Posts Tagged With: mountains

Don’t Hate Her Because She’s Beautiful – Ouray County, CO Part 2

As mentioned previously we’ve celebrated moving to Ridgway, CO by heading for the hills surrounding her during every obligation-free moment.  We don’t know what people do for fun around here if they’re not into Being Outside.  Seriously, it’s not as though there are shopping malls and Jay-Z concerts to run off to.   Happily we prefer the mountain scene and making our children Be Outside and holy crap, this new neighborhood is a kick in the pants when it comes to hiking.

We have very quickly started to redefine our sliding scale of trail difficulty, both in terms of sketchy exposure and the sheer vertical-gain-to-distance-covered graph.  In conversation we rate them ‘we would take the kids on this one, we would take visitors on this one, we would do neither for this one.’  Every weekend we go up trails that, on descent, I marvel that we’ve come up because we’re basically skidding and sliding unhindered down 2-3000′ vertical feet.  This is especially obvious with a four year old who spends a lot of that time on her butt.

yucky views from the Hayden trailhead

Next hike on the docket was Hayden’s North Ridge

The Hayden Trail – kinda sorta the route we took anyway as the trail doesn’t hit the ridgeline

Ferdinand Vandeveer Hayden was a badass who back in the late 1800s tromped around the western US and did a thorough geologic survey which resulted in beautiful and detailed topo maps.  As a geographer and total map geek Hayden is one of those people I’d like to have met.  Anyway, ole Ferdi’s name is sprinkled around the west from Hayden Valley in Yellowstone to the town of Hayden, CO to Hayden Mountain right here in our back yard.

the last moments of Flatness

We had the kids on this one and I’m still feeling proud about  the climb that they did that day.  From the 9600′ trailhead in Ironton you have about 300′ of flat ground and after that you just hope that you’ve used your calf muscles for something other than walking to the fridge over the past few months.  It’s a ball-buster, straight up 3000′ to the northern summit of Hayden’s ridge.

One.Serious.Bad.Ass. I cannot imagine what this kid will be conquering once her legs are longer than 14″.

What do other 9 year olds do on Sundays?

I’m going to have to put rocks in her pack sooner than later.

Taking a moment to soak in the day and look over at our next conquest: Red Mountain #1

Man on Summit. We didn’t make the kids go up the last pitch so we tagged in and out for a summit run.

Maisy starts having fun on the way down. Better late than never, kiddo.

Late afternoon hike down, just in time to hit the hot springs on the way home

Etc.  You get the picture.  Hayden is, to put it mildly, a good work-out, yet without any of the exposure we have encountered in some of the other new hikes we’ve done.  And mid-September is pretty much an awesome time to do it.  I know I should be including trail maps or real honest trail information here or really anything to make this blog more useful but I just don’t have time.  I have crappy reality TV to go watch.  Or 50 Shades to finish.  You know, important stuff.  It’s all about balance, people.  oh NEVER MIND, I guilted myself into adding crappy maps at least.

People encountered on this hike: 1

Next: Red Mountain Number 1 via Grey Copper

Mellow and lovely Grey Copper Trail just across the street from the Hayden Trailhead

Sitting somewhere between Brown Mountain and Blue Lakes are Red Mountains #1,2 and 3.  The dudes naming these things Back In the Day had way more important things to worry about than assigning cute and creative nomenclature. ‘Hey Billy – what should we name THAT one over thar?’ ‘Hm, let me think on that for a minute.  How about Blooming Lotus Flower, Hank? You got that marmot skinned yet?’   Yeahhh…they were busy eating moldy bacon and wormy flour for breakfast, lunch and dinner, dynamiting silver out of the sheer mountain cliff faces and carving the Scariest Shit Ever Roads through the Rocky Mountains.  And besides, the mountains are indeed Brown and Red and those lakes truly are the Bluest ever.

I would have gone with Orangeish-Red Mountain

For our second celebratory child-free Friday Todd and I headed back up to Ironton to the Grey Copper trail.  Starting at 9800′ it follows a two-track for a while and then starts winding through the aspens on a nice trail.  You get glimpses of Red Mountain through the trees until you finally pop out onto the open rock slides and get bombarded by it’s technicolor beauty.  The three Red Mountains are iconic in this part of Colorado and we’ve always wanted to get on top of them.  Today was the day.

Even the signs are at a 70% tilt

Red Mountain #1 summit far left

The Grey Copper trail is one of the mellower hikes that we’ve done, not that there isn’t a bunch of elevation gain, but at least it’s only 2700′ of gain from trailhead to summit and at least someone had the decency to not make that gain happen in a mile.  No, that’s the Richmond Trail which will appear in a future post.  You wander past the Vernon Mine and up onto the end of a spur of the Corkscrew Road.  This brings up up to a pass of sorts where you can take a left if you’d like to climb up Brown Mountain or right if you prefer Red.

the Vernon Mine

Off the road there are pretty little ponds which you glance at briefly before stealing yourself for the last push up the mountain while gaping at the cheaters people who just drove their jeeps up to where you’ve been hiking 2 hours to get to.  Who is smarter?  You’d have to take a good look at Corkscrew before answering that one.

I felt like I was getting my ass handed to me getting up on the ridge from the puddles but once on the ridge line it’s a great walk, albeit a bit like being on mars.  We had a perfect day out there.  Highly recommend this one.

Red Mountain Ridgeline

Todd on the summit

the pretty hike out

People encountered on this hike: 0 hikers, 2 Jeeping folk.

Categories: Hiking, Hiking with Kids | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Don’t Hate Her Because She’s Beautiful – Ouray County, CO Part 1

Last weekend as we set out on another Family Death March to Blue Lake my nine year old, impersonating her best teenager with alarming authenticity, rolled her eyes and pouted aloud ‘SERIOUSLY, couldn’t you have picked a SUNNYday for a hike?’  I tried to remember the last time we had gone for a hike on anything less than a perfect day and came up empty.  Crappy days in Colorado, the 7 of them we get a year, are set aside with gratitude for those ‘rainy day’ tasks that never get done.  The dog hides in a windowless room on these days; the cat is enormously put out by having to get her feet wet.  We suffer from an overabundance of good weather it would seem.

There has been no time for proper blogging of the Big Move from really pretty Colorado to scary pretty Colorado.  So we’ll go with sloppy improper picture-laden blogging instead because it’s that or nothing.

Over the past month we have finally embarked on the move-cleansing ritual of Hiking the New Neighborhood.  Here are the first couple of hikes:

Courthouse Mountain

The biggest hunk of rock would be Courthouse Mountain

Courthouse Mountain is a 12,200′ peak that sits prominently on the horizon when one drives east through Ridgway.  Every night it glows in the sunset surrounded by jagged and rocky ridge lines, the most prominent of which is Chimney Peak, that were pretty enough to be featured in the original True Grit.

the easy way up the trail; not the dumbass way that the wee one and I came up

The climb up from the back side (over Owl Creek Pass) brings the hike down to a short 2 miles each way.  It seemed longer because 1) I was in charge of the four year old and 2) there were exposed spots where being in charge of the 4 year old put countless new grey hairs on my head and 3) the mountain is a lot scarier if you try to take the 4 year old up the wrong way over big shifting Aaron Ralstonesque boulders.  We won’t get into how mad I got at Todd for abandoning us because then I would have to admit what a dumbass I was for managing to lose the trail and take a four year old (successfully, thank you) over totally unreasonable terrain.

the hike up to Courthouse is not ugly

sandwiches on summits, the life of a 9 year old Gardiner

The nine year old launched herself straight up the side of the mountain.  At least this is what I assume as that is where I found her later once I tagged out on the little one and found the summit.  It is a beautiful spot to spend any amount of time.

she’s ready to climb that one now

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Both kids are in school on Fridays.  This is new.  This is wonderful.  With the right amount of ambition, work hours can be put in by Thursday evening leaving Todd and I to giddily run off sans screechers to go have Adult Time.  No, not this adult time:

She looks impressed

Honestly people, get your brains out of the gutter.  No, we go lose ourselves in the insanely sexy, whining- crying- and complaining-free childless grandeur of Fridays.  We head straight for the nearest trail we’ve never been on, we hike 3-4 mph straight up and down the sides of whatever mountain is most alluring, hauling ass and feeling the effects of training with our shorties.  We bask in sun on summits, we eat our share of whatever food we bring without having to fight for it, we complete sentences and thoughts without interruption.

It.Is.Awesome.

There is no amount of psychotherapy that would be as affective as Fridays are for me lately.  Our First Friday led to this:

Ouray Perimeter Trail

5.2 miles long, it encircles the town of Ouray.  If you haven’t been to Ouray, really you should put it on your list.  It’s a tiny bit beautiful.  This trail starts at the visitor’s center right next to the hot springs (convenient place to finish a loop hike I must say) and heads up and around towards the Amphitheater campground passing by the falls and staying pretty mellow.  After the Baby Bath Tubs you wind up and through the Potato Patch, the Ouray Ice Park, Box Canyon Falls, through a cool old tunnel blasted through the rock and back down the other side.  This isn’t a hard trail but it was one that we hadn’t done before so what the hell.  It’s low mileage and proximity to where we’re living allowed time for late lunch at the brewery, a drive up to Ironton and a soak in the hot springs.

Ouray

Who loves Fridays?

Ouray Perimeter Trail

Ironton ablaze, Red Mountain #1 in the back

Next up: Hayden Mountain, Red Mountain, Blue Lakes and the Bear Creek Trail…(We’ve been busy.  My house is a mess and my blogging sucks.  I’ll catch up with all of that when there is 16′ of snow in the moutains.  🙂  )

Categories: Hiking, Hiking with Kids | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Cornholio Goes Hiking in Desiccated Colorado

If I can impart any wisdom at all to those of you out there dragging children around the earth let this be the one bit you remember:

When visiting Silverton, Colorado and getting yourself an icy cold mocha latte at the fabulous Avalanche Coffee House to chemically bolster your afternoon spirits (because it isn’t quite happy hour), do not let your cherub-faced monster-in-disguise commandeer that drink for any length of time.  You will end up with this on your hands:

Addy?

and you will still have that on your hands at 11 pm, ricocheting off of the interior of your (insert camping dwelling of choice).

Fire, FIRE!

Hey, guess what?  After having done some expert field studies the past two weekends at high elevations where moose and elk are supposed to be frolicking in lush greenness, I have a highly scientific report to make:  If Colorado doesn’t get a shitload of rain soon, the first thunderstorm that rolls through is going to burn the whole state down.  So don’t delay visiting if you want to see the pretty trees.  Anyone remember 2002?  Rodeo-Chedeski, Missionary Ridge, Valley, Hayman?  Mother Nature is throwing a bitchin’ 10-year anniversary party with 120,000 acres burned already.  The governor has gone so far as to implement a state-wide fire ban.

Standing our ground in 2002, the Long Mesa Fire – Charlie Peterson’s photo

While there is currently no nuclear plume out the window (never mind, I am told there is now a mushroom cloud care of the Little Sand fire) here in the SW corner of the state, the only thing missing is an ignition.

so much for no fire

With the humidity bottoming out consistently around 5% and dry hot winds blowing, it is shocking that no one has accidentally lit the place up.  The last time it rained at our house was April 26th; we got a whoppin’ .02″ which followed .07″ April 19th.  The last ‘significant’ rainfall we got was April 15th when we got .23″.  April was a big month…we were the happy recipients of a third of an inch altogether.  2.79″ on the year.  Prime up your sump pumps, people.

the 2002 Long Mesa Fire at Mesa Verde gets after it

Those of us that were living here in 2002 are having flashbacks because it looked just like it does outside today, except that I had two fewer children, was working fire 16 hours a day, 6 days a week, and somehow was still way less tired.  My brother came to visit in 2002, the hottest, driest June in decades and it was miserable – it never got below 90 degrees during the day and even Telluride was unbearable because it was 85 there and none of the shops had air conditioning.  He and his friend had flown into Phoenix and rented a convertible because they were cheaper even than the Ford Fiestas on the lot.  About 10 seconds into the 110-degree Phoenix heat they quickly realized why.   He has been reluctant to repeat the trip ever since.

Hurry up and go stare at the wildflowers…they’re a month early

So, anxious to put the desiccation problem out of sight, out of mind, we headed up to Silverton and the South Mineral campground for the weekend.  We decided Friday morning on this plan and then maniacally starting throwing crap into the back of the pickup.  It reminded me why I love backpacking; every time we car camp it looks like we’re never coming back home.

what it basically looks like when we go car camping

For all the STUFF we managed to bring, in our haste to get out the door we forgot to pack the camera, two pillows and two sleeping bags.  For a family that owns 8 sleeping bags that was mildly humorous.  Kind of.  Luckily the tenement on wheels had two big thick comforters in it so no one froze to death.  I don’t want to talk about the camera part.

the Silverton Gun Fight – loud bangs are seriously annoying

We spent Friday evening in Silverton, Addy chugging a double shot of espresso, me hating the gun fight thing (you’d think I had some serious PTSD issues…I about shit my pants every time they shot their guns which was approximately 1,000 times).  Ugh.  Get me out of there.  We saw the train off, filled the kids full of ice cream (because who doesn’t love the science experiment of ice cream and espresso in a 3 year old?) and then went to visit the cool mining and historical museum.  There was something quite satisfying about putting the children in the old jail that is there. They’ve only called once; I choose to believe it’s because they’re settling in nicely and not because that was their one and only phone call.

WAY better than a naughty bench though not terribly soundproof

Todd with his ole ball ‘n chain

We hiked up the Ice Lake Basin trail on Saturday, soaking up the cloud cover that threatened to mist the area.  Alas, though it snowed on us a bit, little if anything made it all the way to the ground.  The wildflowers appear to be peaking about a month early and are pretty thin.  The ground at 11,500′ is NOT supposed to crunch when you walk on it.  Just sayin’.

my favorite flower, the green gentian as taken by Maisy’s iTouch

We didn’t make it all the way to the upper lake this time but this is what it looks like:  Yeah, it’s pretty awesome.

Ice Ice (Lake) Baby

In the evening I talked the family into bouncing down the Rico-Silverton trailhead road to an old mine so that I could bang on some rocks.  I know nothing about rock-hounding, had no idea what I was looking for or what I was doing.  Todd loves my ignorance-driven projects.  But after a while I started seeing rocks that were different from the rest, whacked them with the butt end of my axe and lo and behold, found some fun stuff, crystals and gold and silver flakes.  Maisy got into the act and seemed to like slugging rocks as much as I did.  Hey, what kid doesn’t love a good treasure hunt?

pretty treasures

little sparkly chunks of gold!

Categories: Camping with Kids, Hiking, Hiking with Kids, Trip Reports | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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