Monthly Archives: November 2013

7 mile hike with our new “green” technology

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Today’s training hike again took us to neighboring Staunton State Park for our first trek with our new high tech charger.

Our plans are for us to complete a short daily blog four to five days a week during our Camino de Santiago experience.  One of our main concerns was the ability to keep our smart phones charged so we will be able to connect via wifi (where available).  With that in mind, we have been looking into affordable, portable backpacking solar chargers to address the limited opportunity to recharge in hostels and albergues.

We settled on a neat lightweight backpacking solar panel called EnerPlex KickrII. It weighs only .23 kg and produces 3 watts of power, which recharges smartphones in about 3 hours. It is rugged, flexible and small enough to be stuffed in a backpack when not in use. It retails for under $50 and best of all is manufactured right here in Colorado.

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Our hike took us into the heart of Staunton via Staunton Ranch Trail.  We hiked to its end then climbed up heavily wooded Marmot Passage Trail, gaining elevating over 9,200′. Not a lot of sunlight on this trail!
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Once at the top, we connected to Scout Line Trail and sunlight.  Scout Line is my favorite trail in the park.  It is only 1.5 miles long, but is the most difficult trail in the park.  15 switchbacks from the bottom take you up almost a thousand feet in about a half mile. Once at the top, fantastic vistas await.  Today, we came up the back way so the 15 switchbacks were all downhill. Difficult on the knees for sure. I would much rather climb up than hike down anyday.
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This trail is hiker only, which also adds favorably to my “like” list.  Here is Sandy walking along one of the rare flat portions of the trail.

All told, we hiked 7 miles and gained more than 1,000′ in elevation.  The solar charger worked amazingly well.  It maintained our Note 3 working GPS and other hiking apps at 90+ battery strength throughout the hike. Our usual battery level would be between 45-60%.  Looks like we found what we were looking for!

Buen Camino

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Cold weather training hike at Staunton State Park

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We hiked today in our role as volunteer trail hosts at Staunton. The weather was cloudy and cold with temperatures hovering in the single digits. Needless to say the park was not very crowded. In fact, when we arrived we were the first car in the parking lot. So, instead of trail hosting we decided to hike into the back country to provide the park staff with up to date trail conditions so the park’s Web site could be updated.
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The trails were in really good condition considering the recent snow. Over the length of our hike the snow depth was between one and three inches.
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Along side Mason Creek Trail we were treated to some really neat weather related sights, from beautiful ice coveted waterfalls to rocky outcrops with icicles.
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The trees were all spectacularly frosted and they looked ready for the season.
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We are always amazed at Staunton’s spectacular views!
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Just above the old mill there are some really neat rocks. I am surprised the local climber community hasn’t started climbing here yet.
Overall, we ran into only two other hikers on our 7.6 mile trek. What a great experience! We decided that hiking during less than ideal weather days is a lot more fun than those picture perfect days when the huge crowds come out.

Buen Camino!

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A November climb to Rosalie Peak’s summit

20131114-084748.jpgThis is the view I wake up to every day. I chose this photograph as it depicts 13,575′ Rosalie Peak and neighboring small rounded Bandit Peak to the left and square topped Mount Evans to the right. This photo, obtained off of the Summit Post website presents Rosalie and neighbors exactly the way they appear from our living room window. A few years ago I decided to add climbing Rosalie to my bucket list. There is something in my DNA that makes me want to get to the summit of certain mountains and this peak was on my radar.

Unfortunately a variety of circumstances have presented themselves which has led to me being unsuccessful in my several attempts to summit. That being said, I feel compelled to post a brief list of my past attempts and my reasons for failure:
Attempt #1 – September 2012 – Took the Rosalie Trail thinking it would take us to the peak. Wrong trail. Still a nice 10+ mike hike.
Attempt #2 – February of 2013 – Snowy solo hike to Pegmatite Points – 12,000’+ – 60-70 MPH winds and cold turned me back.
Attempt #3 – October 2013 – Bridges all washed out. Slipped on icy log and fell into very cold creek. Am I ever going to summit?
Attempt #4 – Early November 2013 – Hiked Tanglewood Trail to 11,444′. Turned back due to late start and not enough daylight left.

Well, there comes a time if you are as stubborn as I am when you say, enough is enough – today is the day. Yes, yesterday was the day I decided I would finally summit Rosalie Peak. The conditions were just perfect. The snow fields on the mountain’s south and east facing slopes were sparsely blanketed with snow, meaning that with some extra distance one could avoid these dangerous conditions. The weather was unseasonably warm, with temperatures forecast to be around 30 in the morning and mid 30’s at the summit in the afternoon. Today’s hike was with good friend, Jack Roberts.

Rosalie Peak is named after Rosalie Bierstadt, wife of 19th century nature painter Albert Bierstadt. My son Jonathan and I summited neighboring 14’er Mt. Bierstadt a few years ago, but that is another story for another day. The climb to Rosalie is difficulty rated at class 2, primarily due to its extended distance and elevation gain. We started at the Deer Creek Trailhead at an elevation of 9,050′ and began our climb to our destination at 13,575′. The one way distance to the summit was 5.5 miles.

20131114-084812.jpgThe first few miles of the trail follows Deer Creek, which are highlighted in previous posts. It is a rocky hike with several gut busting climbs, all following and crossing fast flowing Deer Creek. This photograph was taken as we emerged from the heavily forested portion of the trail and were able to see some of the vistas.

20131114-084827.jpgAs you can see, after the trail emerges from the forest it gets quite steep and heads toward the Pegmatite Points on the saddle. This is a neat part of the trail as you hike through dense areas of mountain mahogany.

20131114-084842.jpgTanglewood Trail then takes you through an old growth stand of bristlecone pine. This was a really neat area. Some of these trees are 2,000 years old! At this elevation you can see how difficult it is/was for bristlecones to survive the harsh weather, winds and elevation.

20131114-085037.jpgOnce on the saddle it was time to leave the trail and begin our assent toward the summit. As we started gaining elevation the 12,000’+ thin air required a rest or two along the way. Can you think of a better place to sit back and relax?

20131114-084855.jpgAt about 13,000′ the mountainside got very steep, which required traversing and frequent “catch your breath and slow your heart rate” moments. The snowfields also became much more prevalent. They were not more than 6″ deep, but were extremely icy on the surface. Since we did not have crampons or ice axes, hiking around the snow added extra time and distance.

20131114-084913.jpgThe final 200′ of hiking leveled out and before long the summit was attained. Unlike many 14’ers, Rosalie has a rounded top and this rock caron marked the high point.

20131114-084924.jpgLooking to the east with the skyline of Denver and the high plaines visible.

20131114-085052.jpgLooking to the west with several of Colorado’s fourteen thousand foot peaks strutting their stuff!

20131114-085101.jpgFinally, the view I have been waiting for! Looking directly toward our little piece of heaven in Conifer. You can also clearly see Lions Head and the rocks within Staunton State Park. I could actually identify the meadow along Elk Creek Road. That would be within a mile of our house, so that really made my day.

All tolled, the hike was just over 11 miles, 4,280′ elevation gain and a full day’s hiking on a very beautiful trail. Love Colorado!

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Waterton Canyon backpacking trek

20131108-183025.jpgToday’s training hike took us to Waterton Canyon where we hiked 13 miles with full packs at the first segment of the Colorado Trail. It was a great day to hike with temperatures in the low 60’s, overcast skies and some windy moments.

20131108-183035.jpgAt the 2 mile mark we encountered some mule deer and a younger bighorn ram. The bighorn sheep are Colorado’s state mammal. It is always really neat to see them in the wild. Waterton Canyon has quite a few bighorn sheep. Today, we saw approximately 15. This ram was chased off by the alpha ram, as he was still breeding his ewes.

20131108-183057.jpgWaterton Canyon offers some amazing views as hikers work their way up from the plains to Denver Water’s Strontia Springs Reservoir. The Denver Water recreation website describes the trail as follows: Waterton Canyon offers a 6.5 mile hike to Strontia Springs Dam. The Colorado Trail continues above the lake approximately 10 miles to the confluence of the North Fork of the South Platte and the South Platte River. The Colorado Trail continues to Durango. Waterton also connects to the Roxborough State Park trail system.

20131108-183105.jpgWe thought this mirror would offer a neat “self portrait.”

20131108-183115.jpgHere is the dam and spillway at mile 6.7. It was really shooting out the water during our rainy fall. Not so much now.

20131108-183130.jpgSandy working her way back to the trailhead.

20131108-183215.jpgCame around a corner and saw this fantastic combination of amazing natural beauty and perfect lighting conditions. Love this photograph!

20131108-183232.jpgNot only was the trail extremely wide and relatively flat, but there were ample opportunities for using shelters, picnic tables, and vault toilets.

20131108-183553.jpgWe took a break from hiking to watch a huge bighorn ram rounding up his ewes. Younger rams watched from the periphery. Too bad we missed the butting ritual. In the fall, the rams compete for ewes by having butting contests. They charge each other at speeds of more than 20 mph, their foreheads crashing with a crack that can be heard more than a mile away. These battles have been known to last as long as 24 hours.

20131108-183636.jpgOne of the young rams, forced to live outside the herd during the mating process.

Overall, we backpacked just over 13 miles. Mark carried a 24 pounds pack and Sandy carried 18 pounds. The trail gained 350 feet in elevation.

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Worried about getting lost on the Camino?

We have been told not to worry…just follow the yellow arrows!

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7.2 miles up Tanglewood Trail into Mt. Evans Wilderness

Today’s training hike took us into the Pike National Forest and then to the Mt. Evans Wilderness Area as we hiked Forest Service Trail 636, Tanglewood Trail. The weather report was temperatures in the 50’s with a cold front arriving in the late afternoon. We decided to get an early start, but by the time we stopped for a sandwich, etc. it was 9 AM before we arrived at the trailhead. There were two other groups who arrived just before us and we let them go ahead of up the trail.

The forest service describes this trail as follows:
The Tanglewood Trail begins in the southeast corner of the Mt. Evans Wilderness and climbs north into a saddle on the boundary between the Pike and Arapaho National Forests. From that point the trail continues north as the Roosevelt Lakes Trail and eventually ties into the trails on the east side of the Wilderness. Immediately east of the saddle (towards Rosedale Peak) are a series of pointed rock outcroppings called “Pegmatite Points”. The upper portions of the trail are above treeline.

20131103-190544.jpgThe trail follows narrow but fast flowing Deer Creek from the trailhead at 9280′ elevation up to a saddle east of Mt. Rosalie at 11960′. Our goal was to make it to timberline, at approximately 11,000′. As you can see from the above photograph, the trail can be quite steep and rocky, so constant attention was needed to avoid twisting ankles and knees.

20131103-190557.jpgOne of the most beautiful observations on the trail was the unbelievable ice forms the flowing stream, freezing temperatures and overhanging branches created. We literally stopped about ten times going up the trail to admire these natural works of art. As I mentioned earlier, the trail closely follows the creek. At times the banks were less than a foot away from the trail. In addition, there were 8 water crossings along the way. The crossings range from nicely constructed bridges with rails, downed trees, stepping stones and ice bridges. It made for quite an adventuresome hike.

20131103-190609.jpgMark at one of the nicer creek cascades right next to the trail.

20131103-190620.jpgSome of the ice sculptures looked like expensive blown glass. Just incredibly beautiful.

As we made our way up the trail, we noticed the groups ahead were losing their way, as their footprints in the 2″ snow were often wandering away from the trail. The snowfall made it really difficult to locate the trail at several locations. One group unnecessarily crossed the creek and unfortunately we followed until we noticed their footprints ended at an old campsite. We then went back and re-located the trail and a short ways up encountered a different group who were lost and circling, looking to regain the trail. At this point I remembered I had my son’s GPS which I used to track Tanglewood Trail the last time I climbed it in February of 2013. I turned it on, acquired satellites and bingo, the old trail tracker overlaid the topo and we were back in the game. Within about 200 yards we were back on the trail and once again climbing.

20131103-190631.jpgAt approximately 11,000′ we came to a clearing where we could see our destination – timberline. We were almost there!

20131103-190644.jpgWe reached our lunch spot at 11,444′ right at 1 PM. We took in the views below Pegmatite Peaks and were amazed we were so comfortable in November at such an elevation. How lucky to be able to drive just a few miles from home and be in such an incredible environment.

The hike down the trail was a bit difficult on be knees as we slipped and slid on the snow and icy spots along the way. But we made it back in one piece, albeit a bit sore, but with some amazing memories and hopefully a bit more fit.

Hike distance = 7.2 miles, Elevation gain = 2,244′, Time on the trail = 6 hours

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