| Chapter 1: Noob Backdooring Holy Cross?
Though adventured, never hiked a mountain for its own sake. While surfing for pass names I stumbled on info for Mount of the Holy Cross. Reading SummitPost and other reports put it on my to-do list on my return ride from the coast to the plains. (Yes, there are pictures further down. Many are expandable.)
Packed up tent in Grand Junction, killed time digitally catching up, and called the ranger station for more road info. He confirmed Tigiwon was closed to motor vehicles and that I might have to hike it take Fall Creek. They had maps, but I wouldn't be able to make it before they closed.
Later after riding to Minturn, I hit the gas station at dusk, find the two NatGeo maps I'll need, grab some snacks, and go looking for dinner. Over a gyro I spread my water-(and balsamic vinegar)-proof maps out to survey options: Homestake/Fall Creek or Tigiwon. I choose FC over hiking up the dirt road. Restaurant staff relate the Bermuda Triangle nature of Holy Cross, how they just found a guy who's gone missing for two years, how there's a rescue every year or so and occasionally a statistic notched. They don't say "don't," but I get a vinegar whiff of apprehension of my plans, perhaps cautious optimism, maybe consternation at my choice of gear. One questions my boots, then the other opines, “well, yeah, but you’re on a bike, right? Not like he has room to haul a bunch of other gear just for hiking.” Bingo, my friend, bingo. I continue to glean local info.
Where better to go next than a bar, right? So down a door or two I study the maps over a pint and find out there's a 24-hour Walmart in Avon. Map also mentions the Ten Essentials and I start a mental list of things not already part of my camping nor riding gear.
"This place has everything," as Jake or Elwood would note, or at least enough to get me on the trail. It's after the bar closed (2am) and it's nice indoors where it's warm as I toss necessities and a couple niceties in the cart. I secure the large misshapen lump pillion-side with a cargo net and a bungee and I'm off, finally.
Riding naked at night in the mountains, the Gerbing's 77-watts of heat to my core, neck and arms keeps things comfortable down US-24, across an Art Deco bridge, to the Homestake turn off, and the long slow climb up the dirt roads, stopping to check out the various turn offs, sometimes just with a swing of the headlight.
I've decided to take the Missouri road, then an aqueduct service road (“Homestake Collection System Road”) to intercept the Holy Cross Jeep Road. Warned earlier that it was a class 8, a prior quick peek lower at its direct-assault trailhead confirmed that 4x4 route wasn't where I wanted to start my adventure. I check out the trailhead for Fancy Pass, noting several empty cars and trucks venture to investigate HCSR. I reach what I thought was the dead end fork shown on the map just prior to intercepting the Jeep road figuring it'd be good place to camp close. The road been rough and rocky, but I've thus far picked good lines and coaxed bike through. Up ahead I see the rutted, rock strewn left wheel track (ok, the road is pretty much all rock strewn, but I digress) and the higher right that is more left.
Momentum is good until the front deflects slightly from a rock, I pause, right food down, no, CG feels off, oh, no, slowly left, not enough footing with the rut, and *arghhhhhh!* Gentle as I could make it, 600 or so pounds of loaded bike now rests at a downhill-biased angle as the inevitable smell of gas arrives -- gravity has a thing for motorcycles.
What would be straight forward on pavement or even level ground is complicated by the angle, slope, rut, dirt, and loose footing. While I can get it up enough to stop the gas from leaking out, it takes multiple "experiments" the footing to get the bike fully up where thankfully the conditions allow it to rest on the side stand. What multiple dead lift attempts didn't do to elevate my pulse, returning from a sea-level trip to my residence that is quite possibly a single digit percentage of my current altitude did. Straddling, I thumb the starter. Not even a full crank before the relay chatters. The combo of the lights and Gerbing with low/no-charging first gear ascent RPMs has sucked the smoke out of my battery. I can see some stillwater crossings ahead and set off on foot with my flashlight to investigate. Yep, better go register before I get in farther.
And what's this lying in the road? Well, Mr. Bones, it does appear mammal, partly. As comforting as seeing the cleanly sawed through bone is (bears don't have opposable thumbs and Lowe's credit cards yet, do they?), finding the knee-sized joint devoid of any flesh in the mountains in a forest at night on a offshoot from a service offshoot road near my vehicle which offers no protection nor the ability to start the motor and flee to a trailhead that's unoccupied (I know, why even bother to stop?) with my only means of protection being a SOG knife, lighter, and some really bad ethic jokes did little to raise my hopes of encountering only wildlife that were patient enough to be whittled or singed to death much less elucidated as to the differences after the fact between a Pole, a Jew, and a Scotsman via a series of grunts and growls. Did I mention how beautiful the stars were?
Now would be a good time to start...
...as I began to hear a bird or two chirp and the faint lightening of the sky eastward. At least I won't have to pitch a tent in the dark. Hell, why even bother to pitch at this point?
Ok, let's make a list and start mowing them down. Pull out tool kit. Pull out left spark plug. Note oil as potential sign of hydrolock. Ground plug. Motor cranks as some oil does shoot out. Plus one for potential hydrolock. Reinstall plug. Pack away kit. Thumb starter. Not even full crank. Minus one for hydrolock, but plus one for drained battery. Need to turn around bike. Too steep to push forward. Creep backward while turning trying to 1. keep bike upright on uneven, rocky slope and 2. avoid "wheel chock" rock with rear tire. Success at 1, not at 2. Attempt rocking. Fruitless. Down pack bike. Misshapen load: off. Hard saddlebags: off. Tank bag: off. Manhandle bike to drag rear off to side: success. Ease down to suitable J-turn area. J-turn. Re-pack bike. Prior to unnecessary exertion, test starter: still dead.
Well, the nice thing about being up a mountain is the abundance of potential energy available for conversion into kinetic and hopefully mechanical. Ratchet up to fifth gear. Straddle, coast, pop clutch, nope. Again in fourth, oh so close. Coast down steeper, rougher part, make turn, dismount, full choke, running aside, pop clutch, *cough*, promising, repeat, IT LIVES!!! *mad scientist cackle* Stop, mount, ride a bit, stall, pop clutch, IT LIVES!!! Turn off choke, negotiate rocky ditch part, stall, coast, pop clutch, nothing, coast, pop clutch, nothing, thumb starter, IT LIVES!!! Note total absence of mosquitoes in cloud emanating from left exhaust (burning off oil), back past the aqueduct, across the creek washed river stones, sight TH parking area and stop and shut down bike on HIGH ground because gravity is now our Fb friend (see its wall under "bumpstarting").
Fill out permit at box. Something about this act makes me feel as though I'm now formally underway. They say that adventure begins when you depart the planned path (have I not just proven that?), and it asks for your planned path, so "Mt. Holy Cross via Fall Creek and back" it is. Mount bike. Do I feel lucky? Thumb starter and (say it with me) IT LIVES!!! Yes, yes I do feel lucky. How lucky?
Crouched at the starting line, it's me versus road rut part two. This time I take the rut on the left and berm around some the rocks. Next up, the water crossing. I size up pond: depth, length, entry, exit, bottom surface, bottom texture, and most importantly traction. Unlike those car-bound folk, stability and traction are inseparably linked on a bike. Hitting the water too fast or too slow, losing traction and having to put a foot down in water on a bottom that may or may not have enough foot traction to hold the bike up, are all considerations in avoiding the highly undesirable dump in mucky water. Through one, then another water crossing, until finally it opens up, veering to the right uphill a bit and straightening on to a wide ledge, fire pit, aqueduct service shaft, and ultimately a dead end. Up the same hill but forking right in the opposite direction is another road.
Apparently an old logging road
Log road looking other way
Hmm, I investigate on foot a good ways. More road, crappier road, narrower road, but road that nonetheless should get me closer. Back to the bike and up the road I go. While more challenging, being sun-up, the lighting is excellent for reading the path and picking lines. Street bike with street tires (and a rear sorely due for replacement) makes for slow but steady progress in the rocks, mud, traversing creeks, dips, whoops, creek whoop-dips, as the foliage bunches in.
Log road water berm
Road doubling as small creek for a bit
This is looking more like an ATV trail, but even ATVs would have problems with some of this stuff. Nice part about a bike is your tires only need a good path a few inches wide. I come up to a wider section which narrows on a fallen-tree-topped creek whoop-dip followed by more downed trees across the "road." I investigate on foot and, yeah, I don't have the clearance, logging tools nor necessity to attempt this. I consider parking here, but considering the limited access, remoteness, potential for "road" to worsen if there's rain, the difficulty of trying to bumpstart (much less jump'), and other factors, I decide to ride back to the T and park at the wide dead end.
"None shall pass..."
End of the "road," (effectively).
I empty my back pack and refill with hiking provisions. Working around the bike I select what comes and what stays, rearranging and consolidating items in the saddlebags, removing anything with an interesting smell. There's a saying that "saddlebags can't carry everything you want, but they can carry everything you need." Carlin’s “stuff” also comes to mind.
I secure the bike, hoist all remaining provisions and odor-ific items up a pine tree on the ledge’s edge, gear up for the hike, and hit the “road” at about 7:30 (can’t remember if that was central or mountain time). Now I’m tripling back but this time on foot which takes more time crossing some water and mud obstacles. After a while, I reach the fallen trees – fresh sites from here on. Even though I can make out a tire track here and there, trees have started to grow up between the ruts at points which along with other indicators tells me this hasn’t been motored on for quite some time.
Somewhere along the way, I effect my homage to Hayley Mills and the “The Parent Trap” by finding a couple Cougar Sticks.
They made a nice clacking sound, were a total success at warding off big pussies, and more importantly work nicely for walking sticks. Next hike I’ll see how effective my Elephant Sticks are in Colorado.
I cross a small stream and whether I’m still on a trail or not is a crap shoot. (click photo for video)
Checking my map again, looks like it’s Whitney Peak-ing through the trees, but I still haven’t intercepted the Jeep road. A simple choice, I decide to hike directly up the incline figuring once above treeline I can get better orientated and maybe sight a few landmarks.
Straight up through the brush I find a small meadow which makes for easy hiking. At the end I spy another further up with something man-made-ish. First glance it looks like a 55-gallon drum used as a trash/fire pit, but the bands around it are wrong. There are a couple long pans, fencing, and other items that indicate that someone set up camp or shop for quite a while.
I’m now finding cairns so figure I’m on “some” trail,
and sure enough I come up on the road just before Holy Cross City.
The road is “paved” 19th century style with wooden planks, the downhill edge eroded by water and no doubt 4x4 traffic.
I’m sure all are impressed with the boilers and machinery that was hauled up buy hoofed power and can imagine a goodly number of the 300 or so residents taking part in erecting it. Just off the road I find a pipe opening with a flip lid a few feet in diameter (purpose?).
Across the road and up the hill lies what’s left of the heart of town, the machinery.
(click for video)
The crusher still bears the name of the manufacturer, “DENVER ENGINEERING (Works Company, at 30th and Blake)” and below “No.6 SIZE 5x9 DENVER ENGINEERING.”
"I'm the Crusher..."
"...king of the ring."
A little digging turned up: http://digital.denverlibrary.org/cdm/fullbrowser/collection/p15330coll22/id/24910/rv/singleitem
They say they had a couple miles of sluices to send ore down to where the Gold Park, campground that I passed on the way up is. With all the infrastructure remaining and pipes running throughout the grounds it would be interesting to see what it looked like in its prime. I found a couple examples on-line:
Holy Cross City old miner's cabin of 1880's
Holy Cross City old miner's cabin
Farther up, I find Holy Cross City proper because the sign tells me so. Obligatory timer photo after downing my pack to nosh and hydrate, explore the area a bit, then time to pick a road.
Looking to site more artifacts, I take the high road and find what I believe is Cleveland Rock due to the large anchor bolt driven in to its left side up top. The large smooth round face has defeated countless trucks that made it that far and the bolt is likely needed to continue to Cleveland Lake.
Hiking upward, I get bearings first via the road closing and second via a boundary marker for the Holy Cross Wilderness. I venture down and catch a couple small mountain lakes or ponds that aren’t on the map and are even difficult to pin with satellite images.
Over the hill pond 1
and pond 2 (dare you to find them on aerial pics)
Beautiful overlook, though, and I spy Hunky Dory Lake, waaayyy dooowwn there.
Didn’t realize how close I was to the actual Cleveland Lake (never saw it), but sated with what I had seen and eager to get on the Fall Creek Trail I descend.
There’s another permit station at HDL so I fill out another. I take another break lakeside to hydrate and nosh before moving to the far end to refill a bottle at the exit stream and use my first chlorine-dioxide tab noting the safe-to-drink time four hours ahead.
Here I spot a youngster. OK, time for a vision test. See anything here?
Vision Test 1
The area is lush with plants fed by snow melt.
I pass a waterfall on my left and ponder the use of another half buried pipe like those up by the mines. (click below for video)
As I start the climb past the Seven Sisters Lakes, I encounter the only other hikers on my trip. The two girls in shorts, t-shirts, and tennis shoes sporting sizable packs are a marked contrast to me in leather steel-toe jump boots, brown leather pants (cut like relaxed-fit five-pocket Levi’s and impune to brush-snagging), desert-flapped ball cap topped with a skeeter head net in standby mode, armored and perf’ed leather jacket, and a more school-sized pack. I console myself that William H. Jackson while finding us both atypical, would have found my clothing more familiar, and theirs more interesting (what Victorian-age male wouldn’t?). We exchange pleasantries and destinations, the fitter one saying theirs is to camp at the Tuhare Lakes that night, whereas the other, um, er, muffintopped one says she needs to rest.
I continue on, using them to push myself, to break away, to put distance between like when passing another running in a 5k XC race. I quickly lose sight of them around a bend but figure I’ll be able to look back as a gauge of my progress. The vegetation becomes more sparse, the ground more barren, and the winds more abrupt as work toward Fall Creek Pass. The grass clumps in the alpine remind me of those on the north slopes of Alaska where musk ox roam.
The trail ends in a trackless snow bank with a granite formation on its right and a lake on its left.
While I lack snow gear, I’ve snow-waxed my pants earlier in the season and the boots are waterproof with a webbed tongue. I test the footing and it proves suitably packed for the trek across. I find the trail on the other side and look back at potentially the first tracks of the summer season, or at least for a long enough time for any previous ones to have long since melted – it’s a good feeling.
My heart is keeping an aerobic beat at the steady climb. The skeeter net proves useful here at keeping my cap from flying off. I’ve long since ditched the cougar sticks in the woods and repositioned my lip balm, 45spf sunscreen, and compass/whistle/thermometer/magnifier to the tail of the lead from a pair of belt-mounted binoculars I found where I parked my bike. The *cluckle-clockel-cluckle-clockel* of their swing gives the hike a pack-mule metered beat and provides the only break in silence save for intermittent gusts of winds compressing over the pass. My camera and SOG knife balance the other hip of the belt’s easy-access zone. I break along a rising ridge of granite using the steps as a natural chair as well as a small shield from the wind. I down most of the bottle of Vitamin Water, the quickness of its revitalizing making me wish I’d have packed another bottle from the bike in trade for something else in the pack’s cramped space.
Reaching Fall Creek Pass, I note both my bearing on the map and that I still haven’t seen the two girls any time I’ve looked back, even after my break. As I’m just steadily plodding, I wonder if they’ll make Tuhare, if they have warm gear, if muffintop forced a change of plans. Wishing them well, I start down the valley.
180 degree view of Fall Creek Pass (click to enlarge!)
In many ways, this was the more mentally challenging part of the hike. The trail is regularly broken up by bushes, lost in the rocks, covered by snow banks, obscured by boulders, and so on. Many times I dead reckon, sometimes taking a false trail a bit before doubling back to reassess. “Where would I lay trail? Where would the grade be most consistent? What line would prevent run-off from mucking it up best? What would route around potential traps?” I’m regularly losing and regaining the trail due to snow, brush, and rock outcrops which are occasionally aided by cairns. The snow is less consistent and I can hear water running below more and more banks so I try to edge around them where they and outcrops block trail.
Heading down toward Lake Constantine.
Looking back at route down terrain.
Example of snow hiding the trail.
Then the moment of most concern occurs. Carefully trying to cross a bank that lacked an edge-around, my foot dropped over two feet. It wasn’t the drop, rather the uneven bottom that caused me to reflexively retract my foot as the ball hit but heel didn’t and a “malleolus” bell rang. Bad on two counts: it’s not the “hammer” that’s supposed to ring, and second, being basically midway means there’s no shorter direction to limp out with a bad ankle – Murphy equality.
What the snow can hide.
I move a couple feet to sit on some exposed rock and let the vibrations stop and the adrenaline ebb. A slow rotation is a bit sore, but spike free, so I pull my boot, empty the little snow before it can dampen my sock, and put it back on cinching it tight up to the top. I test my weight, take a step or two, and walk squarely and slowly on it for the next several minutes. The pain subsides and in a mile or so it would feel fine again, but on the next (and last) bank I have to cross through the middle of, I decided to reverse-crab it slowly to spread my weight, occasionally sliding on my butt. Three cheers for snow wax!
At the creek crossing before Lake Constatine, I stop to hydrate as the bottled Hunky Dory Lake water is now, well, hunky dory. No doubt veteran, acclimated alpinists would have covered more ground in four hours, but I’m neither. My pack and gear are probably 30 pounds and I’ve been favoring my knee at least since the pass. I bemoan chlorine-dioxide’s 240-minute waiting period and wish I’d brought another liter bottle, yet that’s part of the adventure and learning experience of a first time. More importantly, I’m still on track to make the Notch Mountain Shelter by dusk, so while neither optimal nor comfortable, it’s still doable.
Bridge near Lake Constatine.
Fortunately the grade from here is pretty level. Unfortunately fallen trees of various sizes, combinations, and orientations regularly block the path requiring a multitude of techniques to surmount or circumnavigate. I push my knee through each timber-gym course like you do a recalcitrant Labrador at the patio door who doesn’t want to ford the backyard snow to do his business. At some point I feel one of my quads is more than lactic sore to the touch when brace a hand on it climbing over a rock. Perhaps it was hitting its wall, as it too was pushed into the backyard with a fruitless whimper, and acclimated down to just general soreness within a mile. I know I’m grinding down, but I’m still grinding, still on pace to make the shelter – a highly desirable goal versus bivouacking short knowing the cold night will bring.
Fall Creek Trail gets sketchy at points, narrow cut in the rock, decent exposure to the right, and plenty of trees to unceremoniously break any fall provided you are adept at Human Plinko (please remember to spay and neuter your pets). My lungs and knee are like a couple backseat roadtrip offspring. “No, we aren’t… Not much farther... Don’t make me turn this car around…” Mercifully the station wagon (sans dog-leashed bumper) makes the signpost for the Notch Summit Trail which has a half full Fiji water bottle at its base.
With my 240-minute window not yet elapsed, I give it thought, but only that as it could be a creek re-fill and obviously wasn’t valued enough to take with. I’d rather dance with light dehydration for a day that giardia for a week.
I count off 24 switchbacks on the map, fold it up, pack it away, hike to the first U-turn and say inwardly, “One… ONE! ONE SWITCHBACK! Oh, Ha! Ha! Ha!” Keeping one leg straight where possible, I ration my breaks in duration and frequency, initially to at least two switchbacks, but elevation and inconsistent lengths necessitate exceptions at times. With the treeline thinning, the sun is beginning to set and I’m in the shade of the ridge as I watch its shadow creep up from the valley like an Egyptian sundial on one side, and yet-to-cross meadows and talus fields on the other. Twenty-four switchbacks my ass. The map – she LIES!
Now in the talus proper, I lose sight of the trail higher up, unsure if I can make that ridge by light. Small comfort is taken in that the trail takes on a pinebox-like rut at places, a modicum windbreak should my knee dictate a bivouac. I start to respond “EEK!” to the natives both to have a conversation in a desolate ridge and to avoid the lagomorph wrath of one who dares “spook a pika” (say that aloud a few times; catchy, isn’t it?). One switchback, then another, and another, and another, until I look away from the ridge and kick fracking A, the shelter. I’m going to make it and as I close in I can see a…
No, I didn’t bring a bobby pin and tension wrench. I don’t stop, but mull over those fresh tracks I laid in those snow banks on one end of the trail, that Tigiwon Road is locked down on the other, that the winds are picking up, it will likely be below freezing tonight as the mercury is already falling, the unpleasant dichotomy of bundling against it outside wall versus downhiking to treeline, but maybe it’s just locked with the hasp open?
My hunch is verified as I start to pick out the hasp on the friendly side of the lock. The door is tied shut with a shoe string which tells me something about both the door latch at the winds. I down my pack inside, power up my phone (five bars!), and snap a shot to text to a hiking relative who was very interested in my trip to Mount of the Holy Cross, “I wanna see LOTS of pictures.” Ok, here’s one.
Making camp inside with the light fading quick, the wind blows the door open. The rationale of the football-sized rocks inside becomes obvious, as does why the benches are anchored to the walls (there’s a fireplace but no…). All gear now gets repurposed. Plastic ground tarp covers an 8x10’ section of the dusty floor. Armored jacket is now padding and a thermal barrier for head and torso (pity about the benches or I could have pulled a pair together). Thirty-two F (survival, not comfort) 800-fill mummy bag is fluffed. I switch to nylon hiking pants so other leathers can go below bag. Drape rain suit over bag, and so on.
I start to settle into my bag when another wind gust shoots a stream of chilling air under the door. I stuff the mysteriously tattered remains of a rug along the bottom edge and return stiff-leggedly to my bag to improvise dinner using a votive candle left on the mantle to toast pepperoni slices and some monterey jack while reviewing maps for the most direct route in case my knee doesn’t feel better (mental post-it to add pain killers to the mini first aid kit I brought). With some coal and water in my boiler, I snuggle in and fight off a shiver now and then. Breathing in the bag some helps warm it and conserve some heat that I’d otherwise disperse into the brisk shelter. Pulse isn’t coming down, knee hurts in most any position, and I’m cold, but I know it’s 13,000+ thin, breathing is fine, bag will eventually warm to at least “survival” and given enough time even maybe “comfortable” and rest, however rudimentary will let my body recharge.
Then the tarp crinkles, and not from me. I turn on my flashlight and see movement just outside its beam. I move it and it scurries in kind until I finally fix it in my LEDs glare. Apparently using the fireplace’s ash trap as its secret passage, the tailed mouse solves the rug mystery. Wanting neither nibbles nor “deposits,” I reach and toss all in my pack and zip it up. Too tired to hang it, so if it chews through it he’ll have earned it. Before falling asleep I take one last look at window-latticed Mt. Holy Cross in the indigo grey of night as the winds howl over the ridge.
Stats for the Day: about 4,625’ of ascent, 2,050’ of descent, and something in the neighborhood of nine paltry miles of trekking.
Dawn, the solar alarm clock, is enough to wake me for alpine glow views from the comfort of my bag, but not enough to get out for an hour or two. Wooden legs with rusted hinges need some slow bends and stretching to restore circulation. It’s around 7:00 so I dress with a pair of hiking socks versus the dress ones used prior and venture out unburdened by pack.
Inside Notch lightning shelter.
Winds are strong enough to cyclone out one of my bottles (empty) out of the shelter door. I spot snow along Halo Ridge, a bit at the summit, and more along it’s traditional ridge route. I guestimate equal odds of it being a factor or not. Those odds, altitude, lack of crampons, coupled with the winds, half liter of water with no resupply en route, the rested but sore knee, and general feeling of running on backup power makes for an easy but also somewhat regrettable call to fore go summiting via Halo in favor of going over Notch and down to Half Moon Trail. It’s direct and only has at most a couple hundred feet of ascent then allll dowwwn hillll. Knowing how “in my weakened state I could take a nasty spill down the stairs and subject myself to further school absences,” it’ll have to do.
Another Vision Test. Spot anything?
Vision Test 2
Marker honoring Jackson.
Shadow camouflaging the ridge (notice the difference left to right).
Shelter and backdrop.
Most welcome sight at the end of the previous day: the welcome cairns gunsiting the shelter.
Erosion gutter rocks.
Fall Creek valley with the three "coat button" lakes in lower right
I pack up methodically slow, stretching, warming, circle around some snow pack (no timely way to melt it) and make like a mountain goat up the talus… an old goat… with a walker… and an oxygen tank.
Vision Test 3
(Let's play Spot the Cairn!)
Actually it’s invigorating and I make the first summit, snap some pics, then down and up to the second higher summit south of the notch.
Looking at Lake Patricia from Notch Ridge.
South Notch Summit cairn with suitable backdrop.
After a brief highpoint break, I follow the ridgeline as maps online show it going across. I look over the precipice and mutter a profane impossibility of proceeding blind without climbing gear. I venture a bit to the left (west) and rule it out, then to the right (east) after scanning the saddle for a potential traverse. I find a couple cairns hinting at a route, but they too have fairly vertical steps and enough room for one final lung-emptying expletive before bouncy-bouncy. It might be doable.
Then two bears appear. I listen.
“But, Boo-Boo, …”
“Yooogiii. No. You know what the ranger would say.”
While more promising than the north edge, it’s something better explored fresh, and with rope. I spend some time here, letting the pragmatism of Plan C and its deflation sink in. *sigh* Ok, HC, you win… this round.
(Later back home, I found this: Notch_Traverse )
There are no large eagles to shortcut the switchbacks of Mordor, but at least there small streamlets to rehydrate by.
Switchbacks of Mordor (good view of "coat button" lakes)
With warmth comes parchedness. I know I’m dehydrated to a degree, but as yet no symptoms of concern. Locals talk of a gal who took days to find after getting lost in the Holy Cross Wilderness who drank from the creeks figuring even if it gave her the runs, there was plenty more to drink to keep dehy-death at bay. With a little bell curve and biochem safety factor fuzzy logic, I decide to split the risk of waiting four hours on one end and drinking untreated water on the other by shortening the window banking on the chlorine-dioxide doing the bulk of its work on treeline snowmelt that should be fairly clean, and if I’m wrong it won’t hit until after I’m back in Minturn.
Back on Fall Creek Trail.
The rest of Fall Creek Trail is largely a breeze with another hydration point where a stream crosses the trail.
(Click for video.)
Right after which a couple of full-limbed green pines trees have fallen in the length of the trail.
These and a few more take a minute or two negotiate in deference to the handshake of my good pals Dexter Femur and Dexter Tibia.
Trail opens up for a view.
Trees directly in trail. Took some time to hike around.
Back at the trailhead where I would have preferred to start,
I read some of the signs and suggestions like “experienced fourteeners often take at least three liters of water” – would have been nice to see that at the other trailhead, granted it’s not the common route. Another break at the campground
and on to Tigiwon.
What should have a breeze was more a sauna. Nearly all the roadside trees have been felt and or burned making for hot dusty plodding.
(Looking back... at Notch Ridge?)
At least my compact umbrella shields me from the direct rays. A mile in, a mountain biker passes saying “you got six more miles to go!” Not far before the community house, I break in the shade. He passes back and kindly gives me what was left in his water bottle.
Long hot slog down to US-24.
A mile or so beyond the house, a service pickup passes. Another mile or two, out of water, hot, tired and getting parched, I put my pack down, skeeter net on, spray a defensive Deep Woods Off perimeter and take a small siesta in the roadside shade. Cooler and rested, I gear back up when I hear the truck coming beyond the bend. Not only are they kind enough to let get in the bed for the last mile or so before opening and re-locking the gate, they take me up US-24 to the city limits where traffic is down to one lane for resurfacing. Another mile or two of level walking and I reach a sandwich shop where steadily rehydrate with water and 7up and recharge with baklava ala mode for an achingly blissful while. There’s a bit of relief by the staff that I made it in the kind of boots and gear I had.
Asking for leads on folk with four-wheel drive who I could pay to take me back to my bike, someone offers a lift if I can wait hour (uh, hell yeah I can). On the ride back, the distance covered begins to sink in. Forty minutes in and we’re still not to my bike. Even with a 4x4 off-road pickup the driver has to take it easy along the aqueduct road, slow crawl over this rock and that, until finally we come back to the rocky left wheel rut point where I tipped about 40 hours earlier and he says, “ehh, this as far as I’m comfortable going. How much farther is your bike?” I tell him only a quarter mile or so. He tells me if I don’t return by the next morning, he’s calling the rangers. With an assuring chuckle, I thank him, slowly climb out the cab and hike back up to my bike as he slowly backs down to a fork.
Seeing my bike upright, unmolested and unaffected by the winds graces my cheeks a grin. Bear bag just as I left it without even a squirrel bite, sweet. Remount tank bag, reshuffle belongings from hike-storage to riding mode, gear up, key in, fuel on, swing leg and eeeeease knee into right angle bend for footpeg, and IT LIVES!!!
I’m at home and rolling, back through the water, berm the rut, pluck around the larger rocks, taking the smother lines, breeze past the Fancy Pass trailhead, motor down Homestake, zip up US-24, and arrived collected at Minturn. Snag a room at the roundtable (unmercifully nothing on the first floor available, and mine is the longest walk from the stairs) and take a shower so nice, I took it twice. Then mosey with respect to a quarter-sized blister caused by the hiking socks over to the bar for all-you-can-eat spaghetti. Foot care first aid can wait ‘til bed time.
The next couple days, I feel like an escapee from the Spanish Inquisition would (had they access to a stairmaster) and mull personal adaptations like packing in another water bottle, some powder Gatorade, and a filter. Little adjustments like those should better my next hike which is... continued at Chapter 2: My 1st 14er! (Halo Loop by Night w/ Peak Bivouac)
Approximate route from aqueduct road up forest road to Holy Cross City.
Day 1 ground covered to HC City, Cleveland Lake area, down to Fall Creek Trail, and up to the shelter on Notch ridge.
Day 2 ground covered.
Vision Test Answers!
VT1: A brookie!
VT2: A "chicken"! (Look up the Alaska town by that name.)
VT3: Here it is!
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):