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Comanche Peak Wilderness, CO, with Conor, July 29, 2007

September 10, 2007

Posted September 9, 2007

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Cool, huh? Conor wondering what’s taking me so long : )

So, my eldest son Conor got in to DIA late Friday night. I got him back to Fort Collins and let him make a sandwich. I didn’t have much of a bed set up for him, but we took care of that the next day by picking up a new mattress. I told him we would go take a little walk on Sunday so he could kinda ease into some Colorado hiking. Little did we know : )

Before I go any further in the trip’s description, here is my standard comment. Please check my photo galleries here for all the larger and higher quality photos for this trip. The photos in the gallery are a quantum leap in size and quality compared to the little teaser photos I put in this site’s trip narrative.
I have two other links that will help locate the area if you are interested in making the hike yourself. A Google Earth map can be found here. Use the scale bar on the left side of the Google map to help zoom in or out to help locate the area based on where you live. (Look on the right side of this web site for a link to a Google map that shows ALL my trips.)
In order to help you with the actual trail itself, you can use this link to view a topo map of the Comanche Peak/Browns Lake trailhead.
All links open a new browser window.

Decided to head to Comanche Peak Wilderness. Pretty close by, lots of good scenery, and I wanted to try and reach a certain place that I missed out on when I hiked it last time. And, we almost made it. But, we did (I think) have a good time.

The last time I went on this trail it had been pretty vacant as far as other hikers. Well, this time it started off with much more traffic, but we eventually left them behind.

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Here is a group that is getting ready to do some old time horse pack’n. We never saw them on the trail, but I’m sure they had a good time.

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And there lay the trail. Waiting for us.

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At certain places the wild flowers were pretty nice. It’s a little dry up there, so no vast fields of wild flowers. But definitely enough to brighten the day. Helped take my mind off the uphill sections : ) Photo by Conor.

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There had been enough rain to make the mushrooms pop up here and there.

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And then you start getting enough altitude, take a look around, and forget the shortness of breath. Photo by Conor.

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Here Conor zoomed in some.

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After a couple of miles, we made it to the wilderness boundary. This was also the point where a person could kind of “look ahead” and see what type of hiking was coming up. So, yeah, you can see the trail winding up over that ridge in the distance. Conor and I followed the trail up to the ridge top, and then headed cross country to the right. Right along the top of the ridge.

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And here was where I pointed out to Conor “…..that’s where I’d like to hike to……” Yeah, nice looking little green spot with a little bit of snow still on the north facing slope just above the trees. It looks so……..close. Ooops. Forgot I was zoomed : )

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Well, here is a little pano shot (made up of 3 photos) of what was between us and the “nice spot” I wanted to hike to. Yes, I took the above photo from this exact same spot. Conor can probably point it out, but I’ll try to do my best. So, see the chunk of rocks at the very right side of the photo? Start there and go to the left until you run into the first tall trees that are poking into the sky. That nice little spot is just to the right of those trees. Ummm. In the distance. It helps if you squint : )

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Anyway, I figured it would start raining by the time we got to the top of that near ridge I pointed at earlier. And, we’d have to turn back early. Did not work out that way. Speaking of that ridge, we got about half way up it (Conor in the lead, of course), when I saw Conor stop and turn back and look at me. He might have said something, but there was a lot of noise coming from the vicinity of my lungs and I couldn’t really hear anything. But it could have been “You might want to get off the trail….” O yes, there are some more purple flowers. O, and look. There seem to be some clouds coming. Interesting.

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At first glance I thought we had run into a party of hobbits with some small ponies. Maybe on their way to Walden, CO for their annual summer fair.

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But, no, turned out it was a bunch of hikers that were using llamas to carry most of their equipment. They had the smaller humans (rather young children) leading the llamas.

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They looked to me like they were having waaaaaaayyyy too much fun : )

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Quite the sight. Goes to prove you just never know what you’ll see in the mountains. Got me thinking about using a llama myself. But, I’d have to have a place to keep it all year, feed it, etc. And, for 6 months or so it’d be just a pet to take care of. Pretty good for a business, though. Hmmmm.

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Anyway, we did make it to the top of the ridge and began cutting cross country. I was pretty sure we would eventually pick up a trail, but until we did, it was pretty easy walking.

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Conor found some nice wildlife to take a photo of (Photo by Conor).

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There really wasn’t any sort of trail that we could see, but (for whatever reason) we did see a few rock cairns (Photo by Conor).

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We were able to get a little bit better view of our “intended” destination. Closer, but still a ways off. It’s that little patch of snow just over the closest ridge. We reconnected with a trail down in that saddle (just to the right of those small “glaciers” (well, fairly permanent snow fields : ) )

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Here, I’ll zoom in a bit.

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Conor is trucking on ahead to where there is a very nice view down into the Browns Lake area.

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Here is a little closer shot. It doesn’t show up very well in the photo, but there was just a bit of red algae on the snow fields.

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OK. I had just come down a long ridge, and now I have to go back up another? Uh, just how much do I want to do this?

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I turned to look back what we had just come down. Yah. Looks up hill to me : ) Actually, on the way back we cut to the left and went cross country. So, we did not actually have to go all the way back up this slope.

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Looking down on Browns Lake. (Photo by Conor)

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That last photo by Conor showed Browns Lake up close. Here is a photo by moi that shows a larger view of the Browns Lake area just as we saw it from near that snow field.

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Well, Conor started up the next “hill”, so I took a few deep breathes and followed. It actually wasn’t that far : )

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Conor attempting to decide the best place for a quick lunch break.

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I’ve seen many worse places to eat lunch. But very few better.

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Let’s see now. Take a little of this………..

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Add a smidgen of thissssss…………

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And just a tad bit of something else…………

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Mix it all together and enjoy. (The twisted position of the photographer and such accidental ingredients as birds and insects are purely part of the magic of being an artist. Or, whatever : )

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And, there is always the possibility of ………. balls of fire?

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So, with that minor little detail on my mind, we kept on moving towards our “intended” destination. Looking closer and perhaps actually doable.

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So, we followed the trail down into a very broad saddle. The first part was very pretty. Flat. Nice trail. Flat. Pretty trees. Flat. Green grass. Flat. Yah, you get the picture : )

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And then, well, I lost the trail. Or rather, we couldn’t find the turnoff. Or, we found the turnoff, but it had been used so rarely that the “trail” had pretty much disappeared. Whatever.
We made a bit of an attempt to cut the trail, but I never saw anything that gave me much confidence. So, I decided to turn back. Bummer. I later figured out we came within a mile or so of our destination (looking at a topo map back at home). But, have to say, if it happened again, I’d probably turn back again. Here are the reasons.
1. We would have had to go cross country, in the woods, for half a mile at least. I did not have a compass. And you could not see any mountains to keep going in a straight line.
2. The terrain was such that attempting to find our way back out again (no trail, no tracks, no mountains to look at) would again be not good. So, you could get off trying to find the place, turn back, get more off trying to get back to the original trail, and end up spending a LOT of time going nowhere.
3. I was a little unsure of my conditioning. Due to moving to a new apartment, I had not done as much hiking as I wanted. So, I knew we were pushing 10-12 miles already and did not want to add a lot to that (if we had gotten “turned around”, we could have easily added another 4-5 miles onto our total mileage; or worse : )
4. I had not told anyone where we were headed. So, skip any rescue efforts. This is totally normal for me, but is also something I keep in the back of my mind.
5. It kept looking like a big thunderstorm was going to dump on us.

So, we said “good enough” and headed back. Of course, I let Conor lead. I’m a bad father : )

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Zoom in a little.

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What happened was that after we got over this ridge, the weather cleared up. Nice.

My attempt at BIF (bird in flight).

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We did end up doing a little cross country (we skipped going back over the highest ridge). Took longer than I thought (again, it would have been nice to have a compass; does it help that I almost bought one in the spring?). Anyway, view as we came out of the woods.

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Slightly more interesting photo by Conor.

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Strange. I did not notice this on the way up the trail earlier. An extremely rare photo of the Colorado Mountain Stone Mushroom (non-edible species). Photo by Conor.

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Conor is going to beat me to the truck : )

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Remember the packers getting ready early in the day? They left these guys behind.

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I wanted to go hiking on the biking trail when we got back to town, but Conor had other ideas (and, was ready to defend them if necessary : )

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So, got back in time to relax before heading off to work the next morning. But still managed to have a pretty full day of hiking in some pretty neat country. Definitely one of the places I will come back next summer with a tent and sleeping bag (o yah, and a compass : )

– Geoff Weatherford

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 7, 2008 9:19 pm

    Hi,

    Thanks for posting about your trip! It made me decide to try and stop up there at the end of this month before heading over to Horsetooth Falls in Ft. Collins. Your photo blog is so inspiring and helpful!

    I was hoping to get in touch with you for a little help with the logistics of finding the trailhead. Is it clearly marked off of Crown Point road?

    Looking forward to it

  2. July 9, 2008 3:20 am

    Rebecca,

    Not sure which way you are coming from, but I’ll start off from Hyw 287. So, about 10 miles north of Ft. Collins on Hyw 287, Hwy 14 will turn off and head west up the Poudre River Canyon. Approximately 25-30 miles up the Poudre Canyon you will need to turn left on Rd 63 (sign says Pingree Park Road). This is a gravel road.

    Go around 5 plus miles up the Pingree Park road and you will see a road that heads to the right; it should say Crown Point Road (may be marked as Rd 139. Take that turn off. This is a gravel/dirt road that is easily traveled by almost any car (except possibly in very wet/rainy conditions).

    Go approximately 20 miles (its’ definitely a bit of a drive as you cannot go fast) up that road and you will eventually come into a large open area (close to timberline) with a large parking area (not paved : ) to the right of the road (which continues on) and a large trailhead sign and trail heading up to the left. See my photos above for a photo of the parking area (2nd photo) and of the sign and trail (4 th photo). Very hard to miss and you will not see anything else like it.

    Hope that helps.

    Geoff Weatherford

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