Biking Mount Evans

I summited the 14,264′ Mt. Evans a couple of summers ago via an easy route (over mt Spalding from Summit Lake). At that time we were with some inexperienced hikers, and  I wanted to give them an easy day.  I really enjoyed this mountain, and have been longing to return here and summit via my road bike.

Continue reading

Juliet Couloir (Mt Neva)

This weekend I met up with a couple of guys from 14ers.com to make an an attempt on Juliet Coulior on Mt Neva in the beautiful Indian Peaks wilderness.

We were following this route from Summit post The route is also described in Roach’s IPW book

After work on Friday we stuffed our climbing gear into Jeremy’s truck, and headed out of Denver. The climb immediately presented it’s first obstacle in the form of a traffic jam. Continue reading

Castle Rock & Parker Road Rides

This post is to describe some of my favorite road bike rides in the Castle Rock Colorado area. If you are new to the area, or new to cycling this post should help you find great rides that are not to far from home. Many new cyclists get stuck riding loops in their neighborhood. One of the best parts of cycling is getting out, and exploring your area. I hope that you will find new routes to ride. Continue reading

Continental Divide Cabin MTB Trip

Some friends of ours who moved to Wisconsin a few years ago, invited us to join them for two nights in one of the 10th mtn division huts.  I have been wanting to check out these huts for some time so we jumped at the chance.  The 10th Mountain Huts are a network of 30 back-country huts. They are named after the light infantry division who trained at Camp Hale (near Leadville) during WWII.
Our hut (The Continental Divide Cabin)

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Continue reading

Mt Massive

I somehow managed to convince Angela to climb Mt Massive with me to celebrate her 32nd birthday.  We were already in the area doing some mountain biking from one of the 10th Mountain Division Huts near Tennessee Pass.  You can read about that part of our trip here.  We were climbing via the southwest slopes route. This route is accessed via a 4WD road North Halfmoon Creek. Continue reading

La Plata Peak

Route: Northwest Ridge (Standard)
Distance: 9.5 mi round trip
Elevation Gain: 4500 ft
Date Climbed: 6/23/2012

Pre Hike

The trailhead for La Plata is three hours from our house in Castle Rock. I happen to be a fan of actually sleeping the night before a climb, so we decided to spend the night in Twin Lakes. We both had Friday off so we enjoyed a pancake breakfast at Snooze, and then headed to Twin Lakes. We spent the day riding our mountain bikes on the Colorado Trail around the lake, and fishing. We then checked into Wolfsden B&B for the evening. We enjoyed a relaxing evening with a great view. Liz and James are great hosts I would highly recommend.

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The Hike
We had a 15 min drive to the trailhead so we slept in until 4:45. We were kind of slow getting going so we didn’t get to the trailhead until 5:45. We took the last parking space at the small parking area off highway 82.
The trail starts off with a couple of creek crossings on good bridges. The second crossing has a really cool waterfall!!

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After crossing the second bridge we accidentally turned left on the small trail instead of following the main trail. To avoid this make sure you continue straight (not left) after crossing the second bridge. We did not realize our error until we reached a creek with no aid for crossing. We checked a map and gps and decided to bushwhack upstream to the main trail. This turned out to be much easier than backtracking I would recommend to anyone who makes the same error. If you simply follow the trail upstream you will reach this crossing.

Camping
Last year I was considering doing this trip as an overnight backpack. There was a couple of nice camp sites approximately an hour in. They were directly on the main trail with little privacy. There was no fire rings, so I would not recommend a fire here. Also at the start of the trail there was a warning about not drinking the water in the area. It is contaminated with heavy metals / minerals from mining. I don’t know if the upper creek has this issue, but it would be worth investigating before camping here.

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WIND!!!
We knew from the forecast that we were likely to encounter bad winds. As we started up the switchbacks around 11500’ the wind really picked up. For me strong wind is super annoying, and it really saps my motivation. It seems there is a point in many climbs where a seed of doubt creeps into your mind (Am I really going to stand on top today?). A couple of parties passed us on the way down, reporting they turned around at the ridgeline due to extreme winds. As we struggled to stand in the gusts I was thinking if I would write a trip report for a failed attempt. It was very annoying, but not yet dangerous so we persevered. By 9AM the wind had subsided to a manageable level.

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Loose Trail
I had read a recent thread on how “loose” the La Plata trail was. I would have to agree that the area between 12K and 13K was exceptionally loose. It was dirt, and small gravel. This caused some wasted effort from slipping backward on the trip up. It was annoying on the return, but didn’t pose much of a hazard. When descending this stuff I find it easiest to not fight gravity. I move pretty quickly and just accept that I am going to slide. It is kind of half plunge stepping half skiing motion, seems to work well for me. It is sort of like sliding on ice. If you bend your knees, keep your center of gravity low, an expect your feet to move in any direction you are fine. I you try to fight it and stop from sliding you are going to have a bad time.

Summit
After 13K the trail fades, and you climb a large heap of talus. I found this section to be a lot of fun. After the talus hopping the trail picks back up, and continues most of the way to the summit. We made the summit at 9:45 (3:45 minutes climbing time). It had turned out to be a beautiful day. There was no sign of incoming storms, and the temperature was pleasant. The well-constructed shelters on the summit provided protection from the remaining wind. We spent 30 minutes enjoying the stunning views. One of the groups sharing the summit was enjoying a sushi lunch.

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Descent
The descent was uneventful, but LONG. I expected to be down in two hours or so, it ended up taking more than three hours to get down. As we lost altitude the temperature rose, at 10,500 it was 85 degrees! I stopped and dipped my shirt, and hat in the stream which provided some welcome relief. My feet were quite sore and tired, which made the last two miles really drag. I wanted nothing more than to be done hiking, I knew the only way to make it stop was to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

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At 1:40 we reached the parking lot. We cranked up the air conditioning, and removed our hiking boots; both felt AMAZING. We met some friends who were camping at Twin Lakes. At the campsite we cooked up some wygyo beef hot dogs ($10 for 4), which were delicious!!

Overall La Plata was a long, beautiful, and fun hike. My favorite so far in the sawatch range.

Lost Creek Wilderness (Refridgerator Gulch)

For me, the ache to spend a night out under the stars usually sets in as the days start to warm in April.  I begin to keep an eye on the mountains, and plan my first camping trip of the year.  A typical June in Colorado finds most of the high alpine backpacking destinations still burred under snow. With this in mind I decided my first trip would be to the lower altitude Lost Creek Wilderness.  This however, is not a typical year, and we were in for some hot days of hiking.
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Lost Creek Wilderness is the closest wilderness area to my home in Castle Rock, Co.  It is popular for its multi-day loop hikes.  We were strongly considering doing the 26 mile loop from Goose Creek Trailhead.  However, this was our first backpack of the season, and severe blowdown in lake park promised to add miles and elevation to an already strenuous itinerary.  We decided the best choice was to do an out and back hike to refrigerator gulch.

Day One Goose Creek Trailhead -> Refrigerator Gulch

Friday morning I awoke at 5:30 ten minutes before my alarm went off.  Friends from Albuquerque spent the night, and we wanted to get an early start to beat the heat and the crouds.  We were on the road shortly after 6AM, it was around a 2 hour drive to the trail head.  A lot of that time is spent on well graded dirt roads. We parked at the Goose Creek Trailhead around 8:30 AM.  The traihead does not have any facilities, the closest toilet is at the Goose Creek Campground.  There were five or six cars parked in the parking lot.  After readying our gear we hoisted our packs (mine was 35lbs) , and hit the trail.

The first 1/2 mile or so of the trail travels through the burn scar left by Colorado’s largest wildfire.

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Soon you enter the trees, and come to a well constructed bridge that crosses Goose Creek. Just before the bridge there is a trail to the left. We did not follow this trail, but It appears to lead to a nice campsite which you can see across the creek farther down the trail.  At approximately 1 mile in you will come across a few nice campsites along the creek. These sites are directly on the trail, and I would imagine there is a lot of traffic that close to the trailhead.

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In the next couple of miles we passed three solo hikers, they would be the only people we saw all day.  Around mile four we came to the intersection with the side trail that heads down to the “Shafthouse” area.  At this intersection there is a large campsite.  Again it is right on the Goose Creek Trail with little privacy. There is water available from a small stream (probably dries up mid summer).  We stashed our packs in the trees, and headed down the side trail to explore.  Man did it feel good to have the pack off!  A few hundred feet down the trail you come to some “historic” buildings.  The buildings are the bunkhouses used to house workers from Antero and Lost Park Reservoir Company. The company had a failed attempt to pump concrete into the boulders, in an attempt to construct an underground damn of Lost Creek.    If you take a right at the buildings you can head 1/2 mile by trail to the shaft-house area.  The remains of the pump are not particularly interesting. However, the rocks in reservoir gulch are awesome.  They are immense boulders that form a network of underground caves.  We had a blast exploring the caves, and especially enjoyed the break from the scorching sun!!  The Caves have some awesome lighting, we found a spot that had a beam of light that produced photos looking like you were being “beamed up”  (see pics below). The shafthouse area had 3-4 nice campsites.  However, Lost creek is underground here so you have to be willing to hike for your water.  If you get far enough up the gulch the creek re-emerges. However, it is some high class two low class three scrambling to get up there.

If you take a left at the historic buildings there is a trail that leads to a dozen nice campsites near lost creek.  The area is popular, and on Saturday night there was at least 6 parties camped there.  There is a particularly nice site right on the shores of Lost Creek, however, it is not legal as it is to close to the water.

First Half Century Ride

One of my stated goals for the summer was to do at least a 30 mile ride.  In the last couple of months I have gone on three rides 30 miles or longer.   My Uncle Dave has been cycling the past couple of years, and he completed a 50 mile ride this year. Not to be outdone, I decided I would like to try a 50 mile (half century) ride. Although I knew it would be difficult, I was looking forward to completing this milestone.    

The Route

Two of my previous 30 mile rides included a lot of climbing.  In order to make this ride a litte easier, I picked a relatively flat route.  I decided to follow the cherry creek regional trail from 470 and arapahoe road into downtown Denver, and back out. I would have liked to start this ride further south, however, the trail has a short section that doesn’t connect (near Arapahoe road), and there is really no safe way to navigate this missing section.  

 

On Cherry Creek Trail cyclists, walkers and runners enjoy varied scenery as they travel beside Cherry Creek. From the urban setting of Downtown Denver to the rolling hills of rural Parker, the Cherry Creek Trail offers visitors a taste of the wide range of habitat that calls Denver and its surrounding areas home

There is a map of the trail at the bottom of this post

My Trusty Steed

I rode on my Trek 7.6FX hybrid bike.  I bought this bike back in March, and I have been so happy with it!  Having a quality bike has made a huge difference in my enjoyment of the sport. 

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This ride was not part of an organized event, so I needed to cary or purchase all my snacks and drinks.  I carried my Osprey hydration pack with 2 liters of water, a pack of cliff shot rocks, and a stinger waffle.  I also had a water bottle with a full packet of cytomax in it.  

 

 

The Ride 

Here is my run keeper data for the ride.  I went way faster for the first 30 miles I had an average pace of 3:40 per mile (roughly 17 mph). I didn’t pause my run keeper except for the break at REI.  I slowed way down the last 15 miles.

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The ride went really well.  I felt good most of the time.  My legs hurt bad for about 5 miles after I stoped at REI, and they hurt for about an hour after the ride.  Here is a video with the story of the ride itself.

Here are some more pictures of the ride

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Tips 

  • Training – a good rule of thumb is to have your weekly mileage at least equal to the distance you are planning to cover (i.e., 100 miles) and have ridden at least 3/4s of the distance in a single ride one to two weeks prior to the ride. Don’t over train on the week before the ride
  • If you are going on a long ride such as a half century, I would suggest buying a pair of padded cycling shorts, and using a lube such as chamois butt to prevent chaffing.  
  • Bring plenty of water a high calorie snacks.  A long ride is not a place to cut carbs, calories, or limit sodium intake.  Keep your energy stores up and you will ride harder and enjoy it a lot more.
  • Don’t stop for more than 10 minutes or you will really stiffen up.  When you do stop stretch out and move around instead of sitting still.
  • Move around on your bike as much as possible.  change your hand positions, wiggle your fingers, stand up, shift forward and backward in your saddle. 
  • I ride a comfort bike and just bought some bycicle ends that give me two extra hand positions.  I think it really helped me keep comfortable.

    South Colony Lakes and Humboldt

    I elected to spend my 33rd birthday camping in the South Colony lakes area, and climbing the 14er Humboldt. We met up at the lower 2wd trailhead and made the bumpy but uneventful drive to the upper trailhead. The drive took about 20 minutes. We arrived at the upper trailhead around 10AM on Friday morning. We promptly deployed some mothballs (to ward off marmots / porcupines), and readied our packs. The upper trailhead has 3-4 nicely developed campsites. The sites have a flat tent platform and a steel fire ring with grates. There is one site that is maybe .10 of a mile down the trail just across the bridge. There are also at least a half dozen good dispersed sites along South Colony Road. At the trailhead there are no trash or toilet facilities. When we signed in at the register there was a poster saying that they were going to start charging a $20 fee for using the area in the near future so you may want to check the status of that before heading to the trailhead.

    The hike up the old 4wd road was pretty easy we took our time and enjoyed the beautiful surroundings. At approximately two miles we hit the “shortcut trail’ that is marked as a pack trail on topo maps. There is a sign here although I think it is a bit misleading. The sign indicates that the trail leads to upper lakes / Humboldt. You can also use this to access the lower lakes and Crestone Needle.
    We started seeing campsites somewhere around 3 miles in we decided to keep hiking as we wanted to camp near the upper lakes. We hiked around and surveyed over a dozen good sites before settling on this one. We picked it because it was sheltered / private, yet had good views with access to water. There are a lot of good sites up there however; many of them almost have a campground feel as they are well developed and quite close together.

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    While hunting for a site I ran across a heard of bighorns including a baby. They were scavenging around someone’s campsite.

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    We spent the remainder of the afternoon lazing around camp. A couple of thunderstorms blew through in the afternoon. Wow they really move in quickly up there, and the needle blocks your view to the west where they come from. By the time you can see the clouds you have 15 minutes until it is over you.
    We turned in early so we could get good nights sleep. Although our camp was hidden from view of other campsites we could hear nearby campers enjoying campfire conversations. At 4:30 AM my slumber was rudely interrupted by the marimba sound emanating from my iphone. As I fumbled around in my tent pocket to snooze it, I could hear the wind blowing hard in the trees above us. We decided we would sleep for another half hour and see if the wind would die down. Reluctantly we extracted ourselves from the warm sleeping bag around 5AM. I went down by the creek and snapped couple of pictures of the Needle as the glow of the pre dawn sun warmed it.   

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    We hit the trail around 6AM. The wind had died down and it looked to be a near perfect day for hiking. I noticed the needle reflecting in the creek below the lower lake. The contrast was to high to get a good picture (this would be a great spot for an alpenglow shot)

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    Soon we passed the upper lake and the trail steepened as it began to climb the saddle. As others have noted the CFI has really done nice job improving this trail. I can’t imagine how much work it took to place all those steps. On the way up the ridge we passed some nice wildflowers. They were a couple weeks past prime but still very pretty.

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    We took our time enjoying the view from the trail. We reached the saddle and took a break around 7:20. We got our first views of North Colony lakes here. There was a little wind, but less than I expected.

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    After leaving the ridge the trail gets even steeper and rougher. I stowed my trekking poles as they were just getting in the way at this point. The trail to the false summit soon turns into a fun scramble over a large boulder field. Really the only thing to be careful of here is the occasional loose rock. There are cairns marking a pretty easy route through the boulders, but there are endless options of class two routes. Really you just need to meet up with the ridge line on the other side of the false summit. Angela was somewhat freaked out by the scrambling and so we took quite a bit of time making it up to the ridge.

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    As we reached the home stretch we paused to get some pictures of Humboldt’s impressive north face. A group of four that passed us on the saddle stopped to say hi as they returned from the summit (We had only seen one other group all morning)

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    From the false summit there was a short scramble to the summit. The summit of Humboldt was quite large and had a nice wind shelter. The weather was PERFECT hardly any clouds and dead calm. We shared the summit with a few marmots and pika that came to help celebrate Erik & Steph’s first 14er summit.

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    The return trip was relatively uneventful. We made good time although it seemed like a longer hike on the way out. We passed 3-4 more groups making their way up the trail

    Upon reaching camp we traded in our hiking boots for sandals and headed up to the lake to eat lunch and fish. We enjoyed a lazy afternoon at the lake, and an evening around the campfire.

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    There were fewer people camping at the lakes Saturday night.
    After a great nights sleep we packed up the tents. As we were packing a few big horn sheep showed up to bid us farewell. Sad that the weekend was already over we waved goodbye to Crestone Needle who had stood guard over our camp. We reluctantly shouldered our packs and forced our aching quads to make the 3.5 mile hike back to the cars.

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    This was just a spectacular weekend. It is impossible to even come close to capturing the beauty and grandeur and beauty of this area. I look forward to one day returning to tackle the harder peaks in the group.

    How To Save Money on Gear

    Wether you are a Gear-a-holic like me, or you are just looking to get the basics. You can spend a small fortune on outdoor products. Quality gear is really expensive, so I rarely pay full price for the products I buy. In this article I will share with you how I save money on outdoor products.

    • Become an REI Member
      For a small one time cost you can become a member of the REI co-op. I think this is well worth the money if you buy much outdoor stuff.

      • First of all you will get free shipping on qualifying orders online.
      • You get access to the REI Garage Sale.  REI has a very liberal return policy for members. They basically allow you to return any item at any time no matter how much you used it.  The garage sale is where REI sells these returned items.  You should be prepared to get in line early, and deal with some chaos, but you can come away with some really good deals.  Go with a clear plan for what you are looking for.
      • As a member you get 10% dividend on all full priced items you bought. Plus at least twice a year to get a 20% off coupon.
    • Check Steep And Cheap often
      Steep and Cheap offers outdoor products at a steep discount. The catch is they only offer one item at a time for a limited time until it is sold out. This means in order to find what you want you must check the website often.
    • Sierra Trading Post – This site generally features good deals.  The real kicker is that it is pretty easy to find coupon codes for 20%-40% off plus free shipping. Their facebook page is a good place to find these codes.
    • Gearchase.com– Basically an index of other outdoor gear sites.
    • Buy Used Gear
      Buying Gently used gear is a great way to get quality gear at a lower price some good places to find your used gear are

      • Gear Trade  – This site allows people to post their used gear for sale. You will also find retailers posting closeout / returned merchandise.
      • Craigs list – no need to explain further. This is a good place to find used gear
      • Ebay
      • Mountain project
      • Wilderness Exchange or Mountain Chalet Consignment sales
      • Whitaker Mountaineering Used Gear
    • Shop Outlet Stores such as Columbia Outlet, mountain hardware, arcteryx (Castle Rock), REI Outlet (online), offer some good deals on model year closeouts
    • Google Shopping – If you know a specific brand / model you are looking for google shopping results are a quick way to check for sales and get an idea of fair retail price to see if you are really  getting a good deal.

    When You Shouldn’t Try To Save Money

    • Don’t buy Ropes, Harnesses, Carabiners or any item you must entrust your life to used.  This is because you don’t know the history / pedigree if the item. The rope could have taken several big falls and be stressed beyond is safe life. 
    • I am not a fan of used sleeping bags. They are difficult to launder, tend to pack out over tim
    • I prefer on sale / closeout model / used brand name goods to cheep knock offs.  This is especially true for high tech gear.  For example a $25 breathable rain coat from Walmart is likely to breathe about as good as a plastic garbage bag.   However, I am pretty darn happy with my $18 trekking poles from Walmart which are easily 1/3 the cost of the cheapest model at REI.