Category Archives: Wilderness

Flowers of the Colorado Trail 2019

Here is a compilation of photos and a few videos taken on the Colorado Trail. The 3 section trip reports are also posted.

 

Colorado Trail Collegiate West

Monarch Pass

In Lake City I needed to reevaluate my overall trek goals. I was not making the milage to easily complete the CT before winter so I decided that completing the entire Colorado Trail was not going to happen. I had received many reports about how hiking through the open range cattle and the affect they had on water sources was not overly desirable. So I decided to skip the next couple of sections, primarily the Rio Grande National Forest. So I hitched a ride over to Gunnison to set myself up to return to the CT at Monarch Pass. My overnight visit to Gunnison proved to be one of the most enjoyable town visits of the adventure. Great beer at the High Alpine Brewery and and a great steak at the Ol’ Miner Steakhouse.

I was rejoining the CT on August 30 near the northbound entrance to the Collegiate West Loop. After a few miles I came upon a confusing sign which signaled a detour around Monarch Ski Area due to timber work being done. I knew there was a detour on the CT but I did not get the message partly due to the location of the map and also possibly due to my being colorblind and not really seeing the red and green lines on the map. I ended up hiking into the Monarch Ski Area where the Director of Operations rescued me by driving me back to where I should have been. He was truly interested in why I screwed up and I think he planned on changing some of the signage. I would say that Monarch Ski Area looked like a very nice ski mountain.

Monarch Ski Area

The trail again kept me above tree line and I did catch some rain showers on that first day back.

I had another great campsite above Ross Lake Reservoir next to a small lake. The next climb was up the Middle Fork of the South Arkansas River which took me over to the Hancock Lakes where I had another awesome campsite.

This was Labor Day weekend so I was sharing the area with weekend campers. The following day, Sunday, took me up the Alpine Tunnel Trail which much of it was the old railroad bed.

Along the way there were historical signs documenting the challenges of that railway line through the mountains.

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Again this was beautiful country and I ended up with a sweet campsite next to a stream where it was perfect to have a fire. Labor Day brought more of the same beauty and perfect weather, but I knew bad weather was on it’s way.

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I ended up with another great campsite that I was alerted to in the Guthook Guide App and that evening gave me one of the best sunset cloud shows I have ever witnessed.

The day before I had broken one of my trekking poles but I determined that I could make it due if I could tape the seam together. As is my luck a SOBO backpacking couple came along just as I was working on this and they gave me much better tape to accomplish my task.

September 2nd would take me to Cottonwood Pass which presented a decision point.

Cottonwood Pass

I would need a few more days to get to Twin Lakes and a few more to Leadville. In those days I would need to cross over Lake Ann Pass and Hope Pass both substantially exposed. The thunderstorms that were coming were actually forming as I approached Cottonwood Pass so I decided to hitch a ride into Buena Vista and reevaluate my situation. After confirming how bad the next 5 days of weather appeared and discussing with my wife how it would be nice if I decided to head for home to help with watching our 15 month old grandson, I decided I had experienced the best of the Colorado Trail and that there was no need to weather the coming storms. So the Colorado Trail Adventure was over, but it was an awesome adventure whee I believe I experienced the best of the CT. A few day later when I was beginning my drive home I took this short video of the storms where I would have been hiking.

So I felt good about my decision.

Colorado Trail – Silverton to Lake City

My first week on the Colorado Trail, Durango to Silverton, was awesome and my visit to Silverton was successful for resupply, beer and and great steak dinner at Handlebars. I highly recommend the Avalanche Brewery and the Sultan IPA which is just a few doors down from the Blair Street Hostel. Overall Silverton is a great mountain town, however, they are a bit obsessed with OHVs. I did take a zero day mostly to allow my tired body to recover.

Jan, who runs the Hostel gave shuttle rides back to Molas Pass for $5 so I was back on the trail on August 23rd. Molas Pass is at 10886′ but you then hike down to the Animas River and the train tracks at 8918′. I did get to see the Durango to Silverton Tourist train go by and it did look like a good ride.

After the river you climb up the Elk Creek Canyon to above 12000′. I climbed as far as I could so to set myself up for the final hard climb the next day. I settled for a nice campsite in the trees where I had deer guests and learned a lesson about keeping my backpack close to the tent. Rodents chewed my shoulder strap where my handkerchief was attached and nearly severed that strap. I was fearful for the rest of my trek that the strap was going to break apart. This campsite also presented the most aggressive mosquitoes that I encountered. The next day would include the 5 avalanche debris fields that created some delay, however, routes had been created through them that were not too difficult.

The climb out of Elk Creek Canyon was a serious effort, but the beauty was inspiring. There was a stretch that got a bit technical but mostly it was about the altitude.

I maintained a slow but steady pace to finally arrive at what would be days above tree line. The view from the top looking back was awesome.

Back Down the Elk Creek Canyon

Once above tree line the wind became an issue, but the weather was good which allowed for various exposed campsites.

I ended up camping next to a small lake that appeared to have fish in it. Hiking above tree line reminded me of the Lofoten Islands but in a special Rocky Mountain way. Yes, the Rocky Mountains are really big rocks that dominate all of the vistas. Simply gorgeous.

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My next campsite was again exposed but perched above a beautiful valley.

The following day I needed to position myself for the ascend to the CT High Point. The campsite again provided a fabulous view.

The High Point on the Colorado Trail is 13,271′ but you don’t sense that it is a high point since it is such a gradual climb. The wind was really blowing but the skies were blue and the temperature was fairly nice. The views continued to be amazing as I approached a view of Lake San Cristobal next to Lake City. I needed to get to water that was near a Yurt where a herd of sheep were being managed. The sheep covered the trail but were no problem to move through. I decided to hike on far enough to get away from the sheep. I again camped on a totally exposed hillside. The following day I passed open range cattle grazing. I needed to get to Spring Creek Pass Trailhead in time to catch a 12:30 pm shuttle back to Lake City. I stayed in the Ravens Rest Hostel making plans for what would be my next section.

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Colorado Trail – Durango to Silverton

I felt like this was the season I needed to take on the Colorado Trail. My trek in the Lofoten Islands of Norway got me in pretty good shape but it also meant I would get a late start on the CT. That translated to starting in Durango with the northbound goal of hiking to Denver. Normally I don’t focus on the through hike concept but I did initially hope to complete the entire CT. I was definitely onboard for the complete CT during my first week on the trail. 

I knew that acclimating to the altitude was going to be critical for an old backpacker who was coming from an elevation of about 300′ in Oregon. So driving to Colorado was an excellent way to acclimate. Over about a week I adapted myself to the higher elevations of Colorado which enabled me to at least survive those initial days climbing up from Durango into the San Juan Mountains. Overall I believe that a late start on the CT is enhanced by taking on the northbound approach. Some positives were guarantees of maximum beauty in the San Juan’s, good water access thanks to a good snow year, and the sun is typically at your back (helpful for solar charging).

View from Gudy’s Rest

I was able to leave my car with a friend in Colorado Springs and receive a ride to the Durango Junction Creek Trailhead. I spent the night at the NFS Campground and started out on August 15th. I knew that the elevation climb over the next couple of days would be the greatest vertical change on the entire CT, close to 5000′ to Kennebec Pass but much more than that with the various undulations. The vertical alone would be tough but climbing from 7000′ to 12000′ feet is the real challenge. Once I reached 11000′ feet I was sucking air. Climbing at high altitude was slow and tiring, but thankfully I was not getting sick so my acclimation had worked.

Junction Creek

The first day turned out to be longer then I might have planned, but water and campsite options dictate your decisions, So I had to go 14.5 miles with about 4000′ total ascent to Junction Creek for my first night. Yes you can push yourself the first day, but I sure was tired sharing the limited campsite space with about 15 other SOBO backpackers. I was getting acquainted with my various navigational aids: Guthook App, CT Databook, and my Garmin InReach Mini. Goal for Day 2 was Taylor Lake which I knew would push the altitude envelop but would set me up for the next days at that elevation. However, the 4000′ climb to Taylor Lake was brutal since high elevation took its toll. The last 500′ I would go about 20 feet and then rest, but I only had to cover about 8 miles so I had the time to slog along. I did have a bit of a headache at Taylor Lake, but nothing bad.

 

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The trail to Taylor Lake was truly stunning. The beauty of the San Juan’s was exploding in perfect weather. Taylor Lake turned out to be a very nice campsite.

Taylor Lake

Day 3 would mean mostly hiking around 12000′ which amplified every uphill section. I was encouraged though because my body was not rebelling and I had hopes for getting stronger.  However, water was known to be scarce in this section with a small seep of a stream as it was called as the only water for 22 miles.

The seep came after 7 miles which made for an easier day since that was my only campsite option. Unfortunately the seep occurred in a few places and from my northbound approach I ended up choosing to filter water out of the less desirable seep which ended up clogging my Katadyn water filter with mud. Oh well, live and learn.

But I did take advantage of the great viewpoint campsite just north of the seep. The following day meant 15 miles to the next reliable water, however, the terrain was not that tough so it turned out to be a good but I was tired. A strong motivator was the incredibly beautiful scenery that epitomize the San Juan’s. I do believe this is the most beautiful portion of the CT.

On my 5th day on the trail I was beginning to understand my challenges. One problem I have is loss of appetite while on the trail. This was not going to work for a sustained period of time so I would need to increase my calorie intake. I decided to address this issue in Silverton when I resupplied. Yes, Silverton, now I was starting to think about those nice cold IPA brews that I would have in town.

Blackhawk Pass presented some of the best hillsides of flowers that I saw on the CT. But not just here, the flowers were awesome throughout my CT Trek.

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I was truly in heaven. The weather was fabulous and the scenery was amazing. My last night before Silverton was the beginning of many nights of being totally exposed above tree line, but the weather was cooperating. However, this day ended up being filled with smoke from a controlled burn.

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My final push into Silverton at Molas Pass presented the most risky weather situation I had to deal with. Storms were forming but I felt like they were going to miss me to the south. Wrong, they moved north and overtook me when I had very little cover.

The hail was large enough to hurt so I had to essentially dive into a tree and hope that lightening would not choose that tree. I was lucky because a strike occurred very close. I was able to finish out the segment and hitchhike to Silverton from Molas Pass.

 

Nature can Help

I suppose that I can consider myself a writer or at least a blogger and with that comes occasional encounters that motivate you to write an opinion or post. On my recent flight from London to Dallas (10 hours) I sat next to a young woman whom appeared to be exhausted but a few hours into the flight she wanted to talk. She was from Santa Rosa, CA, returning from a trip to Portugal with her Yoga Class. The experience was supposed to be for renewal and relaxation, however, it sounded like personalities got in the way. I was able to relate to her through my experiences in California. And she was inspired by the story of my sister who bailed out of her life in Los Angeles and returned to our hometown of Lafayette, IN. I told her that it was my sense that Californians have a lot of anxiety and she agreed. She wants out of that world, but how does that translate for her.

Back home in McMinnville, OR, I needed to visit my favorite watering hole, The Bitter Monk, where I could select a pint of IPA on draft for about $5 which would have cost me $15 in Norway. So I sit down with this man and woman who appeared to be somewhat connected to the hiking community. When I asked, they replied that they were adventurers, which was a good segue for me. Mike was a real adventurer or wonderer and it appeared that he had lived a tough life. Erin was a different kind of adventurer, one who combined mind, body and spirit. She owns a nearby Yoga Studio. Over my next 2 IPA’s I learned about the 8 Limbs of Yoga and about Forest Bathing. All of this seemed like ways of defining what I already knew as one who feels at home in the wilderness. I was impressed that Erin was passionate enough to help others learn of the health benefits that nature provides.

And the kicker that caused me to write this post was an article I just read from the Dihedral “Adventure Heals the Soul“. The post promoted the Blog Adventure Heals the Soul and a new video that the author, Natalie Rhea, produced:

The video deals with aspects of mental health and how nature healed her soul. A quote from Natalie resonated with what I have found as well, “There is no competition in nature, nature is a disruptor of inequality”. Again I am impressed that people like Natalie are communicating the value that nature has provided.

This sense of healing or health obtained from nature was a significant take-away I had from my adventure in Norway. Nature was at the forefront of Norwegian lives and they seemed to be reaping the benefits of that healthy life. How could you not be healthy living a village like this.

Village of Å

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Andstabben Above Lake Ågvatnet

We came out from the Munkebu trek in the morning, got some supplies, and headed toward what would be our last trek on the Lofoten Islands, Andstabben. The trail looked great although we were warned that it had a few difficult sections.

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Searching for Andstabben

We were also warned that the trail was difficult to find. And since we did not download a GPX file and were just relying on following a line on a map, we never did find the route to Andstabben.

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View from our Campsite above Lake Ågvatnet

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Tough Trail

However, we did have fun trying and our campsite over Lake Ågvatnet was pretty nice. The trailhead is the large tourist parking lot in the village of Å. We took the high trail to the south of the Lake trying to assume where it must cut up the mountain but we failed. We followed a potential trail up to a rock wall but somehow we just couldn’t find it. We also talked to another serious hiker who did not find it either. So we found the only flat area about the Lake and setup our campsite. The clouds were engulfing the Andstabben summit so we probably would not have completed the trek even if we had found the trail.

The morning brought a beautiful sunrise complete with a mirror lake.

The hike out took us past the Stock Fish wooden racks near the village of Å.

Finishing up our adventure in Å was appropriate for the ultimate Lofoten fishing village experience.

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View of the Island of Værøy to the South

To the Summit of Munkebu

IMG_7193Coming out from Selfjord in the morning allowed us to resupply and start our trek to  Munkebu, (Munkan),  which offered one of the most spectacular 360 views of the islands. This trek was not part of the Great Crossing but it probably should be. This is a great hike with some of the most spectacular views of the Lofoten Islands. Our plan was to hike in far enough to setup for summiting Munkebu the following day with day packs and then return to our campsite for the second night. This worked out really well so that we could thoroughly enjoy the all that Munkebu offered.

The crowded trailhead is out of Sørvågen where the area offers nice lakeside park options for picnics. The beginning of the trail features a beautiful cascading waterfall. You have to climb some rock faces with the help of chains and then you pass by Lake Stuvdalsvatnet before you come to a rocky promontory.

We decided to camp just past where the trail veers to the right and begins its climb to Djupfjordheia at 510 m. We got an early start the next day so we were ahead of the other day hikers.

You then drop into a saddle area where there is a beautiful chalet that is used by the local hiking club.IMG_7231

The final climb to the summit begins right behind the chalet. This final climb up to 2513′ or 766 m is fairly straight up but the rewarding views are to die for.

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We were the first to the summit but were joined by probably 20 hikers before we left.IMG_7265

We did take the high alternate route on our way down to rejoin the trail at Djupfjordheia on the way down.

Selfjord Bay to Horseid Beach

Road to Selfjord Bay Trailhead

Road to Selfjord Bay Trailhead

The Great Crossing recommends Selfjord Bay over to a ferry boat on Kjerkfjorden but we opted for a two day trek over to Horseid Beach with a night at the beach and one on the saddle near the pass. IMG_6953We did some scouting of the area and determined that the more popular  Kvalvika Beach was a bit too popular so we opted for the more remote Horseid Beach which after comparing with others determined that we made the right choice. This multi-day trek over to Horseid was a highlight of the entire trip.

The climb up to the pass took us around the bay and past Fageravatnet lake.

Looking back on Fageravatnet lake

Looking back on Fageravatnet lake

The trail had about everything with plenty of wet bogs to navigate. The route over the pass between Kråkhammar and Markan was just gorgeous.

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Pass next to Kråkhammar

We planned to camp on the saddle just before the pass on our return.

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The Saddle

The hike from the pass to Horseid was a bit wet but then you reach the sands of the extended beach.

Plenty of campsites but we chose one right above the ocean rocks since the weather did not appear to be a risk.

The location was awesome and I even got a glimpse of the midnight sun when I woke myself up around midnight.

The next morning I spent a couple of hours just wandering along the rocks near the ocean taking in the magical beauty of this special place.

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Horseid Beach

Here is a video that I try to capture the moment with.

We hung around for awhile the next day before we had to climb back up to the pass.

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Cloud in the Bay

When we got to the saddle we could see that we had clear skies while the other side of the mountain toward Selfjord Bay was engulfed in a cloud.

The cloud was gone for our hike out the next morning but we still had plenty of wet and challenging trail to deal with.

Now on to Sørvågen where we headed up to the Munkebu Summit trail.

Vikjorda/Lake Store Krenggårsvatnet

Jakob needed more time to rest his foot so I set out to complete the Great Crossing segments 4-5 which is Vikjorda connecting with Lake Store Krenggårsvatnet and on to Leknes. VikjordvatnetThis was a 2 day trek which I was giving myself 3 days before meeting Jakob in Leknes. The trail starts our at Rebecca’s Cafe on highway 815 which unfortunately does not appear to be in operation any longer. The early kilometers presented a gentle climb around a lake before you are presented with the task to reach the ridge above, however, there is no trail so you choose your own route.

This was not difficult which is probably why no trail has evolved, however, a GPX route was important.

Once up on the ridge you rediscover a trail and work your way toward the peak of Dalstuva which is 534 m. I was prepared to crossover, however the peak was in a cloud so I opted to setup camp before the ascent. There were not many flat spots to setup a tent but the ground cover was a lush mossy bed which made for a really comfortable bed. All was good, the weather was not great but no rain.

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These guys were wondering why I was there

I could hear the sheep bells in the distance but the next morning about 15 of them were perched on a ridge nearby wondering what the heck I was doing on their mountain.

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Looking back as I Climbed Dalstuva

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Trail up Dalstuva Looked Good for a While

The morning brought clearing of the cloud over Dalstuva so I headed up the peak. I was close to the top at about 10:00 am when the clouds came back and I found myself in a bit of a whiteout.

The trail was narrow and rather dangerous so I really could not proceed without visibility especially with an even steeper descent. So here I am about 50 m from the summit and I am stuck waiting for the cloud to clear. And it never did, so after a few hours of hoping and hopping up and down to stay warm I decided to be smart and just turn around.

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Returning to Highway 815

This meant I would have to hitch hike to somewhere but it was better to be safe then sorry.

Haugen to Svolvær

After doing Matmora Jakob realized that something was wrong with his foot/heel. There should not have been a problem, his boots were fine and he did not remember a misstep. But he needed to figure out what was wrong so we got a cabin at the Sandsletta campground. Jakob decided to go into Svolvær the next day and I would take on the Haugen to Svolvær segment which is basically a crossing of the the island of Austvågøya. I took Jakob’s Garmin which could provide me a GPX route, so I felt confident that I could handle this segment. The actual trailhead is located down a dirt road past some farm houses, but I was having trouble with the Garmin. Finally a farmer across his field figured out that I was lost and waved me over to the other side of his farm. He said just walk through his farm. Actually he had a border collie who was extremely friendly so it was a nice mistake having to cross through this farm.

Once I got on the trail I was feeling good. A lot of the initial climb required navigating through wet bogs and plenty of mud. You hate to get your dry boots wet but once you do it doesn’t matter if they get wetter. Once I got to the first lake, I got a bit confused as to which side of the lake I was suppose to take. Actually the Garmin was giving me a lot of trouble and we later figured out that it really did have issues. So I did head up the wrong side only to finally determine that I was not on the correct trail so I think I wasted a few km and probably 70 meters. I think it was the Norwegian Mobile App “OUTTT” that finally showed me where I was at and suppose to be.

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I think this is when I started to question just what I had gotten myself into. I always backpack alone so there was no reason to be concerned except I was starting to realize that I did not have all of my typical data support plus I was on some island out in the North Atlantic. As I approached the second lake, know as Ice Lake, it was apparent why. This area had the most snow that I would experience the entire trip. Helpfully a day hiker had come from the other direction so I was able to track his footprints.

Heading Down to Svolvær

Heading Down to Svolvær

Nothing tough about getting through the snow, but the descent into Svolvær was not so easy.

I had just taken this selfie before the final descent. The trail was just OK going down and I was probably going a bit to fast when my left foot did not hit trail and I went into a double roll down the mountain. The small birch trees cushioned my fall.

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Nina & Erik

Whoa, I was surprised that nothing was hurt other than the backs of my hands were all gashed up and bleeding profusely and I snapped a trekking pole in half. I was a bit shaken trying to figure out how to deal with all of the blood when a couple of Norwegian hikers happened by. Nina & Erik helped me bandage my hands and allowed me to finish the descent with them.

 

 

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