Colorado 2008

Wednesday 2008-09-03: Rocky Mountain National Park, Little Yellowstone

Wednesday was our first full day in the state, and we intended to do only a moder­ate warm-​up hike. We drove into Rocky Moun­tain National Park from the west side and started our hike beside the Colorado River, which was little more than a creek here. Our goal for the day was the Little Yellow­stone, but bad maps led us all the way to the Grand Ditch near La Poudre Pass. Altogether we walked about 13 miles, which was fine but more than we had planned.

Lulu City The most inter­est­ing marked spot on the trail was Lulu City, a silver-​mining town that had lasted only about 5 years. There’s very little left of it now, and not much to photo­graph except this sign.
Grand Ditch We passed by the Little Yellow­stone on the way up with­out taking any photo­graphs of inter­est. It bore a slight re­sem­blance to the actual Yellow­stone Canyon, but the maps kept us walk­ing and look­ing for some­thing more im­pres­sive. We weren’t sure where we were until we reached this signpost.
Little Yellowstone On the way down we paused and Mary got a pic­ture of Keith (when he wasn’t look­ing) at the Little Yellow­stone canyon. It’s a lot smaller and a lot less color­ful than the real thing, but may­be we’ve just seen and done too much.
Old mine We clambered over tail­ings up to an aban­doned mine along the trail. Mary got another photo of Keith when he wasn’t looking.
Ptarmigan We did encounter some wild­life along the way. In Glacier NP in 2004 we had met a grouse we thought might be a ptar­mi­gan, but on this hike we found the real deal. There were several in a group, but this was the clear­est photo.
Yellow-bellied marmot We also encountered a group of yellow-bellied mar­mots. They mostly ig­nored us, but this one was act­ing as a sen­ti­nel and chirp­ing or whistling as we passed. Cute little critter.

Thursday 2008-09-04: RMNP, Near the Alpine Visitors Center

Huffer Trail After Wednesday’s longer-​than-​antici­pated hike, we decided to take it easier on Thurs­day. We would visit higher eleva­tions just to get accus­tomed to the thin air. So, we drove to the Alpine Visitors Center in RMNP and took a couple of short walks from there. We first walked to the nearby over­look, which some­one called the Huffer Trail, apparently because of the huff­ing and puff­ing one does while climb­ing it. (It looks easy, but appear­ances are de­ceiv­ing if you’re un­accus­tomed to the alti­tude.) Here’s a view look­ing down toward the trail to the visitors center.
Ute Trail We took a slightly longer hike along the Ute trail toward Poudre Lake. We didn’t plan to walk far. We just wanted some time above the tree line.
This is a view look­ing back north toward the vis­itors center. Trail Ridge Road is vis­ible on the left.
700-Alpine The view south
702-Alpine One of several small lakes or ponds along this trail
714-Elk While driving back, we saw some elk. Mary got out of the car and took a few fuzzy pic­tures from a safe distance.
Bull The bull

Friday 2008-09-05: Berthoud Pass

Our purpose for Friday’s hike was to pre­pare our bodies for a more dif­fi­cult hike at higher eleva­tion. So, we chose Berthoud Pass, which has access to several peaks along the Continental Divide Trail. Unfor­tu­nately, the pass and the peaks tend to be very windy.

Miner’s Peak At Colorado Miner’s Peak, we rested beside a micro­wave facility that pro­vided us some shelter from the wind.
Facility Another view of the same facility. Not much to look at really. From here we headed toward Mt. Flora.
Valley The valley below looked warm and friendly, but we were lean­ing against a cold wind. Keith used his hat’s chin strap to avoid losing it.
We walked for a while with­out being bothered much by the al­ti­tude or the exer­tion, but even­tually the wind made us decide it wasn’t fun any­more. We hunkered down behind a little rock semi­circle for shelter to eat lunch and then headed down.

We realized that the experience of hiking the Conti­nental Divide Trail must be very dif­fer­ent from that of hiking the Appa­la­chian Trail.

Saturday 2008-09-06: RMNP, Timber Lake

One of the prettiest places we saw on this trip was Timber Lake in Rocky Moun­tain National Park. The hike was about 10 miles, maybe a little more, but the scenery at the end was worth the walk. The scenery along the way wasn’t bad either.

Timber LakeTimber Lake
Timber Lake We hiked around Timber Lake to see the smaller lake on the other side.
A meadow we passed on the way
A mountain stream

We met a lone Australian tour­ist at Timber Lake and chatted with him for a while on the way back down the trail. He was doing a lot of hiking by him­self and seemed very inde­pendent and re­source­ful. Unfor­tu­nately we didn’t get his name, and we didn’t take a pic­ture of him. He was inter­ested in climb­ing Long’s Peak, but thought it prob­ably wasn’t prac­tical. We thought he was prob­ably right, but we told him about our plan to tackle Gray’s Peak (14,270 ft or 4349.5 m) and Torrey’s Peak (14,267 ft or 4348.6 m) the next day, and he seemed intrigued.

Sunday 2008-09-07: Gray’s Peak and Torrey’s Peak

Our main goal for this trip was to climb Gray’s Peak and Torrey’s Peak, two side-by-side four­teen­ers con­nected by a sad­dle ridge. Until Sunday we had been pre­par­ing our­selves for the eleva­tion by sleep­ing at 9,000 to 10,000 feet and hiking even higher. We thought it might take a week for our bodies to adjust, but when Sun­day came around we felt strong enough to try it, and the weather was as good as it was go­ing to get. In fact no one could have asked for better weather. The tem­pera­ture was mild (at least at moder­ate eleva­tions), the sky was a deep blue, and we didn’t see any clouds of sig­nifi­cance un­til at least mid-afternoon.

Keith climbed Gray’s Peak in 1999, but he got al­ti­tude sick­ness about half-way up and didn’t attempt Torrey’s. It took all his will­power just to finish Gray’s and keep walk­ing till he got down to an eleva­tion his body could tol­er­ate again. After­wards he con­sidered Torrey’s to be un­finished business. Today he brought Mary and com­pleted it.

First view of Torrey’s Peak This was our first view of Torrey’s Peak as we exited from I-70 and started toward the trail­head. A sliver of Gray’s Peak is visible behind it.
Road to Gray’s and Torrey’s For Keith the worst part of the day was the drive along the 4-mile dirt road from I-70 to the trail­head. We had barely started up it when we en­coun­tered this wash­out and had to de­bate with our­selves whether to con­tinue. We had rented a 4Runner be­cause we knew the road would be rough, but this was rougher than ex­pected. We watched other vehicles bounce right through the mid­dle, but we were being care­ful with our rental car. After scout­ing out a path, we drove up the left side and kept going. Note: This photo was actually taken two days later, be­cause we neglected to photo­graph it on Sunday.
Ascent This is a view of the trail shortly after we began the ascent. Gray’s Peak is vis­ible on the left and Torrey’s on the right. Mary didn’t say any­thing, but at this point she had serious doubts about her abil­ity to com­plete the hike. Keith was con­fi­dent, having done it be­fore and know­ing he was better pre­pared this time.
Torrey’s on the ascent A view of Torrey’s Peak as we got closer. Notice the vivid blue sky. It’s not a false color. The sky really was beau­ti­ful. On the other hand the photo­graph doesn’t do jus­tice to the im­pres­sion of massive­ness that Torrey’s Peak gives you when you’re there.
A view back down the trail as we climbed Gray’s Peak. At the upper right is the trail­head, near the tree line.
At the summit Here we are at the top of Gray’s Peak. No alti­tude sick­ness this time.
Tip of Gray’s Peak A view of the high­est point of the moun­tain. It was as close as we’ll ever come to Everest — unless we climb Long’s Peak. Notice the semi­circle of piled-up rocks. The wind is always blow­ing, and the rocks pro­vide some shelter from it. We ate lunch there.
View of Torrey’s Pk from Gray’s Pk This is a view of Torrey’s Peak from Gray’s. If you mag­nify it, you can see people on top of the moun­tain. If you mag­nify the lower right sec­tion, you can also see the I-70 exit where we got our first view of Torrey’s.
Mountain goat We saw one moun­tain goat. Keith had also seen several here in 1999.
Saddle Keith persuaded Mary that we could handle Torrey’s Peak too. So, we headed down the side of Gray’s and across the ridge that con­nects the two mountains.
Mary at the top of Torrey’s Pk Mary posed for a picture at the top of Torrey’s Peak. She was quite proud of her­self. If you’ve never pushed your­self to do some­thing you thought might be beyond your abil­ities, you wouldn’t understand.
360° movie A short QuickTime movie with a 360° view from the top.
Descent Descending Torrey’s
The trail leads down from Torrey’s and across the sad­dle, then down the side of Gray’s Peak. Here we’re approach­ing the sad­dle, with a good view of Gray’s on the other side.
Final view One last view of Torrey’s Peak as we de­scended below the level of the saddle.

Along the way we were pleased to en­counter our Aussie friend whom we had met the day be­fore. He easily climbed both moun­tains at a pace much better than ours. When we last saw him, he told us that climb­ing these two four­teeners was the high­light of his hiking trip. Again we neglected to take his pic­ture or get his name.

Monday 2008-09-08: Rollins Pass

What does one do the day after bagging two four­teeners? We had peaked too soon. We thought we might just see some scenery and take short hikes. Mary was inter­ested in Rollins Pass; so, we went there. We got a late start with some­what lower expecta­tions than we had had on Satur­day and Sunday. Keith found him­self driving up another rough Colorado dirt road and grum­bling, but the pass was pretty when we finally reached it. We did some easy walk­ing, saw some beau­ti­ful views above tree line, and wished we had allowed more time to hike farther. It was Mary’s turn to drive on the way down.

Moffat Railroad bridge A bridge for the old Moffat Railroad
790 One of many great views
792 Ditto
793 Information about the pass
796 Remains of the founda­tion of the hotel
797.jpg Getting this photo cost Mary her hat — the floppy one she had bought at the Kualoa Ranch on Oahu two years ago. She was using the chin strap, but the wind blew it right off her head and over the cliff. At least she had the presence of mind not to lunge for it.
800 We hiked a short dis­tance along the old rail bed
801 Another rail­road bridge — It looked solid enough to walk across, but Mary’s book sug­gested that it was unsafe. We prob­ably should have crossed it anyway.
803 Long way down
804 One beautiful view after another
805 This is a view of the trail as we walked back toward the park­ing lot. The wood on the ground is what’s left of the shed that covered the tracks here at the pass to keep the rail­road open in the winter. (An un­planned align­ment of trail and ridge line makes the photo more inter­esting.)
4Runner We met some young fellows from the YMCA camp who were visit­ing the pass the same day we were, and they were also in a 4Runner. On the way down, we were ob­viously driving very care­fully on the rough road; so, they decided to show us how it should be done. (We’ve hidden the tag num­ber to pro­tect the guilty.)