By Ann Driggers
Sunday, July 28, 2013
A great or plentiful amount
Fullness to overflowing
No word better describes the mountains now. Full to the brim of summer glory, their slopes are cloaked with a rich tapestry of color as wildflower season reaches its peak. The bounty is at times almost overwhelming. Words fail me. Pictures will have to suffice.
By Ann Driggers
Monday, July 1, 2013
And a few words.
Hiking up to a pass at 12,100 feet in the Maroon Bells - Snowmass Wilderness:
Fresh bear tracks
Capitol Peak impressive as always
Columbine, the Colorado state flower
The promise of rain
And rain it does. Finally
After the rain
And a beautiful sunset to top it off
By Ann Driggers
Monday, June 24, 2013
On the weekend of the summer solstice we set out on our first backpack trip in the mountains with no goals other than to get up out and soak in the scenery with good friends. With easy access post work we picked the Beaver Creek area with our first night spent just three miles from the trailhead at Beaver Lake where we arrived shortly before sunset. On the second day we hiked on to Turquoise Lakes at the head of Beaver Creek and set up camp at the lake's edge perfectly situated at the base of a beautiful cirque in meadows carpeted with marsh marigolds.
Here Grouse Mountain towered above to the east and to the south the first of several false summits that eventually lead to Mount Jackson, 13,676 feet high. Being it is the 101st highest peak in Colorado, and relatively remote, it does not see much traffic. Greg, Twyla and I thought however, it would make for a very fine climb and having pitched our tents we set off past Upper Turquoise Lake and scrambled up a cleft in the rocks to exit the cirque.
Upper Turquoise Lake still harbored ice on it's northern edge:
Once we were above the cirque it was a pleasant stroll across the tundra dotted with granite boulders. We scared up ptarmigan and marveled at the little blue Forget-Me-Nots and other alpine flowers already blooming. Can you see the ptarmigan, well camouflaged amongst the boulders?
Flowers at 13,000 feet with the rugged sawtooths of New York Mountain and Gold Dust Peak in the background:
When the north east face of Mount Jackson came into view I was wishing I had my skis! That's neighboring 14er, Mount of the Holy Cross to the left:
On the north ridge we had a couple of Class III moves which kept us entertained:
The final walk along the summit ridge:
We topped out at 5 p.m. and enjoyed spectacular views of Many of Colorado's mountain ranges including the Sawatch, the Gore, and the Elks. I could even see my beloved Sopris off in the distance.
Cause for celebration - beautiful views and our first summit of the summer:
With plenty of daylight on one of the longest days of the year we made it back to camp well before sunset.
Round trip, Mount Jackson is about 20 miles and 5,700 feet from Beaver Creek ski area. Doable in a day but I think it pays to spend a night at least up the lakes but then again I'm always looking for an excuse to go backpacking.
By Ann Driggers
Friday, June 21, 2013
After two great trips in the desert this spring, it's now time to turn our attention to the mountains. As the snow line receeds, the flowers follow, as do we. Over a month ago in the high desert of pinon and sagebrush where we live, the neon green meadows were carpeted with indian paintbrush and yellow balsamroot. Now they are replaced with sego lilies, waving in the breeze on their delicate stems. And this past week lupine has come into its own. Nothing seems to say "Summer is here!" more than the blue lupine. The rivers are running high and the rapids fun so of course we have been trying to get out as much as possible, especially with the long days, to soak it all in. At every opportunity before work, after work and at the weekends I'm out running, riding, and rafting. You could say I'm drunk on summer now.
The evening light especially has been gorgeous. We're lucky to have some nice trails in our neighborhood so I frequently jump on my bike as the sun is about to go down and catch the last of the evenings rays.
I've been so absorbed in the scenery that my runs seem to take twice as long as normal. You can see why:
My head is usually swivelling around doing so much rubbernecking I forget to look under my feet. On a trail run I was suddenly suprised by some very fresh bear tracks underfoot:
Unfortunately it has been very dry and fire season has started in earnest. Here I captured the sunset on a plume of smoke from the Ward Gulch Fire near Rifle.
This particular fire is now contained but yesterday evening another blew up very fast in the same area, the plume of smoke visible from miles away. We're hoping for some decent rains this summer though the monsoon season is a few weeks away.
While we wait for water from the skies there is plenty in the rivers which are running fast and high. We've been out on the Roaring Fork and the Eagle Rivers and will surely hit up the Colorado soon as we pick our runs according to the funnest rapids. In the middle of Toothache, a great section of Class III+ on the Roaring Fork River:
In short it's mountain standard time around here. And that's just fine with me.
By Ann Driggers
Sunday, June 16, 2013
High in the San Juan mountains of southern Colorado a river, bearing the same name, begins. Cold, clear and fast, it heads south to New Mexico, passes through the Navajo dam (if released) and then joins with its major tributary, the Animas. As it enters Utah, the river becomes heavy and brown, laden with sediment, and winds its way through the stark and arid landscape of the desert southwest before ending lethargically and nebulously in Lake Powell.
At the end of May we launched our group of seven on three rafts to float 83 miles of the San Jaun River from Bluff to Clay Hills Crossing in Utah, over eight days. Traditionally the last week in May , or the first in June, are peak flow for the river, the source being snowmelt from the mountains. This year, the second of drought, allowed only 250 cfs to be released from the Navajo Dam, so we were very much dependant upon the water coming from the Animas River. Luckily for us, a few days preceeding our trip brought the big spring meltdown, so we launched at high water for the year, 2,000 cfs. This made for relatively good flows and few hang ups in the form of sand bars in Lake Powell. The river is not known for its rapids, with but a handful that are noted on the map, but its geology, scenery, hikes, ruins, petroglyphs and other historical sites make it a classic desert river trip. Here are some of the highlights:
Every night we found fantastic camps. We slept out in the open - with zero bugs or rain, tents were not needed. My favorite spot is in the boat, the river flowing quitely beneath and rocking me to sleep. But sometimes the camps were so great I laid down on land. Here we have a fire, more for atmosphere than warmth, at River House camp:
During the first three days especially there were many sights to see off river, the River House ruin perhaps being the most famous. It was occupied by the Ancestral Puebloans between AD900 and the 1200's:
We also hiked up San Juan Hill where Mormon pioneers built a wagon road across Comb Ridge, the last and most challenging obstacle in their travel from Escalante to Bluff. Comb Ridge is a spectacular 80 mile long monocline, ending at the San Juan river. From its southern end looking south across into northern Arizona:
We floated through the Goosenecks where the river travels through 6 miles of meanders to cover 1 mile as the crow flies. Having viewed the spectacular Goosenecks from above several times I was excited to be 1,000 feet below:
The highlight hike of the trip is the Honaker trail. With plenty of exposure it winds its way 1,200 feet up through the cliffs to the rim.
From there the views are spectacular across the Colorado Plateau. To the south Monument Valley can be seen and to the west the river flows on:
It's a long way down! A flotilla of boats departs Honaker Camp:
Government Rapid is the largest of the trip. With low water flows it's more of a technical rock garden with only a couple of key strokes needed. My 73 year old Dad, on his first multi-day river trip, took to the oars like a duck to water and steered one of the rafts safely through:
The weather couldn't have been better! Bar a few windy afternoons which meant plying the oars, we enjoyed bluebird, cloudless days with highs in the upper 80's and lows in the 50's. Another glorious day dawns as I watch the sun creep down the canyon walls:
More great hikes ensued. Slickhorn Canyon:
And finally we floated into Lake Powell: