There are backroads and trails in our neighborhood that steal my breath. And in spite of concerted efforts to ply them all before we die, we've only made a dent. This is when I realize the significance and consequence of "Time," as the bulk of the sand in my wretched hourglass lies in a conical pile on the bottom. I choose to use this as motivation to explore the rest of my backyard. It's all I need...that and the occasional sea, Utah, and Arizona. La La Land and SoCal could slip into the abyss as far as I'm concerned, and the rest of the world along with it. Sorry, but it's hard to beat perfection...
This is where one of those local "backroads" landed us yesterday, a bizarre stoney "pass" above timberline reminiscent of Rover images from Planet Mars. We are aghast at its otherworldliness. We must explore.
If you were Nolan Ryan, and could throw a rock over that colorful mountain in the above photo, it would land in Columbine Lake...the most sapphired alpine gem I've ever rested eyes on.
Bobbie and I have driven this pass numerous times, but never thought to explore it's outlying bouldered surround. It's not particularly inviting to the "average hiker," which is another way of saying, "we might just have it all to ourselves." Onward and upward we go...till there, hidden from view at the base of a vast moraine, another gem.
I'm captivated, and pause to photograph. Bobbie succumbs to the lure of an amphitheater shaped basin and pushes on.
Meanwhile, back at the lake, fish are jumping and my pulse quickens...
It was obvious that Bobbie had her sights set higher, so I rushed to catch up...not a good idea near 13,000 feet. The moraine basin steepened as we climbed, as all proper amphitheaters do. There was no need to even mention it; we are of like mind and both assume the ridge is our goal...a labor of love.
|Half Moon over spiked ridge|
As we reach the crescent of snow below the ridge, the amphitheater steepens. Scree morphs into loose boulders at their tipping point. There is no such thing as equilibrium on such a slope. Gravity casts a spell of fluidity and we are fighting its current, swimming upstream, two steps forward, one back. My pulse hovers near 150; ten beats fully ascribed to what lies above. Is it even doable? What looked like a walk in the park from below is in reality discomforting. I worry that I might send a landslide of rock down on Bobbie and warn her to stay out of my "line."
She either doesn't hear me...or doesn't listen. I sit tight and wait.
Finally we reach a knob that has yet to crumble and is still fastened to the mountain. We use it to give tensed muscles and burning lungs a break. There's a odd bundle of long sticks held in place by a couple of rocks. We can't figure out why they are there nor for what. The wind blew cold against shirts soaked with sweat; we joke that we'll at least have a campfire while awaiting rescue. One thing is certain: Difficult climbs make for more difficult descents. I do NOT want to go down the same way we came up.
It's cold. Time to get a move on...
I don't know which is worse, ascending a moraine of boulders, each at their tipping point...or scrambling up hard-pack sprinkled with "marbles." It's such a relief when the steep gradient relents near the top and we can actually stand upright.
|13er, Lookout Mountain|
Bobbie gets out her maps and indicates that the knob next to us is 13er, Lookout Mountain. The ridge we're on is 13 enough, I say. We need to find another way off this mountain.
I'm mesmerized by the interplay of light and shadow. Clouds, while threatening, can make a photographer's day. After a couple dozen more shots we begin walking a ridge that, hopefully, will provide an alternate route back down the the lake.
We lose about 800 feet following the ridge before it "cliffs out." We either go down the west face to the lake, or the east face to another basin and hike our way back to Pet Rex. We agree to go back down the shorter lake side. It's sketchy, but better than the way we came up.
|On the way down, gorgeous light|
Success! Admittedly, I had a few "second thoughts" while clawing up through a wretched scree of "tipping point" boulders. But a half-glass of Sulton IPA later, at a table for two on the deck of Silverton's Avalanche Brewry, my "cup" runneth over with fond memories and photos.
Another Sulton, sir?
Why not :).
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