Thursday, August 12, 2010

North Fork / North Boundary Trail from Dunraven

North Fork trail to North Boundary Trail, upper half
~17 miles

I returned to the Dunraven Trailhead and North Fork trail with the goal of running to Lost Lake, scrambling up to Mt. Dunraven and possibly Mt. Dickinson, then bushwhacking back. None of this was to be so.

The weather, like most of the week, was unsettled, and high clouds formed early. No big deal, but I couldn't tell when real storm clouds would be coming in, so I was nervous about being up above treeline for a few hours. I still came out to give it a go, though, but then saw signs regarding the Cow Creek fire. Everything in the quadrant I wanted to explore was "closed" / "off-limits" due to fire. But the sign, posted more than a month earlier, said "Since the fire is still active," which was no longer true, so I reasoned that it was still safe and worthy of exploration.

The final straw, though, came just a quarter mile or so past the North Boundary trail, when a big bull moose was standing in the middle of the trail. Not again! In the last 2 days, I swerved to avoid cows on the trail and they stampeded; I avoided a moose and got into thick trees (though that ultimately worked out); and I avoided some elk that got me onto a different trail than I planned. I was tired of this game. Directly to the left of the moose was the Big Thompson river, so I'd have to cross it twice to get around that way; to the left was thick brush that sloped upward. Combined with the weather possibilities and technically closed status of my intended route, I just decided to explore the North Boundary trail instead.

The North Boundary trail was quite nice and eminently runnable. I decided to run for 2 hours total before turning around, so I picked a fairly arbitrary spot a few miles in where the trail began dropping down again. Although I enjoyed the trail running proper, I was put out by the lack of a summit. This section of trail was thinned lodgepole pine forest, so I decided to bushwhack a bit back up the ridge (northwest) to see if I could at least spot a decent route to Dickinson and Dunraven.

After 10 minutes or so, sticking to fall line and hooking northwest, I popped out on a magic open 'summit' area with great views to the West. This brightened my mood and was a pleasant surprise from being stuck in the woods.

I hung out here for about 10 minutes, where I could clearly see the large outline of the Cow Creek fire below Mummy Mtn. (click for bigger view, bottom center of picture)

Then I headed back from whence I came. No more moose, a few more people, and some abundant wild raspberries just a couple miles from the TH (near the Wilderness boundary sign). All in all, a decent save.


  1. You need to get a job! All this time to play and explore just isn't fair. Best of luck with the PhD. I really like the North Boundary trail. I'm glad the fire didn't extend across the trail. You get some good climbing (and descending) going the full length out and back. You can even add on Lumpy Ridge if you're really ambitious.

  2. Thanks Rob, actually my play time and exploration was more subdued that I wanted. I thought I could make basecamp in Leadville or Silverton for the week, but monsoon weather and home duties interfered with that. In school, it looks like I'll be hitting Highline Canal and Cherry Creek trail a lot. Will I have to speed up and shave my legs and stuff? Ugh.

    I like the runnability of North Boundary as well, of course Cow Creek and Lumpy Ridge area are nice and runnable, I consider them good shoulder season options.