Colorado

The Best, Short, Day Hike in Colorado?

This could be it: Hanging Lake, just a few minutes drive east of Glenwood Springs.

You have easy, quick access off of I-70, and about three miles of hiking (total, round trip).

You DO need to be in something better than Standard American Couch Potato Condition, however, as you climb over 1,000 vertical feet in just over a mile. Then you come back down. If you just came from sea level, you might even find the walk challenging, asphyxiating even. Plan on 2-3 hours for the adventure.

Wear supportive footwear as the trail is rough and rocky in places.

Also, be aware that you’ll have to backtrack a bit on the Interstate before you can motor east toward Denver again, if that is your intended direction of travel.

I chose a beautiful autumn day to finally stop and check out Hanging Lake. I can’t believe a have never stopped before…

 

A small shelter you’ll find along the trail (off limits, however). The autumn changing of the leaves was in full swing and turned the walk into an idyllic odyssey:

Hanging Lake Trail, #1. Near Glenwood Springs, Colorado, 2017
Hanging Lake Trail, #1. Colorado, 2017

 

You follow beautiful Dead Horse Creek (what a contradictory name, eh!?) as you climb. This is a hand-held image with the Sony RX100iv…that’s right, no tripod was harmed in its making. The key is to snap maybe ten photos at various slow shutter speeds–brace on something if you can (or against the stretched out camera strap on your neck as I did), hold your breath, and gently squeeze the trigger. With luck, at least one will come out sharp and not blurred from camera movement. This one was taken at 1/5 of a second:

Hanging Lake Trail, #2. Hanging Lake, Colorado, 2017
Hanging Lake Trail, #2. Hanging Lake, Colorado, 2017

 

A lone cloud hangs over the narrow slot canyon:

Hanging Lake Trail, #3. Colorado, 2017
Hanging Lake Trail, #3. Colorado, 2017

 

The actual Hanging Lake is really more of a pond–but a very attractive one with ribbons of water pouring in from all sides. In the early spring this must be roaringly spectacular. In winter, it must be a quiet paradise of vertical snow and ice. Another hand-held image, this one at 1/8 of a second:

Hanging Lake Trail, #4. Colorado, 2017
Hanging Lake Trail, #4. Colorado, 2017

 

Ah, the warmth of autumn colors–but the air was dry and crisp:

Hanging Lake Trail, #8. Colorado, 2017
Hanging Lake Trail, #8. Colorado, 2017

 

Another, wider, view of Hanging Lake. I spotted trout in the pond–how did they get there?

Hanging Lake Trail, #9. Colorado, 2017
Hanging Lake Trail, #9. Colorado, 2017

 

Just because you might be a bit tired and shagged out from your prolonged walk, don’t blow off the short (five minutes, I promise!) trail to Spouting Rock, just above Hanging Lake. The water pours out of a hole in the cliff above and is almost more interesting than the Lake itself:

Hanging Lake Trail, #6. Colorado, 2017
Hanging Lake Trail, #6. Colorado, 2017

 

On the way back down–they made me pose:

Hanging Lake Trail, #10. Colorado, 2017
Hanging Lake Trail, #10. Colorado, 2017

 

Dead Horse Creek detail:

Hanging Lake Trail, #11. Colorado, 2017
Hanging Lake Trail, #11. Colorado, 2017

 

A view of the main Glenwood Canyon, the Colorado River, and the railroad tracks:

Hanging Lake Trail, #12. Colorado, 2017
Hanging Lake Trail, #12. Colorado, 2017

 

Glenwood Canyon in autumn:

Hanging Lake Trail, #13. Colorado, 2017
Hanging Lake Trail, #13. Colorado, 2017

14er Report #37: Uncompahgre Peak (Very Late Summer Conditions, South Ridge Route)

Uncompahgre, #12. Uncompahgre Peak, Colorado, 2017
Uncompahgre, #12. Uncompahgre Peak, Colorado, 2017 (In the red light of an autumn sunrise.)
 
“Uncompahgre” – From the Ute word for “red water spring” or “red lake” or “dirty water”, take your pick–or ask a Ute elder, to be sure.

 

After a day of resting our bones (see the September 15, 2017, Handies Peak Report) and checking our phones in the bustling berg of Lake City (population 500, counting dogs and cats), Rik Fritz and I were ready for our next 14er objective. Again, we talked of Wetterhorn, but yet another brief dusting of snow up high the night before made us reconsider. Fickle autumn! So, to avoid any chance of a Fritz-Joder epic (see my post “The Fall” for an extreme example of just such an “epic”), we chose the relatively easy trail up Uncompahgre Peak for the adventure o’ the day.

If you happen to be in this area in mid-September, by the way, plan for a day of hanging out in Lake City as their Lake City Uncorked Wine and Music Festival takes place then. A fun event! Also, the leaves will likely be changing (as they were for us), so it is a fine time to be there. Bring both a jacket and short sleeves–it will be chilly in the shade, but hot in the sun!

Also, of historical and, perhaps, gastronomical interest in this land of many gold and silver mines, is the strange 19th century tale of Alferd G. Packer. He and five prospector companions found themselves snowbound here in the San Juans one winter and only Alferd came out alive when the storms cleared–apparently, thanks to a bit of cannibalism on his part. He was eventually convicted of murder for his acts, although there is a good chance he was railroaded and was simply a “creative survivor” of a tough situation (not unlike the Donner Party (1846-1847) and the Uruguayan rugby team (1972).

Some morbidly humorous Alferd Packer trivia: I remember eating at the Alferd G. Packer Memorial Grill at the University of Colorado back in the 70s (Since renamed the “Alferd Packer Restaurant and Grill”, apparently–spoilsports!). I think they had a “Cannibal Burger” on the menu then.  Some of the slogans I have heard related to this eatery…”Have a friend for lunch!”…”Serving humanity since 1874″…and, “He ate the only two Democrats in Hinsdale County!”

But enough raucous levity. Let’s get back to the topic at hand–the trip report of our ascent of Uncompahgre Peak in late summer/early fall/light snow conditions. May you find it useful and/or entertaining.

 

…Click here for the complete report and a couple of dozen images to stimulate your retinas!

14er Report #36: Handies Peak (Very Late Summer Conditions–Snow!, East Slopes Route)

Handies, #3. San Juan Mountains, CO, 2017
Handies, #3. San Juan Mountains, CO, 2017 (Both autumn and winter are approaching at the same time!)
 
Memories made in the mountains stay in our hearts forever.
–Anon

With a pending move to Barcelona this year, I thought I might get motivated and finish the basic list of 58 14ers this year but, alas, ’twas not to be. Rock climbing seemed to be the outdoor priority for me this year. So, I guess I’ll be back from Spain for a month or two next year with the remaining 14ers in my sights! Who wants to join me?

This particular trip up Handies (and the one to follow, up Uncompahgre) was special in that I was able to team up with a very close friend from way, way, waaay back in junior high and high school days–Rik Fritz. In fact, he called me up and got me going back to the big mountains on this trip instead of the local rock climbing crag.

Rik is an amazing guy and really needs to write a book about his exploits with rattlesnakes, on Yosemite big walls, on long, high altitude, cross country flights in his hang glider, and on his seriously salty sailing adventures. He is definitely a man who has lived life to the fullest–and continues to do so. (See my near-death blog post from June 27, 2017, “The Fall” to catch a bit of what I mean.)

It was great to catch up with him and talk about all that “Back In The Day” stuff! Ahhh…the stories…the stories…and all included at least 10% truth!

Our initial goal for the 3-4 days we had available was to haul our fannies up Sneffels, Uncompahgre, and Wetterhorn, starting with the Class 3 scrambling route on this last one, “Weather Peak”. Handies wasn’t even on the list. But, ah, the best laid plans…In mid-to-late September in the Colorado Rockies, weather can be tricky and fickle pickle, as we quickly discovered.

A pounding, hours-long, cold rainstorm the night before–as we camped at the Wetterhorn/Matterhorn Trailhead–made us rethink things. There would surely be snow above and, sure enough, morning revealed a heavy coating on the high peaks tapering off finally at about treeline. Hmmm…best not to do exposed Class 3 scrambling on icy and snowy rock without the proper gear and attitude, we both said. So, instead of Wetterhorn, off to Handies we bounced in our 4×4 pickups–Handies would be a much easier peak, even with a wet, white blanket o’ schnee.

What follows, then, is what eventually transpired, to the best of my sometimes-faulty recollection, along with my usual merry montage of inspiring images…

…Click here for the rest o’ the story!

An iPhone Postcard Landscape

Ominous Flatirons. Boulder, Colorado, 2017
Ominous Flatirons. Boulder, Colorado, 2017

 

From the sea back to the high mountains… and a local iconic (cliché?) postcard landscape for you from just above the Boulder Bubble, aka The Friendly People’s Republic of Boulder.

With my D800 and my 24-70mm lens off at Nikon for repairs (they were dropped some time ago…both still worked, but were pretty banged up), it is the iPhone that I have with me most often these days.

REPAIR UPDATE: It appears that my D800 is coming back from Nikon as “unrepairable” This means I will have to use the thing sans battery door and with a small pointy object always handy to pry the battery out of its slot each time I need to charge or change it. The camera still makes good images, though, even with the bashed batt compartment.

Heavy Spring Snow on Sugarloaf Mountain!

With the latest storm moving out yesterday, I thought it might be an opportune time to hike up Sugarloaf Mountain. The idea would be to catch sunrise on the Continental Divide, maybe see the trees plastered with snow, and hopefully even get a nice undercast layer of writhing fog fingers caressing the low mountain valleys.

These photo trips never really pan out like you expect, though. On this morning, for example, there was no undercast and the Continental Divide peak tops were mostly obscured by cloud remnants from the recent storm. At least there were lots of snow-laden trees.

What really attracted me, though, were the huge snow sculptures and drifts at the summit–some of them hip deep. The driving wind, and thus blowing snow, helped give the images some unusual movement effects, even if it was difficult to keep the lens relatively spot-free. (Forget trying to actually change lenses!)

The hike up was through a smooth, fluffy coat of shin-deep powder snow.

First tracks are the best!

On to the images…

 

The magic moment. Another day quietly begins with orange plasma on the horizon and light pink on the snow at my feet:

Sugarloaf, April Snow, #2. Sugarloaf Mountain, Colorado, 2017
Sugarloaf, April Snow, #2. Sugarloaf Mountain, Colorado, 2017

 

Then the wind woke up and the early morning went full-on, roaring orange:

Sugarloaf, April Snow, #4. Sugarloaf Mountain, Colorado, 2017
Sugarloaf, April Snow, #4. Sugarloaf Mountain, Colorado, 2017

 

Sugarloaf, April Snow, #5. Sugarloaf Mountain, Colorado, 2017
Sugarloaf, April Snow, #5. Sugarloaf Mountain, Colorado, 2017

 

This was my favorite photograph of the day, a portrait of Longs Peak as the first rays of the sun hit the mountain. The wind was blowing directly into my lens, which made for some wonderful blurring and subtle colors in the foreground…but the flakes would quickly start filling up the spaces around the inside the lens shade. I cloned out a number of inconvenient spots from flakes that stuck themselves to the glass:

Sugarloaf, April Snow, #3. Sugarloaf Mountain, Colorado, 2017
Sugarloaf, April Snow, #3. Sugarloaf Mountain, Colorado, 2017

April in the Colorado High Country

There may be trees blossoming down in Boulder, but it is still looking like winter up above 9,000′ or so.

Here is a block print-like image of Dillon Lake I liked, made just a couple of days ago. It is definitely an experiment with unconventional composition.

Screw the rules (sometimes)!

Dillon Lake, April Contrasts. Dillon, Colorado, 2017
Dillon Lake, April Contrasts. Dillon, Colorado, 2017

 

And a few more monochrome images from the same general area of Colorado, all made during the first few days of April…

 

Island in the Clouds. Near Dillon, Colorado, 2017
Island in the Clouds. Near Dillon, Colorado, 2017

 

Tenmile Range in Cloud. Near Frisco, Colorado, 2017
Tenmile Range in Cloud. Near Frisco, Colorado, 2017

 

Snow Dunes. Near Dillon, Colorado, 2017
Snow Dunes. Near Dillon, Colorado, 2017

 

April Snow. From Loveland Pass, Colorado, 2017
April Snowpack. From Loveland Pass, Colorado, 2017

 

Making Tracks. Near Loveland Pass, Colorado, 2017
Making Tracks. Near Loveland Pass, Colorado, 2017

 

A Skier's Landscape. Breckenridge, Colorado, 2017
A Skier’s Landscape. Breckenridge, Colorado, 2017

 

Wanderlust. Breckenridge, Colorado, 2017
Wanderlust. Breckenridge, Colorado, 2017 (14ers Grays and Torreys Peaks are just under the sign with Keystone ski runs below.)