Bob's World Travels

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Wheeler Trail July 17, 2016
Powderhorn Wilderness July 8, 2016
South Crestone Lake June 26, 2016
Unity Pond June 24, 2016
Maine June 24, 2016
Harmonica Arch May 22, 2016
Raleigh Peak April 24, 2016
Lee’s Ferry April 17, 2016
Day Three in Paria April 17, 2016

Wheeler Trail

Yesterday, I went on a club hike led by Denise Snow, who led my trip to Switzerland and is leading my trip to the Dolomites this year. We hiked from the Spruce Creek trail head outside of Breckenridge and connected to the Wheeler National Recreation Trail to hike over to Copper Mountain Ski Resort.  It was a beautiful high route over two passes, each at 12,400 feet.  It was sunny all day but extremely windy on the second pass.  We caught a free bus from Copper to Frisco to retrieve our cars.

Powderhorn Wilderness

Over the Fourth of July weekend, I led a group backpack into the Powderhorn Wilderness area, said to be the largest expanse of alpine tundra in the lower forty-eight states, an area of beautiful lakes and high, flat mesas, without the typical Colorado peaks. We started hiking through softly foggy forests under overcast skies. We hiked over a ridge and into a large meadow, with the wind blowing the fog across the enormous space, clearing the view as we watched. After hiking through more forest and past two  small, mirror-surfaced ponds, we came to an open stream valley where the sun briefly shone and we rested.

Next, we hiked the short distance to the Lower Powderhorn Lake.  It too reflected with a mirror surface and was in a basin surrounded by wide, vertical walls. From the lower lake it was a short hike to our campsite next to the larger Upper Powderhorn Lake, where we set up our camp in a broad open area with trees all round and plentiful flat spots for our tents. This basin was surrounded by the continuous high walls of the Calf Creek Plateau above us.

In the afternoon, it rained off and on and I napped in my tent. Later, the skies cleared a bit and the grouped wanted to explore. We climbed up a grassy slope, several hundred feet, out of the lake basin and onto the high mesa above, where we had a complete view of the basin and both lakes. We spotted a large stone cairn a half a mile away on the mesa, a bit above us.  We climbed to the cairn and found it to be approximately ten feet tall with walls extending from either side.  It was not located on a trail and we speculated about who built it.  Perhaps, it was built by shepherds.

On the top of the mesa, it had become foggy, and on the way down the grassy slope an intense downpour struck us. By the time we reached camp, we were soaked.

The next morning it was still overcast. We climbed again up the grassy slope to the top of the plateau. From the top, we could see the black shape of a moose grazing below next to the lower lake. We hiked on the mesa top above the cliffs on the edge of the basin and south onto the Calf Creek Plateau, which was an enormous expanse of flat, rocky tundra. We spotted an elk watching us in the distance from where we had come. High on the plateau, we found outstanding views of the Uncompahgre Massif with the distinctive Uncompahgre Peak dominating the scenery. After hiking for a mile and a half, we came to the edge of a ridge where we could see Devil's Lake in the distance several hundred feet below us, situated in the sweeping, treeless landscape of the open tundra.  We climbed down to the lake, although the trail was soon lost in the grass and marshland below.  At the lake, I told the group we could not linger because of the gathering dark clouds above us.

On a previous trip, a morning storm had caught a group I was leading high on the open Mesa.  We hurried to a ravine and crouched, spread out in the gully, as the thunder and lightning and heavy rain passed over head.  I did not want this group to have that experience.

We struggled to find the trail again up through the boulders to the top of the plateau.  We scrambled straight up until we finally found the trail near the top.  When we got back to the plateau, the clouds broke some and we took our time across the Mesa. I got behind the group and when I caught up with them above the grassy slope we were to descend to the lake, they pointed out the iron black clouds behind me.  Thunder boomed and on the way down a deluge of hail and rain caught us, and back at camp, the ground was white, covered with hail stones. In the evening, the clouds broke for a beautiful evening.

 

The second morning, we awoke to clear, deep blue skies, so typical of high country mornings. Hiking back to the trailhead, we rounded a bend on the lower lake and saw the female moose in front of us. We quietly observed and took pictures, but the moose spotted us and began to look at us with apparent concern. I was not sure what to do but felt on instinct that the best thing would be to continue walking quietly by the animal on the trail, in order to quickly get out of its area.  So we walked on, perhaps getting too close, but quickly leaving her behind.  As we continued, she moved to a more distant, safer location.

The rest of the hike was sunny and lovely. The six people I was with were experienced and highly competent backpackers, and with no problems whatsoever, it was a pleasure hiking with this group. Back in the first meadow, I spotted some rocks on a high point above, so we dropped our packs and walked the short distance across the meadow to that place. On the rocks, a vast expanse of landscape opened in front of us to the west, north and east with the Uncompahgre Massif to the west, the West Elks Mountains to the north, and the La Garita Mountains back across the meadow to the south.  In this enormous, sweeping view, we could see no signs of human existence.

South Crestone Lake

Yesterday, I hiked with a group to beautiful South Crestone Lake in the Sangre de Cristo wilderness area. It's been hot and the plentiful snow has melted.  Finally, we are in the high country.

Unity Pond

Unity Pond was as smooth as glass. Sitting on the Lake in the kayak, looking back at the shore, the reflection of the sky and the trees oscillated  vertically, broken into bubbles of color moving toward me.  I paddled out around some rocks extending slightly above the lake surface. Four herons stood on the rocks. As I paddled towards the far shore, I could see a solitary loon floating, dark colored with a white neck.  I considered paddling to the far shore but the kayak was flat-bottomed and slow, and as I paddled, the other shore did not seem to get closer.  Back by the rocks, an osprey flew over and the herons took flight with their folded necks. As I approached the near shore, I floated through a collection of small lily pads with just two spherical, yellow blossoms.  In the afternoon, the wind picked up and the water became dark and broken.

Maine

We had a wonderful four days on Unity Pond in Maine with Lucy and Benjamin, Sarah and John, Joni and Matt, and Tom and Joan.

Harmonica Arch

On Friday, I hiked with a group again into Lost Creek Wilderness  and to Harmonica Arch.  We made the short but rugged climb up to the rocks above the Arch. From the top there were views of Pikes Peaks and the rugged upper Lost Creek Valley.  This is a unique place.  Most natural arches in the West are sandstone arches.  This one is granite. I hiked again on Saturday; so on the two days before by 65th birthday, I hiked a total of 22 miles.

Early May in the Foothills

After three days of snow, it was a beautiful and pleasant day at the White Ranch Open Space.  It the first hike with Dixie for Moe and me.  It was an energetic day.  Dixie is obviously a hunter and had to look under every bush.  Sometimes, the melting snow dropped on us from the trees.

Raleigh Peak

Yesterday we climbed through ponderosa pine forests and the burn area of an old fire to Raleigh Peak.  We climbed off-trail and scrambled steeply over boulders to the rocky top.

Lee’s Ferry

The fourth and last day the canyon continued to widen, and we mostly hiked on the large flat benches on sandy trails. We found one large boulder covered with ancient, native pictographs. After a number, of miles, we began to come across old buildings and eventually came to the preserved buildings of an old ranch.  From there, it was a short walk to Lee's Ferry and the trailhead. Years ago, Karen and I started our two week raft trip down the Grand Canyon from Lee's Ferry. On this last day of the Paria Canyon trip, we visited nearby Navajo bridge above the beginning section of the Grand Canyon and admired a young condor sitting on the rim.  In four days, we walked 45 miles, including the side canyons, through the beautiful flow of the ever changing Paria Canyon.

Day Three in Paria

The third day was our longest hiking day.  Down the canyon, we reached the hard Chinle sandstone formation and had to navigate slanted, narrow stone benches. We came to the last reliable spring which was basically a steady drip.  We filled our containers with water which made our packs heavier. In the later afternoon, the canyon widened out significantly and we left the canyon bottom and followed a trail which climbed hundreds of feet above the creek.  For a small section, the trail traversed the steep side of a very soft formation with the trail narrowing down to the width of a boot. Finally, in the evening we climbed over a pass, and on the pass, the evening light was golden on the distant rock.s We came down to the low plain where the canyon was very wide.. Exhausted, we set up our camp by a large boulder and by the only scraggly cottonwood.

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