Agressive Marmot

MarmotTook a weekend hike along the Colorado Trail between Molas Pass and Coal Bank Pass which is entirely above 10,500′ elevation.  It was an invitation for Senior Outdoors folks to try out and see Ultra Lite gear in a high altitude hiking and camping setting.  Unfortunately only 3 members of the choir showed up, probably because it was Father’s Day weekend.

breakEngineerNever-the-less, as John Martin’s trip report states it was “just average gorgeous”, if only the three of us took advantage of the weather.  Total pack weights (including food and water) was 15, 15 and 17 pounds.  The night temps were down to 29 or 30°, it didn’t rain but there was a very short period of graupal snow. We all tested some new piece of gear and were satisfied with performance, warmth and versatility.

What was unique to all of us was the tribe of aggressive marmots we found at our first camp choice.  We’d each pitched tents near the edge of a large meadow to cut the wind and have smoother ground.  Almost before we had the tents up the large marmot pictured above started coming after our gear on the ground, with us no less than 5 feet away.  He’d (or she’d) dart away and be back in seconds once they perceived we weren’t a threat.  We became a threat after he picked up my hydration valve and started nibbling on it.  Sticks and rocks wouldn’t keep him away, but he still managed to bite a hiking pole plastic joint, and another plastic item.

We decided to move the tents into the center of the meadow where we could keep an eye on the marauders (several buddies showed up by now – coming in at various points on the perimeter).  While we were finishing dinner another marmot came so close, John decided to run them off with rocks we’d gathered for just that eventuality.  Unfortunately one rock went “way” wild and my new cuban fiber Hexamid Twin tent took a direct hit, creating a star shaped rent in the top panel.  By this time, we feared that once we went to sleep they’d be gnawing on our tents and lines directly and we de-camped to higher ground a quarter miles up the trail.  No further encounters were experienced.

PassCkCaveAll in all the weather was superb, since the summer monsoons hadn’t begun and at that altitude it was cool enough to enjoy hiking in the direct sun.  We covered about 19 miles in two days with a couple of planned route variances, including a visit to a limestone cave we’ve always heard was in the vicinity.

Love to show you this trail. It is mostly level with only one climb in the middle.MarmotCamp



Castle Rock

smgNeedlesA friend of our’s is often quoted as saying, “I can’t believe I get to live here!”  Guess we’d like to remember to say that more often.

View of the West Needles from atop Castle Rock on the Elbert Trail.

Elbert Trail HIkeAs a part of our training for the Haute Route this Fall we knocked off a local favorite just north of Durango overlooking the upper Animas Valley just shy of Purgatory (Durango Mountain Village Ski Area).  Just a morning hike of 2.73 miles but the views are outstanding and you’re home in-time for lunch.

I was testing the Gaia GPS app – -for my iPhone to see how well it takes and transfers GPX tracks and was very impressed at the ease and simplicity.


Spot On

SpotOnMaking sure the Spot Locater is on, as shown here, before my continuing quest to explore the Great Divide Trail that I started last year.   Had to wait until the snow was melted above 10,000, as the first two days of this leg would necessitate camping at that altitude.  Fortunately my new Zpacks 20° sleeping bag arrived in time so even if it did dip below freezing (which it did) I’d be toasty in the sack.

This leg was a continuation of the trip from Steamboat Springs (northern Colorado) to Del Norte (50 miles north of the southern Colorado boarder).  I’d planned for a 3 to 5 day ride from Del Norte over Indiana Pass (11,910′) on south over a number of other 10+ passes to Abiquiu, NM and then to Cuba, NM and hopefully Grants, NM off I-40 in south central New Mexico.

IndianaPassThe ride went well, but I didn’t feel I was making the mileage I had the year before, probably because I didn’t train for the Iron Horse Classic this year.  However, last year I didn’t attempt as many or as high passes on the first day so I rationalized the under performance.  The new(er) 29’er was superb and my load was well within race weight, even the motor ran well, I just didn’t knock off the higher mileage I’d expected.  Weather was perfect starting out, but as all mountain folk know, afternoon thunderstorms are always a possibility and by lunch I had to don my leggings and a rain coat because the light precip was actually snow.  By the time I passed over the first range of passes and made to a NewMexico mountain town of Platoro, it started raining and I ducked into a fortuitous cafe for snack and cup of hot water.  BPsunsetOnly logged about 70 miles the first day but I did find an excellent camping sport by the river.  I must have been tired, as I didn’t consider the colder temps along the river when I chose this site.  My tent didn’t seem to have any condensation of the inside until I realized it had frozen and flaked off when stowing the tent.

Second day rose up several more passes and stayed high along the Rio Grande National Forest.  This country was absolutely spectacular in it’s views, high mountain meadows and total lack of usage.  What a pleasure it was riding thru this high alpine terrain.  I’ll have to admit to losing my way twice because I wasn’t paying attention to a couple of turn-offs, but fortunately they weren’t but two miles the first time and one mile the second.  Enough to scold yourself for having to climb again where you shouldn’t have.

I did meet a number of cyclists and one CDT thru-hike along the way.  The first was a north bound solo rider who racer two years earlier (Bobby from Buena Vista, CO).  He was 7 days from the Mexico boarder trying to make the entire route in 20 days total.  Nice to compare gear and rigs with him and learn that mine was very comparable.  Next I caughtup with 3 guys out of Albuquerque who were “shaking-down” their bike, bodies and gear for a 50 mile section of the same trail I was on.  Two of the bikes were pulling Bob trailers and they had at least 55 pounds of bike and gear.  I don’t believe they made their goal the first day because I ended up stopping at their campground destination to get water and they weren’t there.  I also met a couple cycling north and they were 18 days from the Mexico boarder.  I didn’t ask but they probably are planning on the entire summer to complete the 2,900 mile route.

Abiquiu Church

The bad news is that I bailed out at the end of the third day in Abiquiu, NM suffering from a buttock blister that kept me out of the saddle most of that day.  It’s hard to inspect the degree of injury but retrospective diagnosis said it was over a silver dollar-sized oozing mess.

For those who didn’t get my daily Spot track I’m including the last 50 GPS tracking locations that the Spot locator provides on line.JuneRide