Sunday, August 26, 2012

McClure Pass

Had a busy, busy week! Went to Montreal, Canada for work Monday through Friday and had a great time. I was a little bummed out that we didn't have any time to go into "Old Montreal," but it was still nice to see Laval (where we stayed - a suburb of Montreal), and a tiny bit of the newer part of downtown Montreal very briefly one evening. It was fun to experience a little of the French Canadian culture as well! Unfortunately I didn't really get any pictures, as every time we were out and about, it was dark. Here's one of me downtown (however it looks like I could be in just about any city).

We flew out of DIA, so when I got back into Denver I decided to stay an extra day and catch up with some friends. Because I stayed behind, I had to make the drive by myself, and despite how many times I have made the drive, this ended up being the very first time I was alone. I was dreading it at first, but then realized, this way I had the freedom to make stops whenever I wanted, including a few "picture breaks," which I would always be too afraid to ask someone else to stop for.

My first stop was at Glenwood Canyon. They have a nice little rest area there, and it really is beautiful. I would love to make this stop more often. You can walk down by the Colorado River, and they even have a little beach. If it wasn't starting to get late by this point, I would've had to take off my shoes and enjoy the sand!

After making it to Glenwood Springs, I decided to take McClure Pass the rest of the way home, rather than the traditional I-70 route. It was getting dark at the time, which made me a little hesitant, but I'm still glad I did it because I saw some beautiful views. For those of you who don't know, to get to McClure pass, you head south at Glenwood Springs (like you're headed to Aspen), turn southwest at Carbondale, head over the pass, and then once you hit the other side you pass by several mines (which are VERY lit up with lights at night - was very awakening!), go through Paonia, Hotchkiss, and eventually Delta, where I then got back onto my usual route home from work - Hwy 50. One amazing thing was that as I rounded the top of the pass, I got to see the end of a gorgeous sunset. It was a perfect Colorado sunset, as the colors were bright orange and blue (Bronco's colors).

(P.S. I have to say that as much as I love my iPhone camera, it doesn't do the best job in low light. The pictures are just not very clear. I'll have to bring my regular one next time I know I'll be doing anything in the evening!)

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Upper Cascade Falls & Chief Ouray Mine

Scott had to work this weekend, so Argie and I decided to have our own little adventure! We decided to try out a hike near Ouray, to the Upper Cascade Falls and the Chief Ouray Mine. In early March we checked out the Lower Cascade Falls, which were frozen at the time, so I thought since I knew a little bit of the area, it might be a nice one to do by myself.

(Photo from last March)
Description: Hike to the Upper Cascade Falls and Chief Ouray Mine
Location: Ouray, Colorado
Date: August 18, 2012
Round Trip Distance: 5.5 Miles
Starting Elevation: 7,800 feet
Ending Elevation: 10,000 feet

I parked in town, as it's only a short walk to the trailhead, and stopped off at the Lower Cascade Falls first to see what they looked like in the Summer:

Then we got started on the 2100 foot elevation gain to the mine. The trail started with a few switchbacks along the right ride of the falls, and then led up towards a fork. Here you could continue on this trail, or do the "Ouray Perimeter Trail" which takes you on a loop above the town.

We kept on the Upper Cascades Trail until meeting up with a road (who knew I could've skipped all that elevation gain I had just done?), where we ran into a couple with a dog (this fact is important later). Argie and I continued on, when all of a sudden we heard loud barking and running. We looked around and saw a Deer headed straight for us. I was kind of in freeze mode, unsure of what to do, when the Deer veered just barely right of us at the last second. Argie and I were officially "awake" after that point, and after regaining our movement, started our ascent again.

After a bit of pleasant hiking through shady trees, we started the switchbacks. There were many, and Argie and I were getting a little tired, so we made a few stops along the way and had fun taking pictures:

Unfortunately for the majority of the switchbacks, we were in direct sun, and I think Argie was getting quite hot. With lots of water breaks, we eventually made it through the switchbacks and rounded a corner, and were in the shade! At this point we could hear water, so we knew we were getting close. I had some fun taking some "detail" shots at this point:

Not too much further and we reached the "Upper Falls." We were right in between two segments of falls. The falls coming from above, and then you could literally sit on the ledge next to where they fell again:

From the Falls, you could also make out an abandoned building up ahead. At first, I thought it was part of the mine, but once we got there, we could see it was a house.

This last picture is taken from the other side of the house. You actually had to walk through the house to get to the rest of the trail. I was a little hesitant at first considering the fact that the house was lop sided, but seeing how many people had left their names inside over the years, figured it would probably stand up to me and Argie.

After making our way through the house, we continued on, and experienced some beautiful views looking down towards Ouray along the way (you can see the town in the left of the picture below). Finally, we reached the Chief Ouray Mine. There was a building with mining equipment inside, and the mine just past it.

Overall a beautiful hike to spend with the dog. I thought it was a good length and a good workout, but I think I wore Argie out as he's been sleeping since the second we got back to the car!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Outlook Trail

We didn't get any hikes in this weekend, as I spent the weekend back in the Denver area. I had the opportunity to go for work on Thursday and Friday, and stayed through Sunday morning. It was a nice little trip, and I enjoyed a long run with my friend Amy on Saturday morning. We jogged along Outlook Trail and enjoyed some gorgeous views of the Flatirons:

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Mount Sneffels

I took the above picture on one of my morning jogs last week of the San Juan Mountain Range. When we first moved here, I was curious which peak was the tallest we could see, and quickly found out it was Mount Sneffels. Now Mount Sneffels is not the tallest in the San Juan Range, just the tallest as seen from where we live. It also so happened to be a fourteener, at 14,150 feet, and so it, of course, had to be added to our Summer Bucket List. Now, I'm definitely not one of those people that wants to hike all 53 14ers or anything, but I enjoy one every once awhile - the views really are phenomenal. Unfortunately, they are also usually very crowded - meaning you start out at 5:30am, and there's probably already at least a couple groups in front of you. But with Mount Sneffels being so close to us, I was ready to give it a shot despite the fact that I was a little hesitant - afraid it may be a little more difficult than anything I'm used to.

My hesitancy came from both the 14er's website (, and our attempt at hiking Blue Lakes Pass back in early July. The 14ers website is awesome if you ever want to hike a 14er - it has step by step driving directions, and hiking descriptions complete with pictures. The pictures are what made me a little nervous. I get very scared when I'm stepping on loose rock, and know one wrong step could lead to my death, or at least some serious injury. Plus, when we hiked Blue Lakes Pass I had to turn around before we got all the way to top of the pass because of a situation involving that same thing. So needless to say, for awhile I was thinking that maybe I wasn't so sure I wanted to try it after all.

Well I'm not sure exactly why I changed my mind, but this past week I decided, what the heck, you only live once right!? I can always turn around if I need to, but if I don't even give it a shot then I won't know. So yesterday we set out on our first 14er for the year, and our first 14er marked as a "moderate" difficulty rating. So without futher ado, here are the stats followed by our adventure:

Description: Hike to the top of Mount Sneffels - 14,150' feet tall - Ranked #27 of Colorado's 53 Fourteeners
Location: Near Ouray and Telluride, Colorado (you have to go through Ouray to get there, but it's actually much closer to Telluride "as the crow flies")
Date: August 4, 2012
Round Trip Distance: About 8 Miles
Starting Elevation: 10,700 feet
Ending Elevation: 14,150 feet

We started out the morning nice and early because we know that A.) there's always large crowds hiking 14ers and we wanted to start out before them, and B.) you always want to make sure to give yourself plenty of time to be off the mountain prior to any afternoon thunderstorms. So, we left the house around 4:00am, and parked the car around 5:30am. We decided to park below the start of the 4WD road because we weren't sure how bad it would be and didn't want to have to worry about passing people on the way back down. Plus, it was only a 6 mile hike from the lower trailhead, and only 2.5 miles from the upper trailhead, so I was fine adding an extra mile each way to park below, making it an 8 mile hike.

The first 3 miles were relatively easy. Quite a bit of elevation gain, but the trail was dirt road for the majority of it. The difficult part was the last mile. I mean seriously, how long do you think it can take someone to go a mile!? Because trust we when I say, it can take a long time. I wasn't timing, but I'm thinking it probably took us about 2 hours to go up that last mile, and 2 hours to come back down that mile. We had an elevation gain of 1700 feet to go in that 1 mile, and it was no easy task. Now I mentioned earlier how I get quite scared when going up any loose rock. Luckily, this wasn't as bad as Blue Lakes Pass, but it was still making me pretty nervous.

There were 2 difficult sections leading up the "notch," and then one last short climb up to the summit. The first difficult section started right after we passed the 13,000 feet elevation marker. You'll see a picture below, but we were pretty much going straight up a bunch of medium sized rocks to the saddle. Once we reached the saddle, we turned left, and went straight up some more. This time the rocks were more of large boulders, and we had rock walls on each side of us. This I didn't mind so much as the boulders were pretty stable. About half way up though, they we were back to smaller rocks so I had to slow down a little and take my time. It also felt like no matter how much we kept going up, we weren't getting any closer. We did finally make it, and that's when we had to go over the "notch." Again, you'll see a picture below, but basically it was a V shaped notch that you had to boost yourself up and over, with a pretty steep sloped drop off on the immediate left side of it. The notch was also angled backwards slightly, making it even more intimidating. Thankfully I had Scott to help me over and I made it to the other side. Once you reach the other side, you've got a little bit more climbing, probably only 50 feet or so, and then you're finally at the Summit! And of course, the views from 14,000 feet up were outstanding. We couldn't quite make out Montrose, but we could see the Grand Mesa, Telluride, Lizard Head (where we hiked in early June), Uncompahgre Peak (the tallest 14er in the San Juan Range), and the Blue Lakes.

The 13,000 Feet Elevation Mark - the beginning of the toughest mile ever!

The Saddle
The second tough part - after we reached the saddle and turned left. For scale - note the tiny people up there!
The Notch
On top of the World!
Montrose is out there somewhere!
The Blue Lakes
If you look really closely you can see Wetterhorn is practically a replica in shape of Uncompahgre, directly in front of it.
And on the way back down, we enjoyed a few wildflowers, although not nearly as many as in Crested Butte.

Flattop Mountain & Hallett Peak

I've been wanting to hike to the top of Hallett Peak ever since I found out it was the gorgeous mountain towering above Dream and Emera...