23 September 2019

Madden Trail

San Juan National Forest

Click for map.

There were trails up Silver Mountain, I think at least two. They look well used. I went investigating a road in Mayday I thought would be a promising start, but if I found it, nearly a quarter mile south of where the map had it, the only mark on it is a public notice about Sunrise Mines starting operation again and requesting public comment about that. Since they are starting in 2017, that comment period is probably up. I noticed some unwelcoming signs for Sunrise Mines on my first pass through, so I think some of the public will be having their say for a while longer. Right up until 2027 when this window of operations cease, perhaps. Combined with absolutely no parking nearby, I decided that wasn't promising after all. One of the trails I was seeing seemed to come down toward a mystery road just on the other side of a small lot of private property next to Miners Cabin Campground, so today I'll try that.

fording La Plata River
The road is marked "no camping" and nothing more, but it is clearly fording La Plata River right there.

There seem to be rocks nicely edging the ford as the road goes through La Plata River, but maybe that's a consequence of the ford since some of them are a little wobbly. Still, I can get across without getting my feet wet. Then there's finally a private property sign. Complete with rape joke. Ha. Ha. These seem to bring the greatest humor to the sort of person that would be most traumatized if it happened to them. Anyway, never mind. I should probably consult Alltrails, which does have an entry for Silver Mountain. It's just not very accessible from here. Now I find myself simply wanting to wander around and figure out a little of the maze (well, not so much of one) of road and trail that is available on the other side of the main road. First up is that mystery road that sits unsigned across from the campground entry.

witness post
Some of this is definitely forest. Sign beside a corner of the Comstock Mine.

This road does follow the route, more or less, of the road shown on my USGS map going up to Lucky Discovery Mine. It clips a corner of private property, but that just means a vanishing spur signed against trespass and another 1986 surveyor monument with the same license number. A little further is a spur into a tight little canyon with a campsite at the end. There are a few recently cleared trees, but it gets less and less use as it winds upward until it looks like there has only been a tractor recently. The tractor dug out a small tank at the side and quit. Trees are down, but they are thin enough that people have attempted to drive over them. One looks like it might have got in a good bit of retaliation once. The road narrows down to a single track trail about 100 feet of intersecting the current route slightly west of the intersection. No wonder I missed it even though I passed it twice.

rose hips ripe
There's some nice, big rose hips ripened up.

shoulder of Silver Mountain
Across to Deadwood Mountain, or a shoulder. It's not that great a day for views, I suppose.

22 September 2019

Parrott Peak and Madden Peak

San Juan National Forest

Click for map.

No difficulty in getting to the hike I have planned for today. It starts off right across the road from Miners Cabin Campground where I'm staying. (Which is free and has a bathroom. No tables. For that, you've got to pay at Snowslide.) My plan is basically to go up an old mining road to Lucky Discovery Mine, then make my way up to Parrott Peak. From there, continue on up the ridge to Gibbs Peak, which looks to be about where the ridge starts getting rather complicated. There is a prospect high on it that once had a bit of road that connects to Allard Mine, which still has a bit of road down Bedrock Creek about a mile up the main road. It has quite a nice waterfall right at the bottom and enough red rocks to suspect it is actually Redrock Creek. I'm not tied to this plan, though. Judging by the amount of ridge line I managed on Lewis Mountain, I will not make it anywhere near Gibbs. My main goal is Madden Peak and the benchmark up on top with a distant hope for a county line marker since it sits on a county line. There could be a forest marker too. Although now it is all San Juan, the monument description says the other side used to be Montezuma National Forest.

road rising into an apsen stand
A Jeep trail signed Madden Trail.

There is a road with no markings right where USGS puts the road up to the mine, but a little further along is a road signed as "Madden Trail" which just seems like a sensible place to start if you are going up Madden Peak. It is immediately apparent that this is not the same road. It goes up and sort of parallels the main road in the opposite direction. At its first turn is a trail with a very old cut log not too far from it. I stare at it feeling exactly the same thing as when I stared at the trail up Sliderock Mountain that would have given me an easier time of getting to the top had I given it a chance. A little more quietly is a voice of experience with such things saying, "Oh, yeah. Peakbagger trail." With these two notions suggesting I should go for it and I'm clearly already on a different route than I started out for, I go for it. It does take a few minutes of staring, but I resolve to really give it a chance. So long as it doesn't drop down to the creek below. I'm not trying to get to Madden Creek. I want the peak.

trod dirt among oak leaves
Just a little bit of trail among the growing oaks that wanders out to and up a minor ridge.

The trail looks to have light but long and constant use. It is enough to make it distinct from the cattle trails that come and go. It seems distinctly human in ways besides the fact that every 6th aspen tree seems to have some carving on it. I know I'm not the only human that can resist this urge to mark aspen trees. Some high up symbols reoccur and I note that one matches brands I have seen on the cattle. But this trail looks like it's had McLeod work on it in the last few years.

hints of yellow in the green
Spots of aspens are starting to turn yellow for the season.

Lewis Mountain
Lewis Mountain sits on the other side of La Plata River.

20 September 2019

Highline Colorado Trail, Grindstone, Bear Creek, Sharkstooth loop

San Juan National Forest

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I really want to go on the high trail, so I decided to just drive up as far as I could and thumb it and let the chips fall where they may. The chips are definitely going to fall. I have a 20 mile loop planned, which is getting a late start. I will definitely be getting back out after dark and almost certainly not be able to get a ride down. (That's nearly 6 miles.) Up is easy. Everyone is only going about 5 MPH so they don't see much problem with stopping a moment. Unfortunately, I decided to just park where I parked before and then was insufficiently clear, saying "the top" when I meant to say "the observation point", so I missed out on the first ride when they thought I wanted to go up 124A. They don't know I've already been. I would have arrived 30 minutes earlier and 2 miles fresher. Instead, I found a ride up with a wedding party that decided a bit of steep and wet wasn't something they wanted to risk, so they stopped a little over a mile short. (This is an improved dirt road?) But still cool to find someone was going up the mountain to get married today. There's also people out with their paints. I tried to hide my jealousy, but it's my own fault mine have stayed tight in their box.

bit of Colorado Trail
The sign is gone, but here is my start on this bit of Colorado Trail. Highline is in front of me, Sliderock behind me.

The Kennebec Observation Site has parking and interpretive signs and one more trail than I expected. None of the signs say where the third trail goes. The markers for who is allowed to use it and the Highline must be switched because it says bikes allowed on its way into the Hermosa Creek Wilderness (only marked by a very small sign off trail) and Highline says no bikes although if follows the edge. A sign below says the bathroom is locked, but it seems to be removed now.

observation site
Looking out and observing the view. Not sure what the Kennebec Observation Site is meant to allow observation of.

looking back
Cumberland Mountain on the left and Snowstorm Peak on the right, looking back from the interpretive signs.

I better get started. There needs to be a lot of hurry for today. Maybe I can get to the pass along Sharkstooth Trail for sunset if I keep more conscious of moving than usual. I still want to take enough time to really see all the bits before that. It's not like I'm here just to move my feet around. The pretty has already started. I'm trying to ignore all the clouds. My two day old weather report gives a 20% chance of thunder and showers in the morning, clearing to slightly cloudy in the afternoon. I am having the idea that since it is already mid-morning, it should already be a little clear.

moving toward Taylor Lake
On my way to a high bowl ahead with high passes. Highline will go right, Sharkstooth is to the left.

14 September 2019

Lewis Mountain and Columbus Mine

San Juan National Forest

Click for map.

I set out to hike a bit of the Highline section of the Colorado Trail, but the "improved dirt road" marked on the map ran out of maintenance a mile or so after La Plata City (one of the many small free campgrounds along La Plata River) and just below the road to Tomahawk Mine, I passed over a bit of road that was all rock-throwing and I-need-power-on-a-rear-wheel-now and will-I-hit-that-rock-on-something-vital? and generally not something I should have gone up in the day and certainly not something I want to come down in the dark. I turned around and settled on hiking County Road 124A, a Jeep trail, up to Eagle Pass, then continue on to Lewis Mountain with thoughts of the Snowstorm benchmark further along, then County Road 124, the one that is not nearly so good as marked on the map, down again. This is still after the end of maintenance, but while some of it might look scary by headlight, none of it will actually be dangerous to drive over. My one concern is that there is a lot of private property along the road, but surely a county road is not closed to the general public. Even if it is smaller and also doesn't get much maintenance.

two tracks past a driveway with no tracks at all
County Road 124A as it starts with the mountain behind it.

The first hint of the private property the road passes through is a gate with no road behind it with demands against trespassing made in various long standing ways. A flatter line runs to a gap over the river and then quite obvious road goes up through the trees. My map says "Gold King Mill (Ruins)" off in that direction, but since I'm not having a day of seeing the marked ruins along the road, or a fair bit off of it as this is, I continue on to the bridge over the river and up the other side. The bridge is built with wooden reinforcements where tires cross, except they are set so far apart that any ordinary vehicle can only travel on one at a time. The map says the road can be gated, but there is absolutely no sign of such a thing. Past that is an empty but decidedly unabandoned bit of property that could be a holiday camp. The map indicates a mine on it, too. A few driveways marked "private property" follow until the end of the first, small section of inholding and it is just trees and Lewis Creek burbling below.

La Plata River is not much more than a creek
La Plata River isn't that large, but sometimes has some cliffs that would make a ford difficult.

La Plata River canyon
Starting in a clear space among the trees, so I can see a fair way up the canyon of La Plata River.

tall trees on either side of two tracks
The forest is tall trees keeping the narrow road cool for the morning climb.

The road offers very little opportunity for oncoming traffic to pass. At the first turn, a road almost as well used continues on along the side of the creek. Camp site perhaps? No signs indicate what might be beyond and the map doesn't show inholding, but it may have missed something. I turn up thinking I might be exploring, but that is the road after all. The mystery shall remain. Another possible camp site comes as the road reroutes a little higher than it once traveled. I am following the older section with my eyes as I come out to a meadow and spot an old automobile chassis upon it. The reroute must have happened a long time ago.