| Labor day weekend trifecta
My friend Mike invited me on a camping trip with him and his daughters out near Jefferson, CO. Jefferson is a little blink and you'll miss it town just North of Fairplay. The camp area is mostly a playground for dirt bikes and ATVs which I have neither, so I took the opportunity to look for a nearby 14er. Turns out the closest 14er came in a 3 pack. Why the heck not? I set off from the campground at 5 am and headed for Alma. After driving through Alma and not seeing the Kite Lake sign, I turned around for a second try. This time I looked at my 2nd set of directions which cued me in on the old firehouse. Kite Lake road has a teeny tiny sign, but if you look for the antediluvian rickety wooden firehouse, you can't miss it.
It was still dark when I pulled in the parking lot, and the sun was just peeking over the horizon.
There were no envelopes for the $3 fee, so I decided to pay it when I returned. There were a few other hikers that arrived at the same time, and I sort of fell in behind them (since they looked like they knew what they were doing) up the trail to the Democrat/Lincoln saddle. Not long into the journey I see remnants of old mines which are Colorado's ubiquitous wounds of a bygone error.
Miners never clean up after themselves.
The path follows a stream for awhile and my dogs drink greedily and often. They know from experience that there is thirsty work ahead.
The climb up Mount Democrat (14,148 ft.) is fairly unremarkable; there are many soccer ball size rocks (only squarer) which are the largest rocks to negotiate in the whole circuit, and there is a felonious false peak to momentarily deflate your enthusiasm. I started at 6:30 and was on top Mount Democrat by 8:00, and I'm no hardcore hiker.
There was a man and his 10 year old son that started just ahead of me and beat me by at least 10 minutes. The father said his boy was struggling so they were going to go down. I left before them and made my way to the saddle, about 750 vert. ft. below. I hadn't really done my homework on these mountains so I forgot that Mt Cameron was the next on the list. I approached the peak of Cameron and got a peakaboo shot of Wheeler Mountain across the valley.
Cameron is actually higher than Mt Democrat, but you can't count it, because the Cameron/Lincoln saddle is too shallow. I am secretly going to count it though, even though the superficial rounded off peak is not very 14erish. I didn't even stop on Cameron; I figured it wasn't worthy of a pause if I couldn't count it. It being Labor Day Weekend, there were people on every peak, but I was early enough that they weren't overcrowded. I met several hikers who insisted that Cameron was a bonafide 14er and I didn't want to crush their enthusiasm with a petty intellectual display of intricate 14er trivia serving only to diminish their accomplishments. That's just the kind of guy I am. Giving, would be an accurate one word summary of me, even though one word is hardly adequate to delineate my elaborate complex character; enough about me.
The peak of Mt Lincoln from Cameron, is a walk in the park concluded by a short but sapping incline to make you feel like you earned it.
I peaked Lincoln by 9:00 and the dogs and I took a well deserved respite. Almond butter and jam sandwich for me, and dry dog food for the doggys (they refused it outright). Of course they got about half my sandwich and half of a ham sandwich shared by a benevolent hiker who fell under the "beg spell"; which is Annie's forte. Her intense stare and light grey/blue eyes are compelling to the point that a starving Bangladeshian would share his last bowl of rice with little hesitation. I have thought of standing with her at a busy intersection with a cane and dark glasses, and let her work her magic. I would be a wealthy man. I bought a couple bags of expensive jerky at a roadside stand the day before, and Annie/Cutty even got some of that.
Before I left, the man with his struggling 10 yr old son showed up looking no worse for wear. That kid is tough. I think Lincoln has the best views. Bross is a big round behemoth, and Democrat is imposing.
You can see the false peak on Democrat, do not be taken in!
There's Grays and Torreys, you can see them from everywhere.
As I followed the trail to Bross (skirting below Cameron), I felt off balance by the severe landscape. By this time I'd spent more than a couple hours in the desolate high alpine region, and I was wary of the absence of flora. Every plant becomes a focal point of observation for its sheer stamina and excentricity.
This plant I approached with caution as it looked like it was shedding hundreds of venus flytraps.
Looking back at Lincoln.
The trail to Bross offered up a nice view of Kite Lake, which is not visible from any of the peaks. So when you're down in the parking lot looking for peaks, forget about it.
On the way up Bross; I did a double take as a mountain biker rolled cautiously by me on the loose rocks. First time I've seen that on a 14er.
The trail is actually an old mining road, and you could drive up in a sturdy 4x4. I'm not sure if that's allowed though as I didn't see any motorized vehicles. On the south side of Bross, Hiking Associate Craig caught up to me for the 3rd time. He's a faster hiker than me, but he spends more time chit chatting (not that there's anything wrong with that) on the peaks. He asked me to take his picture, but it turns out his camera was out of film. Imagine that! Film! What a dinosaur. I told him I would take his pic and publish it on 14ers.com, so this one's for you Craig. The word for the day is "DIGITAL" Craig
The trail down from Bross is the worst part of the trip. I'm weary, I just want to get back to the car and be done with it. Oh how bout a couple thousand feet of loose shifty gravel. You were so proud, what a piece of cake, 3(4) 14ers in 1 day, aren't you special. Yeah, the hard part is getting down. Scramble, clamber, shuffle, slide, sniffle (from the cold wind).
This is my favorite picture, emphasizing the absolute disparity between the high alpine and sub alpine regions. The green affluence of life below offers a greater goal than the peaks.
Of course I still have to contend with this.
To get to this.
I got to my car at 12:15 with some serious bragging rights.
I forgot to pay the fee; I spotted the little envelope under my wiper blade when I got back to camp.
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