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McIntyre Trail, Rawahs, CO June 26, 2010

March 26, 2011

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The weekend after doing the la Poudre Pass hike, I decided to head for a slightly different hiking location and environment.  I knew that, more than likely, any above timberline areas were probably still under snow.  But, some of the upper valleys should be getting hike-able.  And, there was one area that I’d been trying to hike to for years that should be snow free.  Shipman Park in the Rawah Wilderness Area.  After years of repeated efforts, I’d never been able to reach the place.   There were a couple of places like this that my attempts to reach had been unsuccessful.  Just poor planning.   Just bad luck.  Right.

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 (and there are more of them). In addition, 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. You will need to 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. (If you want to see all my trips, 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 (care of the great National Geographic TOPO program(http://www.natgeomaps.com/software.html ) that one of my sons purchased for me : ) of the McIntyre Creek trail. Please note that all links open a new browser window.

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In addition to the Google map link above, please see a Microsoft Live map below. The red tack shows the general location of the trail from my home in Fort Collins, CO. You can click on the map to bring it up in a “live” mode and zoom in or out (and move the map around) to get more detail. Just make sure you don’t close the Microsoft “My Places” editor that pops up with map. If you close the editor (it is small and you can use/scroll/zoom the map without the editor getting too much in the way) without first saving the new location, the location button will disappear. If that happens, just close the map and click on it again on my web page.

Map picture

Anyway, the good thing is, the trailhead is relatively close to Fort Collins, CO.  An hour or two closer than some of the hikes I tend to hit that are located in the Zirkels west of Walden, CO.  From Fort Collins, you head up Poudre Canyon (Hwy 14) like you were going over Cameron Pass.  Then, shortly before reaching Chambers Lake, you take a right (heading north) on the (nicely) graveled Road 103.  This follows the Laramie River all the way to Woods Landing in Wyoming (which is on Hwy 230 on the way to Walden, CO).  However, for this hike you don’t want to go to Woods Landing.  You only go 10-15 miles before turning to the left on Rd. 190 which heads to Glendevey.  Before reaching Glendevey you will find the Link-McIntyre trailhead and parking area in the same area as Browns Park campground (just after it if I remember correctly). The traffic was rather “light”.

Here is what the parking area looks like.  I took this at the end of the day after the clouds had rolled in.  The day actually started off clear and sunny.

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The trail doesn’t begin on the McIntyre Creek .  Well, actually, there is a trail that “does” begin on McIntyre Creek, but you need to go further down the road to Glendevey.  I have no idea what that trailhead is like.  There may be some guest ranches and cabins located there.  From the trailhead I started at, you have to hike up and over a ridge to get to the creek.  But, it’s a nice walk.  It’s also the trailhead for the “Link” trail.  So, the McIntyre trail heads to the right (from the parking area) while the Link trail will be heading to the left.  The signs were pretty clear.

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The trail reaches the Rawah Wilderness boundary near the top of the ridge.

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The rise in altitude provides you with a great view of the Laramie River valley.  If you take the drive all the way down to Woods Landing, it’s a very scenic drive through rolling hills of grass and sage with the mountains off to either side.  Once you get past the Glendevey turnoff, it’s all private land next to the road.  There are still forest access roads along the way that you can turn off to get to more camping and hiking areas.  Some lead to roads that are 4WD only.

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Zoom.

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After getting over the ridge, here is a view of the approach to McIntyre Creek and the bridge.  On the other side of the bridge the trail intersects with another trail that is used by horseback riders coming up from Glendevey.  They merge and the trail then heads up stream.  It’s been a while, but I think Glendevey is an area that has one or more guest ranches for people to enjoy.  Possibly even a bed and breakfast.

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View up the creek from the bridge.  The high point of spring runoff had passed, but it was still very full of fast moving and cold water.

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The trail hugs close to the creek for close to 4 miles or more.  The valley is somewhat narrow and does not offer any long scenic views, but it is a nice hike in and of itself.  It varies between pine and aspen groves as you walk along it.

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There was also the occasional meadow.  In this case, hard to see in this photo, the lush meadow was covered with blue columbines.  Later in the heat of the summer it may have lots of red Indian Paintbrush.

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Here is a close-up of the Columbines.

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Of course, I just happened to be at the meadow when the sun was behind a big cloud.  But, it was still very nice.

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The trail began to flatten out a little.  It never was very steep, always just a gradual uphill hike alongside (most of the time) the stream.

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Oh well, the sun finally came out in order to let me grab a photo of the yellow flowers.

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There weren’t too many streams that the trail crossed.  There is a long ridge alongside of the trail with no real valleys.  This was one of the few.  Looking back down the trail.

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When I got to this point of the trail, I could tell things were going to change.  Not sure if this fence was for cattle or horses.  Probably to keep the cattle from heading back down the trail once they had been brought up to the pastures for the summer.  I saw no cattle, nor any sign, so I’m not sure if they still pasture cows up here in the summer or not.  Depending on the wilderness area and local national forest rules, I sometimes see cows up in designated wilderness.  Once I saw a large number of sheep way up high in the Uintas back when I was in college.

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On the other side of the fence I came across an intersection of trails.  This is looking down McIntyre Trail 996 (so, from the main trail you would looking to the left; kinda southish) as it heads south towards (eventually after a long curve) the long line of ridges and peaks of the Rawahs (note, the Rawahs are NOT a part of the continental divide).  Trail 996 crosses Housmer Creek just down the trail a short ways (the McIntyre Creek had already turned and headed to the south, you will meet up with it again if you take this trail to the south).  From the top of the Rawah ridge, you can take several different routes, including a loop back to the Glendevey area.

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Close-up of the sign.

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I did not take the trail (996) south, but stayed straight on the trail I had been traveling on.  This is looking up the trail I’ll take as it goes past the sign (at the top of my leaning staff).

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After only a little ways further, the country began to change dramatically.  Hmmmm.  Left or right?

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Ahhhhhh yes.  I love meadows.  As it turns out, Housmer Park is a fairly nice park.  Not huge, but it is a little longish.  Quite pretty.  And, I hit it before the clouds moved in.

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That said, there is a bit of a mystery here with the trails.  Now, the other photo showed a nice split in the trail.  At the split there is this sign.  The split to the right is indicated as being the McIntyre Trail.  However, if you look on older maps, the trail supposedly follows Housmer Park, going in the same direction, but on the opposite side of the park (so, the left hand split).  I decided to take the trail the sign was indicating as the “correct” trail.  It was obviously a used trail and looked as if it was going in the correct direction.

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That said, I believe that somewhere over on the other side of the park, that left hand split in the trail is meandering up the park also headed in the same direction as where I wanted to go.  In fact, later I’ll show evidence to that effect.

By the way, please remember this photo.  Because I will return to this exact same place on the way back down the trail and show you something that is the beast to this beauty.

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The trail I took slowly gained altitude above the park as it wound it’s way through the trees.  For quite some time you could see the park below through openings in the pine forest.  But eventually the trail wandered through the trees sorta paralleling a low ridge.  It did this for quite some time until it appeared the trail was actually on top of the ridge.  According to my map, Shipman Park was just over the ridge.  But the trail didn’t go that way.  I wasn’t too concerned because there was plenty of old trail sign (trees that had been cut and moved off of the trail years before) and new signs such as the blazes on the pine tree in the photo below.

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And then, not too surprisingly, I came to a junction with another trail coming up from my left.

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Since the trail seemed to be guiding me that way, and my supposed direction of travel was that way, I bore to the right at the junction.  Once on the merged trail, I looked back down it.  Gee, notice the difference between the size of that trail and the one I had been following?

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My guess is that this is the trail that followed the “other side” of Housmer Park.  It’s fairly obvious they don’t want people using it anymore.  Perhaps it is considered too disruptive of the meadows.

Anyway, I continued on even though it seemed to me that I was now heading away from Shipman Park (and starting to gain altitude again).   From the map I knew that eventually the trail would begin to climb towards the main ridge of the Rawahs and connect with a trail that followed that ridge.  Not where I wanted to go today.  At this point I stopped and tried to figure out my next move.  Yes, that’s a patch of snow.  I saw some other larger patches just before reaching Housmer Park.

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What I did was look around and slowly, carefully watching where I was going so I could get back to the trail, wander into some very marshy open clearings to see what, well, to see what I could see.  And, I found an opening that looked back towards where I “thought” Shipman Park should be.  And, there, in a very wet distance, was Shipman Park.

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Zoom.  So, I get to see the long lost fabled Shipman Park.  Barely.

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The view wasn’t the best and I thought that I might be able to “cut” a trail going into the park (from the trail I had been following) by walking through the edge of the trees until I got a better view.  Well, I never did cut a trail, or, anything resembling a relatively recently used trail, but after a little bit of bushwhacking I did get to the point that I could see all the way down the park.

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Zoom.

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Pretty big park.  But, it was very wet.  Did I mention that?  Yes, wet times two.  From the photos you can’t see that everything was under several inches of water (at least were I was standing).  It was difficult to move up the slope out of the water due to all the down trees.  And, I was getting just a little tired.  What I need to do, if I come back in on this particular trail, is get off the trail a little early and try to hit the park on the east side (to the right in these photos).  For some reason I think I will pick up a trail over in that area.
Also, I’ll come up in September and hope that it’s dried up.  This may make it possible to walk out in the park itself instead of up the slope and climbing up and over all the trees. Even if I find a trail, it appears that it will be covered with downed trees because I never saw any “newly used” trails.  I kept a very close eye on my surroundings on the way back down and saw no real side trail taking off and going towards Shipman Park.  Kind of strange.

Zoom again.  Pretty neat looking place.  I think the meadows keep on going past where you can see from this point.  Quite extensive.

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There are a couple of other ways to get to Shipman Park, but I’m not sure any of them are any shorter.  That said, I may “investigate” them just for the fun of it.

On the way back down I stopped to take one more look at Housmer Park before hitting the long trail down the McIntrye Creek bottom.
And, encountered a horde of the “beasties”.
Yeah, I haven’t touched on these, but this hike reminded me that where x = y, Rawahs = mosquitoes.  I hit this trail, and the parks, probably at the peak of the mosquito season.  How bad was it?
1.  Well, I put on mosquito repellent as soon as I got out of the car.
2.  I met one couple who were almost running back down the trail towards their car saying something to the effect “…xxxx these xxxxxxx mosquitoes……..”.  They were kinda laughing about it, but still.
3.  I met one other twosome close to Shipman Park headed up to the top of the ridge saying that they hoped to get up higher and away from the bugs.  They were grinning and bearing it pretty well.
4.  How bad was it?  Here is what occurred when I stopped at Housmer Park for a quick snack.  The photos on my web site show them in glorious detail.  But, you get the idea.  I hope.

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So, when you go to the Rawahs, take mosquito repellent.  A head net wouldn’t be a bad idea either.  Just in case.

After getting back to my care, I headed back up the Laramie River valley to where it connects with Highway 14 (Poudre Canyon).  On the way back to Hwy 14, following the Laramie River valley, I stopped a few places to snap some photos. In the early summer, it’s a special green.

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Zoom.  Still a fair amount of snow in the high country.

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The upper Laramie River valley, a few miles prior to Chambers Lake, is very nice.  Once you get within 5 – 10 miles of Chambers Lake, you are back in the national forest and can pull off the road and camp anywhere.  You can find some very large meadows that make for nice camping along this route.  Very popular for large families, and groups of families.  Of course, you may want to have some mosquito repellent.  Just in case.

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Zoom.  There was a pretty nice breeze here.  So, no mosquitoes bothered me while I enjoyed the view.

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That’s all, folks.  Pretty interesting hike.  Except for the little beasties, a really good hike.  The upper meadows are the best, but the entire hike is very pleasant.  Not the hike to do if you want grand vistas with far away scenes.  More close in and personal like.  Again, be prepared for bugs.  Later in the summer the mosquitoes may diminish, but the horse flies may be just as bad.
Best time of year would be early fall (but, try to do it just prior to hunting with guns season opens).  That’s my plan for next fall, at least.

– Geoff Weatherford

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