The Outdoor Junkie
The Outdoor Junkie is a blog by Ann Driggers, a backcountry bon vivant who lives to hike, run, ride, ski and climb in the great outdoors, and is most often found roaming through the red-rock canyons and mountains of Western Colorado.
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By Ann Driggers
Monday, September 15, 2014
Hey there everyone, meet Scooter, my new trail buddy. Scooter, a rough coated Jack Russell Terrier, came into our lives, last Christmas, as an eight week old puppy. As expected a JRT puppy can be a challenge (he is our second so we knew what we were in for) but also an immense amount of fun and very responsive if they get plenty of exercise and direction. Over the summer we have gradually built up the number of miles we take him on runs and hikes. Though definitely not short of energy I didn't want to overdo it with him not been fully grown. A couple of weeks ago we decided to embark on our biggest adventure to date and visit Capitol Pass at the base of famed 14er Capitol Peak. This would be a round trip of about 14 miles and Scooter was definitely up for the challenge.
Of course the scenery was absolutely off the hook, the brightness and beauty of late summer/early fall made my eyes smart. At the base of Capitol's imposing north face, freshly coated with snow, the last of the summers flowers were barely hanging on.
Capitol Lake was sparkling blue and icy cold as we ran on by.
Up towards Capitol Pass the mountainsides had taken on the reddish hue of fall.
Below the northwest buttress of Capitol the wind was brisk and chilly as it swept through the pass at 12,100 feet.
On the way back down we found a few signs that fall is bearing down.
The gold rush is beginning.
Scooter and I are planning on getting out into the high country as much as we can before winter shuts us down. Paws and feet will be getting out there!
By Ann Driggers
Wednesday, August 27, 2014
I didn't think it was going to happen this summer, as weather scuppered one trip and running plans and busy schedules took care of most weekends. But the night after the Power of Four 22k Trail Race, which I rather surprisingly and incredibly won (!), I decided I had enough of racing and wanted to go backpacking instead. Despite the short 10 days notice, we managed to gather a group of five of us adventuresome gals to head out on a 30 mile point-to-point, partial traverse of the Holy Cross Wilderness.
We started at the busy Holy Cross/Fall Creek trailhead but quickly left the masses behind as we took the trail less traveled towards Fall Creek Pass.
We were pleased to see that wildflowers were still blooming up high:
When we reached the pass an afternoon storm rolled in and we spent the next few miles hiking down past the Seven Sisters lakes in rain. Although a little gloomy it was still quite beautiful:
The Elephant Heads were really out in force:
After passing through Holy Cross City, an old derelict mining town, and with 10 miles under our belts for the day, we set up camp at Fancy Lake.
I awoke early and snuck out of my tent to watch the sunrise over the distant Gore Range:
Once up the sun lit the peaks surrounding the lake:
Our second day on the trail started off with a climb up and over Fancy Pass at 12,380 feet and then dropping down into the head waters of Cross Creek.
From there we left the trail and beat our own path across country and up and over an unnamed pass in the above photo on the far right. This was a route that we had an idea would go having researched on the map and on Google Earth, but until we got there and figured it out we did not know for sure. I was excited to find it totally worked, and I wasn't the only one who had that idea since there was a faint trail in spots. Even better, when we landed over the otherside we were transported to an even more spectacular setting than before. Granite walls, mouton rochees and boulders were interlaced with meadows blanketed with wildflowers, and emerald and turquoise lakes and tarns, strung together by gurgling streams and cascading waterfalls.
We wandered, almost in a daze, for hours, gradually making our way down this pristine alpine valley to our next camp. Here we whiled away the evening flyfishing, cooking up mushrooms, playing music, reading poetry, drinking bourbon and engaging in the general merriment that a group of five gals might get up to when left to their own devices for a few days.
In the middle of August the milky way is at its peak and I tried my best to capture its incredible beauty:
Our final day involved linking a number of trails for about 10 miles to reach our vehicle left at Woods Lake. The landscape we traveled through was quite different from the days previous but uniquely beautiful. We hiked between big stands of lodgepole pine, across 'parks' and past lakes.
As we approached the trail head marking the end of our trip I really wanted to make the clock stop and hike backwards. Even if just for a few nights my annual stay at the Milky Way Motel is always the best.
By Ann Driggers
Monday, July 28, 2014
Above: Myself and Janis Taylor on the summit of La Plata Peak, 14,336 feet, Colorado's fifth highest yesterday morning.
"It is something though...
To jump up from fourteen thousand feet and touch the sky
To wonder at enormous land-waves cresting in slow motion all around
To run back down through wild meadows of diverse flowers
To return once again - to practice figuring out how to best be a human living with other humans" - Janis
Our plan was hatched to bag a 14er so late in the evening it was just 6 hours later Janis and I met and drove east over Independence Pass. The early morning start saw us running through the dark, damp and pungent pine forest. The rising sun gilded the surrounding peaks as we emerged above treeline.
The trail switchbacked its way up the flanks of the north west ridge amongst beautiful wildflowers.
Views for miles...Mount Elbert, Colorado's highest, and Mount Massive, on the horizon and closer in the sawtoothed Ellingwood Ridge, another of La Plata's ridges. The rock around the trail was covered with a bright green lichen.
We tried to be as speedy as possible, wanting to beat any chance of the forecast storms, and made it to the summit in a little over 2 hours. We jumped for joy and touched the sky. I made it to about 14,346 feet, Janis a little higher since she can jump better than me.
Going down we ripped through the meadows of wildflowers, pausing only for pictures and to tell hikers on the way up they *really* weren't almost there yet.
It was a very runnable trail, apart from a couple of short rocky sections near the summit. One of the most enjoyable 14ers I have ever been on. We pretty much had the place to ourselves until we were about 2/3 of the way down.
La Plata was a very pleasant surprise to me. Typically I expect crowded and rocky choss piles when I climb 14ers. This was the opposite. Absolutely gorgeous scenery, fantastic running trail and no people, at least those that are willing to set off at 6 a.m. and run! Extra bonus - we did not get electrocuted and we made the 9 miles RT and 4,600 feet of climbing in 4 hours and back into Aspen for a late breakfast!
By Ann Driggers
Tuesday, July 22, 2014
After a slow start, the snow has all but melted and the high alpine is alive, finally. Alive with wildflowers blanketed across meadows, with marmots squealing on the mountainsides, with meadowlarks singing, with streams gurgling, with trout jumping in lakes, with rolls of thunder, and with me running, hiking and biking. It's a smorsgabord of sights, sounds and smells. The first flowers to really take hold were the lupines and Mules Ear at lower elevations.
And then it was the lovely Colorado state flower, the columbine, which decorated the trails at Snowmass for a few weeks:
And many others - daisies, penstemmons, paintbrush and scarlet giliea included. The flowers are spent down low and are moving into the highest alpine. And with them we go too. Here Paula and Heidi run up towards Buckskin Pass on their way to completeing the Four Passes Loop which circumnavigates the Maroon Bells over four passes of 12,000+ feet each.
Although it was toasty warm at 12,500 feet this weekend, even at 8 a.m. when we were up there, I found a touch of frost between the sunflowers. A reminder that the days are getting shorter, the nights cooler and we are only weeks away from fall.
This time when the hills are vibrant and blooming at the highest elevations is so stinking beautiful but everso fleeting. Take advantage of it while you can!
By Ann Driggers
Monday, June 16, 2014
All of a sudden spring has finally arrived here in the mountains. Unlike years past where it seeped in a tepid and steady trickle, it fairly exploded on the scene. A super intense, bright, neon, fresh green is saturating the earth. Now snow lies only above 10,000 feet and the lower mountains are open for business. Believe you me I am taking advantage of it!
Long slender trunks rooted in the earth soar upwards and touch the sky where wind whispers in the tree tops. The sun falls through shimmering leaves, dappling the forest floor and the trail winding through it. As my feet tap out the steady rhythm of a long run, I am held spellbound, captivated by the magic of an aspen forest.
Wheels roll over bumpy ground pocked by elk, hop over fallen trees and brambles smart my legs as we are some of the first to ride the trails this spring. Although it has barely started its growth the forest floor seems lush already. Skunk cabbage slowly unfurls its massive leaves and the first of the wildflowers punch through the earth. Larkspur seems to be especially abundant this year, carpeting meadows a deep blue.
The heady scent of the white blooms of the mountain serviceberry fills the air. Around every turn a budding flower, a new leaf unfurled, and the fresh smell of spring. Even though the summer solstice approaches there is not enough time in the day for me to drink it all in. We ride and run until sunset.