Monday, July 6, 2009

Colorado Trail 4 - Copper to Clear Creek

Another great hike on the Colorado Trail. This one featured some pretty great alpine scenery:



Wildlife:



And even an easily-accessible coffee shop:



But could have done without "the Diggler":



The hike started somewhat inauspiciously at Copper Mountain. The trail contoured up above the resort as if to avoid it, but then plopped down right in the main center. Copper Mountain is perhaps the most confused Colorado ski resort, never having decided what it wants to be when it grows up. Consequently it still looks temporary, like an Olympic village.

Right after Copper, I saw two CDT northbound hikers. I didn't hang them up with questions, but talk about a rough few weeks of weather and conditions traveling through the San Juans. They looked tan and tough.

The weather held off for the pretty Elk Ridge section:



But then rained pretty hard in Camp Hale. I know the story of Camp Hale fairly well, but I don't know the story of how Camp Hale came to its present condition -- sort of remediated area of free RV camping featuring occasional live ammunition. The 10th Mountain boys shipped out for Europe in 1944, but certainly some left behind to maintain the operation. After V-E Day, the base probably prepared for the soldiers to return and start training for action in the mountains of Japan. What happened after August? It looks like the Army just took down some of the buildings and took off. When did they turn over the land to the Forest Service? Did they pay the Forest Service for some of additional cleanup? Can the Army take the land back in the future if necessary?

Many of my past hikes have crossed ex-military areas -- gun emplacements in Maine and Alaska, abandoned airstrips in the Sierra, old missile sites in southern California, etc. -- these are always interesting intersections of old concerns and ambitions with present quietness.

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The climb to Tennessee Pass took a long time, but there was a "trail magic" box at the top:



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And then a very pretty area of Porcupine Lakes and Galena Mountain. I had this area to myself for the morning of the 4th. Actually, I had most of the trail to myself on the weekend of the 4th. As always, the trails are generally quiet no matter how busy the roads are. I saw maybe 10 backpackers total over the weekend. The contrast between car-camping crowdedness and backpacking tranquility was most striking on the south side of Twin Lakes. This is a very pretty area of Ponderosa forest, direct access to the lakes, good mountain biking trails, etc. Consequently, the car camping area at the southeast edge of the lake was quite busy. After leaving the road and continuing up the shoreline, however, I found a number of empty sites right off the lake.

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