The fundraiser hike, August 10-26, raised over $1,800 for GoHawkeye grant programs to provide adaptive sports equipment and experiences to adaptive individuals and organizations. Over sixteen days Mother Nature tossed in a few weather challenges and a cheeky marmot ransacked my campsite but I also had some beautiful days with friends, catching trout and climbing three fourteeners along this 135 mile route through the heart of the San Juan Mountains. Here is a daily report of my adventure.
8/10 Started by hiking from my house up the Ridge trail to the gondola then rode it down to the sunset concert in Mt. Village featuring Colorado band, the Samples. A crew of GoHawkeye volunteers promoted the hike, raised some pledges and enjoyed the music. After the show, I rode the G up to the trail and hiked See Forever trail to Gold Hill. It began raining hard but luckily I found dry refuge in Alpino Vino! No wine in here but what a start!
8/11 Sunny day, I hike the Wasatch trail to the cobalt blue Columbine Lake for lunch then back across Bridal Veil Basin. Help a lost hiker find the right trail then hike the Blixt trail down Chapman Gulch to east Ophir and camp at the Swamp Canyon trailhead. My friend, Peter H, walks by picking mushrooms and stops to chat.
8/12 Swamp Canyon to Ice Lakes Basin with a very sketchy scree climb at the top. There are beautiful views down on Island lake and across the basin. I can see many hikers on the trail coming up. Hike down to meet Craig and Tony then over to Fuller lake to set up camp and go fishing. I’m catching brook trout across the lake, look up and see this fuzzy orange marmot knock my tent down. Upon investigating, he has chewed on my hiking pole handle, jacket cuff, cookware bag and even a hole in my plastic hydration bladder, the water still leaking out. He stands nearby chirping at me with indignation as I reset my tent.
8/13 We catch some brookies this morning but there is still no sign of the golden trout. We pack up and I flip off the marmot then we hike down the Ice Lakes Basin trail to Mineral Creek. Pass Telluride friends Erica and Jen hiking up then my neighbors Eric and Ryan. Luckily Craig and Tony have a campsite reserved and a bbq dinner planned for tonight.
8/14 I “slackpack” down the forest road toward Silverton and fish Mineral Creek along the way. Craig and Tony will bring my backpack later at our lunch meet. They will meet me at Verde Lakes tomorrow. In Silverton, I try out the new brewery then meet up with John Wright and his kid’s, Morgan and Molly. Hike out on the Kendall Mt. road to the Whitehead trail then up the overgrown and seldom used path. Climbing over logs, I reach the Mabel Mine and a campsite only to discover I’ve lost my phone somewhere. I dropped it when I checked the time but how far back? Kind of bummed out as I camp under the stars.
8/15 This morning I backtrack down the trail searching for the phone. When I reach the last log I climbed yesterday and search the weeds around it OMG I find it. Hike on feeling pretty good about finding the phone but then the trail disappears. It just peters out around treeline so I check the map and bushwack for about an hour to a high saddle then finally regain the trail. The trail becomes a high alpine traverse of Whitehead gulch on this sunny day. Cresting a ridge I cross paths with a large sheep herd but no sign of guard dog or sheepherder. Continuing on past Lost Lake, I reach Verde Lakes where I meet Craig and Tony who have hiked in from Cunningham Gulch. These lakes are abundant with trout that we catch and release but we decide to plan a fish fry for tomorrow and eat some!
8/16 Boo, it rains all day and the fish fry is cancelled lucky fish. We catch and release all day under the watchful eyes of pack llama’s at their camp nearby.
by Craig Stein
8/17 Sunny start, we pack up then hike over to fish Highland Mary Lakes. The fishing here is pretty slow and after a while Craig and Tony hike out to return home. They have been a great support crew and good fishing buddies. After lunch, the clouds start rolling in and I better get going to make a few miles. I’m above treeline when the clouds start to get really ugly. Lightening cracks and it starts to hail hard but as I round the bend, there is a solitary wind blown pine with an alcove in it’s branches. I fold my groundcloth into a square and weave it into the upper branches creating a porch roof happily escaping the pounding hail! I even pull in a large rock to sit on. When it stops, I continue on for a few miles through the layer of hail that is covering the ground like snow. It starts to rain yet again and I have to clear a spot to set the tent.
8/18 Cold and partly cloudy this morning, there is even ice on the tent which makes for a slow start. I’m hiking on the Continental Divide and meet southbound CDT and Colorado Trail hikes because these trails are on the same path through here. Darn, it’s raining again and will continue for the rest of this 17 mile day. Reach Cataract Lake and make camp so might as well try the lake out but no sign of fish and I hit the sack on this damp cold night.
8/19 Ice on the tent again! I try to fish as things dry but have no luck or even see any fish. A sunny day as I hike down the 4 mile Cataract trail. I reach the Alpine Loop road and hike another 4 miles toward Lake City then I’m done for the day when I reach Ken and Cindy’s house at Castle Lakes. Deb has driven over from Telluride and we hang out in the yard drinking beer and drying gear. In a warm bed tonight after Ken’s culinary delights.
8/20 Rise in the dark to hike two 14’ers and 11 miles today! First, Redcloud(14,041ft.) then Sunshine(14,007ft.) which are connected by the same trail. You have to hike back over Redcloud to exit so it’s like having to hike three 14’ers in one day. Afterwards we head into Lake City for pizza and beer then back home for a well deserved hot tub soak.
8/21 Our goal is Handies Peak(14,058ft.) and I’ll bring my backpack for this one because afterwards I will continue on the hike. After the summit and saying goodbye to Deb and Ken, I hike towards Grouse Gulch and down to the Silverton-Ouray jeep road. Hike north on this road until reaching Denver Lake where I’ll try some fishing. Catching brook trout and with dark skies approaching I decide to camp here.
8/22 Partly cloudy and the fish are not biting this morning. At Engineer pass I locate the Horsethief trail and follow it north toward Ouray, CO. The beautiful landscape reminds me of the Continental Divide trail stretching from Mexico to Canada. On a high ridge I meet another large sheep herd, this one guarded by a large white dog. It acts friendly and follows me for a bit so I speak to it in spanish like a portuguese herder saying “perro bueno” and “vamanos” when it’s time for him to go. Difficulty Creek is quite beautiful and is my last water today because before reaching Bridge of Heaven it starts to rain and I make camp early.
8/23 I hike through a sea of wildflowers this morning on the trail to the Bridge of Heaven. It is partly sunny when I stop to chat with some people scoping for the hunting season in a few days. I’m glad I’ll be off the trail by then. With darkening skies I reach the Dexter Creek trail that leads to the county road which leads to Ben’s house. I met his parents while hiking the Appalachian Trail in 1998. Arrive as it starts to rain hard and nobody is home. The door is unlocked and there is a note offering a car to go into town and resupply, a hot tub and beer in the fridge. I enjoy all these things as it rains for the rest of the day. After 5, Ben arrives and then we’re joined by Francie and Loon. We eat homemade lasagna, drink wine and tell tales of the trail.
8/24 The sun is shining when we finish breakfast and hit the trail. While climbing on the canyon wall opposite Ben’s house, I can hear those guys yelling encouragement, shouting jokes and probably filming me too. The Dallas trail is in the trees, quite different from the hike so far and it’s all uphill too! The is a hut system along this trail but they’re only a few miles apart, I’ll pass three today. On this hike I’ve been carrying a GoPro video camera in my shorts pocket. Hiking a downhill muddy switchback, I slip off the trail and land hard right on the camera. It’s very painful and I’m scared that my leg may be damaged. Luckily the pain wears off enough to walk but my thigh is bruised. I’m able to continue and camp just past Blue Lakes hut, here in the Mt. Sneffels Wilderness.
8/25 It’s hard for me to find the trail this morning with many crisscrossing dirt roads. Frustrated with the spotty cellphone service but enough to learn that our friend Glider Bob has crashed and died, I really bummed out. Bob Saunders, a real asset to the community and friend to all will be sorely missed. Down the trail, it starts raining on and off and my leg is beginning to hurt. I’ve been taking ibuprofen and rubbing in Arnica in the morning which helps for awhile. After the North Pole hut, this path I’m on becomes the Alder Creek trail which is still uphill. By late afternoon my leg is really bugging me and I vow to find water then the next suitable campsite. A stream appears and nearby a flat spot in some pines, as soon as the tent is up it starts to rain hard and through the night.
8/26 Ice on the tent and looking out I see the snow line is close…very close! I’m glad this is my last day on the trail, it looks like winter has arrived. After a few miles I meet Craig at Last Dollar pass. He is here for filming and we hike together to the top of Whipple Mountain into the snow. I can see Mountain Village and home in the distance but I’ll continue alone from here to town. Craig will return and drive ahead to meet me, with other supporters, at a GoHawkeye reception at the Telluride Distillery. Thanks to everyone who donated, we raised over $1,800! As for the fearless crew, Thanks to: John, Morgan and Molly in Silverton, Ken, Cindy and Deb in Lake City, Ben, Francine and Loon in Ouray. In Telluride, Rob, Rube, Craig, Tony and the Telluride Distillery.
“Outdoor recreation is essential to the quality of life” is paramount to the GoHawkeye Foundation as our #1 core value. This adventure was a great way for me to get back into fundraising through long distance hiking for charity. This is a GoHawkeye tradition and excellent activity for the mind and body for everyone. Our fundraising provides support to individuals with disabilities pursue outdoor recreation as well as helping those organizations who teach them outdoor skills. Please consider making a donation to help us continue the GoHawkeye mission started ten years ago. Thank you!
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