Mount Bierstadt

I’m now an official member of the club…the Fourteeners Club.  (J joined the club last year, when he conquered Pikes Peak.)  Fourteeners and summertime in Colorado go together like peas and carrots.  With over 300 days of sunshine and awe-inspiring scenery, who wouldn’t want to be in this great state and have a view from the top!  Mount Bierstadt stands at 14,060 feet and is a great 1st for a beginner like me.  Roundtrip, the standard route is almost 7 miles and takes about 6 hours to complete.  There is no easy 14er, but this mountain is considered to be one of the least difficult of the 54 summits.

The trailhead begins at Guanella Pass, with the first mile winding through willows and marsh.  After that, it is all uphill straight to the summit.  As we ascended up the trail we were surrounded by amazing views of the mountains – including a few 14ers, the Colorado blue sky and the marshy pools bordering the willows below.  We stopped for a few rest stops along the way to enjoy the views and fuel up on some healthy snacks.

The path is well-defined until approximately the last half mile, when the trail fades into a field of rocks.  This rocky area welcomes you to your final ascent up the boulder field to the summit.  After about 4 hours, victory was mine!  Reaching the summit was exhausting, but so exhilarating!  To be on the summit, is almost indescribable….to be on top of the world, eye to eye with the clouds, enjoying the outdoors at its best.

At the top, we enjoyed some lunch, were visited by a whistle pig (marmot), and of course took lots of photos to document our accomplishment.  <Listen to the Whistling Whistle Pig – CLICK HERE.> With clouds rolling in, we decided it was time to start our return trip to the trailhead.  Descending went a little faster, but it was slightly more challenging to move down the rocky trail with tired legs.  About a mile from the trailhead, we were visited by a few claps of thunder and an afternoon summer shower.  Thanks to our training from the Colorado Mountain Club (CMC), we were prepared for almost any weather and quickly pulled out our rain jackets.  I don’t think the couple we passed hovering under the tree in their shorts and sneakers have yet taken any courses from the CMC. As we approached the trailhead, we were congratulated on the days’ efforts by two moose frolicking in a marshy pond.  Colorado outdoors is simply astounding.

Today was a day of accomplishments, physically, mentally and personally.  It was an accomplishment for my body…climbing a mountain…hiking 6 hours…high altitude…I got this.  It was an accomplishment for my mind…no more 14er intimidation…if I can climb one, I can climb, 2,3,4…even 54 …I can do this.  It was an accomplishment in my life…a goal succeeded…to explore Colorado from the best vantage point – the top of the Rockies!

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Fishing the North Platte River, CO

Labor Day weekend, where to go???  We decided to pack the Cruiser and head even further away from humanity to a more desolate area of the state, North Park, CO.  We took the scenic route: 70 West to Empire, 40 North through Winter Park and Granby and then North on 125 through Walden to the North Platte River.  We had not been here before, so we scouted out our surroundings.  We found the ramp area on the river where I wanted to start fishing, so we needed to find a camping spot nearby.  Luckily, there was a forest service/4×4 road about 2 miles south of the Wyoming state line and decided to head up and check it out.  We were so glad we did.  There were three primitive camping spots on the ridge overlooking Northgate Canyon, called Mahogany Spur.  Unsure whether we would find anything being Labor Day, we were very glad to have found this area.  After we decided on a spot, we headed back to the river, ate lunch and geared up.  Furry B was frisky as the weather was a beautiful 70 degrees and I couldn’t wait to get the waders on and get a pole in the water. 

“The North Platte River is a legend – a river that pioneers used to traverse portions of the west – where Indians hunted buffalo along its shores. It is also a legend for fishing. Known for its good fishing in Wyoming, it starts in northern Colorado. A portion of this river has the distinction of being both a Wild Trout and Gold Medal River.”

K and Furry B headed down the trail next to the river; I got right in and started wading downstream.  I started off with a flourescent rooster tail and wasn’t having any luck.  Remembering reading something about orange being very good on this river,  I threw an orange Panther Martin on the line and after a few minutes, got a hit.  It was a small Brown Trout and the only one we got a picture of, as I was in the middle of the river and K was on the bank with Furry B.  We got him back in the water and I headed back out.  Caught a few more browns and then I spotted a nice sized rock down stream, so I worked my way towards it.  As I got closer I could see the other side of it and it created a nice pool.  I casted near the rock and a nice sized Rainbow took the bait.  I decided I should call it a day, as I had talked to the only two other fisherman I saw, one didn’t catch anything and the other only caught one.  I was ahead of the game and we needed to set up camp.

We headed back up the forest service road, pulled into camp and started setting up.  We sat around and enjoyed the scenery from the ridge: the Northgate Canyon and Medicine Bow Mountains to the east and Independence Mountain to our west.  Furry B wore himself out chasing all the chipmunks, which were in abundance.  The sun was going down, so we fired up the grill and made hotdogs along with blue cheese and bacon potato salad,which I thought was great!  K said it tasted like dirty socks, guess I like dirty socks…  As the sun went down, so did the temps.  We made a fire and turned in early.  When I got up with the sun rising over the mountains to the east, peaking in the tent window, it was 38 degrees.  K stayed in her warm sleeping bag and I got up to make some coffee.  We made a gourmet breakfast with scrambled eggs, mushrooms, asparagus and cheddar cheese, mmmmmm.  We were in no hurry to pack up, but we had passed a wildlife area coming in that we wanted to check out. 

After packing everything up, we headed south, back to Walden.  We took a detour on the right which was BLM area, McCallum Oil Field.  It began in 1926 and in 2007, North Park produced 96 thousand barrels of oil and 1.3 billion cubic feet (BCF) of natural gas from 153 wells.  Pretty vast area.  We also took drive through the Arapaho National Wildlife Refuge.  We saw lots of pronghorn antelope, prairie dogs and a sneaky coyote.  As we were nearing town, we saw an antelope that was stuck in some barbed wire, we stopped to help and as I walked back to the truck to get some gloves, K was getting a better view of it and it got loose, yelled at us and ran off to join the herd that was about 200 yards away.  We fueled up in Walden and took a different route home, through Wyoming and then south into Denver.

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