Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A Tale of Two Seasons (Buffalo Peaks Wilderness)

Today I left Colorado Springs and headed west on US-24. The Front Range had snow on the ground above 7500' or so, but the roads were clear. 

Today's destination was Buffalo Peaks Wilderness for a loop around the Rich Creek and Rough & Tumble Creek Trails. but first were views of South Park Plateau (panorama photo coming later).

South Park Plateau was completely free of snow, so I decided to go ahead and make my way down gravel County roads to the Rich Creek Trailhead at the Buffalo Peaks Wilderness. The Buffalo Peaks (at 13k feet) are some of the southern most peaks of the Mosquito Range that stretches north past Leadville to Breckenridge where the 10 mile range takes over.

The trail started in the forest on the north side of the Buffalo Peaks and circles three unnamed 12k' peaks, near the southern end of the Mosquito Range.

The trail quickly became snow covered.

And opened up into the Rich Creek Meadow.

Then it was back into the woods and over Buffalo Pass.

And then onto Buffalo Meadows.

Then around to the south side of Buffalo Peaks where it was fall (even though Summer didn't end until until 3:19 this afternoon).

The leaves were near their peak.

The Apsen...

Some were past their peak, but the brilliant yellows looked great against the green spruce and the bright white snow.

Running at 10,000 - 11,600 feet wasn't that bad. No signs of altitude sickness (though with the cold - at or below freezing for most of the run - I know I didn't drink enough). The up hills were tough and most of them were hiked, but some of that was because I ran more yesterday than I was planning. I got in 14+ miles today and 2000+ feet of climbing. My time was a bit slow because I misplaced the trail a couple of times. The first time was in the Rich Creek Meadow where I spent several minutes literally walking in circles until I found where the trail crossed the creek for the final time - in hind sight it was pretty obvious. The second time was near West Buffalo Pass and I picked up the trail without missing a step. The final time took a long time to find the correct trail. There were lots of animal trails and social/hinting trails and I think I took most of them before I gave up, found my way across Rough and Tumble Creek and headed straight up the mountain where fortunately I quickly came across the tail back to the trailhead.

Next up, I drove around the bottom of the Mosquitos and saw the Collegiate Peaks of the Sawatch range.

Mt. Princeton towers over the Banana Belt and Buena Vista.

I'm in Salida tonight at the top of the Sange de Cristo and the bottom of the Sawatch.

Tomorrow? If the weather holds up as well as it does today, I'll be heading up to Brown's Pass from the Denny Creek Trailhead off of Cottonwood Pass Rd. If the clouds hold off, there will be a great view of the Continential Divide (Brown's Pass is also on the Divide) including some of the Collegiates and the Three Apostles.

The weather forecast? Mt. Elbert and Mt. Evans region is calling for 6"-16" of snow. The low pressure system over Nebraska should affect mostly the Front Range. We'll see how it works out. Frisco has gotten some significant snow and Winter park is covered in it. The weather for the Sawatch? As I've seen, could be anything from partly cloudy to several inches of snow. Plans may change. I hope Independence Pass remain open - both because I'd like to see it and because it's a LONG way to Aspen without that shortcut!

Right now I'm having a beer at Hattie's Pub because the WiFi at the Great Western is Saldia sucks. Next I'm off to dinner - I'm thinking pizza. Calzone at Amicas.

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