Archive for the ‘Trail Journals’ Category

Hiking Log Update

One of the nice things about the Bitterroot Valley is the large number of hiking trails that head out through the Bitterroot National Forest towards the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness.
At 1.3 million acres, it is one of the largest designated wilderness areas in the United States. It spans the Bitterroot Mountain Range, on the border between Idaho and Montana. It covers parts of Bitterroot National Forest, Clearwater National Forest, Lolo National Forest, and the Nez Perce National Forest. The Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness Area is immediately to its south, separated only by a dirt road (the Magruder Corridor). Together with adjoining public land, the two wilderness areas form a five million acre wild region.
That's a lot of hiking opportunities! We have only been out on a few so far but they have all been rewarding. The Tin Cup Creek trailhead (TH) is just outside Darby and it runs some 20 miles or so up into the wilderness. We've only been a few miles up it so far and have yet to get out of the forest although we did see a bull moose in the creek. Too many trees in the way so I did not get a picture. Blodgett Canyon is located just outside of Hamilton and we hiked 4.5 miles up the canyon to the Lower Falls. It was an amazing hike, the canyon is reminiscent of Yosemite and it deserves a post of it's own. The picture above was what awaits us when we go back to finish the hike up Little Rock Creek. We found it the other morning while heading to Lake Como for a short hike as we were limited by time and it's easy. However, on the way to the trailhead I got distracted by a sign pointing to the Little Rock Creek TH which I had read about the other day. Seemed a lot more interesting so we detoured and ended up driving several miles up the forest road and eventually found the trailhead. Little Rock Creek TrailheadLittle Rock Creek TrailSignLRC-6The trail wound up through a lot of new forest growth (pines about eight feet tall) and then reached a point with a view of Lake Como, back east to the Sapphire Mountains, and west up Rock Creek. It then turned left and provided the view at the top of the post. The trail descended the side of the mountain eventually reaching Little Rock Creek and entering the Wilderness. We continued hiking through the forest but ran out of time and had to return. Definitely want to go back and finish this one if time permits.

Hike to Bradley Lake in the Grand Teton National Park

Looking for Moose Biscuits

Looking for Moose Biscuits

Well...this was the big one we had been waiting for. Not necessarily a massive hike but actually being in the NP and seeing the iconic Grand Teton mountain range from the front. We entered the park on the Moose-Wilson road which is a twisty, narrow little road that winds into the park from the south side. We immediately interrupted six young elk bucks gathered by the road. We were so startled ourselves and then realized we didn't even have the camera out! We completely missed a great photo opportunity! Even though we did react quickly, so did they and loped into the trees. That potential photo went into a file with big fish that got away... Read the rest of this entry »

Flat Top Wilderness

RIP - A Short HikeJust a short little hike. Some rendition of these words might be appropriate to put on my headstone. I've uttered them a substantial number of times and for the most part (ok, some might disagree) they have been true. At least I always had good intentions even though there was that scope-creep factor that seemed to sneak in. Anyway, I digress...we set out on a short little hike today. I had talked with one of the Rangers when we first got there and he advised against several routes as they were a bit rigorous for our current "physical condition". He suggested the hike along Mosquito Lake which initially seemed like an OK idea but after having been plagued by mosquitoes from a nearby bog for several days I thought twice about hiking along "Mosquito Lake". I got out the forest map I had purchased and saw that a 4WD road (906) near the dam on the reservoir went up a little ways and dead-ended at a trailhead. The trail continued along East Coal Creek and looked like it would be about our speed with no major changes in elevation. Hiking along a mountain stream is usually enjoyable and so we loaded up our daypacks, hiking poles, the dog, and motored on over. The 4WD road and the creek started off in the same place but the road immediately diverged from the creek and began a rather steep uphill climb which seemed to go on forever. This impression was reinforced by the very slow pace we were forced to take as the road was really quite rough. We persevered through some tough spots where the trucks high ground clearance was much appreciated and ultimately arrived at the trailhead which did in fact turn out to be reasonably close to the creek again. It was an absolutely beautiful day to be hiking up in the alpine meadows. The weather was cool, sunny skies, and nice fluffy clouds. The trailhead is at 10,100 FT elevation and once we got started the trail quickly opened up into a splendid valley replete with many beaver ponds and wildflowers. The trail started off as an old road but soon disappeared underfoot and became somewhat difficult to follow. Eventually, we gave up and simply started following animal trails in the general direction we wanted to go. This took us away from the creek and we began to ascend the hill to the east. After some time it became apparent the trail was going to follow a diagonal up the slope towards a high rock outcropping. Hmm...decision point. We've already gone close to 2 miles and should probably head back. But that outcropping really isn't that much higher and what a view from up there. Since we had our hiking poles we decided to make the extra effort and make the ascent. We ascended the hillside following the animal track and made it to the top (11,500 FT) where we found a greeting committee (Marmot)! The view was as anticipated...spectacular with the Flat Tops in the foreground and the Continental Divide visible in the background although a bit hazy. We had a spot of lunch while taking in the panorama and then an uneventful return. So, altogether around 4.5 miles...that is still more or less "short" isn't it?

Mom Goes Camping

Fall View of Pikes PeakNovember is sneaking up on us and you would never know it. We still have a lot of trees that are just now beginning to turn color here in the city. We were up in the Puma Hills last weekend on a camping trip with my Mom and while there were still some beautiful patches of golden aspens, the bulk of them had pretty bare limbs.  It's a touch late in the season for most people to camp in the mountains. However, my Mom was here for her first visit with  Great Grandson and Josh's birthday in Pueblo. To make travel simpler to Pueblo, we rented a RV from a local place here in Denver and an opportunity for a scenic return trip home presented itself.  It would be Mom's first Colorado camping experience! We loaded the RV and headed south on the beginning of this adventure. We took a short rest break at the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs and then on to Josh & Selenda's home in Pueblo. Feeding the Horses.jpgWe had a good time chatting over dinner that evening and breakfast the next morning catching up on events in everyone's life. After that it was out to see and feed the horses. Josh and Selenda own three horses at the moment and Mom really enjoys their beauty. I also got an opportunity to drive Josh's race simulator, whoo hoo! That was great! Thanks for taking the time away from your studies to share it with me. Getting back on the road again, we headed west towards the mountains and got to Canon City right about lunchtime. We stopped at the Holy Cross Abbey and fixed lunch in their parking lot. The Abbey is beautiful and someday I would like to get inside for a look-see. After lunch, we headed up into the mountains and wound our way up Hwy 9 to Hartsel. Doubling back a short distance east on Hwy 24, up and over Wilkerson Pass; then north into the Pike National Forest to our campsite. The last mile was the killer for Mom with a nasty washboard road but she toughed it out and we arrived safely. The campsite was one that Rhonda and I had used a year or so ago. It sits up on top of a small hill and affords wonderful views in all directions. I wasn't sure if I could get the RV up the windy forest road and into the campsite as the RV was pretty long (30-footer) but I took it REAL easy. With Rhonda guiding me, it went fine and we soon were making "camp". Making camp has a different connotation with a 30 ft RV than it does with our Jeep and tent! We knew we had missed the full moon by a few days but were still anticipating watching it rise over the mountains in the east. It got completely dark before moonrise and we were treated to an amazing display of the Milky Way which can only be appreciated away from the light pollution of the cities. Mom laid down on the ground so she could look up and see it in all its glory. Quite a sight to behold! Shortly thereafter, the moon rose over the horizon and bathed the landscape with moonshine and the darkness was transformed. To take the chill off, we spent the rest of the evening chatting around the campfire and finally went into the RV for a restful nights sleep without the noises of the city. View from Camp.jpgAlong the Platte River The sky was magnificent at dawn. I could see it just fine out the window but Rhonda and Mom got dressed and went outside to get the full effect and watch the sun rise. We spent the rest of the morning just sitting around soaking up the sunshine, admiring the scenery, and watching the wildlife. We actually had a pair Bluebirds stop by the campsite for awhile on their late migration south! A real delight for us all. By noon, the winds had started blowing a bit too much for our comfort. We packed up and headed the RV back towards civilization. Along the way we made a small detour alongside the South Platte River where it first comes down out of the mountains at Eleven Mile Canyon. Mom got the opportunity to take her shoes off and walk out into the cold stream. It was a milestone moment! A quick tea/coffee/snack break at the charming tea house in Florissant and we were back in Denver for dinner! Whew! Lots of milestones in this weekend!  

Train Rides – Folk Music – Birthdays

Tom MunchThis past weekend was a rather full and "eventful" three days. Friday was a "taking care of business" day in Colorado Springs. Both of us needed to see several medical providers and there was a cargo trailer to be purchased. Despite our best efforts we seemed to be constantly running behind as we kept having to wait for this, that, or the other. But, eventually we were able to head south for our weekend getaway in La Veta, CO. We arrived just in time to get checked in at the La Veta Inn and get downstairs for our dinner reservation at Alys Restaurant. We dined out on the patio and enjoyed the live music as Tom Munch kept a steady string of tunes going. Alys came out and personally assisted Rhonda with her gluten-free selections while I sipped on a local brew. The dinner was exceptional, kudos to Alys and crew, and we liked Tom's music enough to buy a couple of his CDs. Saturday had a plan. We had purchased tickets on the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad and were headed to the top of La Veta Pass where, in a natural mountain amphitheater run by solar and wind power you'll find Fir, Colorado, the site of the Mountain Rails Live Summer Concert Series; The only Rocky Mountain concert venue that is accessible solely by train. The weather was shaping up beautifully, clear blue skies with a few clouds and nice warm temperatures. We walked over to the train depot and soon were boarded and chugging up the mountain. The track winds in and out of the canyons, along the sides of the hills, and it goes pretty slow so there is plenty of opportunity to take in the sights. At the present time the sights include black bears who are frequenting a grain spill up between two tunnels. We saw five of them chowing down on the spilled grain when we went past. La Veta Pass It took about an hour to get to the top where we de-trained, had a bit of BBQ for lunch, and then went down and enjoyed the music. Steve Gillette & Cindy Mangsen from Vermont opened with traditional folk music and some original songs. Playing the guitar, concertina and banjo, they had a rich harmony, compelling songs and a good dose of humor. The main attraction was Weavermania, a folk group dedicated to recreating the songs and music of The Weavers, whose musical influence can still be heard in the Kingston Trio; Peter, Paul and Mary; and in every coffee house and folk club in the country. All of the music was great and we really enjoyed the afternoon. Late in the afternoon, the train took us back down to La Veta and we relaxed a bit before having another great dinner at Alys' and heading for an early bed. Sunday we hung around for awhile and then headed up Hwy 12 to Cucharas Pass and then took the dirt road on up the mountain to Cordova Pass, a high pass (11248 ft/3428 m) to the west of the peak. There we went on a short hike and enjoyed the views of the Spanish Peaks and surrounding areas. The drive down the east side of the twin peaks took considerably longer than we thought and we ended up being late to our grandsons Birthday party by the time we got back to Pueblo. BalloonsThe party was a big success and everyone had fun, especially the handsome boy, who demonstrated that cake is not meant to be eaten but rather smeared around on your forehead! Looked like fun to me but I got "that look" from Rhonda when I thought about trying it 😉 Presents were opened and he will definitely be entertained for awhile with all the new stuff. On the way back through the Springs we picked up our cargo trailer which I found on Craigslist. I call it my "mobile shed" because our current house does not have a shed and this provides not only space to store the lawn mower, bicycles, etc. but also all the stuff we had in temporary storage during the move. Our backyard has a place all rocked-in for parking a trailer so this works out perfect.

A Trip to Suncallo, Bolivia – The Last Days

Return to La Paz We packed up and got ready to go. Ruben is supposed to have found a different route to get to us, but it is a long way round and involves more back-country roads. It is a different route than what we came in on. We took the opportunity to finish up some loose ends, getting some interview questions answered and visiting a house or two. The guides from the other nearby town, Komucala, showed up this morning wanting us to go now. We said we couldn’t because we were leaving. We will have to catch them next time or possibly find another EWB chapter to support their community. We had an assortment of lumber left over, which we donated to the community to help finish the new church. We also left the egg incubator we had brought with us to test the water samples for bacteria. I was surprised that there were no chickens around. It seems like a logical solution to have hens laying eggs. The livestock in the community consists of lots of sheep, a few cows, and pigs. Mules, too. Ruben arrives in the later morning and we packed up the LC and said our goodbyes. I let Amanda sit up front, as the trip out promised to be challenging and she is prone to motion sickness. What a journey this was! After leaving Suncallo Valley, we headed east, down into the rugged sides of the Andes to the river, across the river and then back up the other side. It took two hours over some of the narrowest, twisty jeep trails I’ve ever seen. Once on the other side of the river, we passed through a small community that has one of the few medical clinics in the area. We continued going up, although mostly on the ridge with some spectacular views of the Andes range and Mount Illampu in the foreground. We stopped for lunch at an overlook. The GPS put us at 15,500 feet, with Illampu towering at 20,000 feet in the background. We were on wide, easy roads now, although still gravel through our descent back to the main highway. The remainder of the trip back to La Paz was uneventful. Amanda did not fare well. We eventually had to get her to a doctor for dehydration and nausea. Fortunately, she recovered fully by the next afternoon. Tess was a faithful friend, and stayed with her through her ordeal. The rest of us went out and found some pizza and then a coffee shop, which put a nice cap on my day. I had not had any coffee since I had gotten there. Lastly, we found an Internet café and were able to send home a quick email. The next day was spent in La Paz relaxing, shopping, and attending a soccer game. The following day began a little too early as we needed to be downstairs to meet Mike and load up for the trip back to the airport. Thus began a very long and frustrating travel day that finally ended back in the Denver airport at 11PM. It sure was good to get home.

A Trip to Suncallo, Bolivia – Assessment Days

Assessment Days Morning arrived along with Catalina’s breakfast. The plan was to hike up the hill to visit the water sources. The community has an existing drinking water system that was installed many years ago, but there is not enough pressure to deliver water to all the houses. Senor Gregorio explains to us, as we walk back up the mountain, that there are two existing water sources that are piped down to the community. He wants to add two more, and that is where we were going… to see the water sources and look at the pipeline route they have identified. (Six or so locals went with us) Sr. Gregorio discusses potatoesWe passed by fields growing barley and some small ponds that have potatoes soaking. Sr. G. explained how the different potatoes are grown and processed so they have unique flavors. He tells us there are over 100 varieties of potatoes grown here. Some of them we see are soaking in pits, others are drying in the sun. Aside from some grains and a few beans they grow primarily potatoes and that is their main source of food. Sr. G. pointed out an irrigation pipeline in the other side of the valley. It provides water to another community down the valley further. Up the hill againThe first water sourceProposed Pipeline After a steady uphill hike of a mile or so, we got to the furthest water source. It is a typical mountain spring about 1,000 ft higher than the community. We took a break and Sr. G. offers a prayer of thanks for the project to succeed. I fired up the GPS and marked the spot. They have already roughed out a proposed pipe route and we started following that back towards the community, marking points with the GPS. Read the rest of this entry »
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