| San Luis- Stewart Creek TH
San Luis- what can I say about San Luis? I guess the best way to describe it, is that it is a mountain of contrasts. On one hand I want to say it's just a long hike up a big 'ol pile of rocks. But I suppose the describes all mountains. On the other hand the beauty of the area is very typical of the San Juan's and I don't think I'll ever get enough of it.
We had spent the previous day hiking Wetterhorn and Uncompahgre and by the time we ready to head out for San Luis TH it was after 6pm. Since we were closer to Lake City, we followed the directions listed in Roaches book. He's not kidding when he says the driving directions are complicated and he is also not kidding when he says San Luis is far from everything. I won't go into detail but it's basically about 40 miles of dirt road comprised of 5 right hand turns onto 5 different forest service roads with numbers like 794.28. I will say that the roads are pretty well marked. We drove the entire length in the dark and were able to find it without a missed turn. It helped having one of us drive and the other serve as navigator. One advantage of driving late in the evening is that we saw a nice 4 point buck, several elk including a huge bull along the way.
When we rolled into the parking lot it was about 9:30pm and there were 3 other vehicles there. We were surprised that the prime location at the back of the lot with tree cover, fire pit, and rock seating was empty, we of course grabbed it. We had not eaten since 11am at the base of Uncompahgre so we were tired and starving. Lovenit had brought 2 huge buffalo steaks, and potatoes & onions to fry up. This had to be one of the best meals I have ever eaten. I don't think there was scrap of meat left on either steak. We barely took time to clean up before calling it a night.
We were not really interested in getting an alpine start on this hike. We both slept in until 6am, grabbed some breakfast, readied our pack and hit the trail a little before 7am. This is looking up the valley from near the TH. One group of 2 people left about 30 minutes before us and I think another left about 15 after us, but until we reached the summit we hardly saw each other.
The sunlight is just starting to peak over the mountains. The trail follows the river for almost the entire length. It was a beautiful morning.
Remains of an old cabin. I am amazed at some of the places you see were people have tried to make a go of it. Beautiful area, but a long way from anything.
There are so many beaver ponds along the way with numerous photo opportunities that if you are like me, you will probably get back and be looking over the pictures you took and say wow I must really like the beaver ponds .
This is the view you will be seeing for many, many miles, great wilderness hiking. The trail did seem to have an inordinate amount of downed trees across it. We both wondered if a wind storm and come through fairly recently.
Lovenit standing on a log bridge on one of the many "opportunities" that you have to cross the stream, I didn't count but I bet you crisscross over the stream a dozen times.
For the first couple of miles the trail does not really seem to gain much elevation and you continually meander up and down the ridge line. This is the section of the trail where you quit doing that and start to gain some elevation. It was also the point where the sun finally hit the valley floor and we started the exercise of shedding layers.
We were glad to reach this point and finally be almost above tree line. The mountain you see front and center is NOT San Luis. You do have to climb up the shoulder on the left side of the picture but San Luis is further away and much higher.
Lovenit making his way up the grassy shoulder.
A shot looking back down the valley. The trailhead is way down the valley, out of sight, beyond where you see the valley curve to the right. This is where you can see that it's a long hike.
A shot from the top of the shoulder looking at the summit of San Luis just off to the left. You can faintly make out the trail on the right side of the picture.
Lovenit heading up the shoulder on the ankle turning scree. At least there is a well defined trail through it. This was my least favorite part of the climb.
Looking back down at the route, you can see the trail winding up the shoulder of the mountain. This is where I really started to feel the effects of yesterdays high elevation and high mileage day. I had to rest and refuel before making the last push to the summit.
False summit after topping out on the ridge. Take heart the real summit is just beyond this.
AH, the real summit in sight. You can see lovenit already standing on it, I wished I was him at this point.
We took a much earned break on the summit, probably nearly an hour before the storm clouds in the distance convinced us it was time to head out. This is a shot of some of the clouds building around the summit. On the way down we passed about 5 people still making their way to the summit. I hope they brought their rain gear.
Rainhail starting to fall on one of the beaver ponds. The hike back out was not too bad. Usually we are so beat down, that our return trips are a mind numbing exercise of willing one foot in front of the other, but this time we chatted up a storm and were back near the trailhead in no time at all. This 14er must be a favorite for dogs. We saw more dogs on this hike than any of our others. They all looked like they were having a great time. As is true with most 14ers we pass a few people on the way up who were getting a pretty late start and did not look to really be prepared for the conditions.
The drive back out seemed much quicker than on the way in. We eventually made it back to Lake City and stopped at Poker Alice for some grub. Unfortunately this time is was not so great. They had a scaled back menu and our calzones were still frozen in the middle. Oh well when you are tired and hungry anything tastes good. It was a long weekend down in the San Juan's, but it felt good to be done with the 14ers around lake city. Great hikes and as always great company, thanks Lovenit! AND of course the biggest thanks to our families who tollerate this obsession we have.
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