Sunday, October 6, 2013

Mount Antero 7/6/13

Even though I have to get up early for every attempt on a 14er that definitely doesn't make me a morning person. I don't enjoy it but it's better than being above treeline when thunder clouds roll in. Jesse on the other hand seems to be ready to go at a moments notice. I make getting up a process. We were able to hit the road after I finally got my ass in gear. We didn't go up the trail far before I saw a nice stand of aspen trees that I wanted to take a picture of.

While I was fumbling around with my backpack and taking this picture I noticed that I had left my sunglasses at the car. After coming to this realization I sheepishly told Jesse that I needed to run back and grab them. Thankfully he is really patient. I have had several injuries in the past where metal shavings have been stuck in my eye. This has left me a little more sensitive to light than most. 16 miles all day sans shades was a sad prospect. After the brief hiccup we officially set off up the trail and were treated to a nice Colorado sunrise. A nice sunrise will always be a good incentive to get up early.

As we continued up the road we passed a subaru that had bitten off more than it could chew. There was a flat tire and the owner had parked it. Nobody was around so hopefully they had pressed on with their adventure rather than waving the white flag. Murphy be damned! Farther up I began to notice telltale signs of leaf eating critter damage on aspen trees.

Some quick internetting tells me that this is damage done from the Common Aspen Leaf Miner. The damage done was interesting in that the bug made a little maze on the leaf. The aftermath was reminiscent of an old arcade game like Pac Man or Dig Dug. Fortunately there wasn't any widespread damage, only a couple of leaves on trees sprinkled around.

Pressing onward we paid attention to how the road was constructed. Just having a road at all through this terrain is a testament to how tough these old miners and mountain men were. These guys were the creme of the crop in the era of hardasses. Below are several views of what these guys built a road along. Many times you could see evidence of how they drilled into these rock faces and blasted the rock apart. The loose rock was then pushed aside and flattened out to make the rough road. This would be a difficult and tedious process even by modern day standards but these guys did this many decades ago! If there's gold in them hills then hell fahr! Do everything necessary to build a road and get it out!

We came to a fork with a creek crossing where one road went to Baldwin Lakes and the other continued up to Mount Antero. The view really opened up here as well.

The water in the creek crossing was extremely clear and calm as the water opened up to the wide area. It was still enough to make for a perfectly flat mirrored surface.

There were several more crossings along the way. Creeks and streams were sure to make cameo appearances.

Usually the road was somewhat leveled out rock chunks with harder obstacles mixed in. We continuously saw pieces of vehicles mixed in with the rocks and dirt. The debris ran the gamut from headlight assembly pieces and tire tread chunks to discarded padlocks. This was a Rocky Mountain toll road and the fare was payed in car parts.


Around tree line there was some roadside eye candy. These flowers had small little golden flecks sprinkled around that bees were loving.

A little higher and the valley opened up again to expose the surrounding views.

Earlier in the hike there was a truck with two girls that passed us. I was a little surprised to see them cruise by in a new lifted F-150. By all means though, get after it. We passed the parked truck higher up and noticed the girls hiking above us. The road did a nice job of switching back and forth across the mountain with a nice gradient. There was a gulley that ran down along the fall line that they opted to go up. It was a more direct approach but required considerably more energy to climb.

We caught up with them at the top of the gulley system. They made it fine but looked pretty spent. Sometimes I cringe at what people perceive to be a shortcut. Just above this area there was a trail that split off from the main road. Mount Antero is famous for having crystals and mineral deposits along the upper slopes so we chose the scenic route. After a short hike up from the road the trail leveled out onto a large open plateau. 

I have been interested in rock hounding since I was a kid so I slowed my pace down and kept the eyes to the ground. Almost immediately I found a little chunk of aquamarine.

The finding encouraged me to look harder and only slowed my pace down further. Both Jesse and Nualla weren't nearly as keen on digging around and they disappeared quickly.

My only other rewards were little quartz crystals and occasional glimpses of aquamarine.

There was evidence of people pawing around as I climbed higher. It was apparent that others were after what was underground with less regard to what it looked like when they were done. This was witnessed by holes pock marking the upper slopes of the mountain. As much as I like seeing crystals something didn't feel right about turning the mountainside into swiss cheese to find them. I had had enough and needed to catch up with Jesse and dog. I found them patiently waiting before the last final push towards the top of the mountain. I think he understands my need to occasionally nerd out. And dog, well she just wants to chase squirrels or stay with whoever is farthest up the trail. After setting off again I noticed that Nualla's paws hadn't been standing up well to the miles of rough terrain. She had apparently caught her dew claw on something in the midst of her squirrel sightseeing. At that point I thought it best to get her new kicks on while Jesse went ahead and summited.

The paw break was spent somewhere in there

The downhill view while waiting on Jesse to get back

Jesse was quick about it and he showed up not long after Nualla's shoes were on. We were both paying attention to the clouds that were appearing and I didn't waste time getting to the summit. At the top I took advantage of others being there to have my picture taken with their sign.

I quickly snapped some pictures and scurried back down.

It didn't take long to make my way back down. After meeting back up with Jesse and dog we set off down the road rather than the scenic route we took up. 

Some more roadside flowers were hanging out near the top.

I kept Nualla's boots on as long as she would tolerate them. After a combination of having to frequently adjust them, her increasing reluctance to have them on, and the easing up of the rough terrain I took them off. For the rest of the descent on the road OHVs (Off highway vehicles) kept flying up and down past us. My patience quickly faded after an already tiring ascent and having to constantly step aside for them to race by. My smiles and waves gave way to what I imagine was just indifferent eye contact. Take your Huskers apparel and gaggle of goobers elsewhere, I'm tired of constantly huffing your dust. Grrrrrr... Jesse had scooted ahead in the midst of all this. I figured he didn't want to wait around while I kept fooling with Nualla and I couldn't blame him. Back below tree line I gave up on catching up with him and took a break instead. Nualla promptly saw a squirrel and immediately disappeared. It was common for her to be squirrel gazing but she usually stayed within earshot. After I was ready to leave I started calling her to no avail. I paced around the area calling her name all the while getting louder and louder. After 45 minutes I succumbed to frustration and headed back down the road. Hopefully she had ran ahead and found Jesse. I stopped to talk with several vehicles as they came and went. Nobody had seen her and I kept my increasing concern in check. Finally a truck came up the road and they mentioned seeing her playing in the creek around the open area where the road split. Sure enough, there she was hanging out and playing with Jesse. Luckily Jesse knew what the circumstances probably were and had stayed there waiting for me to catch up. I wanted to strangle her for making me worry but the malevolence faded as soon as she was in sight. The rest of the hike back down was tiring but uneventful after finding dog. We got back to the cars thoroughly spent after hiking 16 miles and 9600 vertical feet. There was a pretty creek right where we parked that was nice to rinse my hands in.

We took a break at the cars for a while but ultimately there is no rest for the weary. Jesse is a good motivator so he convinced me to rally and head over to Mount Elbert. After quickly stocking up at the grocery store again we headed back up towards Leadville and the Mount Elbert trailhead. There were plenty of campsites around but they were all taken. Plenty of folks were still around enjoying the area on this 4th of July weekend. After briefly exploring we spied an unofficial campsite and pounced on it. It was 10 bucks to camp but my budget was more in the "free" range. Besides, we were merely parking for a nighttime ascent instead of camping. At least that was our planned answer if anybody dared ask. After we had posted up we noticed a deer hanging out. He was interested in what we were doing but kept his distance. 

Mosquitoes were around but I noticed how I was getting proficient at squishing them one handed. They liked Nualla and I had to keep brushing them off of her. She proved to be good skeeter bait though, poor dog. We planned for an early assault on Elbert in the morning. Exhaustion was upon us and we didn't stay up much later after the sun set.

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