Sunday, June 28, 2009

Colorado Trail 3 - Kenosha Pass to Copper

I've wanted to do this trip for several years -- cross the Range and then traverse the Tenmile Range. I got to do both this weekend. The weather couldn't have been better. It's been raining incessantly in Denver, and on Thursday we had the hardest rain I've seen outside of the mountains. So I brought some extra stuff for bad weather, and it didn't rain a drop. Cool blue sunshine both days -- pure Colorado.

From Kenosha Pass the trail climbs up through Aspens to Georgia Pass. It's easy for hiking, not so easy for the few dozen mountain bikers out Saturday morning. There was a lot of mechanical noise: squeaks, chain slapping, missed shifts. And some human noise: grunting, swearing, panting. One guy lost both his real derailleur and the hanger, so he had to walk back out. Another group had a collective mechanical stop, changing tubes, fixing broken chains, etc. A huge difference between riders -- the experts flowed right past me, part of the bike, while new non-experts really struggled.

The noise stopped after the pass. There were some late snow ridges, so the bikes didn't go.

In Breckenridge, I prepared for Segment 7, a section the authors noted with much concern. The first few paragraphs of trail description note the section is "steep and strenuous," "the alpine section has a sketchy trail," and "a campsite may be mostly elusive." The book suggests "less experienced hikers" may consider hiking the Tenmile Bike Patch around the section instead.

I enjoy guidebooks not only to help me find my way, but as literature. I ended up having no reading material but the but the Wilderness Press Pacific Crest Trail guidebook for weeks at a time, and spent hours conjecturing about the likes and dislikes of the authors, analyzing their writing style, etc. Of course, most of the commentary is unnecessary. The best guidebook I own is a Sierra Club High Sierra climbing guide from the 1950s. It's a little pocket-sized book with elevations, locations of approaches, and a rating. It's all you need. If you get up to the approach basin and there isn't a campsite, well you have to improvise. No sense worrying about it if you're going there anyway.

It really seems the authors of the Colorado Trail book didn't like this section. At several places it notes the lack of campsites. My favorite is: "The steep terrain in this area would be a definite impediment to camping."

Unless of course you camp at one the numerous beautiful campsites in this section. There are maybe a few dozen good dry spots up to Miners Creek, several sites on the creek, maybe five awesome sites at the 4x4 access, a few up high near Peak 6, a few on the traverse down to the Wheeler Trail, etc. Spotting good sites became a game for me. Here's someone enjoying an obviously unsuitable campsite in a Bibler:



Here's my obviously unsuitable campsite at about 11,500 feet:



Maybe the authors wanted to indicate this section needed trail work and some better campsites. If that was the case, it worked. Also, nothing says "badass" than a Bibler I-Tent battened down tight. I've seen these things plopped down in cool spots all over the world. Nothing's getting in there. Water? Wind? Snow? No problem.

Neither range is designated wilderness, which I found surprising. Not sure why this except posslbly existing mining claims. It would be an interesting study to investigate species diversity, human impact, etc. on the Tenmile Range (obviously outside of the ski area) and a comparably situated wilderness range.

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