My directions said this was a 6.5 mile round trip, with 1000
feet in elevation gain and some route finding.
Wrong. Wrong. Wrong!!!
You see, the problem with hiking routes that aren’t hiked
often is you often times need to rely on just one person’s post about the area
because no one else has given any information.
Because this was supposed to be a relatively short hike I woke up at
5am, ran 5 miles on the treadmill, did an hour of yoga, and was on my way.
I looked at how much gas I had: just less than half a tank, and since I was
only going about 30 miles I figured this would be plenty. To get there I needed to take Old Stage Road
for 19.6 miles, which took a lot longer than I’d anticipated: This is a 2wd dirt road normally, turned 4wd
in the winter, but there were a lot of turns and I never went more than 15mph
because it was iced over.
I watched my gas gauge quickly and steadily drop and started
to get concerned I’d get stuck out there, 20 miles off a dirt road, out of
gas. I mentally gave myself a point on the
gas gauge of no return and kept driving towards the trailhead. If worse came to worse I’d hike an extra 5
miles of so to take this hike… it wasn’t that long anyway. I turned right onto forest road 376 and went
for another 3.2 miles to the trailhead at the junction of a locked gate/dead
end and Forest Road 379 (which is part of the ring the peak trail and also the
part that still needs to be worked on, depending on which way you turn).
I was the only car there as I grabbed my gear and headed
east up the 379 at 9am.
This part of the trail was quite steep, and since it’d
snowed recently quite slippery. I didn’t
put on my microspikes, but I did use my trekking pole quite a bit.
I was told to hike to a small meadow and turn left. So I did and the trail went nowhere. I was supposed to be heading towards a
saddle, but the trees were too tall for me to see the saddle. Just for reference, DO NOT TURN LEFT HERE:
I backtracked and looked at my map and the area around
me. I was near the microwave tower, and
I could find where I was on my map. I
could tell by looking at my map the road I went on continued all the way to the
summit of the microwave tower and continued on to Almagre. This was not how I wanted to summit, but I
wasn’t ready to give up yet, so I continued on the road. Eventually I came to a rather large meadow.
I realized this must have been the meadow they meant in my
directions, and headed west, looking for that saddle. At the very northwest part of the trail I
noticed another trail, and took that a short distance to a hold in the fence
Now I was getting somewhere!
This vaguely went along with my directions, and I was following my map,
so I continued up the saddle. This was
no walk in the park! The picture below
doesn’t do that scree justice! It was
steep and slippery and much larger in real life (steeper too)
I made it to the top of the saddle and looked for that trail
that was supposed to be so obvious: It
wasn’t there. I’m blaming the snow, but
no worries, as that didn’t stop me. I
could see the microwave tower, as well as the route to get there, and decided
to just head towards that so I could get in some route-finding.
I headed east, and for some reason this easy hike became
difficult. I haven’t been above treeline
in a month and a half, and my body seems to have forgotten how to breathe! Yes, it was a steep slope and physically
challenging, but this was difficult! I
was sweating up a storm in 30 degree weather.
My calves and shins were screaming.
I kept going.
About here it became difficult to breathe. I hadn’t tied my
hair back so it was a bit unruly, but I figured I’d fix it at the summit. I just got mad at myself for being tired so
quickly and continued onwards. Woohoo! I could finally see the microwave tower
This gave me hope, and pretty soon I summited to a much
larger microwave tower than anticipated!
The views were absolutely amazing! I dropped my bag and took a few pictures
I wanted to take a summit photo to prove I’d made it, and
reached into my bag to get my hairbrush and hat. Unfortunately, both were left on the front
seat of my truck. Drat! Oh well, summit hair don’t care! I was just lucky it wasn’t windy today…
I got my gear back together and looked at the route before
I took a look at my topo map and realized I had two
options: I could hike the ridge to
Almagre or the trail down to the Stratton Reservoir, and then back up
Almagre. It looked like there was snow
either way, but experience has told me rocks mean ice, so I decided to take the
road. My immediate views of Colorado Springs
I’m not sure this was in the end the best choice, as it was
covered in snow. It was kind of cool
seeing all the animal tracks though!
I rounded a corner and could see both Pikes Peak and Almagre
and thought it was the most amazing view ever!
I kept going and could see the rest of the route before
me: Stratton Reservoir (or what’s left
of it) on the left, and the road to the right.
I made it to the reservoir and saw this… I’m not sure what
it is, but it’s obviously not put there as a shelter from lightning…
I crossed the reservoir and headed north
This is where the snow completely covered the trail, but
only enough to get inside my hiking boots.
I was continuously hiking through about 6 inches of snow, but it was up
to 3 feet in areas.
The trail rounded the mountains, and pretty soon I could see
Almagre in front of me. The trail up to the summit covered in snow…
The summit was worth slogging through all that snow! I had a grand view of Pikes Peak, and an
answer to ‘what it was and how to get to that patch of green land I can see
from A-frame’. I’ve been wondering that for years, and today I had my answer! It was Almagre! Awesome!
Now I need to spend the night at A-frame again so I can appreciate it
once more with new knowledge.
I took some pictures to prove I’d summited (once again, summit
hair, don’t care) and headed back down.
Here’s a video of the summit view:
I could have taken the ridge back to the microwave tower and
back down, or any number of routes, but I didn’t feel like summiting again, and
I wanted to see where the road led. Maps are all well and good, but nothing is
as good as visually seeing the trail, as well as the mountains before me. I’d hiked most of them in the past month, and
wanted to see them from this angle. So
when I made it back to the reservoir As
I was hiking here I saw someone hiking up the trail, towards the Microwave
tower. I’m not sure which route he’d
taken because I never saw his footprints. I’m assuming he climbed over from the
west side of the reservoir.
I headed east along a trail that quickly took me to a locked
gate (easily avoided).
From here on out the rest of the trail was lined with 6
inches of snow.
I need new hiking boots (mine have holes) so this was
particularly miserable for 2 reasons:
Sand and rocks getting inside my shoes and snow keeping them wet. At this point I wished I’d brought
gaiters. Microspikes wouldn’t have
helped, floatation would have been nice, but gaiters would have solved a lot of
The trail back down was slow because of the snow: I kept slipping.
I followed the 379A and had some off roaders in modified
jeeps pass me. I eventually caught up to
them when they were on a break. One guy
asked me “You hiking the ring?” and to save time I told him “Yes! It’s a beautiful day for it!” and continued
on. Hey, I WAS on the Ring the Peak trail,
so I wasn’t lying (I just didn’t want to stop for conversation).
It seemed like it took forever to take this route! It felt like it took twice as long, and it should
have been faster as I was hiking downhill.
However, I eventually made it to the High Park area, and found a trail
that I’m assuming goes to point 12,225’.
I’m going to need to come back and try that one! But not today, because it was probably
getting late… I made it back to the meadow
that has the turnoff for Microwave Tower and noted with a picture the correct
trail to take
Now I was back on the loop, and hiked the mile and a half
back down to mu truck. When I got there
my truck had made a friend! This must be
the truck from the guy I saw at the reservoir.
In any event, here’s the route I took:
I made it back to my truck at 2:30pm. I’m guessing I hiked about 10-12 miles in 5.5
hours. I did the elevation gain when I got back, and it was 3000’ in elevation
gain with all the ups and downs and double summits.
Oh, and my truck made it out just fine (and all the way
home) without needing to stop for gas.
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