Well stayed in Ouray for a few days. While I didn’t go backpacking, we did do a few hikes in the area.
We drove to the Blue Lakes trailhead which is the same place that Bob took me almost 40 years ago. The trail is steep, but really nice. Here’s a bunch of pictures from the hike. We made it to the lower lake before turning back since the snow was getting deep.
This is looking down into the valley to what 40 years ago used to be a lake created by a beaver damming up the streams. The beaver must be gone since it’s returned to a nice meadow.
The next day we hiked to the waterfall in town and ended up on the perimeter trail of Ouray. The views were amazing.
The trail was longer that we thought and when we got back to town, both dogs climbed into the fountain to cool off.
Last night we hiked to a yurt that is 9 miles into segment 22 on the Colorado Trail. The plan was for Tracy, the dogs, and me to spend the night and then I’d go on and Tracy and the dogs would go back. Since the snowpack is still extreme, I hiked back with them and we drove to our next lodging stop in Ouray.
The hike is mainly up hill, but following a line of mesas into a canyon at the foot hills of the San Juan Mountains.
The dogs did really well on the hike except that the ground was covered with holes for little creatures that Tracy called “mountain gerbils”. The dogs went a little crazy trying to find them.
We made it to the yurt early afternoon. It was much nicer than we expected, containing bunk beds, a woodburning stove, a propane stove for cooking, and lots of table and chairs. It was positioned on the side of a hill overlooking a spring filled, meadow. We played cards and enjoyed the view.
The yurt is open to all hikers (for a fee) and since there are very few people on the trail, we thought it was all ours; but that changed close to sunset. We heard someone step on the deck and were introduced to Jay, a Continental Divide Trail thru hiker (his blog: www.jayvandam.net/)
Jay was pleasant, hungry, and happy to have a warm place to sleep. We all enjoyed the incredible sunset views from the deck of the yurt.
Tomorrow is an off day and I’m going to need to figure out where I can trek to that isn’t covered with 6 feet of snow.
I tried it again, but this time I checked ahead with the trail foundation on the snow levels and there was none where I was heading. I decided to do Segment 17 and most of Segment 18 as an “out and back” to a creek to see if it was passable for the trail foundation.
Tracy and the dogs hiked the first 4 miles with me. It was a reasonably flat segment with nice weather.
The trail followed a lot of dirt roads and rolling hills. The weather couldn’t have been better.
This is the creek I went to check on. While you definitely get wet crossing it, the water wasn’t moving that fast.
This was my campsite the 2nd night. The temperature in the morning in the tent was a pleasant 40 degrees but the first night it was 26 degrees. I was never cold, my new sleeping bag kept me cozy.
Tracy met me at the trailhead and we went to our cabin in Lake City. We spent a lazy day around town. Here are the dogs enjoying the Gunnison River.
After the river we had a long lunch at a local diner named after a famous madam and poker player in Colorado.
Tomorrow we are all setting off on the trail. We are hiking 10 miles to a yurt for the night. I checked with the trail foundation and supposedly the trail is clear. The following day I’m going back with Tracy since the next part of the trail is over 13,000 feet and there is no way I can make the mileage I need to in the snow.
We made it back from our first section of the trail, but we were only partially successful. The snow pack was hefty. While I expected a little snow, I didn’t expect full coverage over 10,500ft. I added a few pictures to show the 3 days out there. My buddy, CW, headed home today and I’m going to do an out and back on section 18 and 19 to check out a creek which is most likely too high to cross. The remainder of the trail is on the Continental Divide so it’s doubtful that I will be able to do much of it; so Tracy, the dogs, and I will be doing a lot of day hiking.
Here’s the 3 of us and the dogs taking off. Tracy and the dogs turned back at 4 miles and we kept on heading up the trail.
Starting to see a little snow.
After the last bridge on Fooses Creek, we hit snow and it eventually covered the entire trail.
No dry spots to camp during the first night so we found a flat spot in the snow covered forest. I estimate the base to be between 6-8 feet.
CW packing up in the morning.
Just happens that we had to climb steepest hill on the trail… 600 foot climb over less than a half of mile.
We attempted to make our own switchbacks since there was no was to find the trail. I failed to bring my ice axe and crampons so the slope was too steep and icy to walk up. We decided to slide down and look for another place to get up it.
We finally made it to the top but not more than a mile later we had to find a way down into the next valley. Glissading worked the first time so we did it again.
We then headed off into the woods only to struggle to find the trail and post hole in the deep snow.
Then we had to climb out again, but this was a much more manageable slope.
The snow lightened up a bit, but finding the trail was really challenging.
After dropping below the snow, we started to climb again and hit snow again…. We’d had enough and backtracked to a beautiful meadow and camped there for the night.
The next day we hiked down a dirt road for 9 miles until a guy named Lynn gave us a ride to he Pub and Grub in Poncha Springs where Tracy picked us up.
I am heading back to the Colorado Trail but I have company this year. The plan is for me to drive the dogs to Denver and have Tracy fly up to meet us. I’ll hike for 3-4 days and then meet Tracy and the dogs at a road and take a day off. Also, CW will beb joining me for the first section.
On Tuesday, the dogs and I took off in the truck for the 1000 mile drive to Colorado. We left early and our goal was to reach Amarillo and perhaps sleep in Palo Duro Canyon State Park. The dogs did really well – Darby slept in both beds while Izzy would sleep on the seat. I’d stop every couple of hours and take a 30 minute walk with them. I loaded the truck up with food and a cooler so I’d just munch on stuff I brought along.
We made it to Palo Duro in the middle of the afternoon but the campground was full and they wouldn’t let me just sleep in the car. Since I’ve been there many times before, I thought it would be nice to take the dogs on a long hike to wear them out. We started towards Lighthouse Rock, but it was over 90 degrees and the little bees were enjoying all the flowers and my legs. I changed our direction and took them for a couple miles along the creek. They were really eager at first, but the sun and heat quickly slowed them.
Darby in the car and Izzy inspecting a tree in Palo Duro.
We left the park and kept going through Amarillo looking for a quiet spot to pull over and sleep in the truck. I was getting worried since all I saw were flat lands and large ranches until we pulled into the town of Dumas, TX. I spotted what looked like a high school and drove toward it. It turned out to be a park, many sports fields, and a pool. After dinner and many laps around the park, we found a quiet place between fields and set up for sleeping in the truck. Darby is really easy and sleeps on her bed, but Izzy kept creeping off and wanted to sleep on me….
The field where we camped and a view of the dogs in the truck
The next night we made it to Limon, CO and stayed at an Econo Lodge. That is where the dogs discovered prairie dogs and they tried to digs them out.
Tonight we are in Buena Vista at a nice little AirBnB Tracy found. We just had an awesome dinner and took a walk to the park. Tomorrow we leave for the CO trail crossing of HWY 50. Tracy and the dogs will walk with us for a couple hours as we climb towards the Continental Divide. CW and I will spend the next two days hiking to our pick-up spot on HWY 114. Then I’ll take a day off with Tracy and the dogs and CW will start his journey home with a bus ride back to Denver.
Over the next 3 weeks, Tracy and I will repeat this 4 more times. The map below shows the trail in red. The red dots are the pick-up places. The houses are the different places we are staying and the teal hikers is a yurt that Tracy is hiking with the dogs to stay with me one night.