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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Another Ride on The Red Dragon

"I needed to escape from normality. To leave the din of my life, leave...thoughts and troubles behind. The only thing that always seemed to be simple was this piece of rock." Andy Kirkpatrick, Psycho Vertical

"Normality." Oh how I loathe the word, with it's "Bell Curve" bulge that represents all things mean, median, mode...mediocre. I know of a bleeding mountain that escapes "normality," defies reality, and stands apart from mediocre. Unlike Twin Peaks, it is not the challenge of summiting Red #1, so much as it is the astonishing nuclear view from its summit. It's redder than a Siberian Commie prison warden, and just as lonely.    

Not unlike Moses to the Israelites, I'm oft guilty of baiting hiker friends with flamboyant prose—attempts to goad them into joining us on some death-march outing to "Promise Lands." Rosy "poems" must minimize the "cons" of such hikes... the diabolical details of distance and elevation gain that results in swollen knees and blackened toenails

Running low on friends, I targeted our part-time neighbors, the Andersons, "flat-landers" from "Sea Level," Kentucky.

In my defense, the Anderson family is made up of fitness freaks with single-digit body fat percentages. See what I mean?        

We motored up Ironton on the Million Dollar Highway (to Heaven), crossed a high-running creek, and parked at the trailhead to Gray-Copper Gulch. It's initially a smothering, boring, dark-timber trek through a dense can't-see-the-forest-for-the-trees forest (ugh). Austin, the youngest and fittest among us, has yet to draw a deep breath, and takes the lead. Mom, Donna, falls in behind him. They converse back and forth like they're strolling a beach in Florida. 

Suddenly, I heard a clapping sound up ahead. It seems Donna and Austin had come face to face with a big bear coming down the trail right at them. Unfortunately, the clapping worked and the bear hightailed it back up the trial, so I didn't get a photo. 

In a couple miles Gray-Copper redeems itself by breaking out above timberline. Finally, we can see something, the objective, among other things. Donna, gazing afar and taking in the full measure of Red Mountain's size and majesty, asks, "Is that where we're going?" Yes, way up there, to the high point; 12,500 feet.

We take a snack break on a mound, overlooking reflecting ponds befitting a monument the likes of Red Mountain 1. There is much snow above us, especially on the ridge line approach. Of course the Anderson's are all wearing running shoes. Oops; Looks like it'll be a chess match finding a dry route to the summit.  

The hiker has a choice between a scree of loose rocks or wet feet using leftover snow on the ridge line. Austin and Donna choose rocks over wet feet.

Dave and Bobbie working up the ridge

Donna celebrates Austin's summit

Wanting to avoid the loose talus scree and twisted ankles, we opt to ride the snow-ridge off the mountain. It was quite hilarious, like a bunch of drunken sailors trying to keep their feet. It's not for the faint of heart, but it sure made quick work of getting off the Red Dragon's back.

In total I'm guessing we did 7 to 8 miles with over 2500 feet of elevation gain/loss. My legs had definitely lost their spring by the time we reached the car.

Dave and Donna graciously offered to treat us to a late lunch at the Buen Tempo. Over sweaty draws, we embellished the climb to epic proportions. Feeling pretty pooped, I told Austin that if I saw him going for his usual jog the next morning I was going to throw a rock at him...to which he replied, "Actually, I'm going for a run as soon as I get home." 
Damn "Flat-lander," anyway, too young to know better. 

The remaining photos are among the best in my collection of San Juan Mountain porn;" they tease, flashing their red lingerie in various states of snow undress. Something I shall never outgrow :). 

I'd kill to have Austin's hair...

Panoramas...scroll right.


  1. dang, love the panoramas! Such great pic's

  2. Such fantastic and beautiful views! Always enjoy your commentary and photography... from one of those flatlanders, lurking in Nebraska.

    1. Ditto! fantastic, beautiful, wonderful photos/story!

  3. I will never have Austin's hair. It looks like my sons did at that age. As for me if it gets more than a half inch it falls out from the weight and I start over.

  4. Glorious! And a bear! Sounds like another "perfect" day on the trail!

  5. Oh lord now the hordes from Kentucky will be heading to Ouray . Oh, and you meant you wished you had hair like that when you were 19, right? You don't have time to deal with that kind of distraction plus it wouldn't pay dividends at your age :).
    We will be watching for you at the water fights on the 4th.

  6. Ooh, beautiful panorama! Peace and quiet!

  7. Swell postcard photos..as usual..Thanks!

  8. I wish I could quit my job and be your hiking buddy.


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