17 July 2016

Flat Tops: Shingle Peak Trail

White River National Forest

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

(Day 6 of 6) I wake to find there is a mosquito inside my barrier and when I squish it it bleeds. Well, one is better than the multitude that undoubtedly tried. I look out on the meadow are more elk. Half seem to be hanging out by a small pool that is more mud than water. This group is different from the larger group yesterday. This group all have antlers. The mosquitoes are forgotten as I move quietly to the edge of the trees pulling on my coat. I hang back just a little bit and they do not seem to notice me.

elk group with antlers
Elk on the meadow.

The elk have gone again once I have eaten and slid everything back in the pack. I am not going to climb Turret Peak this trip, so the only climb left is about 80 feet to finish getting out of the creek below. It is all downhill from there. Every last step. One of them passing the only sign of bear for the trip, a rather large print in the dried mud.

getting started going downhill long
Getting started on a long downhill.

far and lower hills
Grassy lands below.

The vegetation changes as I drop. The sparse pines get a little thicker and then are replaced by aspen. The willows become more sparse. What I can see of the Sweetwater Creek canyon looks stunning. I sort of wish I had chosen to take that route, but there are special moments for this one, too.

Johnny Meyers Lake
A high lake across the way might be Johnny Meyers Lake.

aspen trees
Tall, thin aspen trees leave little room for conifers.

wilderness sign
Leaving the Flat Tops Wilderness.

The aspens still yield to wide meadows. There are a lot of flowers in them. Someone has been driving in them, too. It might be related to the rather dry ditch the trail crosses. Below the ditch, the trail is partly road.

blue bells
Still nice to enjoy the flowers in the meadow.

purple larkspur
A rather large larkspur.

aspen forest
The aspen forest from below part of it.

There are some stunning bits of beauty along the way.

thin brown beetle on a white flower
I am always keen for an elegant beetle.

trunks and the far canyon
Once in a while there is a picture that I am just really really happy with.

hills with cliff
The hills across the way drop to a more distinct canyon with cliffs and waterfalls.

Movement to my side alerts me to a bird. A grouse hen is moving around and unlike the others I have seen recently, waits a moment for the photograph.

grouse hen
The grouse hen pauses in a space among the grasses and flowers.

out on the ridge
The trail launches out into the open on the edge of the ridge.

bee on brush
A bee heavy with pollen stops to get some more.

The trees yield more more meadow and the meadow starts to contain sage brush. Some of the area looks to have burned some time ago and scrubby little black oaks are starting up.

Turret Creek
A high lookout point to take in Turret Creek.

the butt of a bee in a mariposa lily
The mariposa lilies are lovely, as are the bee moons within them.

The trail got quite settled into the road area, but as the road takes a decisive turn for steep, there is a line of rocks to direct folks onto thinner trail. It winds down ever tighter through the tiny black oaks toward the start. Fencing along the way probably marks private property that it will eventually pass through. An older fence line shows more evidence of a fire long ago.

Sweetwater Lake
Looking down on Sweetwater Lake with its curious cliffs.

black oaks
Scrubby little oaks on the hillside.

Soon I am back to the junction and the gate. It is a short way back to the trailhead.

road walk
Keeping to the road through private property.

private gate
Like the sign says right at the start.

I am back a little earlier than my deadline and take a moment to read the kiosk information this time. One side is devoted to Leave No Trace. The other side devotes half itself to rules and regulations. Half of what is left is a map of the area. The remainder is devoted to interesting tidbits of history. It says, "The Hilltop trailhead provides access to a number of trails, including several that enter the Flat Tops Wilderness. Arthur Carhart's 1919 visit to Trappers Lake in the Flat Tops inspired him to become the first U.S. Forest Service official to advocate for wilderness preservation. Carhart's recommendation that the area remain undeveloped for all people to enjoy set off a chain of events that eventually led to the signing of the Wilderness Act of 1964. Congress designated the Flat Tops Wilderness in 1975. At over 235,000 [acres,] it is Colorado's third largest Wilderness."

©2016 Valerie Norton
Posted 15 August 2016

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