Tag Archives: elevation gain

Pawnee Pass Trail – Brainard Lake Recreation Area, Ward CO 8/24/13

27 Aug

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Pawnee Pass Trail

Starting Elevation:  10,500 Feet

Highest Elevation:  12,550 Feet ( total elevation gain approx. 2200 feet)

Trail Length:  9.2 miles, my pedometer said we got around 10.5 miles but we did venture around quite a bit, It took us about 5.5 hours total

Trail Uses:  Hiker only

Degree of DIfficulty:  Moderate difficult given distance & altitude

Bathrooms:  At every parking lot in the Brainard Lake Recreation Area and beautifully taken care of…. Best Vault toilets we have used to date

Pets:  Yes, dogs on leash only, there is a well posted $125 fine if your dog is not on a leash and lots of rangers around to enforce it.  The first trail ever where all the dogs were actually leashed.

Fees: Yes – $10 for 3 days in a car, $1 for a person walking or biking in and $55 for Season pass ( May- Nov).

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I have had this hike on my wish list for some time, its elevation is ideal for getting back up to 14K but with our snowy spring it was taken off my getting ready list in April.  Since I have found myself in this readjusting phase in hopes of getting in one more 14er before the season is done, I figured it was the perfect weekend to check it out.   I can tell you it did not disappoint.

We got to The Brainard Lake Recreation area right at 7AM and honestly it was almost too late to secure a parking spot, we got one of the last 2 in the parking lot at the trailhead.  This park is unique in that you can only park in designated parking and so lots of people were hiking to the trailhead from other parking lots in the recreation area.   Make sure when you go, you go early, as we were driving out at 1PM almost every parking lot was full except the last one by the entrance.  There is so much more to the park then these set of trails and it made me want to plan a May- November where I get the annual pass and just explore every hike in the park.

Plus I saw my first moose!  It was huge, I mean like gianormous,  and like every other idiot that sees something for the first time I stopped right next to it so we could get a picture and then later realized how lucky I was that the moose was not too put off about it.

Moose out the back window

Moose out the back window

Getting on the path was easy, it was really well-marked  throughout and we started moving through pretty quickly.  I had read that it is worth it to take the .2 mile detour and see the views from Long Lake right at the beginning, great advice!  It was stunning even with our overcast skies.  If you find yourself on this hike, go over and see the view from Long Lake.

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Start of the hike

Start of the hike

.2 miles on the Jean Lunning Trail to see the views from Long Lake

.2 miles on the Jean Lunning Trail to see the views from Long Lake

From here we got back on Pawnee Pass trail and enjoyed the lovely surroundings, which was thick with Pine, fir and Englemann Spruce it was so beautiful and serene.  Some the of trees were so huge around, well the ones that were downed seemed like the largest ones I have seen outside the Redwood forest.  I am also falling in love with old tree stumps, this part of the trail was like a gallery of tree stumps in their beautiful stages of decay or deterioration.

Get back on the Pawnee Pass Trail

Get back on the Pawnee Pass Trail

Trail Conditions along Long Lake to Isabelle Lake

Trail Conditions along Long Lake to Isabelle Lake

At  2 miles in we came up to Lake Isabelle and the Isabelle Glacier Trail.  The views from the trailhead of the Indian Peaks surrounding Lake Isabelle were, no surprise here, amazing!  but the lake itself was disappointing.  I didn’t find out the details, it did look like they were certainly doing some work on the lake and I don’t know if that meant they had to drain it or what so it was a little sad-looking when all the other lakes we passed looked pretty good.

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We took the trail break up to the Pawnee Pass and the next 1.1 miles is probably the hardest of the whole hike as we climbed up a series of switchbacks to a natural Bench above Lake Isabelle.  It was perfect… and windy.  As we got to the last little climb the trail does get close to the rocky cliffs above Lake Isabelle so note to those who are uncomfortable heights, this is a tight spot.

There are a couple of Water crossing on this part

There are a couple of water crossings on this part

Climbing to the Bench

Climbing to the Bench

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Next, is a little respite as we walked across the bench to the final climb up to the pass.  It looked really tough but as we started the next series of switchbacks up, it was surprisingly easy and the actual grade was not that bad, the trail was beautifully planned out.  Before we knew it we had made it to the pass….. and then our teeth started chattering.  Even though it was in the 90’s in Denver, it felt like a very brisk and windy 40 at 12,550ft, we were freezing and were so glad we over prepare for every single hike with winter gear in our packs.  I guess the mountains are moving to Fall even though we are still nice an toasty at 5600ft.

Last climb

Looking up at the last climb to the pass

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At the pass you can easily take the trail and summit Pawnee Peak ( 12,943Ft) but we didn’t.  We were worried about the clouds coming up and the wind was REALLY strong, but walking North-Northwest from the pass sign gave us amazing views of everything on the side of the pass.  It was hard to head back down after just 30 minutes but we did, I know that we will do this hike again and next time summit Pawnee peak.

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The trail past the Pawnee Pass sign to Pawnee Peak and more

Pawnee Pass SIgn

Pawnee Peak

Pawnee Peak

People on Pawnee Peak

People on Pawnee Peak

Looking back South East from the Pass sign

Looking back South East from the Pass sign

Seeing the trail from above

Seeing the trail from above

I am starting to look at trails differently because there is so much more we walk away from each time we head back.  I can tell that the next logical step for me is backpacking to get days of views and see the total picture.  Each hike ends too quickly and even though I know I can’t go further, I want too.

It was cool to see where we were going at Long Lake and then to be totally surprised when we got there at how different the top looked.  I mean I know we do it all the time but this hike was different because it was so laid out in a series of steps that led to a beautiful surprise finish.  I hope one day you check this hike out, like so many hikes in Colorado, it is pretty amazing!  After the directions to the hike are my favorite pictures.

Directions:  Take 36 through Boulder and from Broadway( north-end of Boulder) continue 4.8 miles to Left Hand Canyon Rd( 94) turn Left.  At 5.2 miles you will need to turn left to stay on Left Hand Canyon Rd.  Stay on this for 11.6 miles through the town of Ward to the Peak to Peak Highway ( Colorado 72).  Turn right onto 72 and then Immediately left into the Brainard Lake Recreation Area.

Looking North towards Monarch Lake

Looking North towards Monarch Lake

Views at the Bench above Lake Isabelle

Views at the Bench above Lake Isabelle

More Bench views

More Bench views

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Chicago Lakes Trail #52, Arapahoe National Forest – Idaho Springs CO 8/10/13

15 Aug
Upper Chicago Lake

Upper Chicago Lake

The Chicago Lakes Trail #52

Starting Elevation: 10,650 ( Lowest point of the hike 10,320)

Highest Elevation: 11,740 ( Lower lake at 11,420ft.  Total elevation gain approximately 2000ft)

Trail Length:  Officially I saw everything from 9-10 miles, my fitbit said we went 11 miles but we did walk around the upper lake a lot.

Trail Uses:  hiker in all places and then horses in some….NO BIKES

Degree of difficulty:  Moderate to difficult mostly due to length and one scramble to Upper Chicago Lake.

Bathrooms:  1 Creepy one at the Echo Lake Picnic parking lot ( For some reason Denver County Mountain Park use the S shaped ones with no doors…..)

Pets:  Yes for dogs, I am not sure if a leash was required but we saw dog owners with dogs on leash and off.

Fees:  None

Lower lake trail on right

I have been wanting to try this hike since April.  I had targeted as one of our conditioning hikes to get ready for our first 14er, but then we got those crazy snow storms throughout April and May which meant the trail was under many feet of snow when I originally wanted to attempt it.  When it was finally possible to hike it, it was mountain goat and sheep mating season and Park Rangers ask that you do not hike here in order to let the goats and sheep do their thing.   Which of course I respected since the poor animals deserve some peace while they mate.  We weren’t expecting to do these re-acclimating hikes, but since I was forced to get used to it all again I figured now was the perfect time to check them out.

I got to the trail head at 7AM and it was COLD, I guess fall is coming more quickly then I want.  I got bundled up and was even glad I had gloves on hand, as I think it was like 35 degrees at the start of our hike.

Starting from the parking lot

Starting from the parking lot

My suggestion is to park at the Echo Lake Picnic Area, as that is really close to the Chicago Lakes Trail which is the hardest part of the hike to actually find.  Since I followed the book suggestion and we got there insanely early, parking here was no problem( not a lot of parking spots here) but you can park all around the Lake and at the Echo Lake Lodge.  The trail head is a little off the Lake Path on the Southwest side of the Echo Lake.

Echo Lake

Echo Lake

The trail entrance on the southwest of the Lake

The trail entrance on the southwest of the Lake

Chicago Lakes Trail #52 Official start

Chicago Lakes Trail #52 Official start

Not long after you get on the official trail, you immediately descend about 3-400 feet and cross over the Chicago Creek.  Portions of this descent will challenge those who may  have “issues” with heights as the Switchback initially is very close to the a nice steep drop off.  It also gives great views of your final destination and Mt. Evans.  It was a beautiful view to have while heading down.

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Crossing the Chicago Creek at the bottom of the initial descent.

Crossing the Chicago Creek at the bottom of the initial descent.

From this point forward the trail is very well-marked, you take an access road up for about a mile, past the Idaho Springs Reservoir.  I have to admit during my research for the hike, I was worried about this road section but actually it’s fine and looks more like a wide path then road.  They are doing some type of maintenance by the Reservoir but on a weekend there was nothing to see but the equipment.

Entering the Road portion

Entering the Road portion

You want to look for this sign on the way back so you don't miss the way back to your car

You want to look for this sign on the way back to your car it is across the road from the sign above

The road part of the trail

The road part of the trail

Cabins as you pass Idaho Springs Reservoir

Cabins as you pass Idaho Springs Reservoir

As we crossed over to the Mt. Evans Wilderness, the trail went back to single track and starts climbing more aggressively through an old burn scar from a fire in the 70’s. As it flattened out for a short stretch, the wild flowers were everywhere and the views of mountains on either side of us was pretty amazing.

Mt. Evans WildernessPermit Box for Mt. Evans wilderness

Trail goes back to single track and gets steeper.

Trail goes back to single track and gets steeper.

I am always surprised at how beautiful a burn scar is as it ages.  All the below are from that burn scar.

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Water Crossing in the Burn Scar

Water Crossing in the Burn Scar

Trail levels out before we descend to the lower Lake

Trail levels out before we descend to the lower Lake

As we came up to the lower Chicago lake, outside of the obvious beauty, we were enchanted by how dense the brush was on either side of the trail and how moist everything was.  We also started descending again and there was more and more mud with standing water on the trail.

Entering the Dense coverage

Entering the Dense coverage

This was also a little tricky through here as I knew we had to stay right on the trail to get to the upper Chicago Lake and since we were heading down through such dense coverage, I was certain we missed the turn off.  We came to this huge boulder and thought maybe this is where we go right but it wasn’t.

When you come to this huge boulder go left

When you come to this huge boulder go left

Coming out of the dense coverage

Coming out of the dense coverage

In fact, it isn’t really until we started climbing out of the dense tree/bush coverage,  that we came to the trail going off left to lower Chicago Lake and we stayed right to climb to upper Chicago Lake.

This last climb does require some scrambling but nothing too bad, we did put away our poles so that we could use our hands freely.

Trail conditions up the scramble Scramble

Upon cresting the final lip of the scramble, the upper Chicago lake was spread out below us.  It was spectacular!  It took us about 2.5 hours to get there and we ended up sitting around taking pictures while snacking for almost an hour.  Plus we were fascinated with the people climbing up to Summit Lake and possibly Mt. Evans (14er) as this is also the crazy long route ( 14-16 miles round trip) to summit Mt. Evans, on the south side of the lake.  It looked really steep and as the wind picked up we saw the little group slow down quite a bit.

Upper Chicago Lake

Upper Chicago Lake

This is the trail going up to Summit Lake I tried to zoom up as there as people ascending

This is the trail going up to Summit Lake I tried to zoom up as there as people ascending

This is an in and back hike, the first one where my books said it would take longer on the trip back then it does on the trip there.   There were a couple of reasons we took longer on our way back, that scramble to the upper lake is actually pretty steep and we took our time getting down it, then the last .8 miles is straight up 3-400 vertical feet up a single track trail that is heavily used. It did take us almost 3 hours to get back.

Also the trail started getting pretty busy on the way back with like 50 back packers coming in to camp by the lakes for the night, among a bunch of regular hikers.  It made us very jealous as camping up there must be so lovely!  It was even more busy between the Mt. Evans Wilderness boundary and the start of the hike with people picnicking by Echo Lake looking for some pre- Picnic exercise.  Overall it was a beautiful hike and again renewed my love of hiking and Colorado!  If you ever have the chance, please check this one out, it is worth the effort!  After the directions to the trail head will my favorite pictures

Directions: 

The Chicago Lakes Trail begins at Echo Lake (west side), 13.25 miles south of I-70 on HWY 103.

From I-70, exit #240 and head south on HWY 103 (toward Mt Evans) for 13 miles to Echo Lake. Turn right at the Echo Lake Picnic Area, down the first dirt road on your right and continue .25 miles to the parking area.

Flying Pig Cloud

Flying Pig Cloud

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Elk Range Trail, Centennial Cone Park- Golden CO Hiked 7/27/13

27 Jul
My Favorite view

My Favorite view

Elk Range Trail> Travois Trail>Juniper Trail>Mayhem Gulch Trail> Travois> Elk Range Trail

Starting Elevation: 7750 ft

Highest Elevation:  7900- ish ft ( Lots of ups and downs gave us a total of 1100 feet in elevation gain)

Trail Length:  The whole park can get you around 12-15 miles of hiking but we hit up 9 miles today with the initial intention of only getting in 7miles.  For the first time ever my fitbit matched the trail map information.

Trail Uses:  Hiker, Biker, Horses share on weekdays  – On the weekends it is hiker only on odd days & Biker only on Even days.

Degree of Difficulty:  Easy to Moderate, mostly because of potential trail length

Bathrooms:  Yes at all 3 parking lots

Pets:  Yes but dogs must be on leash and for the first time ever they all were on leash!

Fees:  None

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We are finally healed enough from our tattoos that we can get back to the exercise we love most, HIKING.   3 weeks of not hiking has taken its toll on both Aaron and I, I mean yeah I got out last weekend but it wasn’t a super challenging hike and I didn’t have my favorite hiking partner with me.   Surprisingly 3 weeks of inaction really effected our stamina and strength,  we both were a little nervous about what might be challenging so when I was looking for a trail this weekend I went with a low one and maybe a little easier than what we normally do.   I have wanted to check out the Centennial Cone Park for almost a year but at first it seemed too hard and then it seemed too easy so I kept passing it over.  It was perfect after a 3 week unexpected break.  We decided we would try out the newly reopened Elk Range Trail and go a little further depending on how we felt physically.

Start of the trail

Start of the trail

The trail itself starts out pretty easy and since we parked at the north parking lot we initially started out going slowly down on a road like path.  Look at the cool bench they have the beginning so you can just enjoy the rolling hills all around:

Cool Bench

The park itself consists of one big loop with 2 side loops near different entrances of the trail(s).  One trail is open most of the year except during December & January, the Travois Trail and it is almost 8 miles one way to the west parking lot.  The other is the Elk Range Trail that closes periodically, during May and June for Elk calving and again December & January for hunting those same elk…weird.  The other thing is that the park alternates on the weekends between biker only(even Days) and hiker only(Odd Days), which I have to say I really love.

The Gate and notices for when the trail is closed

The Gate and notices for when the trail is closed

The trail moves across a couple of hills and in just a 1.4 miles we were upon the private property cross over.  It is before the private property, that if you want to try to make your way to the summit of the Centennial Cone, do it here because the opposite side of it looks much harder to navigate.  It will have to be a path you, find as there is no trail up to the top.  We chose to just play it easy today and went onward to the West Parking lot.

Before coming to Private Property

Before coming to Private Property

Looking back at the way we came

Looking back at the way we came

We made really good time to the private property and actually to the west parking lot 3 miles into the hike, it took us just an hour.  Remember this is private property so stay on the trail, it is nice that they let everyone go through so lets all make sure they don’t stop that kindness.

Gates to cross over to private property

Gates to cross over to private property

View of the Cone after we crossed over the Private Property

View of the Cone after we crossed over the Private Property

We made such good time to the West Parking lot, we decided to go ahead and try to do the extra 2.5 miles by doing quick loop on this end of the park.  We were also feeling deceptively good.

The view as we got closer to the west parking lot

The view as we got closer to the west parking lot

We went down the Travois Trail to pick up the Juniper Trail to the Mayhem Trail and back around to the Travois returning to the Elk Range trail.  The Travois to Juniper to Mayhem was all single track through a little bit of tree coverage so our first, and only,  bit of relief from the sun today.

Take the Travois Trail down to Juniper

Take the Travois Trail down to Juniper

Go right on to the Juniper Trail

Go right on to the Juniper Trail

Trail conditions on this small loop

Trail conditions on this small loop

Coming up to the Mayhem Gulch Trail, offers another small option to lengthen you hike to hit the Mayhem Gulch parking lot.  At this point we started to realize we may have over committed ourselves and so we just took the left and headed back to the Travois trail.

Go left and up to get back

Go left and up to get back

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Strangely, the trail turned into quite the struggle for me at this point.  My feet apparently aren’t allowed to take any breaks, I am awash with blisters…again!  In the end this trail was perfect to help us gauge what we can do next week and how much our break hurt us.  It changed my plans for the next month which means longer until we climb our next 14er, we are both a little bummed but determined to get back up there as soon as we can.

A couple of things to note, this trail is almost entirely exposed so in the summer go early or late and slather on the sun block.   We were thrilled at how many flowers were out on the trail, this time last year it was so dry and hot, all the flowers had burned out this low.  We were again walking through a parade of flowers the whole time and they were everywhere!!!  I am not sure how long this will last so if you think you want to check out this trail go soon to enjoy all the flowers even the Rangers were surprised at the abundance of flowers.  Finally our choice of starting at the North parking lot meant that we went mostly downhill in the beginning and so the return trip was all up hill.

After the directions will some our favorite pictures from the hike.

Directions:

North Access: 4306 Camino Perdido, Golden External Link Icon. Horse trailer parking permitted.

West Access: 2234 Douglas Mountain Road, Golden External Link Icon. No horse trailers allowed.

Mayhem Gulch Trailhead, Clear Creek Canyon Road: From Golden, the trailhead is between mile marker 262.5 and 262, 9.5 miles from the intersection of US 6 and State Highway 93, on the north side of the road.

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Quandary Peak 14,265 Ft (our first 14er!!!!!), Breckenridge CO 7/2/13

10 Jul
Views at the summit

Views at the summit

Quandary Peak Trail, East Approach

Starting Elevation: 10,995Ft

Summit Elevation:  14,295 Ft ( 3300ft total elevation gain)

Trail Length: 6.5- 7 miles miles officially ( my fitbit said 8 miles at the end)  It took us 6.5 hrs; 3:45 hrs going up  2:45hrs coming down

Trail Uses: Hiker, Biker, Horses

Degree of Difficulty:  Strenuous

Bathrooms: There are at least 2 parking lots and the first one does have port-o-potties, the one we parked at did not

Pets: On leash

Fees:  None

Summit Marker

Summit Marker

Quandary is really close to Breckenridge where we were staying and one of the easier 14ers you can do in Colorado.  I can’t lie in that I wanted to try a really easy one for our first 14er.  After our reluctant turnaround so close to the summit of James Peak a few days before, we made sure to not chance weather coming in at the wrong time when we tried Quandary, so we got up at 2:30AM and to the trail head at 4AM.  We have also heard that the trail is crazy crowded the later in the day you go and we kinda wanted it to ourselves so we could go at our own pace, breathing as heavily as we needed.   Plus we could barely sleep anyway because we were so excited for our first attempt  at a 14er!!!!

As we pulled up there were already 3 cars in the parking lot, we got ready in record time and right before we started , there were people in one of the cars and one came over to talk to us.  He said that he was a camp counselor that had brought a group of kids to hike Quandary to catch the sunrise and one of their kids got altitude sickness so he was sitting with him.  apparently this was a surprise since he had done Mt. Elbert and Mt. Massive earlier in the week, just a reinforcement that you never know when altitude sickness is going to hit.

Here are the pictures I took of the parking lot and trail head when we got back down around 11:30AM

Parking LotTrailhead signs

Walk across the road to the trailhead

Walk across the road to the trailhead

Trailhead signage

There is something weird about hiking with your headlamp on, it feels strangely exposing in that we don’t know who or what is watching us.  At the same time, it forces you to only to pay attention to the trail lit up in front of you and not dread what you see up ahead which kinda makes the incline seem much easier, for me at least.  Plus it means coming back down will be like doing a loop hike because it will be brand new for us.

Proof we started while it's still dark

Proof we started while it was still dark

We actually made surprisingly good time to get for the first 2-2.5 miles and as the sun started rising we were just at the tree line.

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What it looked during the day

What it looked during the day

The colors as the sun rises always take my breath away, as we were approaching the gravel we could see the top of Quandary lit up in a beautiful pink gold.

Getting close to the traverse. Quandary looks beautiful

Getting close to the traverse. Quandary looks beautiful.

The trail at this point was a nice steady climb with some rocks mostly dirt, it did get steep on occasion but not too bad.

As we moved to the next part of climb, it is through a ton of rocks all sizes and gravel, to me it seemed like the steepest part of the trail.  Which coincidentally, is also the hardest part of the trail both going up and coming down.  The ground is pretty unstable and then the steep grade, well it makes the trip down more challenging.

Coming down the gravel part

Coming down the gravel part

Going up it around 7AM

Going up it around 6:30AM

After the gravel climb it levels out for a nice comfy traverse which lets you catch your breath and feel more comfortable with the altitude, in fact I felt so good that as we approached the summit climb I figured it would be cake.  We hit the summit climb a little before 7AM.

The traverse in the distance as we were climbing down from the summit

The traverse in the distance as we were climbing down from the summit

The path up the ridge to the summit is totally hidden until you are on top of it and I was kinda worried we would be bouldering up the 1000+ feet in elevation left to go, but as you follow what you are on, you see it clearly and it is very well planned out.  It is steep and you can find yourself bouldering a little on accident, but then spot the trail just ahead.  The hardest part was just plain old breathing, we found ourselves stopping every 20-30 feet just to catch our breath.

Super close to the summit

Super close to the summit

The last little bit was over a small snow field, it was well used and already slick.   Aaron’s issue with heights kicked in here so we did take the time put our yaktrax on but I don’t think they are necessary.  It did help us get to the summit, and put Aaron more at peace although once we took a few pictures together on the summit, he sat in a wind shelter and didn’t move until we went back down, asking me like 10 times to watch out….not so close… Trust me the summit is plenty big no fear of falling off.

Snow field Before summit

View East from the Summit

View East from the Summit

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It was pretty emotional for me when we got to the top, I felt so incredibly accomplished after losing almost 2/3s of the weight and training for a year and a half, we did it!  I totally cried happy tears!  Then I cried tears of amazement because of the views.  I am already planning for our next 14er!  We got to the summit right at 8AM, because we were so early we had it to ourselves almost the whole time, there was just one other person who came and went.  On the way down, the trail was super crowded, like I am guessing we passed over a 100-200 other hikers.  Going early was the best decision we made.  After the directions will be our favorite pictures!

Directions: From I-70, take Exit #203 for Breckenridge – Highway 9 and travel south through the towns of Breckenridge and Blue River. Travel 18.3 miles from Exit #203 to State Road 850( Blue Lakes Road) and turn right (west). Make an immediate right on McCullough Gulch Road (State Road 851 north) and travel .3 miles up the maintained dirt road to the trailhead. Spaces are limited, but roadside parking is permitted.  There is also a parking lot immediately after turning onto Blue Lakes Road with the port-o-potty but we opted to go to the Official trail head parking.

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Summit

Summit

VIews Northwest

Views Northwest

Views South

Views South

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A Momma goat posing so we ignore her kids

A Momma goat posing so we ignore her kids

Goat family

Goat family

Blue Lakes just south of Quandary at sunrise

Blue Lakes just south of Quandary at sunrise

Blue Lakes on the way down

Blue Lakes on the way down

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

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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

Twin Sisters Trail, Estes Park/Rocky Mountain National Park *Repeater* 6/8/13

11 Jun

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Last week when I was hiking with my girlfriends, we were admiring Twin Sisters (Hike details here) at all of our different amazing view spots.  I think it took me 3 looks to realize that there was not all that much snow showing at the summit and by the end of that hike I knew this was where we were going to hike next.  It was a good elevation gain, has amazing views and got us above 11,000 feet.

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When we arrived at the trail head at 7:30 AM, other hikers were pulling up at a steady pace and we could tell it was going to be a crowded day on the hike.  The summit isn’t all that huge either on the West sister and the East sister we never even attempted it last time, so we had no idea what that might look like.  We decided to go with a slow and steady pace on the way up mostly to adjust to altitude.

The weather was perfect, it was sunny but with clouds constantly moving across the sky making each glimpse of Longs peak different and more magnificent.  As we got closer to the tree line the wind started to really pick up, this is one of those peaks that is always windy and some of the hikers we passed as they were descending said it was hit or miss at the top on if the wind would be bad or not.  Most of the snow was gone but we hit a few patches mostly above the tree line.

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As we got to the saddle between the 2 sisters, the wind really picked up…like A LOT.  Last time we came here we didn’t even try the East sister, which is the true summit, this time Aaron really wanted to try it and so we went towards it.  Our timing was almost perfect as 6 people were coming down while we started going up this meant that we had it all to ourselves.  This East Summit requires some bouldering and the use of your hands as you find the best path up for you.  There is no defined path but most people end up going the same way up just by finding the easiest rocks to crawl over.

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When we got to the top of the East Sister, the wind was really pushing us around strong and Aaron is uncomfortable with heights when there is no wind.  So while I could have walked around up there, I didn’t because I knew he would probably have a heart attack.  I took a couple of pictures and then followed him down, as we were climbing the clouds started to come around the mountainside and we were literally in the clouds.

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The view of the West Summit from the East Summit.

The view of the West Sister from the East Sister.

The view east from the summit of the East Sister

The view east from the summit of the East Sister

View of Longs Peak from the East Summit

View of Longs Peak from the East Sister

Aaron climbing down the East Summit.

Aaron climbing down the East Sister.

We got down from the East sister and almost ran over to the West Sister so that we could catch the clouds coming in from the East and around the mountain, it was so cool looking.

coulds east

The Summit was CROWDED and more people were coming up all the time.  Fortunately the wind was also driving a lot of people right back down, we got some great pictures as the clouds were zooming across the sky and mountains.

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We made great time down the mountain and just as we were about a mile from being done, I fell….hard.  I squeaked and got all twisted in my poles trying to protect my head, I even managed to break one of my trekking poles.  It turned out not to be a big deal since I couldn’t close my left hand around it anyway and I could only use one pole the rest of the way regardless.

I was doing an assessment of my injuries and figured the hand was the worst one, as soon as we got to the car I grabbed an ice pack and started icing it took some Advil and figured we could still do a second hike on Sunday.  The one I had picked was easy so why not…..turns out my hand wasn’t the problem but my whole right side of my body( on which I landed) ignited with pain at about 2AM.  Not one for suffering in silence, I woke up Aaron to tell him the hike was off, I am such a good wife…..

Sunday all I did was lay around feeling sorry for myself as the weather was perfect so views of our second hike would have been spectacular.  Outside of a few bruises ( including my pride),  I am feeling pretty good today but Sunday and Monday were good days of healing.  I should be back to hiking this weekend and we are planning on trying 2 hikes again.

Bergen Peak Trail, Elk Meadow Open space *AGAIN* 4/20/13

20 Apr

The start

This week has been tough on so many levels for so many reasons and I know I am not the only one struggling to find balance and meaning.  I can tell you that the only thing on our minds yesterday was getting out hiking and getting as high as we could (altitude wise of course), but with all the snow we got this week any hike was going to be challenging so we decided that it was going to be Bergen Peak …..again  Details of the Hike here

Honestly, I was not optimistic about our hike yesterday but we figured let’s get all our stuff together and go as far as can.  A pie in the sky hike would be to do the exact same hike we did here 2 weeks ago ( Details here), 13.5 ish miles in 6 hours with around 2400ft ish total elevation gain.  The storm that hit us this past week dropped around 2 feet of snow on Bergen Peak AND we had a chance of rain later sometime this afternoon.  All I wanted was a good hike that would help us to keep moving towards a 14er this summer.  We started out slightly bundled up, gators on for high snow with actual hiking boots (not usual and decidedly heavier) and prepared for every thing the mountains have to offer.  What we got was surprising, the snow was deep and every where but at first it was easier to move through and at just a little over half of a mile  We saw our first herd of elk

Elk 1Elf 2Elk 3

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After 7 years of living here we finally saw our first Elk!!! It was so super cool and we were crazy excited to see them….I even pulled out my big camera which I feel like I only carry for weight building lately.  None of the pictures turned out as good as I wanted them to be but I can tell you it was awesome!!!!

We started out really slow and as we climbed up I figured  if it takes the whole day, then it takes the whole day just as long as we finished before the rain was predicted to start at 4…did I mention we started hiking at 7:30?  At that early in the morning the snow was perfect to walk on, but other than the occasional  slide it wasn’t too bad and there had been enough people before us to create a very nice path.  The traffic on the trail was really light going up we saw one other couple hiking and then one jogger.  That jogger told us he spooked a bear about a 1/2 mile up the summit trail, our pace became slower and we were super attentive, stopping for any little noise.  I was really torn here, scared to see my first bear and yet wondering if I could catch one in a picture.  We then had the good luck of meeting up with another hiker who had just gone up to the summit and she saw no bears so we continued on.  Here are a couple of pictures of what the trail looked like on our way up:

Bergen Peak trail conditionsBergen Peak TrailTrail conditions at the top

It was a beautiful day and crazy challenging, it was like walking up and down sand dunes with lead weights on our ankles and back.  In the end it took us 4 hours to get to the top, which was covered with so much snow and I only fell once, thank goodness for all that snow it totally made my face plant more funny than painful.  We don’t know this trail enough to walk where there weren’t already foot prints and so I was challenged in getting any good shots of Mt. Evans at the top but Pike’s peak was AMAZING!!!!  When we were about to leave another hiker had just arrived and he was so nice, but he told us something new and embarrassing. Before today we always stopped at the vista point assuming it was the summit, but in fact it is not so he showed us where it was and took a picture of us so we had actual proof we made it to the summit.   What a funny lesson for us, I was such a proud hiker until that moment!

Proof we made it to the summit of Bergen Peak

Proof we made it to the summit of Bergen Peak

In the end we did just under 12 miles even thought my fitbit said 14, we are crazy insane tired like my joints have never hurt so much tired and my calves have been aching.  The day was beautiful and different I couldn’t get enough of it all.  I am in love with this particular hike and most times it is pretty crowded but yesterday we had almost the whole thing to ourselves.  Most hikers who actually attempted the peak did the standard route up and back ( Sleepy S > Elk Meadow> Bergen Peak Trail > Summit Trail), we decided to do the loop via Too Long down from the summit trail and just enjoyed the complete solitude.  By the time we headed down the snow was starting to get slushy and slidey, I took the advice I received from Didier when I did White Ranch Park with my nieces last month and took a lot of small steps it helped so much!!!  I still had sore feet but no blistering like I did then…..

Here are some of our favorite pictures from the hike:

on the way up

on the way up

Pikes Peak from Bergen Peak trail

Pikes Peak from Bergen Peak trail

Mt. Evans from Bergen Peak Trail

Mt. Evans from Bergen Peak Trail

Snow is to the top of the Scenic view sign

Snow is to the top of the Scenic view sign

Looking out from the scenic view sign

Looking out from the scenic view sign

Pikes Peak 2

Pikes Peak viewed form the top

Another Pikes peak shot from the top

Another Pikes peak shot from the top

View at the top

View at the top

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Us half way down

Us half way down

Snow moving in as we hike down.

Snow moving in as we hike down.

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We finished just in time!

We finished just in time!