| Huron Peak (Finally)
It seems strange to think that a notably benign 14'er --one which receives this designation by a mere 3 feet-- could have risen to the status of becoming a nemesis of mine. All the same, Huron Peak had only just recently become a mountain that nature had simply not wanted me to attempt. For two of my "weekends" in a row I planned on climbing Huron, to the point of even packing my gear for the night of camping and the ascent. In both instances Mother Nature decided to flex her muscles to the point that I didn't even bother leaving home for the mountains!
Despite the prior cancellations, I persevered and finally made it to the Huron Peak trailhead just before darkness set in last night. Julie and Juno (our 11 month old puppy) would accompany me for this long overdue attempt on this peak.
We decided to scout out the location of the trailhead during a light rain storm last night. Our intention all along was to camp as close to the trailhead as practical.
I found that the road as far as Winfield was passable to any vehicle, as advertised... Nevertheless, despite having heard that the road quickly deteriorates beyond Winfield, I was still sort of surprised to find a full-on four wheel drive road for the last 2 miles to the trailhead . This final leg was good fun in our Jeep, but I wouldn't recommend it to anyone driving any type of passenger car, or even a Subaru Outback type of vehicle! Our stock Cherokee made it to the trailhead without incident, so I imagine anyone owning an SUV or truck would make it to the end without too much heartache!
After a little scouting we found a nice campsite about a half mile from the trailhead, and enjoyed a filling dinner of pesto noodles and fried potatoes, despite the on/off light rain!
After making it to bed a bit late last night, my alarm clock finally woke us at about 6am today, a full hour after I had intended. An initial check of the weather this morning led to some concerns about being able to bag the peak before today's round of thunderstorms rolled on in (the sky was still fully overcast at this time)... All the same, we figured we'd take a stab at it just to see what developed. Fortunately the morning clouds didn't have much depth to them, and the skies quickly cleared as the sun began to warm the air.
The trail initially switchbacks through the forest, and after a few minutes of climbing we were rewarded with our first views of the Three Apostles. Within an hour we were standing around near Point 12,300', taking in some of the first clear views of the remaining route.
Huron Peak from just above timberline:
Family photo opportunity near Point 12,300':
After dropping slightly into a shallow basin, the route begins to climb much more relentlessly. From this point we estimated it was about a mile to the summit, and we would gain about 1,700 feet during this time… mostly between the basin and the summit slope, and again in the last ¼ mile or so of the route to the top.
Our weather was holding, and the temperature was just about perfect for our morning aerobics, so we quickly worked our way up the remaining route to the summit. Once on top we both noted that the views from this summit (particularly of the Three Apostles) were quite spectacular when compared with some of the less aesthetically pleasing 14'ers (i.e., Sherman).
We spent about 45 minutes on the summit, enjoying the company of a mountain goat and some folks who were visiting Colorado from New England. After eating my brunch we began to notice clouds just starting to puff up in the distance, and decided to start working our way down the mountain. After a quick summit photo we were on our way!
Julie and Kevin on the summit of Huron Peak:
As is so typical with Colorado weather, the small cloud puffs we observed from the top quickly grew into monstrous angry-looking clouds with dark ragged bottoms. We were glad to have started down when we did, as these clouds really only took about 15 minutes to turn from benign to truly malignant on us!
Looking back at the summit during the descent:
Clouds building viciously as we re-entered the basin:
After regaining the forest we took another break at Julie's request, on account of her knee troubles. The weather was still pleasant at this time, and we enjoyed a few minutes just taking in the sights and sounds of the forest. Just as we were about to leave we spotted a couple of wild turkeys running around on the mountain! I've heard turkeys "talk" in the past, but have never heard the strange sounds these particular birds-of-Thanksgiving were making (Julie, being the wildlife biologist that she is, was also surprised by their unusual vocalizations). I tried in vain to get some pictures of our feathered friends, but ended up with only one blurry photo of a fleeing turkey's hindquarters!
The remainder of our hike was uneventful, though just as we reached the trailhead the sky started spitting huge raindrops at us, and we heard our first rumbles of thunder! We joked that we had intentionally timed everything THAT perfectly, and wondered how the late arrivals on the peak were doing (a group of classically unprepared hikers who we saw climbing into this looming thunderstorm with essentially no clothing, no equipment, and little more common sense)!
All in all, a very pleasing hike on a pretty mountain! And this time the weather permited us.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):