Colorado July 2014

Dates: July 13 - July 22, 2014

People: Mark, Sarah, Luke, Jonah, Seth, Denny, Marcia, David


  • 7-13 (Travel Day)
  • 7-14 (Missouri Gulch)
  • 7-15 (Mt. Belford)
  • 7-16 (Snowmass Lake)
  • 7-17 (Snowmass Mountain)
  • 7-18 (Wetterhorn Peak)
  • 7-19 (El Diente Peak)
  • 7-20 (Rest Day)
  • 7-21 (Quandary, Cave, Pikes)
  • 7-22 (Travel Day)


Our flight left at 8:15p. During the afternoon we were getting notes that it would be 30 minutes late. We even left the house with that in mind. As we drove to the airport the flight changed back to being on time and this left us in a rush. We had made plans to park the car at a U.S. Park so that we wouldn't have to worry about rides. We pre-reserved with them and showed up and showed them our printed e-mail and that went well. They shuttled us over to the terminal and we were at the check-ins with perhaps an hour to spare. Security was rough at the north end so they sent a bunch of us to the south end and that was slightly faster. We made it through and had time to hit McDonald's for supper. After grabbing the food we headed on to our gate with about 30 minutes to spare.

Flight out to Colorado went well and the had us in there pretty much on time at 9:30 mountain time. I watched The Lone Ranger and relaxed on the way out. On arrival we grabbed our bags and then hit the rental shuttle over to Dollar Car Rental. We hopped in line quickly with only 1 person ahead of us, another 4-5 hopped in line after us. The line moved pretty slow so we were happy to have hopped in quickly. I asked them at the counter if our "Mid-size SUV" had 4WD and they told me most of them do. They sent us outside and the only car in our row was not 4WD. Oh well.

We hit the road out of the airport and drove a few miles through Denver til we found an exit with a good gas station + store nearby. We found one and headed in to grab some drinks and a nachos snack. Hit the road again and made our way out to Frisco. It was near midnight when we were arriving. Everyone else was asleep so we found our room in the condo, which was one we had stayed in two years ago, ande headed to bed.


Sarah and I were up around 8am and the boys were happy to see us. I chatted and talked with everyone while the boys played and started breakfast. Wanting to get an acclimatization hike in I decided to make a go at Mt. Royal. No one else was up to join so I headed out on my own.

Mt. Royal 2014 is on my Wilderness Wanderings blog

Upon returning I started working with the boys to get their gear ready for the backpacking trip into Missouri Gulch. It was quite the challenge to get three boys and their stuff ready while also trying to focus on the complexity of my gear needs. Not only would I be packing for the 3 days in Missouri Gulch, but also would need the gear for the rest of the week on Snowmass, Wetterhorn, and El Diente. This made things interesting. We had sandwiches for lunch and hit the road sometime after 1pm for the Missouri Gulch Trailhead

Missouri Gulch/Mt. Belford Backpacking is on my Wilderness Wanderings blog


Today's activity is all continued in the Missouri Gulch/Mt. Belford Backpacking on my Wilderness Wanderings blog


Our morning began with the hike out from Missouri Gulch. This again is contained in the blog.

Today's activity is all continued in the Missouri Gulch/Mt. Belford Backpacking on my Wilderness Wanderings blog

Upon making the car we made the drive back out to Clear Creek Reservoir and then US24. It wasn't a long drive then back to Leadville where we met Marcia, Sarah, and David at the Subway. We were about half an hour early. Turns out they were also half an hour early to Leadville in hopes of shopping. We ended up heading into Subway anyways because the hiking group was hungry. I had one of their Applewood Pulled Pork subs and it was terrific. After lunch Marcia and Sarah took the boys and they headed back to Frisco. Denny and I took David by one antique shop in Leadville where he shopped for about 10 minutes while we got caught up on e-mails.

We made the drive back down to Twin Lakes and then up and over Independence Pass. We wanted to hit the trailhead in as good a time as possible so we didn't waste any time on the pass. We rolled through Aspen and then, using Google Maps, took the "shortcut" through Snowmass Village and then down a dirt road at the end of town which put us onto the Snowmass Creek trailhead road just a quarter mile from the TH.

The hike into Snowmass Lake on my Wilderness Wanderings blog


Today began with our hike up Snowmass Mountain and then the descent and the hike out to the trailhead.

Snowmass Mountain hike on my Wilderness Wanderings blog

What an evening. We had returned to the trailhead at 8:30pm after the hike out from Snowmass Lake. We had early aspirations of a supper of MREs at the trailhead, but it was so late now that we just wanted to hit the road. There were some doubts whether we could still do Wetterhorn tomorrow, considering the very long day we had just completed, and the long drive necessary, but the vote was still yes. We drove on over to Aspen by some back roads from Snowmass Village and found a McDonald's tucked away on the edge of town. Grabbed some quick snacks there and then hit the road again. I made our drive over Independence Pass, but by the time we'd hit Twin Lakes my eyes had tired from the mountain roads. Denny took over and got us down to Salida and then over Monarch Pass. We wisely made the call to hotel it in Gunnison and forego the thought of camping at the trailhead. Even in Gunnison we were still almost 90 minutes of challenging driving from the trailhead and then a night of camping.

We got into a relatively new Econo Lodge in Gunnison and carried a minimal amount of gear inside. Some showered before bed, some seemingly hit the pillow pretty fast for a short night. It was past 1am when we had settled down in the hotel.


I was up at 5:30am to hit the shower and get readied for the day. I felt sooo tired in rolling out of bed. It was helpful having that morning shower as that slowly woke me up from a short night of barely 4 hours of sleep. After my shower the other two were up and we had a quick breakfast just after 6am. For an Econo Lodge it was pretty decent: Waffle maker, sausage, eggs, and the other regulars. We hit the road and made what was a pretty beautiful drive down to Lake City and then the dirt county roads back into Matterhorn Creek

Wetterhorn Peak hike on my Wilderness Wanderings blog

We exited Wetterhorn just before 4pm which gave us a little more time than yesterday. Even so we had to make the long drive back to Lake City and then on up to Curecanti NRA. As we passed through this beautiful area we pulled in at a campground with picnic tables and had an MRE supper. We then got back on the road and headed over to Montrose. There we made a quick Walmart stop to grab a few more food and drink essentials. From Montrose we hit the road again rolling through Ridgway and then on towards Telluride. Denny did the driving for a bunch of this again and he drove us up the Dunton Road on to Kilpacker Basin trailhead. It was just after dark when we arrived which was near 9pm. We worked quickly to get a tent setup. The first few sites in the trees had tents there but no vehicle. We parked next to a pair of nice guys who were sitting at campfire. He said he thought someone may be living at the other two sites as they had a look of permanency. There were two other vehicles with some ladies. We hit the sleeping bags around 10:30pm and were happy to be down at a decent hour.


We had made plans to be up at 4:15am and hit the trail when we were ready. Denny popped up at 3:45am when we heard a group of two ladies get up and said "you guys wanna get going". He was met with instant "yes's" from David and I. So we hit the trail by 4:15am.

El Diente hike on my Wilderness Wanderings blog

We were back to the car just before 4pm. We then packed things up being most thankful the tent was dry. The bugs were really bad as we packed so it was great to hit the road. I did the driving to start on the way out and slowly made my way back down the Dunton Road. I got us all the way back up to Montrose where we decided to hit Little Caesar's for supper. We grabbed some hot-n-ready pizzas and hit the road. We somehow managed the big pizza boxes and a 2-Liter as we drove north. We headed up towards Grand Junction to catch I-70 the rest of the way back. We made one last stop at a rest area along I-70 and made it back to Frisco around 10pm, glad to be in a place to rest.


At one point in the days before David and I had aspirations of hiking up to Peak 1 this morning. But rest and relaxation prevailed. We took it easy most of the morning. Around 10am we did decide finally on a walk into Frisco where we did some shopping and then spent a good hour walking through parts of the Frisco Historical Museum. We did leftovers for lunch which included a lot of pizza. Just after 1pm Denny drove David over towards the pickup for the Rocky Mountain Express which was a shuttle that took David into Denver Airport. That worked out very well for him.

Early afternoon the rest of us drove on down to Breckenridge to try out these bubble walks that the boys had done with Matt and Katelyn a few days ago. At a pond in Breck they have a setup where you step into a ball that is about 7 foot tall when inflated. They zipper you in with an opening for a leaf blower to inflate the ball. They then walk you out on the pond water (which is about 4 foot deep) and you helplessly try to stand and move around in there. The 3 boys and I all tried it, each in our own bubble, and we had a good 10 minute run out there.

Afterwards we drove back to Frisco and had supper at the Silverheels restaurant. We made it there in time for their happy hour. Sarah and I split orders of their fish tacos and buffalo wings. Denny and I also enjoyed some tasy beers. Storm clouds rolled in just as we were finishing up and temps had cooled (we were sitting outside) so we finished up supper just in time.

Back at the condo we played some games and relaxed for the evening.


I was up at 4am today grabbing gear and breakfast for Quandary and then I was on the road headed towards Hoosier Pass.

Quandary Peak hike on my Wilderness Wanderings blog

I was back to the condo by 8:15am. I was early thankfully. The group was ready by 9am now for our drive down to Manitou Springs. We passed numerous bikers on our drive through Breckenridge and then over Hoosier Pass. There was some kind of tour event today. We headed on down through South Park and on through Woodland Park to the Cave of the Winds road. It is right at the edge of Manitou Springs. It was a steep windy road going up a hillside to their main parking lot. We arrived about 11:30am. They have a high ropes course now outside their visitor center which caught the boys attention.

We were on the 12 noon Underground Adventure tour which had our group of 7 plus perhaps another 8 individuals. The tour was decent, lasting about 45 minutes, and taking us through a number of the rooms in the cave showing off the basic features. Temp in the cave was moderate and not as bad as we had planned for. We had lunch at shaded picnic table after our tour. We left there around 2pm.

We drove on into Old Colorado City on the western edge of CO Springs for Sarah to buy one of the chainsaw covered bears. Then we headed to Manitou Springs and walked there til about 3:15pm. Had a great t-shirt shop with funny slogans and we also found a place serving up ice cream.

We had to be at the Cog Railway Station 30 minutes early for our 4pm train, and so we were. Ruxton Ave and the parking for the Cog Railway were crazy busy. We had seats towards the back of the train. When we departed Manitou we had all the windows open in the car and it was comfortably warm. The railway ascends the canyon adjacent to the Barr Trail and it can be seen in parts. Above treeline I was impressed at some of the scenery and the grass we saw on the slopes of Pikes. There were also plenty of marmots up there. As we neared the summit it had cooled considerably and several folks were heading for their jackets.

On the summit we only had about 30 minutes. The winds weren't bad so we walked around to the front of the summit house to grab pictures. We headed inside and I hopped in line to grab some of the hot summit donuts for the boys, Sarah and I, and they were tasty. That left us with just a bit of time so I took the boys and we walked down the top part of the Barr Trail for a few minutes before the train called us back.

The ride down goes slightly quicker. The attendance on the train did a nice job both ways of pointing out landmars and explaining both the history and the geology of Pikes and the Cog Railway. When we made it back to the car we began the long drive back to Frisco. We hit a Taco Bell in Woodland Park along the way. It was 10:30pm when we got back to the condo. We all ended up staying up fairly late packing up for tomorrow's departure.


Sarah and I were up at 5:30am and working to get out the door by 6am to drive to the airport. Nobody else was up before 6am. Mom, who had been up til almost 2am packing, got up to her alarm at 6am and we said good bye to her and were out the door. They wouldn't end up leaving the condo til 8:15am. They would drive all the way to Columbia, MO throughout the day.

Sarah and I made the drive into Denver and had two pockets of thick traffic while in Denver. We got off I-70 at Chambers road to grab gas at the Diamond Shamrock station there and also some breakfast at the Burger King. We hopped back on the interstate to head up to the airport and had a smooth return of our rental to Dollar Car Rental. They shuttled us up to the Terminal West drop-off since there is still construction going on elsewhere. We walked over to Terminal East for the Southwest check-in and had a fairly sizable line there to work through. The gal at the counter was helpful and directed us to the most direct path then down to security where there was also a very long line.

By the time we made our gate we had about 15-20 mins time before they started to board. This worked out well for us. Yesterday I had forgotten about check-ins until about an hour after it opened and we ended up with B50 and B51 which is about as low as I've ever gotten. When we boarded the plane, which happened early we were able to get seats together in the back of the plane so all was well. The 3 hour flight went smoothly and I watched The Wolverine most of the way. We were on time getting into Detroit.

After getting our bags we made the walk up and over the bridgway to get to the off-airport parking shuttles and U.S. Park had one their waiting. That driver took us over to the lot and dropped us off right by our car. She even offered to stay til we knew the car would start. On the way out of the lot they checked the printed e-mail that I had as well as a white ticket they had given me on the way in.

The End.