16 July 2016

Flat Tops: Derby Peak

White River National Forest

Routt National Forest

DAY 1 | DAY 2 | DAY 3 | DAY 4 | DAY 5 | DAY 6

(Day 5 of 6) Dawn breaks through a blanket of clouds after another mild night. There is no excuse that I am at a lower elevation this time, this is my highest camp of the trip. The ponds seem decidedly sterile and there have been no mosquitoes up here. It sure is nice.

bright orange in the clouds
Enjoying breakfast wondering if the sun is high or not.

Today should be an easy day, but it might be a little long. I want to get down to the last water shown on the map before the long dry section on the ridge to the trailhead. That should leave just six miles downhill for tomorrow so that it will be super easy to be out by noon. Just have to wander around the bit of rock and ponds and onto the good trail to follow it on down. At least until it is no longer good trail.

lots of flatish grass
A long way to go across the flat tops.

around Bear River
Somewhere down there is Mosquito Lake. Maybe they named it that to hide that it mysteriously has no mosquitoes or maybe it is just like the other lower lakes.

The trail does not last all that long. It runs into Stillwater Trail and ends. That is what I am expecting. The day hikers turn left and keep that trail looking good. My route actually looks even worse than the rest. There is not even a notion of a trail ahead. I just go for it anyway. Gradually, it seems like there might be a bit of trail off to my left and investigating turns up another very nice trail. It actually jogs to the left and no one thought it might be a good idea to indicate that on the sign. That is no excuse for my map. USGS shows it correctly, but National Geographic thought, what, the map would look more artistic if it all met at a simple junction?

lake with an ice shelf
Coming into a section with lakes again. This area very roughly was where I expected to spend the night.

ice with melt nearby
Lots of little puddles left by the still melting snow.

Deer Lake Trail looks like a good launch point for a run on Derby Peak, but I forbade myself to think about doing that when stopping a little early yesterday. I have been going back and forth about it through the morning. This end of the trail is well marked and even looks well used for a few paces before it crosses a creek and vanishes. What is an extra four miles, anyway? (Warning: it is five.) The map indicates that if I stick to the ridge, it is a fairly straight and consistently upward walk. (Warning: 80 foot contours can hide a lot.) It still feels early in the morning and I figure I can get up there and back before noon. (This is true.) Going for it wins out so I drop the heavies again and take off.

Derby Peak
Derby Peak is a long walk and a short climb from the China Wall and Deer Lake Trails junction. The straight like walk from here to the peak does not look all that attractive, though.

I make my way along the ridge, heading a bit to my left to try to avoid too much of the drop into the basin around Deer Lake. There is a spot along the peak that looks particularly like an easy walk up, and I am aiming at it. I drift onto deer trails, then off again as they get going somewhere else. There are many to choose from faintly in the grass. The small valley between the peak and the bulk of the mountains is covered in shallow ponds and a few streams. After navigating the minor water hazards, there is the one mildly serious climb. The greatest difficulty is getting through the willows. There are many trails through these, too. As I start off, it looks like there might not be much to push through, but the initial bit is quite high, to the left while the right holds much more winding through willows that are much lower. I am uncertain of the left and go right. There really are a lot of willows to wind through, but eventually they yield. The last section of climb looks a lot like a people trail, but not a built one.

stream and pond
A little bit of a water hazard to make the navigation a little harder than point and go.

flats come to a point
Shallow lakes cover the land right out to the point that drops down to connect to Flat Top Mountain.

The top of the mountain is a vastness of flat, just like Flat Top Mountain. However, this one is mostly the tough turf of the area instead of broken up basalt. It is difficult to tell where the high point might be, but easy to wander higher. I do so and eventually spot a small collection of black rocks that do look like they could be the high point. At least they are a reasonable landmark to call it. Down under one are the remains of a glass jar register and a new jar. Opening it, it was placed just two weeks ago and has not been signed since then.

top of Derby Peak
There is just a whole lot of flat out here on top of Derby Peak. Dome Peak is visible again off at the end of the ridge with Flat Top Mountain.

There are a couple of peaks sticking out from the main bulk of peak. Besides the cairn at this rock pile, someone has put one at the top of the second peak out. That peak is probably the hat like protrusion that can be seen from below. It seems a reasonable thing to scramble up, but I decide to save it for the unlikely second trip up. USGS puts the high point on the main bulk. Instead, I start the long stroll required to really enjoy all the views from this high point.

Derby Creek drainage
Looking over the drainage of Derby Creek, mostly the north fork. Road Lake is just visible to the left of a hill.

minor peaks
The minor peaks off the edge of Derby Peak.

Derby Creek drainage
Looking over the drainage of Derby Creek, mostly the middle fork. Island Lake is just visible in the trees.

After walking to the edges at the two big divots in the side of the peak, I head back again. There is a small cairn to mark the point I entered the peak area, so I find it again before climbing back down. I try to keep a little away from the trail that has formed as the footing on it is quite bad. Again, I chose right to get through the willows, but since I have turned around, this is the short route through the taller ones. It works out well. Then I stride back across the flatness.

back across the lower flat
One last view to enjoy: back the way I came.

tuft of grass among water
Detail of one of the many shallow lakes on the way.

Back to the trail and packed up, I head out once again. I still have a long way to go with more mountains to tempt me. Hopefully they are not too tempting. Along the way, there is a pair of hikers with their unleashed dogs. I recognize them from the crowd hiking up the North Derby Trail while I hiked down to Stillwater Reservoir two days ago. Actually, I recognize the dogs first even though one of the hikers, a rather big guy with a hat proclaiming "YETI", stands out a bit. The hat is not quite so bright and new now. They really do have their dogs under immediate voice control and like before, they step off the trail and call the dogs over and the dogs actually go over and sit by their feet. It is a little less impressive now that the dogs have been going a few more miles and take the opportunity to get as much rest as they can get.

clouds over the land
Back on the trail and the weather is really getting nice again.

Trappers Peak
Trappers Peak and the gully below it.

Parvin Lake
Parvin Lake on the edge of the 2002 burn zone.

The trail becomes very distinct as it comes to another rocky level change. It is finally time to drop below 11,500 feet. Below are a couple of ponds. The general route past the ponds seems to be more used when they are lower, but following the trail markers a little more closely keeps my feet dry. Climbing up again, there is a faint cutoff that I skip. It is hard enough to find the next trail next to the sign, but it is there and there is a post to help out. It leads out to some much more defined ponds.

two large ponds
The drop ahead to two large ponds. Shingle Peak is in the background.

deep holed pond
One pond with very well defined edges.

cliff pond edge
Cliffs make even better defined pond edges.

Shingle Peak looms ever closer and it still seems an odd name to give something. Getting lower means getting into some much more lush growth and even a few trees. This includes a few trees to jump over. I got soft going through Routt. They seem to have done some recent work to remove all the trees and there was nothing to jump over. Back in White River, I am back to jumping trees, sometimes quite a few. As I exit the little bit of trees, I have startled a bunch of elk. The first group distracts me a moment, but as they vanish into the next line of trees, I notice even more out in the meadows.

lashed trail sign
Still on easy to find trail, but the trail sign is showing why some of the others have been replaced recently.

elk rumps
The elk take off into the shelter of the woods and beyond.

My "film" runs out on the elk, but I have another card secreted away. As I come to the edge of the second little bit of forest, the elk are again out on the grasses and willows. Their number is astonishing. I start to wonder if Colorado has caribou since I did not know that elk will gather in such numbers.

elk herd
A few wary heads of the elk herd pop up as I near the edge of the forest. The chipmunk by the trail marker seems less wary.

still elk
The elk run again, but not too far. They stop halfway before making their way to the edge of the forest and going somewhere the trail does not go.

The elk are a bit of excitement, but once they have settled into wherever they feel safe, I settle again into taking the long way around Shingle Peak.

White River starts by Trappers Peak
The humble South Fork White River as it gets its start near Trappers Peak.

Shingle Peak
The source of the South Fork White River is probably Shingle Lake right up there. The mountain is easy to resist climbing from this side, at least for me.

Vast meadows around Shingle Peak.

paths in the meadow
Got my choice of paths through these meadows.

As I come around more to the south side of the peak, the name starts to make a lot of sense. Shingle Peak looks a bit like it has a ragged bit of shingling all over it on this side. It still looks hard to climb, but if I had another day, the way would not be too hard.

another turret-like peak
Peaks to the south.

Shingle Peak
The shingles of Shingle Peak are clear from this side.

The land drys out for a little bit as advertised on my map, but then ponds start showing up that it does not indicate. Still, I am not tempted to stop by one. There is the promise of creek water up ahead. The lakes have been surprisingly nice, but creek water is always better. As I pass through one slight valley, there seems to be two trails heading out of it. The trail I am on curves decidedly for the one heading south and eventually I notice the tiny sign out in the middle that marks the missed junction.

purple blooms
Found some interesting purple flowers.

pond along the way
The little ponds are pretty dismal looking at first, but they get better.

The first creek also does not tempt me. Past it, there should be a trail that cuts in from Rim Lake and the Sweetwater Trail. That looks like it might be a picturesque way to go, but is a little longer, so I let it be. There is a sign that confirms I am on the Shingle Peak Trail, but not really any sign of the rest of the junction.

meandering creek
A meandering, lake-like creek with thin flow.

The second creek, the one I want to stop at, looks nicer. Just up the hill looks like a likely place to find an established site, and sure enough it is. There is one of the rare glimpses of Turret Peak from here and it looks imposing for the short section to the top. It is only a half mile or so to it. I could probably take a couple hours for it tomorrow. Not for today. Tonight is a good night to deploy mosquito barriers. They are particularly annoying while having my supper.

Turret Peak
Up the creek is the one view of Turret Peak from this trail. It certainly had a lot of views from the high part of the creek by the same name.

Continue reading: day 6

©2016 Valerie Norton
Posted 14 August 2016

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