty large town with quite a few shopping options and a jam-packed drive-in movie theater we passed. Dad drove again after Montrose. We stopped one more time in Ridgway to buy some over-priced gallon jugs of water to keep in the Explorer. The road up to the Rock of Ages trailhead was fairly easy to follow with the directions we had. It was an excellent 2-lane dirt road to start, but as it climbed it eventually became a single-lane and very rocky road. We started passing the designated NFS sites, the 1st two were open, the latter 5 were taken. Ultimately we drove to the trailhead. As we neared the trailhead we passed an opening that appeared as though it would work to camp. We drove back to that and found a relatively flat spot and we set up camp. It was nearing 11pm when we setup camp. The spot for the tent wasn't completely flat, and it did seem to have a dip in the middle that David commented on both nights there, but we made it work.
SUNDAY JULY 21
It was late last night when we finally got down, but we also knew today was going to be a long haul, so we opted to get up at 3:30am for the hike. In hindsight we probably should have even moved it to 3am but we already had such little sleep. We also had David working on only about 12 hours of acclimation at this point so we would only push it so far. Nevertheless, I slept amazingly last night even though it was another 4 hour or so night. I also usually don't sleep well before difficult class 3/4 hikes and yet this night found me well, a good sign. We were ready in good time and hit the trailhead at 3:55am to start.
We were back at camp at 3:23pm. The flies and bugs were terrible. It was miserable to stand outside. At times we would bail into the Explorer and watching the flies buzzing around the window. Other times we would just crash in the tent to escape. We did share some ice cold Coors upon our return from the hike which tasted great, but in hindsight was probably a bad idea, as my stomach was near empty and the dehydrating factor of the beer added to the slight headache I had.
I spent the first few hours after the hike just miserable. The flies were everywhere and I was just not feeling great. I tried to read but was just too tired to do anything, so I ended up sleepign for about an hour. We all did David's MRE's for supper. David went first and showed us how they worked and he scarfed down a spaghetti MRE in no time at all. As miserable as I felt this did look pretty tasty. I finally had David help start one up for me. I nursed the warm spaghetti portion of it for the better part of a half hour between walking around outside and sitting in the Explorer. If I ate too fast I'm sure my stomach wouldn't have taken it. As I finished it and the package of pretzels I was starting to feel better. Dad tried the brisket MRE and found that one also to be quite tasty. The evening passed without much event as we were recuperating and dodging flies in every waking moment. We were all in the tent and heading to sleep by 9pm.
MONDAY JULY 22
We moved today's wake-up 30 minutes later than yesterday's knowing that today's hike wouldn't be quite as long. As we woke we were surprised that all of our legs weren't shot from yesterday's long haul. This was good news. We were up and going on the trail back to Rock of Ages at 4:23am.
When we returned to camp the flies were as bad as always and so we set out to do one thing: get out of there fast. We tossed gear in the car, we rolled up sleeping bags, tore down the tent and just chucked it in the back end as quick as we could to flee the flies. When we were finally able to drive off we may have had several dozen buzzing away in the car. So we drove with the windows open for awhile as we left and this solved the problem. It was interesting seeing all the scenery along the forest roads that we missed in the dark on the drive in. We did the drive out to Ridgway as we had done a few nights previously. Along the way we found ourselves with some amazing views of Sneffels and all the surrounding region near the Dallas Divide. We stopped in a pull-off along the highway to take in these views. We decided that'd be a good place for lunch, though it was passing 3pm. We each ate an entire MRE meal and it was good. We finally made our way into Montrose where we checked into the Econo Lodge. It was a pretty good Econo Lodge based on others I've stayed in. We carried most of our gear inside to sort and repack. David and I headed out to a Little Caesar's that we had seen previously and grabbed two of their hot-n-ready pizzas to munch on for supper. We spent some more time packing up gear for tomorrow as well as getting caught up on current events that we had been missing out on on TV. David was working all evening on getting videos onto YouTube and we were finally able to enjoy watching some of them. We were able to head to bed around 10pm for another night's good sleep.
TUESDAY JULY 23
We woke up around 5:30am this morning. We were nearly all packed last night so there wasn't much to be done this morning. We took our remaining gear out to the Explorer and then were back inside as breakfast opened at 6am. They had the usual cereal, toast, bagels, as well as waffle machines and fresh eggs and tater tots. We were impressed to have this kind of breakfast at an Econo Lodge. We scarfed down what we could and were on the road by 6:10am. It was an easy drive out of Montrose, through Ridgway and then on to Ouray. The turn off towards Yankee Boy Basin came a quarter mile up the hill south of Ouray.
The initial few miles were pretty smooth dirt road and Dad and I remembered this from our attempt of a few years ago. Back then the road had washed out, plus sme poor weather, and we bailed on the thought of going for the summit. Today the morning weather was perfect as was the road. About 3 miles in there were some cliffy sections of the road with big exposure off the side. It was just over 5 miles in when we passed through the "C" section of the road. This is where the road is actually carved into the rock face and there is a rock roof over the road for a 200 foot section or so. We passed by the Revenue Mine area which still looks busy. There were a few patches where they had laid down fresh gravel and it was as yet uncompressed. This would make for a very challenging obstacle for 2WD vehicles. On our drive out later we found that their dump trucks and other vehicles, as well as the day's traffic, had compressed much of the gravel already.
On the drive out we made our way to the beginning of Imogene Pass. We were hopeful this would help us with the short route to Telluride. Its only roughly an 11 mile drive, but that would not help us. We had heard from the guy we talked to with the truck at Sneffel's upper TH that Imogene Pass was easier thank the Yankee Boy Basin road. Well, we didn't make it more than 2 tenths of a mile and had passed through several very difficult rocky sections that we decided to bail. We headed back to the YBB road and drove out to Ouray.
We drove up to Ridgway once again and grabbed gas and some more gatorade. We stopped again at a large viewing place near Dallas Divide to check out Sneffel's and the other nearby peaks. We made it into Telluride at about 4:30pm so that we could get David a quiet place and internet for his online class at 5pm. We found this in the Public Library there which was a wonderfully nice library. We found a room in their upstairs with several chairs and quiet for David's class. During David's class I was able to get a phone call in with Sarah to get the updates from home.
As David's class ended at 7pm we headed for the car and drove out of Telluride. The drive down to Dunton Road was only about 17 miles. Along the way we were treated to some great views of the San Juans including Wilson Peak and Lizard Head. Dunton Road was a 1-lane shelf road for the first 2 miles as it quickly climbed a slope and then headed back away from the highway. As we neared the Kilpacker trailhead we were enjoying the growing sense of remoteness near this trailhead. And indeed, Kilpacker was a gorgeous trailhead. We didn't have much light when we arrived, but enough to find a great spot to setup camp. There was a grove of trees and several places where a car and tent could be put. We met another couple there who had already setup camp. Really nice folks. The gentleman is a 14er finisher of 2010 and had some great stories to tell. They were also ever so kind and helpful in offering water and being good friendly people.
Another gentleman pulled up in his SUV, his name was Paco. He was going to climb El Diente like we were tomorrow so we worked it out for him to climb with us. We ate some more MREs for supper while we talked to everyone and we were in the tent hoping for some shut eye by 9:30pm.
WEDNESDAY JULY 24
The weather report wasn't good for today but we were hopeful it would hold off til close to noon and give us a chance to go for El Diente's summit. We set plans to wake up at 3am to give ourselves as much time as possible to hopefully beat the weather.
It was just after 9:30am when we returned to the TH and thankfully the drizzle had let up and stopped then. The tent was wet and we took it down just enough to put in the rocket box with the hopes of drying it at our hotel in Durango. After camp was packed up we ate some more MREs for lunch, enjoying every last bit of them once again. As we ate the sun almost poked out and we took in more of the amazing views of the meadows and nearby peaks that Kilpacker TH has all around it. We said our good byes to Paco, who was heading to the Rock of Ages TH tomorrow, and made our way to the car and down the road.
Back on the highway we followed CO145 south and then out west to make the long roundabout way to Durango. We made it to Durango around 12:30pm. We checked into the Econo Lodge and they were kind enough to have a room available for us on the first floor with direct access to the parking lot. We carried all of our gear, especially the wet stuff into the room and started sorting things out. Our shoes and socks were put outside to dry. The tent we even set up in the parking lot for a bit to help it dry out. We also began the relatively complicated sorting of gear for our backpacking trek into Chicago Basin. For me at least, its always difficult figuring out what stuff I'll want on the train, what stuff will be wanted for the hike into Chicago Basin, and what stuff can be saved for the 14er hike on Eolus tomorrow.
For supper we headed to downtown Durango. Dad wanted a steak tonight so we parked and walked to the Ore House to check them out. We then discovered their cheapest steak was around $25, and every other entree was in that range and above as well. So we passed. We walked to the Main St. and saw Francisco's which we could recall having eaten at before. We checked out their menu and their specials and they were a slam dunk for us. We went into their Cantina area and they had good drink specials, we all had Dos Equis glasses for just $2.50 a piece. They were also doing half-price appetizers so we got some buffalo wings. Beer, wings, plus chips and salsa was a good start for us hungry hikers. Dad ordered a steak plate for supper and it was exceptional. David and I both did build-your-own-burgers, I had sauteed onions and American cheese, and they too were fantastic. 2 beers and an awesome burger later we were stuffed to the brim and waddling our way out. We walked down to the train station having figured out we could grab our tickets this evening, and we did. After getting tickets we headed back to the hotel, watched some Duck Dynasty and were all asleep by 9pm or so.
THURSDAY JULY 25
We got up this morning and headed for the Durango-Silverton Narrow Guage Railroad station to head into Needleton and Chicago Basin. The rest of today's events are in my Chicago Basin trip report.
FRIDAY JULY 26
Heading out of Needleton we were fortunate to catch an earlier 3:35pm train to Durango, instead of our scheduled 4:05pm train. The earlier train put us into Durango at about 6:05pm. We quickly made our way to the Explorer, loaded up and were on the road to Denver. We stopped for supper in Pagosa Springs at a Taco Bell/KFC and David and I split a 12-case of tacos. Yes, we were hungry. Amazingly, despite eating like horses for a few meals this week I ended up losing almost a pound over the week. As we passed through Wolf Creek Pass we talked about how much snow they usually get and saw some of the avalanche protections put in placea along the pass road. We also saw a handful of deer through here. Dad drove us til Saguache, after dark, where we stopped for gas and I took over. I drove us through Poncha Pass and up past BV through Trout Creek Pass watching carefully for deer. I made it til Fairplay where I had Dad take over again. At that point it was just past 11pm and Dad and I had both mostly been awake for 20 hours. He drove us into Denver and he and I at least were able to listen to the end of a Cubs v Giants game (which they won with 2 runs in the 9th) to keep us alert. We made it to our Cambria Suites hotel near DIA past 1am and were utterly exhausted.
SATURDAY JULY 27
What a short night. After having arrived at the Cambria Suites at almost1:30am and not getting into bed til after 2am it was tough when the alarm went off at 5am. We were shooting to be out the door by 5:30 to get David to DIA for his 7:10am flight. We accomplished this and by quarter to 6am David and I were getting dropped off. On the way David shared the good news with mom that he and Megan are expecting another little one. We said our good byes at the curb and David and I head into checkin. I got my boarding pass but they told me I couldn't check my bag yet as I was more than 4 hours from flight time. So I walked with David til he went into security and then I went for breakfast at Burger King in the terminal. After the 4 hour window lapsed I checked my bag and headed through security. I got out to David's gate about 5 minutes before his flight started boarding, so we chatted for just a bit more.
I headed on to my gate which was C29, but it was at the end of the "C" concourse and the seating was poor in that area, so I grabbed one of the comfy charging seats in a nearby gate to spend my time til my 10:20am flight. As I sat in a gate for a St. Louis flight I watched them all board and thought nothing more of them. Probably some 30+ minutes later I saw the same people coming off the plane back into the gate area. Apparently there was something wrong with the plane and so the people came spilling back out into the gate. I was curious that none of them had boarding passes, so far as I could tell at this point. They ended up moving this St. Louis flight 12 gates down to another gate for boarding. I heard one of the SWA gate employees mention people would be boarding with ID's.
When it came near boarding time I went to my gate and it was crowded! DIA and/or Southwest have crammed 4 gates into the end of this concourse, the lines for C29 and C31 were literally jammed up next to each other and both were boarding simultaneously. They got our flight boarded almost on time, but then we just seemed to sit. There was some late luggage that apparently held us up. By the time we taxi-ed and actually took off we were about 25 minutes late in leaving.
It was tough looking out the window and seeing the mountains and Denver disappear into the distance, and thinking it could be another year before I’m back. The flight to Detroit was mostly uneventful. They did at first think we’d make up some of the late time. I spent the majority of the flight reading and watching Silver Linings Playbook on my S4. As we neared Detroit they came on and said there were storms in the area and they were re-routing us around them which would add 20 minutes time. Watching the cloud formations out the window was pretty spectacular however. We did indeed arrive into gate over 25 minutes late, but that was okay. Sarah and the boys arrived shortly after my baggage did and it was good to be home.