Archive | Empire RSS feed for this section

Butler Gulch Snowshoe, Empire CO 2/22/14

26 Feb
The View to the East at the top

The View to the East at the top

On Tuesday when I came home to the huge box with our snowshoes, I kinda wanted to go out right then and to try them out.  Unfortunately there is no real snow here on the Front Range so I had to wait until the weekend to get my fix in.

The view South at the top

The view South at the top

I had hiked Butler Gulch( Hike Details here) in September of 2012 and had read that it was actually a more popular snowshoe than hiking trail.  This is the trail I knew I wanted to do as our first solo snowshoe.  It was one we had done before, the nature of the bowl we were hiking into made it safer from avalanche danger than most and it meant we could hit Tommyknockers on the way home.

When we pulled up to the parking lot, we were impressed with how many cars were already there and more were pulling in constantly.  Fortunately it was not all for Butler Gulch, but also for Jones Pass which is open to motorized vehicles(Butler Gulch is not), lots of snow mobiles were over that way.

Parking Lot

Parking Lot

We put on our snowshoes at the car and started up the road to the trail head, I don’t think we needed to do this as the trail was pretty stable and our boots would have been fine.  It was so cool walking over the gate to the trail, knowing it meant we were on 4 feet of snow, but again, I think we could have walked this all in our boots it was packed so hard.

Standing on the gate

Standing on the gate

The Gate in Summer....

The Gate in Summer….

We moved out at a nice pace and then as we climbed in elevation we definitely slowed down, I guess it had been longer than I thought since we were last at 10,000+feet.  Despite the struggle with the altitude I was so happy to be out there.  The weather was pretty good, just a little snow falling and occasionally we would hear big wind up above.

The start trail1 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAView along the trail 1

It took us longer than we expected to go just 2 ish miles, around 2 – 2.5 hours, and I think it took this long for 2 reasons. First, the altitude kicked my butt the whole way up while I practically flew down the gulch in the return trip.  Second, it was just interesting to get used to the snow shoes, we got mountaineering ones and went with men 30’s .  They are bigger and heavier than what we used 2 weeks before, but it was right for our weight combined with our backpacks.  It was like walking with those ankle weights on but we did float better.

snowshoes

The path itself wasn’t too steep until it was crazy steep, the last climb up was very challenging so when I fell heading up, I wasn’t sure how I was going to get up and it took me a couple of minutes to sort of wiggling around to get to a standing position.  Conversely when I fell coming down at the same point… I couldn’t get up so I just scooted on my butt down to the tree line.

Getting Steep

Getting Steep

Just a peek as we catch our breath

Just a peek as we catch our breath

It flattened out above that steep section and we could see the whole bowl in front of us with all the mountains north of us, it was beautiful!  I am so glad we stopped here to capture it because not 5 minutes after we snapped a few pictures the wind picked up in a wicked way and didn’t stop.  This is the challenge of being at 11,000ft, when the weather changes it is dramatic.  I got a few pictures of the snow blowing like crazy and then we hightailed it out of there.  The wind was coming hard enough that our path up was already being covered.

the way we planned on continuing

the way we planned on continuing

View Before it changed

View Before it changed

Changing

Changing

Changing

Changing

Changed

Changed

The trip down took maybe an hour and let me tell you the traffic going up was heavy, I think we easily passed a 100 people or more heading up.  Most were going up to do some back country skiing, with a couple of groups of snowshoers as well.  We passed one couple that had done almost the whole thing in just their micro spikes, they were so friendly, they had snowshoes attached to their packs and were holding out til the last-minute to put them on.   It was interesting to see that we could have done the same trail in our micro spikes without postholing… next time.  I think the only hard part is knowing when to switch it up.  I am not sure where the right spot to put on the snowshoes is at.  I think I did know where it wasn’t …. I am sure once I get more comfortable I will be able to figure out when I need to switch.

Moving down fast

Moving down fast

The day itself was pretty amazing, I never imagined I would be able to climb up to 11,000+ft this time of year and the snowshoes made it so easy!  I was surprised by the level of traffic on the trail but it is pretty close to Winter Park and likely a good break for skiers on a crowded Saturday.

I hope if you find yourself out this way, that you get a chance to check this one out!

Just as an FYI… I will not be posting for a bit, my nieces are coming out for spring break at the end of the week and we have a crazy schedule set up.  We are hiking, snowshoeing, seeing the ice castle in Breckenridge, doing a sunrise hike( their request) and lots of shopping and laughing.  I think my evil plan to make them love Colorado enough to want to live here is working! I will catch up as soon as I can!

In the meantime get out there and hike!

Advertisements

Colorado Mines Peak( 12,493) & Mt. Flora* Repeater *(13,132), Mt. Eva – Fail, Berthoud Pass Between Winter Park & Empire CO 6/22/13

26 Jun

View west

Continental Divide Trail to> Mines Peak Road> Mt. Flora Trail > Traverse to Mt. Eva

Starting Elevation: 11,315 Ft

Highest Elevation: 13,132 Ft ( We had a total elevation gain of approximately 2800Ft)

Trail Length: Officially, if we had finished 10 miles. We Turned around about a mile short of Mt. Eva so officially we got 8 miles but my fitbit said we got about 10 miles anyway. We spent 5 hours hiking total.

Trail Uses: Hiker only after the road

Degree of difficulty: Strenuous – Mostly due to Altitude & Length

Bathrooms: There is one at the Berthoud Pass parking lot, but keep extra supplies handy, it is popular.

Pets: Dogs are allowed on the trail but they must be leashed.

Fees: None

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We did Mt. Flora ( Details here) last September, it was our first and only 13er and a huge achievement for us. Unfortunately it was also our last because snow moved in, then moved in again and again. We are really close to our planned 14er and so this seemed like a good way to visit Mt. Flora again and do additional peaks, elevation gain, mileage while getting progressively higher in time to do our 14er next week. I read about this trifecta of peaks in my Colorado Mountain Club book, we had already done Mt. Flora so seeing the other 2 peaks felt right.

We started a little later than we wanted to at about 8AM but jumped right in, we cranked it up Colorado Mines Peak road in just 50 minutes. That is 1178 ft of elevation gain in just 1.3 miles.

Colorado Mines Peak Road past the Mt. Flora trailhead.

Colorado Mines Peak Road past the Mt. Flora trailhead.

Almost at the top of Colorado Mines Peak

Almost at the top of Colorado Mines Peak

The view West as we climbed

The view West as we climbed to Colorado Mines Peak

The top of this peak is not very exciting as it is full of buildings and antennas, but the views are beautiful. We didn’t spend too much time here but still managed to not find the official path down to the Mt. Flora trail so we just went down close to the ridge line since we could easily see the trail below. On the way back from Flora we clearly saw the correct path coming off of Mines, if I had to guess it is straight North from the main road once you get to the top.

We started down by this Pole, which would be the wrong way...

We started down by this Pole, which would be the wrong way…

It was is almost a 40o ft decent, and the wall of snow hanging off of the ridge line was impressive.

Wall of snow along the ridge line of Mines

Wall of snow along the ridge line of Mines

me coming down the side of Colorado Mines

me coming down the side of Colorado Mines

We pretty much had Colorado Mines peak completely to ourselves up and then again down, but as we were going down to Flora we could see 3 groups of hikers on that trail already. As we started on the Mt. Flora trail we keep our aggressive pace and in no time we made it to the top. At the point we hit the top of Mt. Flora we had been hiking for 2 hours 20 minutes, 25 minutes less than it took us last time and we had already added elevation and mileage to our hike.

on the path to Mt. Flora

on the path to Mt. Flora

Again we didn’t spend too much time on Mt. Flora as we were anxious to get over to Mt. Eva and to us it looked way further away then 2 miles.

Mt. Eva is almost perfectly in the middle, past the peak on the left but under the higher peak in the middle

Mt. Eva is almost perfectly in the middle, past the peak on the left but under the higher peak in the middle

A Quick capture of us on Flora

A Quick capture of us on Flora

There is no defined path to Eva you just follow your eyes over to it, we kinda went up 2 un-named peaks and then followed a couple cairns down the ridge line, again. Each one looked like an inverted path below but when we got there we were oh that makes sense and moved onto the next one. It took us an hour to work our way almost a mile over and when we looked over to Eva it still looked more than 2 miles away.

Eva is the peak a little left of center with the remains of a building on it

Eva is the peak a little left of center with the remains of a building on it

It was a tough call at this point, the way down looked REALLY challenging then having to come back up 6 hours into a hike seemed not the smartest for us. The wind had picked up and the smoke from all the wild fires was building up more, we decided that we would turn around and try it another day. We climbed back up to Flora even though we could have easily cut it off to get back to the parking lot, we just wanted a little extra mileage and elevation.

On the first un-named peak north of Flora, In fact Flora is over my shoulder

On the first un-named peak north of Flora, In fact Flora is over my shoulder

The view East getting smokey

The view East getting smokey

We felt great on this hike, the altitude was a factor but only in the beginning and then as we came to the top of Flora. We really moved faster than I felt we have for some time. On the way back down we encountered one snow field on the Mt. Flora trail and we were able to walk around with a little work.

Snow FIeld on the way back down Flora

Snow FIeld on the way back down Flora

This is a great hike and one I know we will do again and again. We felt awesome in the way we climbed and how quickly we moved, so much better than the first time we did this hike. One thing I want to note is that this trail is a busy one and mostly above tree line, opportunities to relieve yourself are VERY tricky and use lots of sunscreen ( just sayin). After the directions will be our favorite pictures from the hike. The ones with the shadows are from Colorado Mines peak.

Directions: Take I-70 west to exit 232, US 40 west. Follow US 40 for approximately 14.4 miles up through Empire to the top of Berthoud Pass. You will see Berthoud Pass Trailhead Parking lot there on your right and you are at the trailhead.

View North on Mines OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA In Shadows of the buildings on Mines View south of Mines OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA View of CO Mines VIew south west from flora OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA VIew North OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Mount Flora Trail-Berthoud Pass/ Between Winter Park & Empire 9/29/12 ( Our first 13ner!!!!)

30 Sep

Continental Divide Trail > Mines Peak Road > Mt. Flora Trail ( Part of the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail)

Starting Elevation:  11,315FT

Ending Elevation:  13,100FT (Total Elevation Gain 1800Ft)

Trail Length:  6.4 miles officially, my fitbit said 7.5 miles.  It took us 2:45 going up and 1:30 coming down.

Trail uses:  Hiker only after you get off the Mines Peak Road.

Degree of difficulty:  Difficult to Strenuous, mostly due to the elevation

Bathrooms:  There is one at the Berthoud pass trailhead parking lot and, but keep supplies handy it is heavily used, just in the time it took us to get ready to hike at least 10 cars pulled in off of Berthoud Pass just to use it.

Pets:  Dogs must be leashed

Fees:  None

I picked this one out of the Falcon guide: Best Hikes near Denver.  It was the perfect distance as well as giving us another increase in elevation to help get us more practice with high altitude hikes.  We knew this was likely to be the last weekend we could work on our elevation hikes and sure enough it snowed this past week above 12,ooo ft.  But the weather was going to be so perfect and we decided it was worth trying to get this last one in before it is all front range hikes focused on building our stamina until next spring.  When we pulled into the parking lot it was a mad dash to the bathroom/warming hut  and man it was cold outside about 35 degrees.

Park on either side of the lot, the trail starts both at the Continental Divide Trail sign( northeast side of the lot) and goes across the parking lot to the Mines Peak Road ( Southeast side of the lot).

We parked by the southeast side right at the Mines Peak road part of the hike, but our smooth move last week of adding a couple of miles on to our trip by not reading the book carefully had me being extra cautious.  This led me to walk over to the Northeast side of the lot, only to stupidly walk back across the trail to the Mines Peak road and past our car….again.  Fortunately there was only 3-4 people there to witness this awesome move in hiking navigation.  We hiked up the road through almost 4 switchbacks when the Mt. Flora Trail Head came up at the curve on that 4th one, we stayed straight on the single track.

From here it was pretty straight forward, as we got closer to the saddle between Mines Peak( on the right) and Mt. Flora( leftish- straight ahead) the wind really picked up and the snow was now regular.   Here we had a really pleasant surprise, one of my coworkers was headed down with her husband, and Wendy is my hiking superhero so seeing her there was a great rush.  The trail than climbs what other hikers referred to as a false summit, past this boulder bump just keep moving it is half a mile to the summit from here.  It is a pretty flat summit and there is a nice little wind shelter just to the left of the big cairn, which was a nice break at that point in time.   It was COLD!  Fortunately we had packed a lot of stuff to keep us warm, hats, neck warmers, mittens….. if we needed it, we also had long underwear tops and bottoms along with extra socks.  Aaron carries a nice backpack and it holds everything we need in case of multiple situations plus water for him.  I always joke that for every pound I lose, he has to add it to the backpack for him.   It works for me but eventually I will probably have to start working with my own backpack…. We did not take our time capturing images on this one because of the cold, we gave ourselves 20 minutes and then packed up and headed down to a warmer altitude.  So our pictures aren’t too great….

There are 2 real challenges to this hike, first and most important is the altitude while the distance isn’t great, 2:45 hrs to climb to the top seems reasonable as we had to keep stopping and getting some good breathes in.   The other was the wind and then snow that final mile, but we prepared for it.  I could not believe how many hikers we passed on the way down that didn’t look nearly prepared enough to make it to the top and that is a shame because the views were beautiful!   We turned around and went down as quickly as we could and the once frozen path with snow was now icy then muddy as we got further down.  After the directions I will post a few more pictures of our last altitude challenging hike.

Directions:  Take I-70 west to exit 232, US 40 west.  Follow US 40 for approximately 14.4 miles up through Empire to the top of Berthoud Pass.  You will see Berthoud Pass Trailhead Parking lot there on your right and you are at the trailhead.

Butler Gulch, Empire/Idaho Springs CO 9/8/12

8 Sep

Butler’s Gulch Trail

Starting Elevation:  10,500ish

Final Elevation :  11,900+ if you go all the way to the Jean Mine  ( 1400 ft elevation gain)

Trip Length: 6 miles round trip, if you aren’t over protective of your lower carriage civic that doesn’t seem to like the way the road looks after the parking lots.  If like us, the dirt road freaked you out, walking from the parking lot to the trailhead might add another .5 miles total.

Trail Uses:  Hiker, Biker, Horses, snow shoe – no motorized vehicles

Degree of difficulty:  Moderate – mostly because of the altitude

Bathrooms:  No – must be ok with peeing outside so pack your ziplock baggie and toilet paper.  There is an outhouse on the paved road going to the access road and out, the Bend picnic area is closest- all part of the National Forest.

Pets:  Yes, dogs are allowed  and can be off leash as it is in National Forest …

One of  my husband’s coworkers told him about this trail in July and that same week I had read about it on a blog I have been following on hiking.  It seemed like a good choice because it was close to the same elevations we did last week and was decidedly described as something not too challenging outside of the elevation part of it.  After 3 weeks of progressively harder hikes we needed a week of something a little easier.   From what I read, the best time to do this hike is June/July- ish as the flowers are AMAZING or to snow shoe it in the winter.  We of course went today so there were no flowers or snow but it was still a great hike and beautiful, as it seems everything is in Colorado.

We got there pretty early considering the hour drive, and we were walking by 8AM.  It is right by the Henderson Mine outside of Empire,  there are 2 parking lots on the left shortly after you get on the dirt road, you can park here and walk up to the trail, it’s not far.  Or you can continue up the road and then park by the gate at the start of the trail, along the side of the road.   My little Civic started crying when we were at the parking lots, so we decided walking was better than bottoming out the car and just parked it.  We were probably over-cautious, but we are Chicagoans at heart and dirt roads are foreign to us, well me really and I was driving.

The trail is essentially the old road up to the old mine….it is nice and big and has a steady incline.  It is covered with trees and runs along a stream , it also requires you cross over this stream several times throughout the hike.  We started early so it was relatively cold on this September morning, in the 40’s, and completely alone.  There was one other car in the parking lot but it looked like it had been there for a while.  For all of our talk of wanting to be alone on a trail, it was kind of weird.   I had a small heart attack when we scared a large bird ( sounded HUGE) and it took off  with its enormous  wings beating very loud, and this is completely irrational, but I immediately thought BEAR!

At about  1.5 miles, we had crossed the stream 3-4 times when we came up to the falls they aren’t huge but still lovely!

The trail did increase in its incline from this point, but really the altitude is the bigger challenge. It is not too long from here to reach the bowl and old mine that is our goal.   Coming out from the trees was really beautiful, suddenly we were there.  The trail wound around the shelf to the Jean Mine, which has a lot remains of when the mine was active:

This is a great hike, we are coming back next summer to see the flowers everyone else raves about.

When we headed back down, we came across a few groups ( 6-7) of hikers and they were all so nice and chatty!  It was the least crowded trail we have done yet and it had the nicest hikers.

Going down was fast, had we not killed time taking pictures we would have cruised through the whole trial in probably 3-3;30 hrs, but we have a new camera and can’t stop playing with it so it took us much longer……

There was one thing that was really annoying, I couldn’t find a map of the trail anywhere.  There are topography maps but they weren’t that detailed and hard to print off.  Otherwise this is a must do!

To get to Butler Gulch take 70 west,  exit #232 – Highway 40 towards Winter Park/Empire go 9-10 miles on highway 40.  Turn off of Highway 40 at Henderson Mine Road heading due west for 1.8 miles towards the Henderson Mine. Just before the mine, a dirt frontage road splits off and parallels the paved road.  Continue on this dirt road until the parking area right at the junction with the Jones Pass Road.  Park along the side of the road by a large gate or at the parking lots at the beginning of the frontage road.

Some more pictures: