Sunday, September 15, 2013

Happy Birthday 'Murica! Yale 7/4/13

Just before turning in last night Nualla seemed to think that she had heard or seen something. I'll tell you this, when a dog that doesn't arbitrarily bark or spook easily suddenly gets frightened you pay attention. Granted, I was in a parking lot right near a road but I am still out in the woods with no phone signal. I was still fixing food so I had to split my attention between that and the thick bushes along the perimeter of the lot. I never heard or saw anything but I wasn't about to go poking around to find out, I've seen enough movies. If nothing else Mother Nature got a little chuckle at our expense as she was tucking us in.

I awoke the next morning and moseyed down to the trailhead to meet Jesse. While getting ready I saw a familiar face from Instagram roll up. I had only met her through sharing pictures so it was fun to meet in real life and hike together. If you're on Instagram give her album a look-see @krun_g. We hit the trail and I was feeling the hike from the previous day. Jesse is twice my age but he can hike almost twice as fast. Yale was a nice change of scenery compared to the other 14ers I had just done. It had more character in the fact that the trail meandered through the forest more before getting above treeline. The Sawatch range mountains are like this more. It's nice to have the forest to look at but it also lends itself to a longer hike. As we approached treeline we saw several guys fumbling around with some beer cans on a log next to a creek. I thought it an odd enough scene to strike up a conversation. They informed me that they were doing a photo shoot for their brewery. Free samples? No such luck. We continued up the trail and were greeted with expansive views of the Sawatch range.

I never miss up an opportunity to take some pictures of flowers I haven't seen before. Today was no exception and I was enjoying hiking in the midst of wildflower season.

We continued to wind our way up switchbacks as we approached the final summit ridgeline. Long before getting to the ridgeline though there was a marmot sentry. I'm no marmot whisperer but I have tuned into their behavior over time. The older ones will sit on a promontory and let out a call that sounds more like a loud beep than anything else. They will call out as they see something approaching and that call is often echoed by others farther away. The frequency of the beeping will increase as the disturbance draws nearer. They will keep increasing the frequency until they retreat down their hole with a last bout of quick beeps in succession. In this instance the one marmot saw fit to stay on his perch and continue to call out with the same frequency incessantly. I'm not one to wish harm against any animals but I was awfully tempted to get a rock and chuck it in his general direction. Then the animal equivalent of a car alarm might have gone down his hole and done everybody a favor.

Not the culprit, this cheeky fatty was begging for food on Longs Peak
As we gained the ridge and had the remainder of the hike ahead of us the marmot alarm faded away. The class 1 section of the hike gave rise to the class 2 talus jumping. I'm rather fond of ninja'ing around on talus because of the parkour feel of it. Nualla doesn't think as highly of it as I do but she is still a good rock dog.

We made it to the top and enjoyed the summit with the rest of the 4th of July crowd. The views of the surrounding mountains were nice, especially after hours of hiking to see them. One couple in particular had baked cookies and brownies from scratch to share with everybody on the peak. They were delicious and I definitely had two. Apparently she always brought some tasty treats up the mountain to share with other peak baggers. Score!

Not to go unnoticed, some more flowers were sure to catch my attention on the way back down the mountain.

We made our way back down to the trailhead and tried to figure out where to go next. Jesse had enough time off of work to hammer out 4 days worth of peaks, we just didn't know exactly which ones to pick yet. We headed down into Buena Vista and pow wowed over some coffee. Since it was the July 4th holiday the town had been overrun and transformed into an anxiety inducing shit show. It didn't take us long to decide on Mount Princeton. We restocked at the grocery store and then headed for the hills again. After consolidating into my car at the bottom of the road we made our way up. I was on the fence about taking my car up this road as the advice I had heard was to have a four wheel drive with decent clearance. In the world of Colorado roads this can vary greatly from water breaks to jagged, oil pan piercing rocks. In this instance it ended up being subaruble. I only had to stop twice with the first luckily being at the bottom of the road. I was able to conveniently pull out of the way of a four car convoy coming down the trail. With a five speed transmission it is critical for the livelihood of my clutch that I'm not forced to start on a steep incline. After vrooming up the hill in first gear I came head to head with a Land Rover on a straightaway. It was immediately obvious that the driver was a bit out of her comfort zone with a whole gaggle of kids in tow and her reluctance to give me enough room to get by. I was lucky again when I was able to stop on a water break and coax her closer over to the shoulder. I was poised for the climb so I floored it and drove up the bank as high as I dared. When I passed the vehicle my mirror was mere inches from hers and she was close enough to compliment my driving style through the window. I couldn't stall my momentum though and was only able to hear it in stride. The rest of the drive up the mountain was a routine affair of keeping the tires on the highest stuff in the road. I was glad to not encounter another vehicle on the road and we were able to pull in to a nice camp spot that overlooked the whole valley. Once established we took to roaming around the area and exploring. We ended up being right in the middle of a stand of bristlecone pines. This particular species of tree is so unique and each one has its own character. Even after suffering damage from lightning strikes, fires, and other excessive damage they keep on surviving. Even after finally succumbing to the elements their wood is so tough and rot resistant that skeletons of their former selves remain for many years.

I was able to get a picture of the false summit of Princeton, Tigger Peak, with a bristlecone in the foreground. If you look carefully you can see the road that leads up and around Tigger. Right where the road is dropping down to the right and hits the trees of the peak in front of it is where the trail breaks off and wraps around the backside to the true summit.