Dates: September 21-26, 2022
People: Mark, David
9-21 (Travel Day - Green Mountain Boulder)
9-22 (Wheeler Mtn)
9-23 (Tenmile Quintuple)
9-24 (La Plata Ellingwood Ridge)
9-25 (Drift Peak)
9-26 (Square Top Mtn - Travel Day)
WEDNESDAY SEPTEMBER 21
It was an early morning for me. Dad drove me and we left the house at 5:15am for the airport. We got in about 90 mins before flight time which was well enough for today. My flight was leaving at 715am and it left on time and not a full flight. We flew first to St. Louis and in flight I watched the very first 2 episodes of Andor which had just released on Disney+ this morning.
We got into STL about 10 minutes early and I walked around looking for food. We departed STL at 8:55am which was about 10 mins late. It seemed the flight crew was late in arriving or something. From STL we had a relatively short flight to Des Moines but the flight crew was fantastic at still getting drink service out to everybody. In DSM I had the rare moment where I was actually staying on the plane through the stop. So I changed seats while they reset everything and prepared for the next round to board. While we waited I watched episode 3 of Andor, it was really good.
We left DSM on time and on this leg I watched episode 4 of The Rings of Power on Amazon Prime and some of Fantastic 4 Silver Surfer. We got into Denver on time and my bag arrived quickly. I had to wait about 15 minutes for the Fox Rental Car shuttle to arrive (par for the course) and was on my way. Thankfully the check-in with Fox went seamlessly this time around and I had my car a nice Kia compact SUV. Not big, but it served us well for the week.
I started driving towards Boulder. I hit bits of traffic but made good time. I stopped at Chick-fil-A in Bloomfield for lunch. I went inside to eat so I could stretch my legs and move around a bit after sitting all morning on my flights.
When I got into Boulder there was a heavy cloud deck over mountains and the peaks in the clouds. I made the drive up to the West Green Mountain TH, was drizzling up there and in the cloud deck. Decided against it. Drove to Gregory Canyon TH, found last parking spot, paid my $5 and decided to do the Green Mountain loop from there. I used the Parkmobile app for the parking in Boulder, it was a fairly easy system to use. That $5 pass would be good all day at any of their trailheads.
After the hike, I drove out of Boulder and hit major traffic on the highway. I stopped in Bloomfield again this time for the Walmart. I grabbed some essentials that we would use for the rest of the week. I then drove the rest of the way back to the airport. I stopped at the "Final Approach" cell phone parking. I grabbed supper at Wendy's. Then sat in the car organizing my gear and working on my Pixelbook. David's flight would end up coming in almost an hour late so I had plenty of time to get some work done.
After picking up David we began the long drive on I70 out to Frisco and then on down through Copper to Leadville. I was admittedly getting tired on the last stretch of the drive as it was a very long day. We made it into Buena Vista around 1am. We had already decided we wouldn't be leaving early for any hike the next morning.
THURSDAY SEPTEMBER 22
We took our time this morning knowing the early morning bad weather prohibited any great hikes. We also could use the rest from the late night. We packed up our gear planning for something and we talked the options. We wanted something that wouldn't expose us to the weather above treeline for long. We also wanted something reasonably accessible. Our original plan of Ice Mountain and the 4WD road at Winfield-Huron seemed a bad idea in these sloppy conditions.
We finally settled on Wheeler Mtn up in the Tenmile. We also made plans to be able to stay at Hoosier Pass (hopefully) after the hike and then hit the other Tenmile Peaks on Friday. We figured with the time we had today we could spend some of it scouting camping options.
So we made the drive across South Park, having to detour through Hartsel because of a closer along US285. We made it up to Hoosier Pass. We did find there were several no camping signs west of the pass and it seems they are trying to restore that area. Then it dawned on us to look east of the pass into the national forest and that appeared a legal and safe option. We also didn't see any "no over night parking" signs at the pass so this appeared it would work.
It was past 11am and the weather was looking stable enough we decided to go for the hike. So we drove a few miles down the road to the Montgomery Reservoir road and up to the trailhead to begin the hike for Wheeler.
As the hike ended we didn't have much time before dark. We drove back out to the highway and back up to Hoosier Pass. We parked and made the decision to setup camp while some daylight remained and then retreat to the car. We figured it would be easier to do supper and some other work at the car and not carry it to our camp. So we spent 20-30 minutes on the east side of the pass in the woods looking for a nice flat area and finally found one. It was probably not more than a quarter mile from the pass but it was hidden in the forest. We setup the tent and left our bags and pads and headed for the car.
There we ate MREs for supper and worked on our gear and food for the big Tenmile hike the next morning. We also were getting some cell signal so we made some connections back home. Things were good and dark when we finished at the car and hiked back up to our campsite. It didn't take long for us to settle in at the tent and in our bags and we looked for an early night's sleep.
FRIDAY SEPTEMBER 23
We woke up this morning in our tent at Hoosier Pass. We set alarms for an early 5am wakeup call. It had sleeted overnight so the rainfly and ground were wet. We got moving quickly as temps were in the 30s. We tore down our tent and grabbed what little gear we had brought to camp and made the short walk back to the parking as the Pass.
We had breakfast in the car on the drive into Breckenridge. The road up to the Spruce Creek TH was easy to find and a fairly quick drive. We saw only 2 other cars in the lot when we pulled up around 5:50am. We got our packs ready and hit the trail with headlamps blazing.
We were pretty tired and definitely hungry after a big day with 5 peaks in the tenmile so we headed back to the house in BV. We also made the executive call that we wouldn't be trying to camp tonight at a trailhead and instead would hit the beds at the house for a good night's sleep.
Back at the house we put a couple of frozen pizzas in the oven and looked forward to a nice warm supper. It also felt great to hit the showers and refresh up a bit.
The rest of the night was spent watching a Cubs game on TV and mentally prepping for the immense task the morning would bring: La Plata's Ellingwood Ridge.
SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 24
We were up around 6am to get this long day started. With a near perfect weather forecast we decided there was no need for an early rush. We also coveted the extra hour or more of sleep. It would also turn out to be a benefit in hindsight not doing the early miles in the trees in the dark.
We would get to the trailhead parking for La Plata along CO82 a little after 7am. We were surprised to find the lot pretty much full and we ended up parking by another car along the highway.
It was dark and going for 830p when we made it to the car. We were tired and hungry. It dawned on us that most things would be closed in Buena Vista so we considered our options. We figured out that the Love's gas station would probably have a few hot options we could get into so we headed there. It turns out there Godfather's pizza still had a few pizza boxes left so we each picked up a sausage pizza. Those were completely eaten by the time we made it to the house. I worked on some ice cream and some celebratory beer to spend the rest of the evening. We knew our legs were pretty tired and so once again we made sleep a top priority and we would figure out our Sunday plans in the morning.
SUNDAY SEPTEMBER 25
We woke up without a specific plan. Given how tired and sore our legs were that seemed as though it would have some affect. I was internally thinking we just need to find some kind of flat hike. I was picturing something like hiking by Turquoise Lake by Leadville to keep it flat. We then dabbled into possible easy peak options that wouldn't take much effort. Somewhere along the way I mentioned Drift Peak. It was our Monday plan but when I brought it up this morning it dawned on us: if we do it today we can use the Explorer on the 4WD road and shave off a mile and a half each way. The total mileage would only be 4 miles. It was perfect. We had a plan. The only question was how soon to start.
I had a craving to wait around til lunch and hit Biggie's in BV for lunch and then hit Drift. The weather was good enough it wouldn't matter for today. But David was anxious to get us going and ultimately that seemed the right choice so we headed out. It was probably somewhere just before 9am.
We drove up to Mayflower Gulch which is a number of miles past Leadville but not quite to Copper Mtn. There we started into the 4WD road. We had read ahead of time there was really just one difficult section, about 0.4 in and sure enough that proved correct. It was a heavily rutted spot with some deep wells from erosion. We picked a line along the right side and keeping momentum rolled through without much trouble. The rest of the way was just dodging the largest of rocks and rolling through the bumps.
Along the road we encountered a number of hikers and we realized this was actually a fairly popular spot. Some drive the road, many hike the road to go up and see Mayflower Gulch and the mining remains. It appears few go up to hike Drift but the Gulch itself is worth it.
We hit the end of the road, got the Explorer parked in some shade and made ready for the trail
After the hike we put packs in the car and then walked up the road beyond the closure and checked out the old mining cabin remains. I also grabbed some pictures of this beautiful bowl area and the surrounding peaks. We spent perhaps 20 mins checking things out.
The drive down the road we passed a series of 3 cars early on and luckily I was at a good pull-off when we met them. Then not longer before the "crux" we encountered a truck all but parked in the middle of the road. I was again near a pull-off and was motioning them I would wait for them to go. Nothing. Suddenly a woman gets out of the back seat, hops in the drivers seat and says something we couldn't understand. I motioned again for them. She finally starts pulling their truck up. We then talked to her as they drove by, she seemed foreign but did speak fine enough english. We couldn't figure out what she was doing but it appeared that they were waiting for some people behind them. The people behind were driving a Subaru that couldn't make the crux. I wonder if the male driver of her truck had gone back to help the other vehicle. We encountered two guys walking above the crux as we drove onward. Driving down the crux likewise went easy for us as we ran the same line and careful eased the Explorer through.
We decided to head for Leadville and spend time there. Along the way we called in a lunch order to Wild Bill's. We each got a burger and fries. We picked it up after parking and ate in the car. The burgers were fantastic. I then looked up some public parking a few blocks away and there were plenty of spaces. We walked around town a bit with David hitting the antique shop and bookstores. I wanted to go in and check out the new Leadville Race Series shop. We probably spent close to an hour in town.
We then headed back to the house and along the way decided to try kayaking Cottonwood Lake. So upon hitting the house we immediately set about loading the rack and the kayaks and getting all the gear. We made a quick trip in the house for bathroom and then we were on the road. We had been doing the math with sunset and figured if we were swift we'd have an hour on the lake.
On the drive over to Cottonwood Lake we could see a shower that had developed over the Harvard area. We joked that we could hardly remember a time of being at Cottonwood Lake and it not raining. Sure enough we picked up some light rain on the Cottonwood Pass road. Somewhere along the country road heading to the Lake the rain stopped and that was the last we saw of it. At the lake it was partly cloudy and the mountains were just starting to obscure the sun so we had shade. It made for a rather pleasant experience on the lake. We looked for moose and we did a lap or so around the lake just taking things easy. It was a great night to be out. We packed up the kayaks just before sunset and headed into town.
With most restaurants again being closed we decided to hit City Market for supper. David grabbed some Totinos pizzas and I grabbed some Hot Pockets. Not the most healthy but it was quick, cheap, and we had burnt enough calories this weekend as it was.
MONDAY SEPTEMBER 26
With our original plan of doing Drift on Monday being moved to Sunday we had this day open. I was strongly voting that we not let this opportunity go to waste. So we looked at other options of something to do that we would have the time for and would sort of be on the way to Denver and the airport. I was first drawn to Mt. Bierstadt. Its familiar and I was sure we could get up and down it in 4 hours. Its also just 90 minutes or so from DIA. We knew we didn't have to be at the airport til about 3pm so it was enough time we really had to do something. We were also pleased to find at wakeup that with the lighter day yesterday on Drift our legs were already in recovery mode and feeling better.
We got most of our packing and cleaning done last night so wakeup and getting out the door went very quick today. We targeted leaving the house by 6am and I think we might have beat that by a few minutes. We made the drive again across South Park and then onward on 285 to Granite where we began the drive up to Guanella Pass. We arrived and hit the parking on the west side of the pass. There were about 10 cars or so already.
We finished around 11:30a which gave us plenty of extra time. We took about 25 minutes in the parking lot to get our bags repacked and ready for the airport. We also noticed the parking was now full. And its not all Bierstadt hikers. Guanella Pass has some short hiking trails and a viewpoint to just let passersby take in the beautiful terrain. On the drive down the pass we got stuck behind some very slow moving vehicles. We also saw plenty of traffic on the side of the roads stopping to look at the blooming gold Aspens.
On our way into Denver we stopped at the Chick-fil-A on the west side and sat down to eat for a bit. Our only other stop was hitting a gas station just before heading north on Pena into DIA. We returned the car and shuttled into the airport. David had TSA+ so he made it through security quickly. I took a while longer. I tried the Bridge security for the first time and it seemed to move okay (25 mins). With David's flight leaving first I joined him at his gate and we probably had a solid 2 hours to wait.
One of the interesting things that happened today came with the podcasts I brought up. To pass the time driving I had us listening to Backpacker Magazine's "Out Alive" podcast. In particular we listened to the one about the Thailand cave rescue where the 12 boys and their coach were trapped by flood waters in the Tham Luang cave. Something gripped me about that story today. So as I sat at the gate for the flight I watched the Thirteen Lives movie on Prime Video and it was moving. I was engaged. I watched until David's flight left and we said goodbye. I then moved to my gate and watched the movie to its finish. A day after getting home I would go on to also rewatch the documentary version called "The Rescue" on Disney+.
While I waited for my flight I did grab a slice of pizza for supper. My flight was 10 mins late for boarding as some kind of handle on a garbage container in the cabin broke and they had to have it fixed. The flight went fine and I spent it mostly watching stuff on the Tab S6. We got into Detroit 20 mins late. Sarah was graciously there to pick me up, with it being well after midnight.