| Sherman and Lumber Grove
It was the weekend of two easy 14ers, Antero the day before and now Sherman. It was spitting rain when I first drove down Park County 18 to scout out campsites and find the Leavick mine site. Then, it was in to Fairplay to meet Ash and Grady. We planned to meet at Dano's, a pizza parlor I found on the internet. But, it no longer exists and we found each other at Pizza Hut.
Ash and Grady were experiencing their last weekend before marriage. Grady had proposed almost a year to the day before on Antero and now they were in for a final 14er before the wedding. We found a campsite at the Fourmile campground, kinda nice to have a real campsite with picnic table and flat tent site before doing a 14er.
5:15 came early; thankfully the earplugs had drowned out the noise of the partying 4-wheelers in the campsite across the road. I don't think they understand the concept of an alpine start. After a quick hot breakfast we jumped into the rented 4WD for the drive up to the gate at 12,100. Driven with care, the road up to the gate is passable for most passenger cars, let alone 4WD. We were the second car to arrive.
Like Antero, the trail up the start of Sherman is road. Here, though, the road weaves its way through the old mine sites. Just up from the road, at 12,300 is the Dauntless mine site. The water is still flowing from the mine opening and then through a sluice. It appears as if someone, more adventurous than I, has removed the protective fence from the mine opening; it stands open for anyone willing to venture in. Working up the road from the Dauntless mine you can see the Hilltop mine, seemingly balanced precariously on the edge of the mountain.
Its hard to imagine the fortitude of the miners who worked in these conditions back in the late 1800 and early 1900's. It's also hard to imagine how much of a boom area this was once. In its heyday in 1888, the Hilltop mine produced $600,000 worth of silver ore (over $9,000,000 in today's dollars). The mine was so successful that a 13,000 foot aerial tram with 125 cars, each capable of carrying 400 lbs of ore, ran from the Hilltop site to the Leavick site and a railroad spur came up to the Leavick site from Fairplay. The mine produced silver and then zinc until 1938.
Once past the Hilltop mine, we started up the trail as it left the road and started ascending the ridge between Sheridan and Sherman. The trail is well marked and easy to follow as it gains the ridgeline and then proceeds up Sherman's southwest ridge. The cold wind hit us as we moved to the left side of the ridgeline to follow the trail and we had to break out windbreakers and gloves. We had a steady but short climb to 13,900 and then realized that the summit was still a quarter mile off up a gentle summit cap. From the gate it took less than 1:40 to reach the summit.
Sherman's summit was cold and windy, with the sun hidden behind the early morning clouds.
Rain was already appearing off to the north. But, the views to Elbert, Massive and La Plata were incredible.
After a few quick pics, we elected to head down rather than snack at the summit. We headed down amidst a throng of climbers heading up, stopping to investigate the Hilltop mine and marvel at the tenacity of people who made this their worksite.
The Sherman climb is one of the easiest and shortest of the fourteeners; with maybe only Antero as an easier one (unless you count driving up to the top of Evans or riding the tram to the top of Pikes Peak). But, the views and the mining history make it worthwhile.
If your legs are still fresh after the climb, check out the Lumber Grove Trail directly across from the FourMile campground. After crossing Fourmile creek, the trail winds gently through the forest and then into the rock strewn base of Sheep Mountain. We followed the trail and its mysterious markers into the Lumber Grove, an ancient stand of Bristlecone Pine. The place has an eerie, almost mystical feel to it. The tree's girths are immense, yet they have limited height.
Most of the trees are scarred by fires and are twisted in multiple turns. Each has a character unto itself. A quote by John Muir, carved into a wood sign, marks the spot.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):