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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A Hike-able Bike-able Segment Of The Colorado Trail

What a wretched injustice summer's brevity is in the Rocky Mountains. Didn't snow only just come off? Wasn't it just yesterday that it was June, and summer laid out before us like a Forth of July picnic? Albeit reluctantly, temp friendly tropical monsoons are down to dribbles and spurts. September's is a transitional time for weather systems, as they begin to shift from south to north... which begins to usher cooler Alaskan and North Pacific air into higher elevations. Mornings become crisp as a Washington apple, clear as Rocky Mountain spring water. And it smells clean, like laundry fresh off mom's clothesline. 

South of Silverton, above Little Molas Lake, meanders a peaceful segment of the 500 mile long Colorado Trail. The C T begins over on the crowded side of the mountain near Denver, and ends south of here in a Yuppie-ville college town by the name of Durango; more Breweries, Beamers and pretty waitresses than you can shake a stick at. A good portion of the C T wanders ridge lines above 11,000 feet. I'm fond of the Molas segment for its lofty elevation, wide openness and far views (thanks to a long ago forest fire). 

The Incredible Bulk of Engineer Mountain commanded our attention... floating on a horizontal haze of humidity, in and out of mists of moisture. On a day forecasted to have electronic fireworks, we followed the C T along rolling plateaus reminiscent of Montana's rounded wheat field topography... glancing over shoulders at neon flashes emanating from a growing mass of gloom near Silverton. The trail was gentle and mountain bike friendly. A couple of full suspension-ed high dollar rigs sporting nylon jersey-ed Yuppy-ville riders peddled by with smiles as big as half donuts, no doubt because it's nearly all downhill from Little Molas Lake. Where's the fun in being dropped off at the top and picked up at the bottom? I prefer to earn my downhill runs. 

Hiking along, watching blackness build on the horizon, I thought of how the days of casual timberline treks like this are numbered. I mourn the impending loss of comfortable light hiking, of splendor in the alpine wild-flowered grass near Lovely Ouray... that any day I could be layering up, breaking out jackets, gloves and long pants, donning a heavier pack... loaded with survival necessities in case the weatherman miscalculates and a snow cave is needed to wait out his "anomaly." Yes, I'll be trading lightweight hikers for minus 20 pack boots and snowshoes necessary for waddling through mounds of deep virgin powder, alternately sweating and freezing according to sun or shade. Thankfully, I can blend Rocky Mountain winters with Arizona's warmer climate... coming and going to suit. A little snow romping around the holidays is good, don't you think?  

I believe it is the wane of daylight more than the wax of cold that grieves my soul... nights so long and dark even a lazy cat can't sleep through 'em. It's boring for outdoor types when it's been dark outside for well over four hours but the clock says it's not yet bedtime. Eyelids droop; books slips from hand to lap; sleep overwhelms consciousness. The undesired consequence of falling asleep too early is that I'm wide awake at four in the morning... and must endure four more hours of darkness to get to dawn. Add a couple hours of morning chill to wait out and it's darn near noon before I can escape the clutch of indoors. If one could only sleep longer in the wintertime it would be nice. 

One of several Engineer Mountains in Colorado. This one we summited about ten years ago when we were young and purdy :))


  1. what a nice day you had!keep up the good work. your fan gary

  2. Glad you have been reaching out to mountain bikers lately. It and hiking complement each other beautifully.

  3. Beautiful! This goes on our to do list!

  4. That was a really nice part of the Colorado Trail. We actually hiked there when we were in Durango. And I hope you don't think less of us but we kind of liked that yuppie town!

  5. You did it again...you made my day...thanks for the pictures! Wish I was in lovely Ouray!

  6. Fantastic photos, Mark. Yes, it does remind me of Montana, and Engineer reminds me of something in E. Glacier (like Chief's Mtn.).

    I'm with you on hating the short days in winter, esp. if camping and trying to conserve energy. Best to go south where the days are a bit longer. I've spent many a night sitting in the dark wishing I could go to sleep and knowing if I did I'd wake up on the other end of darkness, just ike you mentioned. The only cure for that is to be indoors or have shore power, I guess.

  7. About long winter nights: it helps quite a bit to use a little more electrical lighting. A dark cocoon is depressing, and it tends to pull you to sleep too early in the evening.

    The good news is that LED and compact fluorescent lights are getting better and cheaper these day, so you can keep the winter cocoon brighter, for a given amount of batteries.

    I've been practicing my usual "late adopter" thing with respect to LED lights, but this winter I might finally succumb to buying a couple.

  8. Gary G,
    Thank you... now I have two fans, you and Bobbie :))

    Yes, opposing muscles maybe... Whatever, it takes the pressure off my heel, which is still hurting... but now my hip is acting up. Hopefully I can heal up on the bike. Now watch me crash and hurt something else.

    Great... give us a call and we'll go with you :))

    Jim and Gayle,
    I'm guessing what you liked us all the micro breweries :)) and the waitresses. Do you really think you can fool me? or more importantly... Gayle? Hee hee. thanks :))

    Anon (I know who you are tho :))
    Thank you... Hearing that that helps make the effort of blogging worthwhile. Muchos Gracias.

    Spotted Dog,
    Thanks. There are some "abrupt" mountains in Glacier... the call me this time of year. Tetons are abrupt too!!!!
    As for the upcoming long nights, I could go as far as Australia or Patagonia and escape hibernation all together :)) thanks...
    PS, bought all three of your books, on the Kindle and waiting :))

    I do want to get those brighter lights installed. Cowboy Brian put them in his rig and it made a huge difference.


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