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.

Follow Ann Driggers on Twitter by clicking HERE.

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Waning Summer

By Ann Driggers
Monday, August 19, 2013

A splash of yellow in the riverside cottonwoods, a tinge of burnt orange in the oak brush on the hillsides, and bushes laden with berries dot the meadows of brittle, golden grass. Summer is on the wane, noticeably by the day. Just a week ago we were enjoying the last of the flowers in the high alpine, the grass a bright green and the lakes a shimmering blue.

Now the blue skies of early morning are quickly overtaken by towering thunderheads and sultry afternoons. Gunpowder skies produce cold rain and a dusting of snow has been sighted on the loftiest peaks. In the late evening hours there is a slight nip in the air and post mountain bike ride tailgating requires a puffy for warmth.  High in the mountains the first frost has arrived. The big leaves of skunk cabbage are burnt brown and black, twisting and falling down towards the earth. Most remaining blooms are more than ragged around the edges, save the fireweed, its vibrant purple so dominant at this time of year.

I wander the forests hunting for mushrooms still, but the season has passed its peak and my bounty becomes less each day. The berries are coming in and that is where I will turn my attention now.

 

At home racks are lined up in the laundry room drying the fruits of my foraging, to be savored in a stew on a dark winters night.  Talk of buying an air conditioning unit has been dropped as quickly as the temperatures at nightfall. Meal prep begins with an expedition into the jungle aka vegetable garden, to select produce most ripe for the picking - cauliflower, broccoli, tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, beets, peas, salad, herbs, chard, kale, kale and more kale. Kale for breakfast, kale for lunch, kale for dinner. I'm turning green! But enjoying it while I can - fall is just around the corner and summer will shortly be shut down for good.

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Sopris Shuffle

By Ann Driggers
Sunday, August 4, 2013

Anybody who follows me on Twitter knows that at least 30% of the photos I post are of Mount Sopris. (The rest are split half between alcholic beverages and other scenic places I visit on various adventures - exciting stuff!!). My love of Sopris is not unusual as most who set eyes upon this peak can attest - it's a pretty compelling sight here in the Roaring Fork Valley, rising to almost 13,000 feet and with great prominence from the surrounding area. I have climbed it many times but all, bar one, have been in the spring when covered in snow and I skied down which was the real reason for climbing in the first place. That being said there is nothing quite like being on a lofty summit, even if you have to hike down, and I decided it was about high time I got myself up there.

So this Sunday morning I rolled out of bed and headed on up, determined to see how fast I could make it to the summit. The method best employed for me is to alternate between running and  speed hiking depending upon the terrain, a technique I like to call the marmot shuffle.

As I set off up the trail the sun rose, casting long shadows through the aspen forests and across the meadows glistening with rain from the previous night's monsoon. It was a gorgeous morning. The sky became an incredible cerulean blue, it's reflection in the millponds of Thomas Lakes almost seemed as though the world had flipped upside down.

The switchbacking trail up the north east ridge remained runnable and so my only chance to draw breath was to stop and take photos. Here Thomas Lakes from tree line:

Despite being slowed on steeper more rugged terrain on the ridge, I was suprised, and pleased, I made it to the summit in one hour and 50 minutes from the trailhead, a distance of 6.5 miles and 4,600 feet of climbing. Not too shabby for a shuffling marmot! In fact this was the fastest I had ever climbed Sopris. A marmot shuffle PR!

Summit cairn:

Looking north down the Laundry Chutes off the east summit is the rock glacier:

Mount Sopris has one of the best examples of a rock glacier in the US. More info can be found on NASA's website here.

I spent a half hour or so hanging out on the summit all alone, enjoying the 360 degree views before heading back down. I ran into a nice group of lads who took a photo of me running off the summit ridge:

With my orange top I think I look like a yellow bellied marmot. Here's the real deal:

This little guy was hanging out on the saddle overlooking Avalanche Creek drainage and with views of Capitol Peak in the distance. He seemed quite undisturbed by my very close presence as I shuffled on by, which only leads me to believe he recognized a compadre.

In the end it took me almost as long to get down as it did to go up. Which just goes to show I'm much better off with skis on my feet. But also that I can improve on my time. I may well be shuffling on up there again soon to see if I can do just that.

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Abundance

By Ann Driggers
Sunday, July 28, 2013

 

A-bun-dance n.

  1. A great or plentiful amount
  2. Fullness to overflowing
  3. Affluence; wealth

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. 

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This Weekend in Pictures

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

Big!

Capitol Peak impressive as always

Alpine tundra

Columbine, the Colorado state flower

The promise of rain

And rain it does. Finally

After the rain

Siesta time

And a beautiful sunset to top it off

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Mount Jackson

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.

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