| Exploring the Medicine Bows
Clark Peak, 12951' (CO rank 670)
2771' prominence (CO rank 26)
Jackson County Highpoint
Rahwah Wilderness Highpoint
"Lewis Peak," 12634' (CO rank 891)
5.02 miles r/t
Ascent party: No
Descent party: Yes
One-click photo enhancement provided by iPhoto's "enhance" button as needed
I've been putting a lot of emphasis on hiking/climbing 13ers in 2011, and, so far, it's been a good year. However, it's easy to forget that there are many other peaks of interest in this fine state that don't rise above 13 or 14k. Say what you want about keeping lists, but I've got plenty, and attention to them keeps me motivated to get out and see new things. I like exploring, seeking novelty, and I dig uncrowded hikes. After taking some flatlander friends up Kelso Mountain earlier this week and being reminded of how much I like not seeing full TH parking lots, gapers swilling New Belgium, and folks starting up a 14er at 2:30 p.m. (ignoring the clouds amassing over their target), I was ready for some solitude in an unspoiled area.
I've only lived north of Telluride for a short while and have not spent much time in the Ft. Collins area. I've been missing out, it seems. The theme for this trip focused on seeing and trying new things and I had a whole town and mountain range to try out. I left Denver and made straight for the Odell's Tap Room, which has always been a place I wished to check out. A glass of Myrcenary went down slowly and smoothly as I talked to some locals and savored the live bluegrass that lasted until 6:00 p.m. Next, I needed dinner, and I spied a Cheba Hut on my way through town. Perfect! I've always wanted to try this place, and two "pinners" added up to a fat dinner and tasty summit snack. Now, I can see what the buzz is about. I was also looking forward to the Poudre River canyon, but darkness put the kibosh on any sightseeing on the drive out toward Cameron Pass.
The TH for Clark Peak lies within the Colorado State Forest, just north of Gould. From CO 14, turn on to County road 41, next to a KOA.
After paying the day pass fee, I drove past Michigan Reservoir toward the turnoff for Ruby Jewel Lake.
The road to Ruby Jewel TH is a bumpy 2wd for the first 1.5 miles, where a parking area precedes a register for those wishing to take their vehicles further. From here, a hike of Clark would be a manageable eight miles r/t with 3351' gain. I chose to drive to the 4wd TH, and found the road to be rocky, but nothing challenging, save one spot which required my getting out to find a line on both the ascent and descent, but did not cause me to scrape bottom.
The road ends at a spacious parking area, with the signed Ruby Jewel Lake TH being the only obvious exit.
This is a nice class 1 trail that crosses the Canadian River, leads through some marshy areas into a forest, across some talus to a low treeline, and up to Ruby Jewel Lake.
It's prime moose habitat, so I was half hoping to see one, half hoping to make it out in one piece.
Just before the second water crossing, the trail forks: horse traffic or foot traffic. The foot trail features a nice makeshift bridge that looks at this little waterfall.
While crossing the marshy areas, I was grateful for these, which kept my feet dry:
Even though the hike had just started, it was obvious that I was in new territory.
Here are some shots from the hike up to the lake.
Looking back down the trail
After reaching the lake, I lingered for a while, taking photos, eating some dark chocolate M&Ms, and applying sunscreen.
Ruby Jewel Lake with "Lewis Peak" above
Clark Peak is just out of sight, off to the right.
Both Colvill/Mitchler's guidebook and the SP route description offer two ascent options. The first is to head straight up Clark's steep southwest slope to just below the summit. This would be good if enough snow remained to climb, then glissade. Lacking snow, I chose to head up to the Lewis/Clark saddle via grassy slopes. It's steep, but straightforward.
About 1/2 way to the saddle
From the 12,300' saddle, it's a quick, steep grunt to Clark's summit, where the views are spectacular. I spent a long time up there in the huge summit wind shelter, ate some lunch, and took more photos.
Looking south toward RMNP
After locating the benchmark, I decided to head over to "Lewis Peak."
Looking down at "Lewis Peak"
Ruby Jewel Lake from above
Looking up at "Lewis Peak" from the saddle
This ascent offered more loose footing than that of Clark Peak, but I was on top in no time.
Looking back at Clark Peak
The trip down to Ruby Jewel Lake, then to the truck, was gorgeous, but uneventful.
I did see that these peaks have their own version of "Dicker's Peck."
Marmots watching over me
Upended Amanita muscaria
When I approached the fork for horse vs. human traffic, I remembered that the horse route was more direct than that for foot traffic, so I took it. Oops.
Back at my truck, I was grateful for such a short, sweet day in a beautiful area, but could hear my considerable stomach rumbling, so I hit the road for home.
Along the way, I stopped twice. The first time was to go for a little swim in the Poudre.
The second? A detour to Longmont for the nectar of the gods, some live music, and ribs at Oskar Blues.
Gordon, straight from the source
I took the easiest way to these summits. There are several longer approaches (backpacks) from the east, through the Rahwah Wilderness. Anyone looking for some solitude in a gorgeous area might consider those.
Thanks for reading.
Colvill and Mitchler's Hiking Colorado's Summits
Andy's SP page
LoJ Clark Peak quad
COHP.org Colorado trip report pages
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):