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 Lake Timber 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.)