This was a beautiful Fall hike and my 9th fourteener summit. I left Colorado Springs early in the morning, drove 2 1/2 hours to the trailhead near Salida, hiked 7 1/2 hours, and drove home that evening. It made for a long day. I’m not sure what got into me, in order to do that trip all in one day. Driving home in the dark was unpleasant, due to the bug-splattered windshield and stress of watching for wildlife along the road.
One advantage of a Fall mountain hike is the weather: not a cloud in the sky all day, and no threat of afternoon thunderstorms, as is usual in the Summer. The temperatures were mild. Disadvantages of Fall hiking include fewer hours of daylight, no water in the streams, and very few wildflowers. Aspen leaves were still at about 25% color.
Jeep at Trailhead
My goal was to reach the summits of both Mt. Shavano and nearby Tabeguache Peak. However, my legs tired out sooner than expected so I only did the one summit.
Tabeguache From Shavano Summit
A highlight was encountering a group of female and juvenile bighorn sheep at the saddle below the Mt. Shavano summit.
Length: 14.5 miles
Time: 10 hours
Weather: about 75 degrees, cloudy
This was a long day-hike consisting of Dexter Creek Trail, Difficulty Creek Trail, Horsethief Trail, Cascade Pass, and County Road 14. The route makes a loop around Cascade Mountain northeast of Ouray. My favorite highlights were Disappointment Gulch in the Uncompahgre Wilderness, a geographic feature called Bridge of Heaven, and abundant wildflowers. Distance, weather, and elevation gains made it challenging to complete this as a day hike.
Disappointment Gulch felt like a special place because of its absolute quiet, clean air, and solitude. It is found just east of the Amphitheater above Ouray. Here’s a photo of the scenery:
The second highlight was the abundant wildflowers on the 1/2 mile climb approaching Bridge of Heaven. I experienced a strong moment of gratitude here, where I felt very happy to be there and just soaked it in. Here’s a photo of the Bridge of Heaven feature. It’s just a narrow ridge that goes nowhere. It is a short spur off of the Horsethief Trail, and optional to walk along the ridge.
Bridge of Heaven
One practical note is that the plants and flowers along Dexter Creek Trail have overgrown the trail in long sections. It had just rained, so my feet got soaked by all the wet leaves. It would have been helpful to have waterproof shoes and pants in this section.
Length: 3 miles (roundtrip)
Time: 6 hours
Weather: about 70 degrees, cloudy
The day started with a fun early morning drive up forest service road 361 to reach the upper trailhead in Yankee Boy Basin. I drove as far as permitted–the road was closed about 1/2 mile below the upper trailhead.
The hike to the summit was short in mileage, but was the most difficult technical hike that I have done. The steepness of the first gulch combined with loose rock required some concentration. The second gulch (Lavender Couloir) still had some snow, but my Kahtoola microspikes provided enough traction to get through safely. Finally, the “V” notch at the top of Lavender Col required a little courage to pull myself up and through it. This was my 8th fourteener summit.
I took my time going up and down, being especially careful in the snow. On the way down I met with some groups who were on their way up. I spent some time chatting with the others about the trail conditions. I lent my microspikes to some of them, to help them navigate the snow.
Sky Pilot at base of Lavender Couloir
I dedicated this hike to my Dad, and meditated on his memories and his presence throughout. I also remembered previous visits to Yankee Boy Basin and Blue Lakes with Michelle and our old dog Sarah Jane.