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Forester Creek, Zirkel Wilderness, CO September 15, 2007

June 1, 2008

Posted June 1, 2008

Headed up to the Zirkel Wilderness one Saturday last fall (Sept 15, 2007 to be exact). The plan was to get back up into an area that I’d had not been in yet. Well, I was successful in that attempt; its just that I ended up not quite where I thought I’d be going : ) That said, the Fall colors were starting, the weather was mostly nice, I survived, so no big deal.

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. (This link
will direct you 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 Forester Creek trailhead.
All links open a new browser window.

The trail I wanted to go on was up near the northern section of the Zirkel Wilderness. Trail number 1126 takes off at the end of a road (on the map I had) that you get to from Big Creek Lake and heads south all along the eastern boundary of the wilderness area. So, I headed up the road (after enjoying looking at the lake) and “thought” I found the trailhead. I mean, it looked like a trail, had a sign on it, and was sorta where the trail should be, so I figured it had to be the one. Turns out, it wasn’t the one, but it ended up being a nice trail anyway. It did have a great parking lot just a couple of hundred yards away (just a big meadow).

So, I parked the truck and headed up the trail. After the first sign (just says “national forest trail – no motorized vehicles” or something similar), I noticed that the trail seemed to be rather “unused.” In fact, it mostly seemed to follow an old ditch (used to transport water for irrigation, I guess). But, it kept going and the day was nice, so I kept following it. It did pass some great looking meadows which looked like prime moose country.

Here is another meadow with a pond ……….

After a while the trail got pretty “weak”, to say the least.

So, I hopped over the ditch I mentioned………………..

and scouted around until I found the trail (or, “a” trail : ) on the other side that seemed to keep going up a fairly good sized creek. Originally I’d been headed (or, so I thought) to where the trail number 1126 intersected with Shafer Creek. But, what I was following really did not seem like what the area on the map looked like (the map I had was not a topo map). I believe that I actually ended up hiking Forester Creek. But, it was a trail (mostly : ) and was following a stream that led up into the mountains. So I figured I couldn’t go too wrong.

Eventually I got to a camp site that looked like something that must be used by a group of hunters once or twice a year.

It was situated right before reaching a pretty nice meadow that the trail seemed to stop at.

Since the meadow was pretty “wet”, I hiked around the meadow a ways on the same side as the camp site to see if I could “cut” the trail again, but didn’t find anything that resembled a real trail. So, I decided I’d better slosh my way across the meadow near the campground to see if the trail went “thataway”.
This is what I could see as I crossed the meadow (it was a little on the damp side). I believe that is also the direction I ended up going once I finished crossing the meadow and found the “trail” again.

And, yes, I did find the “trail” on the other side : )

Not too long after getting back on the trail (at least I hoped I was on the trail), I started heading uphill. Quite rapidly uphill at some points. Now, I did not travel a great distance on this trip (around 8 miles round trip), but it needs to be pointed out that I was moving “very” slow. This is due to the fact of trying to make sure I somewhat stayed on the (mostly) “human” trail and did not by accident wander off on some (mostly) “game” trail. Luckily, I would occassionally come upon some indication that the trail was a human (mostly) type trail. These would include such things as a notch cut on the side of a tree, or an old camp site, or, as here, someone tying a ribbon on a tree to help them find their way back.

Finally got over the “uphill” section and the trail (using the term loosely) wandered by a nice little lake.

Portrait photo of the lake………

So, not many photos after the lake. The terrain got a little interesting with flat boggy areas (in open woods) followed by short stretches of uphill. I could hear (and occasionally glimpse) a nice sized river off to my left (as I was headed uphill). Basically, it looked as if I was going to start entering an area of upper meadows which would then shortly afterwards hit timberline. However, since I wasn’t really sure where I was, or how much longer I had to go before hitting timberline, and the afternoon shadows were getting a little long, and I DEFINITELY did NOT want to have to go back down the “trail” at dusk (much less dark), I decided to turn back where the trail crossed a little stream. I’d have to come back some day to see what lay ahead (maybe with the intention of spending the night). Ummmm, yes, you can clearly see where the trail crosses the stream. Trust me, there is actually a trail there : )

Anyway, I headed back and, as per normal, going back (especially downhill) seems to go a little faster. That said, I did make sure I stayed on the trail.

Got some photos of Independence Mountain off in the distance on the way back. I’d considered driving up it some time, but you need a Colorado Wildlife “Habitat” tag to use the road. I’ll pick up a tag some time since there are a few other places that I want to visit that have the same requirement.

Zoom in a little on that……

I think this is max zoom…….. Unfortunately, the pine beetles have pretty much killed off most of the pine trees. So, probably be a big fire some summer.

As I went back through the meadow I took some more photos of the early fall colors.

Tried to get this beaver dam to look as imposing as possible : )

Once off of the actual mountain, the walk back to the road took longer than I thought. But, it is a rather pleasant area which is interspersed with ponds and nice groves of poplars. Extremely nice walk.

And I made it back to the road where I saw my first “humans”. Just at the start of the trail there were some people trying to decide if they wanted to walk up the trail or not (checking for some good hunting areas, I think). I let them know that I’d seen what would appear to be good country for hunting, wished them luck, and headed down the road to my truck.

Slightly different perspective……….

So, got back to my truck and attempted to try and capture some of the really nice looking sky, mountains, and fall colors that surrounded me (also, I didn’t want to get in the truck and head back to Fort Collins yet : )

What follows is just a series of photos that I took all pretty much from one spot near my truck. All I had to do was turn around and click away : )

The only tricky part was working within the limitations of my camera (well, ok, maybe a few limitations as a photographer : )

Goes without saying that these look much better on my Smugmug site at http://www.geoffw.smugmug.com/gallery/4861375_WYLkZ

Anyway, it was hard to capture the full effect of the sky without making the colors too dark on the trees. Yet, if you made the colors on the trees come out perfect, you’d lose all detail in the clouds.

I did the best I could, but here is an example.
So, the first photo I’m trying to bring out all the color in the trees. But the sky turns all white.

So, the next one I try and capture the neat sky, but it turns the colors of the trees too dark.

O well, it was nice. You’ll just have to take my word for it.

This one is “close”. So, got some good color, but got some of the clouds.

Another couple

And a final one of just a stand of aspen.

All in all, a very nice hike, very pretty area, loverly weather.

O yes, as it turned out, I drove down the road a ways and found Trail number 1126. Looked pretty interesting, but also looked as if it was being moderately used by by hunters on their motorized 3 and 4 wheelers . As I said above, the trail runs the length of the wilderness area (it’s a multiple use trail, so it stays just outside the boundary of wilderness area) on it’s eastern side. So, good way to get to certain parts of the country since there are no forest access roads along much of the national forest that surrounds the wilderness area. I will probably come back during a quieter time some future summer to hike it.

– Geoff Weatherford

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Scott permalink
    April 5, 2009 9:07 pm

    We’ve hunted on this exact trail. I’m not sure where you got off the trail, but you should have intersected Forrester Creek somewhere along the line. Another good hike is to take the ridge to the North of Forrester creek(the path goes right across the foot of the ridge). It is a fairly steep climb for about half of it, but it’s a fairly easy way to get to the tree line.

  2. April 12, 2009 11:12 pm

    Scott,

    I think I turned back right close to where I was intersecting with Forrester Creek just below timber line. I just got a late start and needed to turn back. I’ll have to go back and get up on the ridge.

    Thanks for the info.

    Geoff Weatherford

  3. Matt Brown permalink
    July 17, 2017 4:50 pm

    Hi Geoff, I love reading your blogs.
    I am not able to open the google map link anymore? Do you know if it is still active?

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