Wednesday, December 21, 2005

 A Colorado Mountain Retrospective 

You may recall my earlier posts about the laborious Pikes Peak Ascent and my flirtation with electrically-induced doom on Mt Bierstadt this summer. But not all my mountain experiences were so harrowing and overwrought. Yes, I actually had some pleasant times this year too, my first year in Mile-High Country. Here's a brief recollection of some of these happier times in 2005....

January 7 - on the hogback ridge separating Fort Collins from Horsetooth Reservoir. A nice place to go, especially since it's only a 40-minute walk from our house. In fact, on the right is a pic I took through my spotting scope of our house from the ridgetop - basically just turning the other way from the view on the left.


January 16 - Cindy and I went snowshoeing in Rocky Mountain National Park, at Bear Lake. Snowshoeing was a wonderful discovery - a very inexpensive activity that gets you out of the house and in the woods, even in the middle of winter. I know, a lot of people ski, but for me, this was a novelty. It also helps us actually look forward to colder weather and snow. It's not good to dread the inevitable.


June 28 - we continued training for the Pikes Peak Ascent by doing more hikes in RMNP. Here we hiked up Twin Sisters, a grouping of peaks just east of Longs Peak which rise to about 11,000 feet. This hike proved to be much easier than we expected - we made the summit in about 3 hours, on a gorgeous day and with very few other people on the trail.


September 4 - Perhaps our most successful and enjoyable summit experience this year was Mount Audubon. Audubon rises to about 13,200 feet, with about 3000 feet elevation gain on the trail. It's not a particularly difficult hike, but the trail is beautiful, and the mountain's location amid the Indian Peaks make it a fantastic summit. The hike is about 4-5 miles each way.

Part of what makes any hike special are the unexpected wildlife moments. On our way up we encountered this pika busily gathering materials for its winter nesting. Cute. We also came across a pair of White-tailed Ptarmigans not far from the trail. Unfortunately I don't have a picture of them to show you. Other birds seen up there included Pipits and Bluebirds.

We eventually reached the very windy summit, and judging from the multiple rock shelters strewn about (see right), it's safe to assume that that's often the case. Once there, we picked our favorite shelter and had lunch, but also took some time for a few pose shots. I'm on the right leaning into the wind. The pic on the left is Cindy, as we look south towards Mount Evans way in the distance.


September 24 - by this time fall color was well underway, and we joined up with some colleagues of Cindy's to hike the Gem Lake trail in RMNP. We most anticipated looking at the aspens, and as you can see on the right they did not disappoint. On the left is a pic from a little ways up the trail looking south toward Longs Peak. Like many of the hikes we did, this was also pretty moderate, going from about 8500 to 10,000 feet elevation and doing it over about 3 miles.

There were a few other hikes of note. Back in February Cindy and I hiked up Grey Rock, a large granite outcrop less than an hours drive from Fort Collins up the Poudre River canyon. I thought I had pictures of that hike, but I can't seem to find them now. We also did a couple other springtime hikes up mountains along Big Thompson Canyon just outside Loveland. And, I did an unphotographed solo day-hike while Cindy was out of town back in early August up the Longs Peak trail, where I went as far as the Keyhole. The Keyhole is a rock formation at around 13,000 feet, but with another hour and a half or so of difficult hiking to do. Sure, I could have gone farther, but that was one occasion where I actually opted against the torturous epic. Instead, the Longs Peak summit (one of the toughest day hikes you could ever do, even with cooperative weather) will have to wait another year.

Wow. Looking back though, I realize that even this is just barely scratching the surface of what can be done in Colorado. We've basically been hitting the places that are the shortest drives from FoCo, but if we just stretched our range a bit, we could do lots more. Evans awaits. So does Elbert, and Greys and Torreys peaks, which aren't far from Bierstadt. Further afield are the San Juans, which many Coloradoans tell me are the jewels of the state. So many mountains, so little time.


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