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My first trip to Colorado

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My first trip to Colorado

Postby KathyW » Sun Sep 02, 2007 1:10 pm

My first trip to Colorado.

In my quest to see new places and search for clearer air, I headed to Colorado for a week. I had certain sites I wanted to see and an idea of some of the mountains I'd like to climb. I flew into Denver on Saturday, August 25, 2007 from Ontario, California (elevation 900'). I had reserved a mid size SUV with 4WD. They gave me a Jeep Liberty, which was the perfect size for me to sleep in seeing as I'm 5'1" (it wouldn't work for anyone much taller). Unfortunately it had street tires, so I'd have to worry about flats if I went on rocky roads. I headed to Estees Park/Rocky Mountain National Park and parked in the Longs Peak Trailhead parking lot for the night. It was noisy there - reminded me a bit of Whitney Portal. I decided I wasn't going to sleep and people were already heading up the trail just after midnight, so at 1:55 am I signed the trailhead register and headed up the trail. After miles of endless stair steps I reached the Boulder Field and it began to get light out. Then I could start taking pictures of the climb - it was beautiful out there.

Pictures of my Longs Peak (14255') climb:


Once I reached the Keyhole, the climb to Longs Peak was fun but those steps to the boulder field were very taxing on the way up and worse on the way down.

I checked out Bear Lake on Monday morning, but it was cloudy out and the pictures weren't real great. After checking out Bear Lake, I began the long journey to Alamosa and then out to the Great Sand Dunes. I camped near the dunes and saw a spectacular lightning storm that night and then I hiked first thing on Tuesday morning out to High Dune - I was the only one on the dunes for the first hour or so - it was wonderful.

Pictures of the Dunes:


On Tuesday I continued my journey and ended up driving along the Rio Grande and passing through Creede on my way to Lake City:

Pictures of the Bachelor Mine area in Creede:


From Creede I headed up to Lake City and camped along the Lake Fork of the Gunnison River. In the morning I did the hike to Handies Peak (14048') from the Gizzly Gulch Trailhead.

Pictures of the Handies Peak hike:


After climbing Handies and just missing getting stuck out in a lightning storm on Wednesday, I headed to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park near Montrose. I camped along the canyon and checked out the south rim of the canyon on Thursday morning.

Pictures of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison:


I then headed over to Georgetown to spend the night at the trailhead for Grays and Torrey's Peak. I woke up at 3 am and then fell asleep again for an hour. At 4:15 am I headed up the trail starting at 11,300' at the Stephens Gulch Trailhead because I was done sleeping and I would be able to get up and down the mountains before the afternoon storms came.

Pictures of my hike to Grays (14270') and Torreys Peak (14267') along the Continental Divide:


On Friday night I packed my stuff up and checked into a nice hotel near the airport in Denver to clean up and comb the knots out of my hair before returning to the heat and smog of lovely San Bernardino County.

A nice week - four 14er's, three national parks, a canyon, dunes, and other sites. I only did one of the mountains I planned, which was Longs Peak. I revised the rest to be ones that I could get up and down fairly quickly to beat the lightning storms that came every afternoon. Capitol Peak will have to wait for the next trip. I can't wait until my next trip to Colorado - I just fell in love with the San Juans - that was an extremely beautiful area around Handies Peak.


Postby Timberline » Sun Sep 02, 2007 7:31 pm

Hello Kathy,
I've enjoyed your trip reports and pix for a while now, but was moved to comment on your Colorado trip because of the memories it recalled for me. It is a beautiful state with some stunning mountains (but for my taste not enough high altitude lakes 'cause of different geology than the Sierra, oh well. . .) You found some exceptional landmarks to sample on your first visit, and did well to get around to see so much of the state in such a short time. Since you're hooked now, and bound to return, can I suggest some options for your next visit?

The hike up to Notch Peak is a good choice for a close up view of the Mt. of the Holy Cross. I did it many years ago, but if memory serves, the trailhead is up out of Minturn, on the way to Leadville from I-70 just west of Vail. Good day hike, but worth more time if you have it. One of the most contemplative summits I've ever visited.

Mt. Sopris, which anchors the west end of the Elk Range, is one of the most photogenic peaks in the state, ranks up there with the Maroon Bells, and is more visible from more places. An easy but rewarding hike. Great views from the summit. I used to live on its flanks (West Sopris Creek). Actually, the whole Elk Range is full of great routes and summits. Sopris is a beautiful mountain when seen from the Roaring Fork Valley at Carbondale, also.

Well, there's so much more, and I'm sure you'll find lots to intrigue your curiosity, so just one last teaser: check out the Collegiate Range between Leadville and Salida for some stunning hikes, too.

Best wishes and good luck to continued peak bagging! :)
Let 'er Buck! Back in Oregon again!
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Postby KathyW » Tue Sep 04, 2007 4:29 pm


Thanks for the suggestions - I'll do some research on them before my next summer trip. I know I'll be headed back to the San Juans because it was just so beautiful around Handies Peak. I'd like to go back over the winter and do some cross-country skiing - somewhere with groomed tracks. Do you have a suggestion as to where I shoule head to find good groomed tracks for a beginner?

I'd also like to try a winter ascent of one of the 14er's. Maybe Quandry.


Postby Timberline » Tue Sep 04, 2007 7:19 pm

Hi Again!
You might investigate x-c skiing options through http://www.cross-countryski.com/colorado.html just to get a feel for what's currently available. Working from memory of many years back (I hate to tell you how long ago, but it was in the 70's!), two areas that were good then for beginners were Crested Butte, and Sunlight, in Glenwood Springs.

At that time, we (my wife and I) lived near and worked in Glenwood, so we got to know that area best. Actually, living on W. Sopris Creek, we were so spoiled that we literally skied right from our front porch up the road to where the snowplow stopped, and just went anywhere from there, it was mostly high and open country. Other popular, local options there were Hunter Creek, out of Aspen, and the canyon (called Disappointment) leading east from there toward Independence Pass. I have no idea if those are still accessible today.
'Nother thing about Colorado x-c: blue wax works almost always, but you probably don't need to worry about that arcane stuff with modern skis! :nod:

Hope this helps you on your way to more adventures!
Best wishes on your next Colorado visit.
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Postby SynergyBlue » Thu Sep 20, 2007 2:02 pm

Awesome. I have free time coming up and I'm planning alot of trips. Colorado might be one of my stops. I live in California where the are is always dirty. It would be nice to breathe some fresh air and be able to see for miles.
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