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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Enjoying the Last Days of Autumn

By Ann Driggers
Monday, October 26, 2009

As I mentioned in my previous post I have been trying to get out as much as possible and enjoy the last few days of the fall. The weather has been really fantastic here in the Grand Valley for the past couple of weeks. Too bad I spent three of those days working on the Front Range where I was unable to escape outside. Still I made up for it whenever I could. Here's a few photos from a number of different outings: Solo post work mountain bike ride out at Mary's. The cottonwoods along the Colorado River were spectacular despite the cloudy skies.

loma boatramp.jpg

The riding's pretty great too.

 sunset ride.jpg

A couple weekends ago I got in a nice long hike in the McInnis Canyons area to the west of the Monument. I devised a 10 mile loop up through the East fork of Pollock Canyon and crossing over into Flume Canyon on an unmarked old shepherders route. The cottonwoods in Pollock were outstanding of course.

pollock cottonwoods.jpg

I was all alone, at least from the two legged kind. As I ran round a corner I glanced up to see this large big horn ram keeping an eye on me.

Ute Canyon 125.JPG

Finally, I went out for a great mountain bike ride at 18 Road with my friend Susan Kishegyi. We were very pleasantly surprised to find the parking lot only half full and met very few other riders out on the trail. Given the popularity of the Grand Valley at this time of year it can get a little busy at the trailheads. I heard everyone was over at the Lunch Loop - great! more room for us. We rode my favorite trail combination, the Double A, heading out west, up Zippety and then back across the Frontside and down Kessel Run - as always a super ride.

zippety.jpg

So now the weather forecast is looking distinctly wintery, with snow flurries forecast here in town. It wont be long before the skis are dusted off but I am glad I enjoyed the final days of fall as much as I could.

2 comments

Fall Resolution

By Ann Driggers
Thursday, October 15, 2009

The clock is ticking. Only 16 days left 'til the end of Daylight Savings and the clocks turn back an hour. Although it gives us a little more light for the morning run, the post work outings are pretty much kaput after November 1. And that is a bit of a bummer because this time of year is the best for getting out in the Grand Valley, what with the weather so fabulous and the leaves turning. So I have made a Fall resolution. Like a New Year's resolution, but applying to the next two weeks only: I will attempt to get out and do something every day after work. I made my Fall resolution just this afternoon. So this evening I rode up to Cold Shivers Point in the Monument and then watched the sunset on Mount Garfield and the Bookcliffs as I descended. It was beautiful. The cottonwoods in the canyons are really starting to pop and the color show seems to be much better than the aspens in the mountains this year.

garfield sunset2.jpg

So the pressure is on. Right now is perfect and there are so many things to do before the clocks change - riding over the Monument or through the Palisade vineyards, mountain biking at Mary's, 18 Road or Lunch Loop, running the river trail, hiking in McInnes Canyons or Mount Garfield.........whatever it is, just get out there!

4 comments

Canyonlands’ Needles District

By Ann Driggers
Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The timing is darn near perfect. No sooner have the leaves dropped in the high mountains, than the searing summer heat of the deserts vaporizes for good. With moderate temperatures and glorious sunny days, late fall is the primo time to be a desert rat. We have plenty of opportunities for that in our neck of the woods. This past weekend Chad and I spent several days ferreting around the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park, and immersed ourselves into the quintessential desert south west landscape. Despite its relative remoteness the area is rich with history of human habitation from 2,000 year old petroglyphs to 100 year old cowboy camps. On our first day we rode our bikes around the park roads visiting the points of interest along the way.

  newspaper rock.jpg

On our second day we made a foray deep into the stunning landscape. There’s a huge amount to see so we tried to pack in as many sights as we could and set out with a fairly ambitious itinerary but with options to cut it short if needed. Leaving from the Elephant Hill trailhead we first hiked 5+ miles to Druid Arch. For the most part the ‘trails’ were cairned routes across slickrock and along canyon bottoms making for a more backcountry experience than we had expected from a National Park. Although the morning had started with a downright chilly 24 degrees, it wasn’t long before the desert sunshine had us stripping down to t-shirts. Upon reaching Druid Arch we stopped for lunch and basked in the warming sun for half an hour.

Druid Arch.jpg

Next we backtracked 2 miles to the reach the cutoff over into Chesler Park. Along the way we found a fissure in the rock and decided to follow it. It was a bit of a squeeze - if any part of your body is more than say 34 inches around or 7 inches wide, you are not getting through - but definitely worth it as we happened upon an incredible place.

surprise slot.jpg surprise slot2.jpg

I was excited to finally arrive at Chesler Park, a grassland area surrounded by needles and other rock formations, having seen so many beautiful photos of the area. It lived up to my expectations and more.

At this point we were feeling pretty spry and made the decision to continue hiking on the Chesler Park loop trail which would add a few more miles to our day. The first section was the Joint trail which followed a ‘joint’ or crack between the rocks. Although not as tight as the previous slot and it was nonetheless a fun part of the hike with some scrambling involved.

joint downclimb.jpg

We finished up the loop and started on the trail back towards Elephant Hill, arriving back about 7 hours after we set out. We covered 15 miles, but surprising to us was the amount of elevation gain. Our GPS reported 3,400 feet of climbing on the route. I guess there were a lot of ups and downs between the canyons, parks and mesas. Luckily a summer of mountain adventures had prepared us well for being desert rats.

4 comments

Credit Card Ride to Crested Butte

By Ann Driggers
Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A credit card ride is named as such because only a credit card is packed to cover ones needs. Well, that’s the theory. In reality we carried quite a bit more as our group of seven headed out from Marble to Crested Butte to spend the night and return the next day. Packs were weighed down with food and clothing for the ride, bikinis and trunks for hot tubs, extra clothing for cruising the Butte, birthday gifts for one of the group, and even a fishing pole!

Mike Curiak and Susan Kishegyi are all smiles on the way to Crested Butte.

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The ride starts in the small town of Marble and follows the road to Crystal Mill, the Devils Punchbowl and then up and over Schofield Pass. The rough 4WD road requires some hike-a-bike and a creek crossing.

punchbowl girls.jpg

Lenore Bryant and Krissy Steele take a run at the loose and steep hill in the punchbowl but it's not long before we are reduced to this.....

Mike Steele demonstrates the art of the hike-a-bike.

hiking punchbowl.jpg 

After entering Schofield Park the road flattens out and we start to motor.

 schofiled park.jpg

After another couple of miles we reach Schofield Pass.

  schofiled pass.jpg

All told it is about 25 miles and 4,000 feet of climbing depending whether or not the sweet singletrack of the 401 Trailriders trail is included. In this case we opted out as the weather was looking kind of nasty and our feet were blocks of ice after the creek crossing. Still, the descent down into the Butte was very beautiful as the aspens are really starting to turn and the surrounding mountains were dusted with snow. Arriving in CB we checked into our hotel and jumped into the hot tub to warm up. Later, as we headed out into town for the evening we discovered that it was the Vinotok Festival, a medieval style celebration of harvest and the autumn equinox. Various activities took place including a parade where participants stroll in and out of bars and restaurants, singing, playing instruments and reciting tales of folklore.

flute player.jpg

We were lucky to be serenaded while enjoying our cocktails at the Princess Bar.

 martini.jpg

Knowing the return ride was relatively easy, our celebrations of Krissy's pending birthday and general merriment continued unabated well into the night. The next day we returned to Marble, arriving cold and drenched from virtually non-stop rain. However I managed to snap a few shots of the beautiful fall colors along the way.

A cabin in Crystal

crystal cabin.jpg

Rain on aspen leaf Mike Curiak has a great slideshow posted over on his blog.

leaves.jpg 

4 comments

Fall Backpacking and Climbing

By Ann Driggers
Tuesday, September 15, 2009

I've been wanting to climb Capitol Peak for a while now, but every weekend I had it slated for an attempt, the weather hasn't cooperated. This past weekend it didn't look too stellar either but since there are not too many opportunities left this year we decided it to give it a shot. In any case a backpacking trip up Capitol Creek into the heart of the Elk mountains is pretty darn sweet. So off we went, a happy band of five wannabe Capitol summiters, with a good supply of the necessary staples - bad weather gear, wine and chocolate.

Hiking In.jpg

The sun was shining and although the evening air was brisk and had a distinct autumnal feel, our spirits were high as we ate dinner and settled in for the night. Shortly after dark fell, the show began. Lightning flashed, thunder crashed and rolled from cloud to cloud. One clap was so loud I felt the ground shake beneath me as I lay hunkered down in my little tent and I felt the electricity in the air. Rain lashed the sides of the tent for what seemed like eternity. When the alarm went off at 5 a.m. the next morning I didn't feel like I'd slept a wink. By the light of our headlamps and the moon, we groggily hiked the switchbacks up to Daly Pass. As the sun rose the aftermath of the storm became evident. Capitol's north face was shining white and we crunched over fresh snow the higher we climbed.

Climbing K2.jpg

After an hour or so we reached the summit of K2, a 13,664 foot high bump on Capitol's ridge.

K2 Summit.jpg

To continue on would require some fairly sketchy climbing on snow covered rocks. I had on my flat soled, rock shoes so I opted instead to call it quits. Capitol will be there next summer and I want to be too, so the decision wasn't hard for me. Three of us decided to head back to camp and finish up some of the excess supplies while two of our group forged their way to the summit.

Hiking back.jpg

We were relieved to see the successful summiters return to camp a few hours later, safe and sound, and just as the weather turned bad again. In the midst of a hail storm we quickly broke down camp and headed out. I don't think it was my imagination but the aspens had turned a deeper shade of yellow in the 24 hour period since we hiked in. Fall is definitely here.

Fall is here.jpg

4 comments
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