RT Length: 13.33 miles
Elevation Gain: 3363’
The road was nicely plowed from the Crane Park area to the trailhead, so I continued driving up the road and parked at the beginning of Trail 100.
I was the only vehicle in the lot, and it was supposed to snow this afternoon, so I didn’t anticipate a lot of people on the trail today. I put on my snowshoes and started out. The trail starts by heading northeast for a third of a mile before turning onto the trail that leads you to the 10th Mountain Division Hut. I took the winter route.
I followed the trail for about a mile to a junction, losing elevation as I went.
When I made it to this junction it was dark and I misread the sign. I ended up continuing straight and it wasn’t until I crossed the second bridge I thought to myself “I don’t remember crossing any bridges when I did this trail last time” and realized I should have turned right at the junction, instead of continuing to follow the Colorado Trail. This mistake cost me a mile of hiking. So, long story short, turn right here and follow the 10th Mountain Division hut signs, and if you come to any bridge, you’ve gone too far.
This put me on a 4WD road that took me to a marshy area, covered in fox prints. Here the snowmobile tracks ended and I’d be trenching the rest of the hike.
From the marshy area I followed the blue arrows to the 10th Mountain Division hut. The arrows are conveniently placed along the trail every 20 yards or so. When the trail is covered in snow and just when you aren’t sure which way to go, you find another blue marker. These were extremely helpful, as I was trenching at this point (and for the rest of the hike). There were tons of rabbit tracks in the area on the recent snow.
Just as I made it to the 10th Mountain Division Hut I came across what looked to be a recent ski trench. Even though it was earlier than I’d planned on heading west I turned left and followed the trench (I was getting tired of trenching). This trench led me to a bunch of skis standing in the snow.
I didn’t see anyone with the skis, and I knew I’d hiked too far following the trench (hopeful it turned and headed to Homestake’s ridge, which it didn’t), so I backtracked and found a low rib to hike up and follow northwest to the upper basin.
At this point I was frustrated: I was in a bad mental attitude I had to kick myself out of. Due to a recent conditions report I expected there to be a trench to treeline, and there wasn’t. I was having trouble finding any semblance of a trail, and the trenching was getting tiresome. I kept trudging along and backtracking, telling myself I’d only stop if the snow became more than I could handle (usually for me this means postholing past my waist). Also, this was my second attempt at this peak, as the last time I was here the snow was too soft to trench. I didn’t want to come back a third time if I could help it. I knew I was off the typical trail, but I also knew I was headed in the right direction, and I had the added benefit of being able to follow my tracks on my way out.
Once in the upper basin I turned left and followed a rib to the ridge.
Here’s the access point to the ridge at treeline
And a picture of the beginning of the ridge
Once on the ridge I turned right and followed it northwest to the summit. This looks like a great place to do some skiing! Here’s the overall route
This ridge was about a mile of steady elevation gain. The snow was firm but the wind was picking up. Here are some pictures of the hike to the summit
Towards the top everything was windblown and the snow became sugary. I was slipping and sliding a bit, but other than my snowshoes, no other equipment was needed.
I summited Homestake Peak at 9am (there’s a benchmark at the summit)
The wind kept picking up, bringing in the Albuquerque Low we’re expecting tonight and through the weekend. I was cold, so after leaving a summit register I hurried back down the ridge.
Check out the wind
Here’s a look down the access point to the ridge and my trek down.
The wind had blown some of my tracks in, but I was able to still follow them back to the ski trench
I took the ski trench back to the hut, and then followed my tracks back to the marshy area
Once back in the marsh, just before the 4WD road I could smell a fox (they have a strong scent too, similar to a skunks, just more mild). I looked around and saw one prancing about 100 feet away. She was a magnificent red fox, quite large and all fluffed up due to the cold, making her look even bigger. She stopped only briefly to glance my way, and then carried on. I watched as she pranced through the willows and disappeared into the trees. No pictures: I just decided to enjoy the experience, as I knew pictures wouldn’t turn out anyway from this distance. All those tracks must have been hers.
At the end of the marshy area I came to the snowmobile tracks that led me back to the junction to the trailhead
I turned left at the trail indicating Crane Park and followed the trail to the trailhead. This was actually the most difficult part of the hike, as my thighs were tired from trenching earlier, and at this point every step I took included 5 pounds of snow sticking to the bottom of each snowshoe. I trudged here slowly, using my trekking pole to knock off excess ice and snow every few feet.
I could hear the wind screaming through the trees. Yep, the storm was coming in. I made it back to the road, and followed it to my truck
I made it back to my truck at 11:45am, making this a 13.33 mile hike with 3363’ of elevation gain in 6 hours, 45 minutes. Note, as you’ll see from my topo map, I made a few wrong turns and did some backtracking. I’d still recommend this overall route however (minus the wrong turns and backtracking).