| Rising from the ashes - Phoenix Peak
Phoenix Peak (13,895')
Partner(s): Susan Paul
Trailhead: East Willow Creek
Distance: Approx. 11.60 miles
Elevation Gain: Approx. 4,400'
The weather wasn't looking the greatest for the 14ers we were looking at doing, not to mention I kind of wanted to take a break from hiking on snow, and while combing through recent trip reports it appeared like the San Juan peaks looked pretty barren. Phoenix Peak was the likely candidate since it would allow us to get to 13,000 feet as well as do another County Highpoint and Centennial that neither of us had done yet.
To get there we left Colorado Springs and headed south on I-25 to Hwy 160, then west to Hwy 149 outside of South Fork, then north to Creede. From the north end of town we drove about ½ mile north through the narrow canyon and turned left to head up East Willow Creek to North Creede which is nothing more then a couple houses. We drove up this road for about 2.9 miles before parking at a small parking spot for only one to two vehicles located at a switchback. As we arrived it started to rain just a little and not seeing any places to camp at the trailhead we huffed it up the 4wd road to the top of the hill about 50 yards to a flat spot that has enough room for a couple of campsites. We could see Phoenix Peak from out campsite and sure enough it looked pretty dry up there. After setting camp quickly and some dinner it was off to sleep for an early start.
Phoenix Peak from camp.
The next morning after some oatmeal and hot tea we were heading up or should I say down to the East Willow Creek. Not looking forward to hiking back up hill to get to the campsite on the return trip, but luckily it's not too steep and only drops 100 feet or so. Continuing on the road we crossed the Whited Creek on a footbridge and passed through Phoenix Park toward the large waterfall near the head of Phoenix Park and due to my morning daze and not paying too much attention we missed the trail cutoff shortly after the creek crossing - the trail isn't marked very well, just some sticks in the ground, oh, and a sign down and off to the right that says something about a trail being closed (we noticed all this on the way out later in the day). So we doubled back south, crossed the creek up high where it was actually pretty narrow and reconnected with the road. Once back on track things went a little smoother at least for a short bit. Following the old abandoned road up a creek drainage we passed a small meadow and an old message board. From this point the trail is fainter and the guidebook mentions about not heading up too soon, well we did just that and eventually ended up just bushwhacking to reconnect with the trail farther up the mountain. Not my day!
No bones about it we are definitely off trail.
I feel like such a numbskull.
After reconnecting with the trail the second time we managed to stay on route the rest of the day, thank goodness.
Phoenix Peak lays straight ahead.
Following the Old Stock Driveway Trail we reached tree line and after seeing a small cliff face with the rolling ridge above the creek that marked our location we left the trail to get on top of the ridge and followed it below 13,780, which could easily be confused as being Phoenix Peak.
Just after this point you cross the creek – Phoenix is the one on the left, the one on the right is Point 13,780 (unranked).
Follow this gentle slope to gain the rolling ridge.
We continued on a long ascending traverse aiming for the saddle between Phoenix Peak and Point 13,780. There we saw several elk in the distance that seemed to be watching us a little too much, but we continued on. Shortly the elk started bugling and then what sounded like barking to me. The higher we got the more it was pronounced. Kind of strange I thought, however we kept heading on up and later we discovered what all the fuss was about. The elk were calling for their younglings that we were (unknowingly) approaching. The baby elk ran down and joined their parents, and they all bugled for a few minutes, and then they all disappeared over a ridge. So cool to see that!!
After traversing Point 13,780 the going was easier, I hate doing annoying side hilling.
Continuing up to the Point 13,780/Phoenix saddle.
I thought I would rest here, but Susan had other ideas.
"This is not the freaking summit, Doug. That's the freaking summit." I guess we'll keep moving
Roach would call this an "ego cairn." Susan, did you have anything to do with that?
From the saddle it was a short hike to the summit.
"I can't believe we actually summited something."
Me on the summit of my 150th 13er.
We had fantastic views of 14er San Luis Peak, Organ Mountain, and many other 13ers.
Looking southeast at La Garita Peak.
Looking northwest toward Lake City ...
… and Uncompahgre Peak and Wetterhorn Peak.
Looking north at San Luis Peak, Stewart Peak, and Organ Mountain.
Looking northeast at Point 13,015 (on left) and Point 13,402 (on right). According to the register, the last person to summit Phoenix was none other than (Lists of) John Kirk, who had crossed the summits of these two peaks to get here. Nice.
Storm clouds moving in from the north.
It was great to finally have done my 150th 13er. Only ¼ way through my goal of doing all the 13ers, so many to still do. After a brief break enjoying the wonderful weather we started back down and this time we managed to stay on trail the whole way down.
Good thing we're heading south.
Past the funky rock formations.
Level ground feels good after 4,000 feet of elevation.
Crossing the creek back to the west side wasn't so easy this time, as we didn't want to backtrack toward the waterfall, and there were no narrow or shallow spots anywhere. Since it was the end of the hike we just sucked it up and crossed in our boots, getting soaked up to our shins. It was really hot out and we were close to camp, anyway.
Looking back at the waterfall.
After getting to camp we discovered that we had hung the bear bag too low and something had destroyed pretty much everything in it, even our double walled insulated mugs were full of holes! We packed up, headed out for a tasty meal at Pizza Hut, and did the long drive back to the Springs.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):