30 September 2019

Newspaper Rock and Indian Point

Newspaper Rock State Historic Monument

Indian Creek SRMA, BLM

Click for map.

I have been to Newspaper Rock before, but it was a rather long time ago. It was probably about the time my dad got his 4x4 pickup truck and decided the family vacation would include Canyonlands where he could take this shinny new truck over Elephant Hill and up (likely down) the Silver Staircase and out on the Island in the Sky to see the confluence. I recall that last one not having such a bad road in and there's a paved option of sorts. I also remember one road in The Maze where a little white Corolla came up out of a canyon and we got to the top and my dad hit the brakes and perched there for a bit before deciding it probably wasn't deadly and putting it in 4-low as though that would save us if it was. Then again, I seem to remember him doing something similar in the Bronco with its push button 2WD-4WH-4WL changing and feeling like a button with a light was not so settling as a proper stick. There were multiple trips to Canyonlands. At least one of them included a stop at Newspaper Rock. Still, it's just down the hill (and free to stop at) and I might not remember it in all its glorious detail. And I found a little hike to do with it. Anyway, most my pictures went missing at some point in his basement, so there are no little squares of rock art or of the brown Green River mixing with the clear Colorado. I'll probably not fix that second any time soon, but I can have a look at some rock art again. The parking and other improvements all have a distinctly BLM flavor even though this is apparently a state owned area. The kiosk is full of BLM publications and refers people to call the local BLM office if they have questions. I give the map a good glare, wondering where else I should be pausing before walking past to the trails forming behind it by people who can't seem to read because I've just committed the same sin.

a little piece of the shallow canyon
Out to experience the canyon with each layer of rock doing its own thing when exposed to weather.

somewhat taller bit of rock
Indian Point on the other side. The canyon isn't all that tall and it's got a bit of a bump on its lip that is where I mean to hike after.

yellow flowers
There's actually a surprising number of flowers among the shrubs.

My eclectic map suggests the rock itself is on the other side. So does the kiosk, in really big letters with three even bigger arrows since symbols sometimes help when dealing with the illiterate. Following the sidewalk to a much more developed looking trail gets me, in very short order, to a large rock surface with dark desert varnish and a whole lot of petroglyphs that have darkened again to varying amounts. It's quite busy, but not in the way I was thinking so not the one I was thinking it might be.

quite a lot of feet of different sorts of feet
Sorting through it all for feet as something to grab onto, but it turns out there are quite a lot of feet.

27 September 2019

Abajo Peak

Manti-La Sal National Forest

Click for map.

I decided next up would be Abajo Peak, the high point of the Abajo Mountains. It was an easy choice. I'd almost tried going for it with my previous loop, but didn't want a 20 mile day. I figured it would add about 6 miles to that loop that turned out to be quite a bit longer than expected. I've got another cobbled together route for this one. I mean, I could just drive up it (depending on the quality of the road), but who wants to do that? Instead, I've traced out some ridges for a cross country route up and then trail and road to come back down. The road, 4WD on my map, actually looks in good shape and is marked by a horizontal number. I think I could drive it until the trail portion and make a much shorter day of it, but then there goes my cross country challenge. I'm kind of set on the ridges now, besides I sort of expect there to maybe be trail that way. Surely the locals like the idea of going up the local high point, but not just in a truck. Oh, and I thought I might actually put on my orange cap today.

nice smooth bit of road among trees touched by fall
Starting off where Forest Road 0079 leaves County Road 49.

My original plan was to actually go up about a mile where there is a ridge line that, for not real reason, I expect there could very well be trail, but I am quickly distracted from that by an unexpected bit of road that could be going up to a fuel break. It is good enough that I could have driven it as far as it is still used, but then it quits at a camp site. I should have known. Old road continues on, maybe going to the campground that is a quarter mile or so down the pavement. There is a little bit of something like a fuel break going up from it, but it must just be people playing with their ATVs because it doesn't go more than 100 feet. From there, there are trails, but they are from cows and more interested in going along the slope than up it. I am on my own to get up this slope and sometimes the forest is quite thick, either with shrubs or fallen trees. Or both.

going up in gravel
This would sure make it easy to climb if it went beyond that flat up there. The forest around it can be quite thick.

trees keeping the view to themselves
But such a lovely view of trees blocking the view.

cow path not going my way
The cows are very uncooperative in the direction of their trails and have none at all to offer when they are most needed.

view that can sort of be seen
But it gets easier to look out in some spots.

25 September 2019

Robertson Pasture, Twin Peaks, and Spring Creek Trail

Manti-La Sal National Forest

Click for map.

The roads seem to be increasingly dominated by rough things, at least on the map, so I wasn't sure what I could do. I plotted out a loop of 4WD road and (motorcycle) trail and a little bit of paving from an easily accessible overlook for a get-to-know-the-area exercise and figured I should have more ideas later. The easily accessible overlook is the Harts Draw-Canyonlands Overlook, or so it says on the map. It lacks any road signs to point it out, but once there has a nice set of sighting tubes to point out the landscape. That can't be bad. It includes Canyonlands!

sighting tubes over Canyonlands
A series of tubes for sighting things like Shay Mountain there on the left, which is hard to miss, and a few things down in the canyons to the right.

canyons, some of them Canyonlands
Lots of canyons below, some of them part of Canyonlands National Park.

So on to the first little bit of paving before turning onto the first bit of 4WD road. There's plenty of shoulder and the cows have pounded a path on one side to make travel on that shoulder easy. There are a few discrepancies between what I see on the ground and the Forest Service quad as I get to that first turn. Spring Lake is actually signed as Foy Lake and I've never seen such a nice 4WD road. The paving is old, but quite complete. It is marked with an "easiest" level ATV trail sign, too. I have about a mile more of paving than I thought. The cows have walked the side of this one, too, but sometimes beneath low branches.

peaks with trees on the top
North Peak and various bumps mostly hiding Twin Peaks.

easy to find junction
The turn to Foy Lake. Looks like it's been this way for a while. Someone isn't keeping up the map.

Foy Lake is a big tank with earthen dam on two sides and quite full of water. Shay Ridge (ATV) Trail heads off next to a bathroom and a map marking area OHV trails and about four dispersed camping areas, this being one of them. The second bit is good for me to know since I'm looking for a better campsite.

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

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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

Click for map.

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

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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.

12 September 2019

Sliderock Mountain

San Juan National Forest

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Out for more exploring, I went to drive out to Cemetery Flats and see what happened. Unfortunately, the road was a bit too rough by Rands Point, which is to say I'd already driven over something I probably shouldn't have and decided to park before I did it again. There's plenty of parking there although at the moment it is take up by a bunch of hunters studying the far side of the canyon for elk. I haven't seen any since the bunch on Endlich Mesa, but hunters sure are easy to spot. Well, these aren't trying. It's quite some view from Rands Point.

red cliff
Noticing a red cliff and band of white the trees don't like on a nearby mesa.

bald mountain
Silver Mountain (right) and Baldy Peak behind Bald Knob, with some area to look for elk.

Snowstorm to Sliderock
The row of peaks from Snowstorm on the left to Sliderock on the right. Snowstorm is near Lewis Mountain and Sliderock is just up the road.

I wonder if I want to go up Cape Horn on the way to Cemetery Flats, but decide to just walk the road. Another hunter, bow in hand, is sidestepping his way down a steep bit. They really are much easier to spot. There have been some deer on this road, so there is something for them if they've got the right tags. At the next saddle, the old road went left and the current one goes right, so I follow the old road up to Cemetery Flats. People have kept it open as a nice camp site, but only for the tougher vehicles. I look around for signs of a grave to give it its name, but I'm not sure where exactly that sort of thing might be. None of the maps I have indicate where and the long grass and tall asters would easily hide such.

grassy flat areas
Cemetery Flats seems just a pleasant little spot now.

09 September 2019

Junction Creek Colorado Trail

San Juan National Forest

Click for map.

In spite of seeming like a worthy trail to hike end to end, my actual knowledge of the Colorado Trail seems to be certainty that it goes through Breckenridge, where I've chatted with a few hikers on their first resupply after a week on trail, and a general thought that it might have one end sort of near Denver and another kind of near Durango. Well, here I am basically in Durango, so it must be around here somewhere. These very last (according to the direction most people hike it) miles of the trail seem to have their own names. The finish is Junction Creek, which comes after a short Sliderock section, which comes after some Highline. I was tempted to start at the parking a mile up, but decided out of some misplaced desire for completeness to start at the bitter end. The lot is large and nearly full. Someone has left a cooler for the hikers that has collected some camping gear beside it. I wonder what they've stuck in there for celebrating the finish? Beer, probably. The trail is wide, but after crossing a ditch on a little bridge, canyon and trail narrow down quickly. It is high and dark and cool on a day that was already warming.

wide and sunny
Getting started with some extra trails to access the creek on the left.

narrow and shaded
Creek and canyon wall as things are narrow and shaded.

The entry a mile up has more signs to explain the CT and someone coming up behind me saying, "This is where [so-and-so] got off. You can see how she might have mistaken it and missed the last bit." Actually, I really can. The trail down looks like some use trail to the creek from here and only a small, easily missed sign shows there's a little more official trail rather than just this smaller parking lot. The trail goes high and stays high for a while and I think it might be time to flatten out some spots sloping out toward the cliff. And here I was expecting it to cross the creek.

nice, cliff topped valley
A bit of trail that is comfortable in its height above Junction Creek below.

So it drops a little and the creek comes up and suddenly, there is the crossing on a nice big bridge. More trail keeps on following the creek up. Strangely, the OpenStreetMap with all its extra trails marked just up the hill from here doesn't mark this one, which looks well used. I might have to try it, but today should come out around 16 miles, so I think I'll leave it to later. See how I feel then.

east side of Junction Creek canyon
Little views on the way up the side of Junction Creek again.

Once across, it's a climb up the other side. I can see little views here and there. I keep trying to see a mountain to the south a little better, but never quite make it until the very top. A bench with dedication to "Gudy Gaskill, mother of the Colorado Trail" await me to make the view spot even easier to take advantage of.

06 September 2019

Animas Overlook on Barnes Mountain

San Juan National Forest

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Well, I managed to put a hole in my "new" Altras. I noticed a thin spot in the side as I put them on for Dark Canyon and I noticed I could stick my finger through as I put them on for Cave Basin, so now I have a glob of Shoe Goo filling it in. It's a weird spot, on the inside of the shoe right by the ball of my foot. I must have scraped it across the trees as I "hopped" over them through the major burn down West Mountain. They barely have 300 miles on them. That's only like 3 weeks to the through hikers that these are supposed to be popular with. Then again, they do tend to hike cleaner trails. So now I want to see if this Shoe Goo will hold. I've usually used E-6000 to fill in the holes that eventually develop, but I seem to have got a collection of adhesives and the Shoe Goo is a little harder and should be more tuned to the job. So I'll test out some trails that OpenStreetMap shows in the area, stop by the short interpretive loop at the Animas Overlook, then back to camp.

some mesas across the way
A Junction Creek overlook of sorts with perhaps Wild Oat Mesa beyond.

The road is crossed by one of the many trails on the map as I make my way up. What is actually there is a bulldozer path on one side and a thin trail on the other. I had this particular trail mapped out to loop with a section of Colorado Trail, but the loop comes out to 32 miles and I'm not quite ready to day hike that. Still, ~20 on the CT and ~10 to connect the loop? I could try for a quick overnight. I'm really looking for a second trail a little further near where a benchmark called "horn" should be. Okay, I just want to get the benchmark, but the various testing needs done too. That trail is more bulldozer line. The benchmark is supposed to be a little above it but not at the top of Barnes Mountain. I look where it is marked and where it seems more reasonable to be placed and all I can find is a well used camp site. No benchmark for me. The bulldozer line continues on as marked, then turns down to connect with the first one I saw. A much older bulldozer line continues along the top where I want to go with very little trail to be seen. Little tanks were dug along the path, so there is a string of dry pools to confirm I'm still following it as what trail there is rapidly vanishes.

little tank
It's been dry long enough that the little tanks along the top are dry.

big tree standing and live
There are some actual big trees up along the ridge. Live big trees.

There is definitely no complete trail to follow although there is often some kind of trail. I move to where the map indicates trail and often find something, but it never goes more than a quarter mile and ends somewhere "off trail" and never more than a game trail anyway. There are signs a bulldozer passed once, but the little tanks are only along the flatter top. When the marked trail swings off to the right of the ridge, then follows a fence line back up to the ridge, I'm pretty sure that whoever contributed this line to the map was squinting at areal photographs guessing where there might be a trail.

Ecological Staircase to the Pygmy Forest

Jug Handle State Natural Preserve Click for map. I noticed an Earthcache that looked interesting as it asks for study of an area wi...