Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Big Adventure 2016- Part 1

Big Adventure 2016 - Part 1
Mt. Zirkel Wilderness- Mt. Zirkel Summit 12,185'
"Zirkel Circle" (modified)


This trip was a long time in the making. We had wanted to come here the previous year, but things didn't work out and we had to cancel. We finally were able to make the drive up to North central Colorado to make this trip happen.

This was a long day. We were originally going to backpack in, but that didn't work with our schedule. We started off in the dark around 5 AM.

Looks nice, but what is that thing?
Yep, it's a bear
So about 3 miles into our hike, we ran across this bear. I instantly became super cautious and aware of my surroundings. I didn't want to run into some bear cubs and an angry mama bear.

It was quite lush and green. For Colorado, anyway
Target acquired (it's distant right)
We have come a long way through a marsh and up a heavily treed slope, when we reached this open area.
Big Agnes is over there somewhere

Up on the ridge now, but the journey is far from over. We came up to the right, but we'd end up going down to the left on our way down. You can see why it took so long to return.
Slope not exaggerated
This section wasn't exactly tricky, but we were getting tired by this point
We reached the saddle
Bighorn sheep! (crappy phone zoom)
The final stretch. Not that spicy.
Looking over to Big Agnes (West)
Looking North toward Wyoming
Scott and Kerry
Steep cliffs on the west face
Late in the season, but still some wildflowers

At this point we made a decision to hike the loop instead of returning the way we came. We justified that even though it would add 2 miles to our journey, it would be easier going, and thus, faster.

Selfie time!
Heading downhill slowly

Let's be real- the return hike felt really long and tiring. And it turns out it was 10 miles to go back that way! We ended up thirsty, hot, and very tired. Reaching the car at the end felt amazing. I quickly drank a bunch of cold water from the jug and we swapped our hiking boots for shoes. Then it was on to Steamboat Springs for beer at Storm Peak Brewing. I think that was our favorite brewery in steamboat. Here's what our 16 mile hike looks like in Google Earth:

GPS says: 15.8 miles, 4,621' of elevation gain/loss.  7 hrs 29 min moving time

We did a modified route. We ended up bushwhacking from the meadow up to the Zirkel ridge, which saved several miles off of the out-and-back from red dirt pass.

We really enjoyed cooling off at Storm Peak Brewing Co in Steamboat Springs

Friday, August 21, 2015

Rocky Mountain National Park- Bear Lake and Beyond

Bear Lake, Nymph Lake, Dream Lake, Emerald Lake, Lake Haiyaha

Rocky Mountain National Park


This is the most popular hike in Rocky Mountain National Park (Emerald Lake). It's easy to see why- good trailhead access, stunning scenery, mild grades, easy trail. In 6 miles you can see 5 different lakes, forest, streams and waterfalls. This Friday morning was quite busy, and a Saturday or Sunday would be even more crowded. This is quite a nice hike, and would be excellent for snowshoeing as well. 

 I took my sister and nephew from Wisconsin, and my 3 year old son. I was proud of him, he made it 5 miles out of the 6 before I had to carry him. It was his longest hike to date. Altitude doesn't much seem to bother him, but boredom certainly does.

Nymph lake, filled with lillypads

Nymph Lake

Longs Peak

Dream Lake

Emerald Lake

Longs Peak from the Lake Haiyaha spur

Nice forest trail

Panoramic composite shot of Lake Haiyaha

Lake Haiyaha
GPS Says:
6.0 miles
1309' of elevation gain
GPS tracks loaded into Google Earth. We did Emerald first and then Haiyaha.
If one were to repeat this hike, there is a shortcut at the switchback above Dream Lake so you don't have to circle all the way around the bottom. I didn't investigate to see how viable it is. As this is a high-volume trail, it is important to stay on the trail as much as possible.

Mt. Fletcher, the one behind Quandary

Mt. Fletcher  13,951'


From Blue Lakes Dam

I did this hike true "ultralight" style with only a few items- my phone served as camera and GPS unit, and a running hydration bladder. It worked out fine, although it was pretty cold and windy near the summit. GPS tracking and photos are from an iPhone 6 with no additional processing or editing.

The trail has been rerouted above the dam to avoid erosion. In addition, just like the route description mentioned, the trail effectively disappears above the lake. The route never really exceeded class 2 at any point, despite having to move around the cliff band/ snow gully. I suspect this snow will remain all year.

This large snowfield blocks access to the standard ascent gully

Large flat area on the saddle with Quandary

Quandary Peak (14er) at left
We were thinking about a traverse over to drift peak, but a couple things gave us pause. There were clouds building and visibility wasn't perfect. It was cold and a little windy. Unsure of the weather and also lacking proper gloves, I decided we should skip it this day. It was probably a good choice.
Looking over at unranked "Drift Peak" with the summit in the clouds.

Little pan from the summit from Drift Peak over to Quandary and back
Summit Selfie! You can see the clouds moving in.
Drift Peak at left

Taking a snoozer on 100 year old box springs

Colorado Springs water supply huh?

Afterwards we went to Breckenridge Brewery where I had a pulled pork sandwich and a Dark Rye-der Black IPA

GPS says:
2200' of gain
5.0 miles RT

GPS track imported into Google Earth