| Windy, Uncrowded Day on Handies
I had been planning on taking my daughter on her first 14er trip since last September when I took my son on his first hike up Grays &Torreys. Based on suggestions from fellow 14ers and research on this site, I decided that Handies Peak was appropriate for a good 1st. We left Borger, TX at about 7:30 Wed. morning and enjoyed the drive across US 160 through Walsenburg across to South Fork, unfortunately there were thick clouds lingering over the Blanca massif and hugging the Sangres to the north so we didn't get to see the 14ers from this side. Our routes in the past have taken us up highway 69 through Westcliffe, Salida and 285 up to Buena Vista and the like,we've always seen these mountains from the east side and were excited to finally see these bad boys from the west side, so we were a little disappointed, but it was a beautiful drive through the San Luis Valley nonetheless.
We arrived at Lake City about 3:00 pm MT and got to our cabin at the Alpine Village on the NW side of town. (This cabins are simple, rustic. People are very nice and if you are looking for a clean place to put a roof over your head, I recommend them.) We had a nice dinner at Southern Vittles, another place I'll recommend. Nice people and good food at a reasonable price. At that time, we got back and got to bed about 9:00.
The alarm at 4:30 AM was too quick but the skies were clear and we had a mission!!! The road to the Grizzly Gulch TH is really not bad. It is a little rough in places and definetly narrow on the shelf road on the south side of Sunshine, but take it slow and it isn't a problem. At about 6:10 AM we were at the TH and after quick restroom breaks and gearing up, we were hitting the trail at 6:20.
The trail is well defined through the forest and it is surrounded by beautiful scenery.
The trail is never really very steep until the end right below the summit ridge and very little scrambling is necessary until you are just under the false-like summit. We took our time but right about 10:45 we finally reached the summit ridge. At this point we had not come across anyone else during the hike. We did see a solo hiker about 2 miles behind us just above treeline and we could see a single person on the summit once we hit the ridge. Right before the top, two younger guys were coming back down and gave some encouraging words to my son and daughter, which raised both of there spirits. They were beginning to get discouraged by some of the loose rock and mild exposure they were experiencing at that moment , so these guys really helped their motivation for the summit!! Thanks to whoever you were!!
And at 11:10 we were on the summit with 1 other person who had come up from American Basin. He was kind enough to take our required summit shot.
The wind was horrendous and cold, so we admired the view of the majestic San Juans and after about 15 minutes, we began our descent into American Basin.
The American Basin trail may have some of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen!! Just breathtaking!
We headed down the trail to the American Basin TH and got to the 4WD parking area right at 2:00.
The route from here took us on the road around Whitecross mountain about 3.5 more miles of hike added on going this route but well worth it. Redcloud and Sunshine were in front of us most of the time and the mountain views from the road are gorgeous.
We got back to the truck right at 3:30. Headed back to the cabin, had a quick bite and all three of us were dead to the world by 8:30 that night. What a Day!!!
Since we crashed so early, we were all awake by 4:30 AM the next morning, we packed up and headed out. We got to see the sunrise over the Sangres while driving through Del Norte and Monte Vista. No clouds on this side of La Veta Pass, so we got a couple of parting shots of the Blanca Massif on our way out.
A great trip with a great ending and another 14er in the family!!!!
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):