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Wednesday, June 1, 2016

True Grit on the trail to Alpine Overlook

Wouldn't you know, the morning after biking to Yankee Boy Basin, son Caleb and future dotter-in-law Kelli show up and want to go on an adventure-hike. I woke up feeling like I'd been hit-and-runover by an 18 wheeler, but, of course, replied, "Sure, why not." I popped a Tramadol, did a quick update of my Last Will and Testament, and, not that it we could trust it, checked the forecast. It's uncanny. Just when a guy could use a little bad weather, it's nowhere to be found. No excuses, we set off, me bringing up the rear.

Bobbie suggested doing the Weehawken Trail to the Alpine Overlook... 6 miles, 2,000 feet of elevation gain, and a big view payoff at the end. 

I don't really care for "boring woods hikes." We had done this one several times over the past three decades and it always left me yawning. Last summer when Jim and Gayle of Life's Little Adventures  were here, Gayle persisted that we should do the Weehawken hike. I whined that it was a boring woods hike to no avail. It's only 3 miles up Camp Bird Road so my opinion was overruled by "convenience." 

Well whadaya know. Turns out Bobbie and I had never made it all the way to the overlook for some odd reason which neither of us could either recall or figure out. The view from the overlook makes it a worthy destination, and now it's one of our favorite hikes. Thanks to Gayle :). 

The trail switchbacks up through a mixed Aspen/conifer forest. Views really aren't that bad...    

We met two separate couples and a solo hiker coming down that told us they were turned back by sketchy section of deep snow on a particularly steep slope where, if you slipped or it gave way you'd be in deep doo doo. Ah, shades of Twin Peaks. After promising Kelli and Caleb a "dramatic view," I thought we'd see for ourselves just how bad the crossing was.

We ran into the White Plague about half way up, snaking threateningly across the trail like some sleeping albino anaconda.  

 The snow was pretty firm so we pressed on, eventually making it to the inclined "snow shed" that had turned hikers around. It was untracked except for a couple of elk; no one had attempted to cross it... for good reason. Caleb thought we could break a trail across. I overrule, in favor of "live to hike another day." It was too risky without ice axes to arrest a potential (probable) slip and fall. Disappointment sets in. We can see the overlook at this point, less than a crow-fly mile away.   

I study the terrain. "Unless," I say...  

It appeared that the dark timber thinned out higher above us, enough for the sun to have worked its melting magic. If we could just connect patchworks of bare ground higher up maybe we could make it. I mention that there's no guarantee, but if everyone was up for a steep climb we could give it a go. Kelli stared up the near vertical slope, then started the climb. 

Bobbie carries fluorescent flagging in her pack for just such occasions when we go off trail. I tied pieces onto trees every couple hundred yards to ensure we could find our way back to the trial. 

There was a considerable amount of deep snow to cross, but it wasn't life-threateningly steep. Caleb and I broke trail, trying to tread lightly over snow drifts. Sometimes it held our weight; sometimes we'd break though (posthole). One spot I broke through spun me around, my head and torso angled downslope. I couldn't move. Caleb came over to help free me, but can't pull my leg out. Snow had packed hard around it so tight it wouldn't budge, and he ends up digging me free with bare hands. 

It was more work than we bargained for, making our way through snow and deadfall on such an off-camber slope. Just when we thought we might make it, dark clouds moved in and the wind kicked up. Off trail, I can't be sure how far it is to the overlook and what obstacles lay ahead. Everyone is pretty whipped by now, and cold. We stopped to put on jackets as snow begins to fly. Time to hunker down. We used a tight group of trees to block some of the wind. It wasn't fun anymore. The mood is to turn back. So close.

I told the gang to sit tight while I scouted ahead... just incase we were "close." Low and behold, less than a hundred yards, our destination awaited. I holler back, "Hey, we made it."   

Even tho I tell her it's a sheer thousand foot drop, Kelli insists on sitting right on the edge. 

The above shot from town shows the Overlook and the verticality of Kelli's perch.

Caleb rewards Kelli's "grit" with a congratulatory smooch.

Caleb's fingers suffered a little frostbite after digging my leg out of a crotch deep "posthole."


  1. Funny, we were just talking about that trail the other day. The climb was bad enough without snow and having to go off trail! You guys are a tough crew.

    1. In doing the snow detour, we bypassed the mine. Too bad, I was going to have Caleb haul down that ore car to use as a yard planter :))

  2. Congratulations on sticking with it! Too bad the weather had to move in and mar the view. I like the idea of carrying the fluorescent flagging! I'll be out purchasing some material and add it to my pack!! Thanks!

  3. Sounds intense...but oh, so worth it! It must have been just as scary going down!

    1. Going down was much easier and quicker as we already had carved footsteps in the snow that were pretty solid. :)

  4. You guys are tough as nails!!!! I bet the digging out was worse than your description...hopefully his hands have recovered. Beautiful view......next time we go to Ouray that one will be on the list of must do.

  5. Wow now this is our kind of hike, (ok, 20 yrs ago), love this scenery Mark & Bobbie. You are living the "retires dream life" for sure, don't ever doubt it because we know you sleep great and its hard to suffer from depression
    (retires worst enemy) when you feel exhilarated almost every day.
    So Stay Thirsty My Friends
    From Sonoma Co

  6. Was fun reading your account of the hike!! I have to say that I am a little disturbed by my daughters insistence to sit on the very edge of the ledge!! She can be such a dare devil sometimes. I am envious of all your hikes and escapades but will continue to live vicariously (and safely) through Kelli's recounts and Caleb's pictures as well as yours !! Thank you for the enjoyable recap.

  7. That was a fun hike! Sketchy at times but .. an adventure none the less. Kelli and I had a blast! Thanks for a fun weekend! See you on the 4th!! Love you guys!


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