| Stewart Creek night hike
We (trishapajean and I) had intended to catch a few hours of sleep at the TH, after the long drive over Monarch Pass and up Cotechopa Creek. But, arriving there shortly after midnight, we felt energetic enough to set off under the stars. With the moon not yet up, those stars were glorious!
We made good time to begin with, finding only a few small places where snow patches or downed timber obscured the trail. We suffered a significant delay, however, when we came to the first of the two necessary stream crossings. The water level was high enough that using stepping stones to get across was clearly out of the question. Worse, the few logs which we could see which had previously been laid across to serve as bridges were partially submerged and/or wet and/or icy. We searched both up and down the creek for probably 40 minutes before we found a place, quite a ways downstream, where a very stout tree trunk completely spanned a narrow and deep section of the streambed.
There was another delay, although not nearly as long, at the second crossing. We knew we had the right, and best, place to cross, but we had to search for a dry log to put into place to get us across.
After that, it was back to good trail and good progress, but we had to warm back up after the chill caused by our relative inactivity. The moon could be seen through the trees shortly thereafter, but we had to wait a little longer, until the actual dawn came, before we could see well enough to turn out the headlamp. On this last stretch below timberline, the trail leaves the main channel of Stewart Creek, and follows a very steep tributary on the north (or northwest) side.
We were out of the trees with the sun actually rose but, unfortunately, nowhere near the summit. We watched the growing light silhouette distant peaks of the Sangres (?), which we tried in vain to identify. We found the trail intermittently covered by patches of snow, but still easy to follow, thanks in part to large cairns. In the morning chill, the snow was firm, and we had no trouble simply walking over it, without snowshoes, crampons, or ice axes.
Once over the Organ Mtn./San Luis Pk. saddle, the view improves substantially, and it widens even more once the northwest ridge of San Luis is reached.
We were delighted to find a register, but glad we‘d brought a replacement, as it was quite full. We spent 15 or 20 minutes on the surprisingly small summit before heading down.
On the way down, we met the only other people we was on the mountain, a couple who were going up with skis. Farther down, we saw the beaver ponds which had been invisible on our way up. (We had heard a couple of tail slaps, but hadn‘t known what they were!) Also, of course, the creek crossings which had been so problematic in the night were no sweat in the morning light.
My GPS recorded a one-way distance of just over seven and a half miles, significantly more than the 5˝ shown on the TH sign. I think Roach says about six. Does anyone else have any refining data on the actual distance of this hike?
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):