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Morning photo: Spring daze

Valley snow is melting fast

Twilight hike on Ptarmigan Mountain, Summit County, Colorado.

Twilight hike on Ptarmigan Mountain, Summit County, Colorado.

FRISCO — You know it was going to happen one of these days — even the biggest snow berms from the winter are melting down and hikers say that some local trails are already starting to dry out. That’s the case along the Ptarmigan Mountain Trail, where the first pasqueflowers of the season are blooming just in time for Easter. Continue reading

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Travel: Hiking Colorado’s Notch Mountain

Exlporing the Colorado high country with Kim Fenske

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Whitney Peak and the Fall Creek Pass south of Notch Mountain.

Editor’s note: I’m glad to announce the return of Kim Fenske’s series on hiking Colorado’s high country. Kim also has some new e-books for sale at Amazon: Greatest Hikes in Central Colorado: Summit and Eagle Counties, and Hiking Colorado: Holy Cross Wilderness.

Story and photos by Kim Fenske

Hiking Notch Mountain Colorado

Author Kim Fenske along the Notch Mountain trail.

Notch Mountain, 13,237 feet, is the traditional pilgrimage site for those who want a close-up view of the snow-gilded cross on the eastern face Mount of the Holy Cross,14,005 feet. The summit of Notch Mountain is not found at the end of the trail. Notch Mountain Trail is a gentle switchback ascent of the east ridge of Notch Mountain that ends at a rock shelter built on a saddle south of the summit, a mile east of Holy Cross Ridge.

In winter, the Notch Mountain hike is 24 miles from the gate closure at the base of Tigiwon Road. However, in summer, the hike from Fall Creek Trailhead at Halfmoon Campground, 10,300 feet, is only 10 miles. From the end of Tigiwon Road, the Halfmoon Pass Trail to the summit of Mount of the Holy Cross begins west of the parking area. At the south end of the area, Fall Creek Trail crosses a small wooden bridge and proceeds on the west edge of the Fall Creek Valley toward a junction with the Notch Mountain Trail.

Looking back on the five-mile trail from Halfmoon Campground to the shelter on the ridge at Notch Mountain.

Looking back on the five-mile trail from Halfmoon Campground to the shelter on the ridge at Notch Mountain.

 Fall Creek Trail ascends gradually for 600 feet to a stream crossing 1.3 miles from the trailhead where Mountain Bluebells, Mertensia ciliate, cover the slope in mid-summer. During spring snowmelt, a bit of rock-hopping is required to pass the tumbling water. The Notch Mountain Trail junction is 2.1 miles from the Fall Creek Trailhead at 11,230 feet, among several large boulders perched on a steep drop-off into Fall Creek Valley.

 Turning away from Fall Creek Trail on switchbacks that cross fir-lined meadows filled with paintbrush, bistort, monkshood, and other wildflowers, Notch Mountain Trail continues to a small basin in the krumholz. The trail swings south across the tundra turf until Whitney Peak, 13,271 feet, is visible across Fall Creek Valley, then ascends through a boulder field to the rock shelter 3 miles above the junction with the Fall Creek Trail at 13,070 feet. The rock shelter rests in a tundra field on the saddle facing Mount of the Holy Cross, approximately a 4-hour hike from Halfmoon Campground.

Notch Mountain Colorado

The Notch in Notch Mountain.

Kim Fenske is a former wilderness ranger, firefighter who has hiked thousands of miles in the Colorado mountains. He has served on the board of directors of Friends of the Eagles Nest Wilderness Area.

More travel and hiking stories:

Alaska:

Spring excursions:

Kim’s winter 14er series:

Autumn hikes:

Morning photo: Take a hike!

Foot power!

Hiking in the Eagles Nest Wilderness, Summit County, Colorado.

Hiking in the Eagles Nest Wilderness, Summit County, Colorado.

FRISCO — It’s summer time, so what are you waiting for? Turn off your computer, get outside and take a hike, wherever you are! Here are some of our favorite hiking trails both far and near, compiled for the #FriFotos Twitter chat.

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Two hikers etched against a brilliant high latitude sky on Deception Island.

Continue reading

National Recreation Trail systems grows by 650 miles

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Get out and hike!

Feds designate new trail segments in 28 states

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Along with looking forward to summer, hikers have another reason to rejoice. Top federal officials this week announced the designation of 28 new national recreation trails, adding almost 650 miles of trails to the National Trails System.

“From coast to coast, the National Trails System helps connect American families with the wonders of the great outdoors,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. “These 28 new national recreation trails, established through partnerships with local communities and stakeholders, connect federal, state and local lands and waters to provide access to inexpensive, enjoyable outdoor activities for all Americans,” Jewell said.

The announcement was timed to coincide with June 1, National Trails Day, which was marked by hundreds of organized activities including hikes, educational programs, bike rides, trail rehabilitation projects, festivals, paddle trips, and trail dedications all around the country. Continue reading

Woman survives mountain lion attack in Big Bend NP

Two mountain lions rest in a shady spot. Photo courtesy USFWS.

Part of Big Bend National Park closed

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — National Park Service officials say a woman attacked by a mountain lion in Big Bend National Park, Texas, did not suffer life-threatening injuries.

Andrea Pinero Cebrian and companions were exploring the Mesa de Anguila, near Lajitas Friday, Nov. 23 when she was attacked. Cebrian was treated by Terlingua Medics.

The Mesa de Anguila has been closed to all visitors while rangers and park biologists investigate and patrol in search of the mountain lion.

“Visitor safety is our main concern here in Big Bend and we will monitor and close the Mesa until we deem it safe for visitors,” said park superintendent Cindy Ott-Jones.

Fatal mountain lion attacks are rare in the U.S. The most recent documented fatality was in June, 2008 in Pinos Altos, New Mexico. In Colorado, the most recent mountain lion fatality was in 1997, when 10-year-old Mark Miedema was killed by an adult female cougar when he hiked ahead of his family on Rocky Mountain National Park.

Wildlife experts say the best course of action if you meet a mountain lion is to stay calm and talk firmly and quietly to the animal while backing away slowly.

Other tips:

  • Do not run.
  • Raise you arms to appear larger.
  • If the lion behaves aggressively, throw stones, branches, or whatever you can get your hands on. Do not crouch down or turn your back.
  • Fight back if a lion attacks you. Lions have been driven away by prey that fights back.

Colorado: Snowmass Mountain, and our Lady of the Lake

Kim Fenske explores one of Colorado’s most spectacular peaks

The comb of Snowmass Peak viewed from about halfway along the Snowmass Creek trail.

Story and photos by Kim Fenske

As I kneeled at the side of Snowmass Creek and filtered water into my bottle, a tall, slender woman, hair flowing like golden sunlight over her shoulders and reflecting in the blue pools of her glacial eyes, rose up from the water. She was the personification of Snowmass Lake, sparkling glacial water at the base of two miles of mountain that rise above to the spiked comb that forms the summit of Snowmass Mountain.

Snowmass Mountain reflected in Snowmass Lake.

Continue reading

Colorado: Climbing Mt. Princeton

Airy views of the Arkansas River Valley from this Collegiate Range peak

Mount Antero viewed from the ridge of Mount Princeton.

Story and photos by Kim Fenske

Mount Princeton, 14,197 feet, is one of my favorite mountains to climb.  Perhaps, the symmetry of the peak appeals to me as the sun sets and casts the shadow of a magnificent pyramid across the Arkansas River Valley below.

The length of the hike from the ranch at the lower trailhead is an ideal fourteen miles. The start of the hike is a high-clearance road with a climb of 3.4 miles to 11,000 feet, where a few pads exist for dispersed camping.

Buena Vista in the Arkansas River Valley northeast of Mount Princeton.

Continue reading

Colorado: A spring jaunt on Mt. Antero

Stunning vistas from Colorado’s 11-highest peak

Mount Princeton, 14,197 feet, lies north of Mount Antero, about twenty miles southwest of Buena Vista, above the Arkansas River Valley.

Fenske hiked three miles up Mount Antero to set base camp beside a stream at 11,000 feet and slept snug and cozy in a two-pound ultralight tent with a zero-degree rated sleeping bag.

Story and photos by Kim Fenske

Mount Antero, 14,269 feet, may rank high among the ugliest Fourteeners in Colorado. The peak has been abused by mining digs and cut with four-wheel-drive vehicle pathways for decades. During peak summer season, Antero can be crowded, dusty, and noisy with heavy traffic of all-terrain-vehicles.

Despite the blemishes created by modern machinery, Antero offers spectacular views of its neighbors, Mount Shavano, 14,229 feet, and Tabeguache Peak, 14,155 feet, to the south; as well as Mount Princeton, 14,197 feet,  to the north.

Mount Antero is the 11-highest peak in Colorado, named for Chief Antero of the Uintah band of Utes. Continue reading

Colorado: Climbing La Plata Peak

Exploring Colorado’s 14ers

Mount Elbert and Mount Massive are visible north of La Plata Peak’s summit.

Story and photos by Kim Fenske

Piercing the sky like a giant sundial over the Arkansas River Valley, 14,336 -foot La Plata Peak has an impressive knife ridge pointing southward toward Mount Oxford, Mount Belford, Missouri Peak, and Huron Peak.

La Plata is the fifth highest peak in Colorado, joining its slightly taller neighbors Mount Elbert, 14,433 feet, and Mount Massive, 14,421 feet, as leading skyscrapers of the Central Mountains.

The La Plata Peak Trailhead is a few miles west of Twin Lakes on the road to Independence Pass.  The trailhead parking area is a small pad beside the highway. La Plata Gulch, the valley at the base of La Plata Peak, is accessible by a road crossing Lake Creek on the south side of Colorado Highway 82. The trail registry and entry into the forest is on the left side of the road.

A ptarmigan on La Plata Peak begins to change to summer colors.

Continue reading

Colorado: A winter climb of Huron Peak

Try, and try again …

The Three Apostles.

Moonset over Clear Creek Valley.

Story and photos by Kim Fenske

When I woke up after a night with temperatures in the teens, the sun was not yet in sight.  Despite giving myself the comfort of two down sleeping bags, I still needed a significant boost to generate enough heat for the trail. After boiling a liter of water for a giant chocolate mocha coffee, I ground my legs into low gear and hiked up the road from the mining ghost town of Winfield toward the Huron Peak trailhead two miles from my camp. After the first mile, my leg muscles were loose and sweat began to seep through my base layer.  An hour later, I arrived at the trailhead.

A lesson in patience, this was my fourth attempt to reach Huron Peak, 14,003 feet, in winter.  From Clear Creek Reservoir, Chaffee County Road 390 is maintained only eight miles to the abandoned mining community of Vicksburg, across from the trailhead to Mount Oxford, Mount Belford, and Missouri Peak.

On my first attempt, in mid-March, I parked at Vicksburg and hiked on the snow-covered road for five miles to Winfield, then busted trail through powder that was sometimes waist-deep for a mile toward the trailhead before turning back. The twelve-mile hike was primarily a scouting mission to determine how easily I could approach the trailhead with a four-foot base of snow in the forest. Continue reading

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