Tuesday, September 28, 2010
"Kenosha Peak" 12,100 feet.
9 miles / 2300' gain RT from South Ben Tyler trail (campground at bottom of hill)
~5 hours total (30 min on summit)
Sunday, 19 September.
Mid-September, time to see some aspen.
This is our 5th Colorado autumn, and I don't think I'll ever get over it. The cool, crisp air; infinitely blue skies; and blazing yellow aspen on the mountainsides. I guess I missed this season altogether when we lived in San Diego, so I don't take it for granted anymore. Otherwise, folks rave about the palette of colour back East. I'm not inclined to disagree, and certainly enjoyed that growing up in Wisconsin, but for my money, I'll still take the Colorado gold.
Unfortunately, with school and all, we're limited to day-trips. One of the most reliable spots closer to Denver is the Kenosha Mountains (coincidentally named with a Wisconsin connection). I've enjoyed the famous Kenosha-to-Georgia pass mt. bike ride a few years ago in October, after the leaves had mostly fallen as well as a dusting of snow. This time, we'd head into the Lost Creek Wilderness for a leisurely day-hike. I knew that this area held lots of potential for easy travel on long above-treeline ridges in relative solitude, so I was anxious to get to explore.
J, along with friends Ben and Bailey, were looking for a day-trip hike of similar caliber, so it worked out well for us to head up on a glorious morning.
The first stop was Kenosha Pass itself:
Then, over the pass, around that glorious curve of Hwy 285 south of the pass (I had a friend remark once how he enjoyed that section of road, and having thought the same thing, I now wonder how many other people can picture what I'm talking about), we soon hit Lost Park Rd, new terrain of dirt road heading east.
The road was passable in the Outback, probably doable in a slow 2WD car, but I was grateful for sufficient clearance in some of the ruts. At one point, the car was tipped pretty far sideways and everyone leaned in the opposite direction, but it takes a lot to tip a car over. Right?
Headed up, and up, with some great views to the West.
Anyway, we stopped at the campground about a half mile from the TH. Good parking (and camping) spot. Headed up the road, then onto the trail. The trail was easy to follow, mostly buff with a few creek crossings. There were some interesting bouldering opportunities early, so definitely worth spending some time here. Otherwise, through the forest, up a short, steeper section of switchbacks, and then above treeline, with a thicket of willows to the right of the trail.
To get to "Kenosha Pk", leave the trail just after the views open up after the switchbacks. As suggested on Summitpost, heading further up the trail, then arcing back uphill makes it easier to avoid most of the willows. There's a small ridge that does exactly that, so it's easy to head for the ridge and follow it up to the Peak.
This is an open expanse of tundra with great views and a long ridge of other peaks in each direction. Yes, this is a great ridge run, and many have done exactly that. In our case, we hadn't seen anyone on our way up to the top.
We had a leisurely snack break at the top:
On the way back down, we went more directly through the willows, as it was easy to see the trail intersection, and there were numerous game trails winding through them.
Going back down, Ben and I impatiently ran the switchbacks and some other fun stuff. In short, this whole trail is eminently runnable. If you wanted to run, some great options would be an out-and-back on the Ben Tyler trail (note that the Northern TH is very easy to get to, closer to Denver and right off of Hwy 285), as well as off-trail ridge run possibilities.
We saw 2 parties on our way down, on a glorious day. Oh, at the bottom was a family having a picnic near their truck, right at the trailhead. An aluminum can (can't remember if it was beer or soda now, though it would be a better story if it were beer so I should just say that) was sitting right in the middle of the trail, and a young boy at the bottom was doing...something. After we passed, he resumed: shooting at the can with a BB gun. Now I know the (lack of) power of a BB gun, I grew up with guns and have enjoyed shooting in the past, so I'm not an irrational gun-phobe, but this just seemed like, uh, one of those teachable moments (even though they were armed). I mean, shooting up a trail of all things? So I quietly asked Dad if he thought it might be a better idea to shoot in a different direction (Rule #1: Don't tell some dude what to do. Rule #2: Don't chew him out in front of his family)...luckily he agreed and asked little Johnny to move the can. Phew.
Anyway, a great hike in an uncrowded area, avoiding I-70 altogether. Of course, I had to stop and take more pictures on the way out, because the aspen look different in the light at different times of day...