24 June 2009

It's not the marmot you see you must fear

It's the little, fluffy furball behind you who will get ya!!

17 June 2009

Sangre de Cristo / Wet mountains

Ah the fickle weather of Colorado. Tuesday was supposed to be thunderstorms during the afternoon in the Sangre de Cristo mountain range in central Colorado but perfect on Wednesday.

So I was in no hurry to get out the door on Tuesday. All I wanted was enough daylight to scout out some potential lines on one of four targeted peaks; Horn, Little Horn, Flume, and Commanche peaks.

I got there quicker than expected and was doubly treated by the unexpected beauty of the Wet Mountains on the drive to Westcliffe. I admit that the Wet Mountains are what I pictured Colorado to be like when I was a kid and during that dream, of owning 100 square miles and being independently wealthy, where I would live was a close facsimile to what I was driving through.

Found a nice campsite in one of the cleanest campgrounds I've been to; you can tell it doesn't get much use.

I could tell from my topo map that a tangled web of trails led out. I could tell from reconoitering during the drive in, I wanted to hit either the North Face of Horn Peak or a nice couloir to the south of the summit of Commanche.

Horn Pk on the left, Commanche to the right of it. You can see the delicious couloir I wanted to crunch into.

So I checked out the approach and the trail junction. Solitude and trees is the best way to describe it.

The next morning woke up at 5:45 am to the wind howling. It didn't stop for the nearly three hours I was at camp and packing up. I've nearly been blown off mountains twice. Last year during my traverse of the Pawnee Ridge was the latest episode. I remember crouching down on a shelf on the north side of the ridge for nearly 15 minutes waiting for a respite in the bluster.

Not looking for a repeat, I cut my losses and decided to explore the Wet Mountains some.

First some pics of the Sangre de Criso Range and Westcliffe. I will be back.

Took a nice hike along Squirrel Creek. Then checked out this oddity called Bishop Castle.

Nearly stepped on these two little guys

Squirrel Creek

All handmade and open to the public on a donation basis. Bishop Castle looked a little to suspect to me to wander inside. Plus it was too cartoonish for my taste. But if it breaks tourists to the area, which in turn helps support the local economy, go for it.

Hardscrabble Pass. Nice granite, and some dubious outcrops too.

11 June 2009

Pack the tent, stay in a motel

I currently feel like somebody shoved an eggplant in my ear. Long night out hitting fancy spots downtown. As one friend put it, "No way! You at Martini Ranch?!"

Good times. Chores and unsettled weather made my days off not as satisfying as I would like. But the Tacoma has new brakes and it passed its emissions test.

Last week was spent out in Fruita. I needed to camp and it was the only place in the entire state of Colorado without rain.... for a bit.

Some cactus blooms. I find myself drawn more and more to flowering cacti. I think it has to do with the juxtaposition.

Got two real good rides in. On the second one in the evening, I saw the blackness creeping closer. Distant rumbling of thunder approached and stopped being so distant. Knowing a deluge was imminent, I started hauling ass back to my camp.

I made it back right when the skies opened; talk about fortunate timing. I was forced to hide in my truck for over half an hour as the storm pounded the area, casually tossing lightning bolts and quarter-sized hail down.

I discovered I'm still shell-shocked by lightning from nearly getting struck last summer. When the lightning and thunder were synchronized in real time, I found myself nervous. I closed my eyes, controlled my breathing and began meditating. In short, I felt the closest one could get in a war trench.

I drove into town, since cooking at camp wouldn't be possible. I was treated to views of a double rainbow with lightning continuously forking through the middle of it -- that image will stay locked in my memory for a while.

Driving back to camp, I reached the dirt road again and drove through some flowing water. Soon the night was obscured through my windshield by inky blackness. Water flowed over my roof and engulfed the truck. I laughed uncontrollably.

I met up with another truck and the driver informed me I wasn't getting back to camp this way. Over three feet of water jumped an arroyo and was pouring over the roadway.

I tried a backway to get to camp and after driving far enough down 16 Road, I turned and saw a dry stream transform into a rushing river.

So I drove back to camp and spent the night in a motel room. The next morning I was able to get back to my camp and discovered my tent performed beyond expectations. Nothing was wet inside despite the dumping and the 60-mph winds.

The Tacoma the next day. I had to clean the windows off in order to have periphery sight.

The aftermath of the road

On my way back to Denver, I checked out around Rifle. According to some reports and my map book, there are some trails in the area for mountain biking. I was deep into carnivore country and quite surprised I didn't run into a bear during my exploring; it was ideal territory for them.

Stymied by a gate. The cirque looked very cool.

Glenwood Canyon on the drive back.