| Chapter 4: Volunteers' Reward (360° w/ Hi's & Lo's)
… continued from Chapter 3: Volunteering on Uncompahgre Peak (CFI & VOC Trail Restoration)
Played with MS ICE to stitch together some panoramas (nod to djkest), but then needed a good way to share them. Let me know what you think of the below or if you know of a better way. The X icon in lower right on next page makes it fullscreen and you can click-n-drag around in them. Conversely, a minor low point is pictured at the bottom of this TR.
(Click photo for full scroll panorama)
(Click photo for full 360° panorama)
All the project organizers and volunteers had or were about to leave by early afternoon before the first rain, but three of us decided to stay an extra day to hike Uncompahgre Peak early the next morning. So after taking my bike down the four-mile 4WD Nellie Creek Road to leave it on the 2WD Henson Creek one, it was time to hike back up. That coupled with all the hiking to trail work sites should satisfy any minimal-elevation-gain karma folk, yes?
Just minutes after I just started up the trail and took this video,
the rain came back... with rain drops that bounce! When it's small, that's the first thing I pick up on that it's actually hail. Was only a few millimeters big, like BBs, but it was a heavy rain which agitated Nellie Creek from its crystal waters to silty brown, or as we like to say about the Missouri River, "Too thick to drink; too thin to plow."
The views, however, are rewarding and easily missed when navigating it with a motor.
(Click photo for video)
(Click photo for video)
Thought the two cruxes of the hike would be the two water crossings. Definitely wanted to keep my healing foot dry and didn't note any bypasses when riding up or down. Again, motoring's tunnel-vision can make it easy to miss stuff like...
(First water crossing. Click photos for videos.)
Bigfoot? Rather than attempt the balance beam, I used it as a handrail and stepped across the rocks.
(Second water crossing. Click photo for video.)
I was about 3/4 of the way up when I caught a ride for the last (relatively smooth) mile to the trail head via a group in two extended cab pickups from Oklahoma who were going to do the Big Blue Creek Trail as a litmus for those interested in the peak climb. A couple more rounds of hail back at camp. Here's a sample accumulation from ran off my tent's storm shield.
The two other trailworkers and I cook dinner under the relative shelter of a hollow in the pines. Either will give me and my gear a ride back down to the 2WD road and D uses my Esbit stove to cook his dinner. I bought the "cassette" one (first example photo) and a stainless steel mug with folding handles years ago and it's served me well for the light cooking I do, compactness (four bricks, foil windbreak, and a mini Bic lighter can all be tucked inside), fuel stability (bricks good even after years of storage), and price.
Esbit also offers a more versatile cook set
and lighter minimalist versions.
We retire to the dryness of respective vehicles or tent before the next inevitable rain to bag some Zs for an alpine start.
I'm getting ready when J drops by my tent saying he's going up. He's got maybe 10 to 15 minutes on me before I head up passing D at his truck who I in turn have 10 to 15 on. Think the "Staggered Group" works well in that we basically have the mountain to our respective selves yet assistance isn't far should someone twist an ankle or such.
Silhouetted start up the trail.
Two of the rewards of trailworking are thanks from passing hikers when working on an active trail and getting to test drive what you just worked on. (Click photo for video)
Work from that weekend.
Previous trail stabilization.
Little water source/jump. (Click photo for video)
Used to be that it was a 4WD road all the way to the base of the mountain. Twin tire tracks from years ago are still quite apparent on many sections.
Likely part of the Uncompahgre Fritillary Butterfly habitat.
Signpost to nowhere.
Perhaps a future one of these.
The only potential challenge is the backside. Not bad so long as you mind your footing and some sharp rocks.
Looking back down with my shadow on the needle.
Then it levels off for an easy hike to the summit.
Later shot one looking up. Keep that needle on your left going up (or right going down) for the main route. I followed a trail-looking-wash and ending traversing the base to get back to the real trail on the way down.
Short 360 video around the top...
and a nice "quick descent" route beta vid (click to open).
Click photo for full scroll panorama. (Same as atop this TR.)
Click photo for full 360° panorama. (Same as atop this TR.)
J and I liked this one of D as it gives him a William H. Jackson (of Holy Cross fame) or Ansel Adams look.
Sadly, though finding the container, I miss out on finding my first register, so I improvise a sheet (Date, Name, City, State, Comments) that others can sign as well and stick it in. There was a bunch of damp shredded paper of various sizes scattered in the area that looked to be someone's notes (pounded by the hail) that I packed out.
My second 14er to date: easy-peazy.
If there's one thing more effective than a sore foot at slowing your decent on a trail like this...
and fauna, like this pika returning from Home Depot.
Well camo'ed butterfly.
Best shot at an Uncompahgre Fritillary Butterfly showing the underside of its wing.
With a marmot here...
and a marmot there (down trail).
Small alluvial fanning crossing the trail.
More log breaks put in by Ben and crew. Second 4WD tire rut clearly visible but returning to nature.
Video and shot of where we later chose to get most our rock fill and crush -- pretty scenic.
Is this an Uncompahgre Fritillary Butterfly?
Having left the summit before J, I catch and pass two others he hiked up with. Amazing how that trailhead outhouse can motivate you to lower your descent times. All three of us make it back fine. I didn't note times, but J estimated I would have had something like a 6:00am start, 8:30 summit, and I think it was 10:45 when I was back at the trail head, but I could be off. Still, ahead of the others I use up the hour or so I've gained to break down my tent and re-pack it all into the saddlebags and panniers for hauling down Nellie Creek Road. Thanks for the lift back to my bike, J! The weather held and I would have been fine riding down Monday, but given the frequent regularity of the rains, no regrets taking advantage of the earlier dry window.
On your way back to Lake City, you'll pass a lot of mines including the Hard Tack Mine. Coming off trail, Drumstick ice cream cones are a bargain!
Originally built to be a service tunnel, it never linked up with the main shaft due to a fatal accident. Guided tour ($11) gives you a good idea of what mining would be and was like, not to mention why miners had such a short life expectancy. If you're into history, geology, or just want to beat the heat like a pika or marmot (always in the 50s), it's worth checking out.
Outside the mine, I get some good town beta: food, shower, camping, laundromat, et cetera. After a shave and washing up, I look for a doc. My blisterfoot still feels pretty raw and my other shin has been sore on downhills since Holy Cross, occasionally with "electric shocks" of pain but neither bruising nor swelling.
The surprised nurse says she's never seen a blister that bad. I get slightly more assurance from the doc who has, recalling a marathon who lost both his heels' skin to blisters early in a race. He wonders at first why I hadn't rested it for few days after coming off Holy Cross, but my story of being out of state, already signed up for working trail for three days, then doing another 14er as I was that close seems to satisfy. Given Lake City is the only town in a county full of wilderness fun, I'm sure he's seen worse with less rational tales.
He notes that it looks like I've done a decent job of keeping it clean and disinfected in addition to pointing out, "No, that's dermis. You lost your epidermis." As for the shin, he says a nerve likely got "karate chopped" by the talus which would explain the pain, shocks, but no swelling nor bruising. Well, which ever, just glad to hear it's healing as it should and nothing more than washings, dressings, air, and rest are needed. Glad he didn't tell me to just walk it off. Nurse sets me up with some dressings and "vet wrap", a rubbery stretch wrap to keep gauze pads in place on my foot, popularized by use on dogs, cats and horses because it sticks to itself but not fur.
So five days, 10,000+ ft gain, and 20+ miles after the fact, my foot looks like this. The one with flash is a little fisheyed.
I limp back to the bike, get a hot meal at Southern Vittles (but not before striking out three times in a row by trying to order the three things they were out of: Dublin Dr. Pepper, onion rings, jumbalaya), do some laundry, and finally pitch tent for the night. With my foot airing out for the eve' to help toughen the skin, I mentally cross off Handies, Red Cloud, Wetterhorn and other nearby peaks figuring it's best to give that dog a breather before...
... to be continued with Chapter 5: Volunteering on North Maroon Peak (CFI & CMC).
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):