Humphreys Peak – 12,633 – Arizona Highpoint

RT Length:  10.55 miles

Elevation Gain: 3649’

Last week I saw a post indicating someone had successfully summited Humphreys Peak from the summer trailhead, so I decided to give it a go.  (Humphreys Peak Trailhead / Kachina Peaks Trailhead / Snow Bowl)

I woke up at 2am, worked out for an hour on the treadmill, and then drove to Arizona, stopping along the way for a few work calls.  I’m not a big fan of the New Mexico city of Gallup:  Nothing good has ever happened to me there.  This time, as I was getting gas, a man was sitting in front of the gas station entrance cleaning a knife with a blade at least 8 inches long, swinging it around every few minutes like he was practicing martial arts moves.  Also, all of the bathrooms in the gas stations and fast food establishments in NM and AZ are closed due to covid.  So was the bathroom at the Bookman’s I stopped at in Flagstaff. I had a voucher for Bookman’s I’d received in 2016, and since I was in the area I decided to use it.  I got this very appropriate book

Then I drove to the Snow Bowl, where the trailhead is for Humphrey’s Peak.  There were a lot of skiers driving down the mountain, but I was the only one going up.  On the drive in I saw a sign that said “Skiing Open 10am-4pm, TH-SU”. 

I made it to the parking area and found a place to park.  This is the trailhead

I walked around the trailhead, and noticed the beginning part of the trail goes right under a ski lift.  I also saw this sign:

Ugh.  That was unexpected.  I’d driven all the way from Colorado only to be thwarted by a technicality.  As I was standing there, I noticed two female hikers walking towards me, directly from the ski area where it said pedestrians weren’t allowed.  They told me they hadn’t had any issues (indeed, at least 5 more hikers came down after them, and all said the same thing).  I decided to hike the following morning, early, and try to make it down before the 10am skiing session began.  Side note: these women were badass, and had a great list of mountaineering accomplishments.  We talked for a bit, and I gave them some fireside stickers.

I sat in the back of my truck and started making dinner.  A young man pulled up with a similar set-up and got out to enjoy the sunset.  He spent his time sitting in a chair enjoying a beer, alternating drinking with doing push-ups. I went over and talked with him for a bit, and we ended up doing a few whiskey shots together (both of us had various bottles in our rigs).  He was a nice young man (reminded me of my son) and this was his third time this week at the trailhead.  He hoped to summit the next day as well.  After the sunset I wished him good luck and told him I’d see him tomorrow on the trail (either up or down). 

My view tonight

I went to bed and had a peaceful night’s sleep, waking up to my alarm at 2:45am, I was on the trail at 3am.  Interestingly enough, as I was leaving a vehicle pulled up:  it looked like there was another hiker hiking with me this morning.  We ended up leap-frogging each other on the trail. The trail starts at the north end of the parking area and heads northeast, across the slop and into the trees, before zig-zagging up the west slope.

Plot twist:  When I started out at the trailhead it was dark, all except for a really big light, accompanied by a loud buzzing sound.  Turns out they groom the trails at 3am, and there was a snow groomer working this morning.  Drat!  I decided to turn off my flashlight and wait until the groomer had passed me, then darted across the field to the safety of the trail in the trees, where I turned my flashlight back on.  I’m sure this would have been comical to watch. 

There was another trailhead once I entered the trees.  Note: I wore microspikes for the entire hike, and didn’t need snowshoes.  If hiking later in the day, they would have been necessary.

Once in the trees there was a lot of snow, so I had a hard time following the trail.  There were several downed trees covering the trail, and a lot of social trails.  If you’re doing this peak in summer it will be a straightforward, class 1 trail.  If you’re doing it with snow on the ground expect some route-finding.  I switchbacked northeast to the saddle.  The saddle you’re aiming for is the one that’s directly east of you from the parking area (it’s a clear, skiable path). 

As I neared treeline the snow declined and there was no longer a trail.  I kept heading northeast to the saddle

Once at the saddle I turned left, and followed the ridge north.  (Going right will take you to Agassiz Peak) There’s a faint trail here that picks up as you go along, as well as wooden posts to guide the way.  Stay to the left while on the ridge.

There’s also a trail sign here, indicating the way

I followed the ridge north/northeast as the sun began to rise

The girl I’d been leapfrogging with took a different route up (there were several snowshoe tracks to follow), and when we hit the ridge she got out a sleeping bag and decided to watch the sunrise.  She never did go to the summit, and was gone when I made my way back down. 

I continued on, following the ridge

I made it to the summit at 6:20am.  There were a lot of windbreaks at the summit

I found a buried summit register, left it there, and took a picture with the broken summit sign

Humphrey’s Peak:

It was cold and windy, so I decided to head back.  Here are a few photos of the route down.  I (mostly) re-traced my steps.

Here’s the saddle I was aiming for

And the ridge to get there

Once at the saddle I did my best to follow my tracks back down

Taken from the saddle, the parking area is circled.  Here you can see it’s a straight shot west from the saddle, but that area was all skiable and off limits, so I did my best to switchback down the mountainside, following the summer trail.

I lost the trail several times, but was able to follow snowshoe tracks down.  If you’re blazing your own trail, you can stay in the trees and parallel the ski area by heading west, which will lead you to the parking area.

Here’s the exit route back to the parking area

I was still really early, and there wasn’t anyone on the slopes.  I was making tracks on the newly groomed snow however.

I made it back to a still empty parking lot at 9:00am, making this a 10.55 mile hike with 3649’ of elevation gain in 6 hours. I never did see that man I met in the parking lot last night.  I can only think he had more whiskey than he could handle and had a hangover.  That’s what he gets for drinking with a pro. 

Here’s a topo map of my route

“Notch Mountain” – 9665’

RT Length:  .64 miles

Elevation Gain: 359’

Second up for the day was Notch Mountain.  This was a very quick hike, and I’d recommend linking all three up together (or more).  Just for reference, I hiked Tuesday Peak, Notch Mountain, and Ormes Peak today.  From where I was parked for Tuesday Peak I drove 1.15 miles further north on Rampart Range Road.  If you’re starting from Rampart Range Road in Garden of the Gods it will be 13.15 miles total to the parking area for Notch Mountain.  As I was driving, I could see “Notch Mountain” ahead of me.

I parked at the base of the ridge and started hiking.  This is a quick and easy ridge hike, starting in the burn area

The most difficult part of this hike was navigating all of the deadfall.  I just kept heading northeast along the ridge.

This brought me to a rocky area

And then, I was suddenly at the summit. The summit is relatively large and flat.

I took a photo to prove I’d summited, and left a summit register (no marker on this peak)

The views aren’t that good here, because the trees on the summit obscure them.  The good part is there are actually trees at the summit that made it through the fires

Here’s a view of Tuesday Peak from the summit of “Notch Mountain”

I turned and headed back down the ridge.

And my truck

The entire hike probably took 20 minutes.

Here’s a picture of the route from Tuesday Peak

Now, on to the next trailhead!

Tuesday Peak – 9620’

RT Length: 1.49 miles

Elevation Gain:  323’

It’s springtime, and in the spring I either travel to state highpoints, or stay local and hit county highpoints.  They traditionally open Rampart Range Road every year on April 1, and when I heard the road was open, I decided to take advantage of a beautiful (if windy) day and hit some highpoints. This is the first of 3 El Paso County highpoints I hiked this day.

I started at the southern entrance to Rampart Range Road, near balanced rock inside Garden of the Gods.

As the sun rose, I was able to see a lot of the Waldo Canyon burn scar.  It doesn’t look like much has grown back in the 9 years since the fire.

I drove along the 2WD dirt road for 12 miles, and parked at a small parking area for trail 644.  There’s a plaque here commemorating the road

I gathered my hear and continued hiking along the road to the trailhead.  It was a short distance (less than a quarter of a mile), and in the summer, you might be able to park at the actual start.

The trailhead starts at a bend in the road, marked by broken barbed wire and hot pink surveyor’s tape.  On a topo map it says this is 4WD road 300Q.  It’s been a very, very long time since this was ever a road.  Now it looks like a teenage hangout/camping area, littered with broken glass and discarded remnants of campfire circles.

I headed northeast, following the ridge to the right

I came to a small dip, where I could clearly see the peak

Now I stayed to the left (north) side of the ridge. There were a lot of downed trees, but nothing that kept me from making it to the peak.  There was snow here, but not enough to need traction.  I did posthole a bit. I aimed for the small saddle

Once at the saddle there was some class 2 scrambling to do to make it to the summit. This is much easier than it looks.

Here’s a picture of the summit

I knew I was at the summit because there was a summit marker.  I left a summit register at the marker

And took a picture at the summit with Pikes Peak in the background

It was very windy, so I didn’t stay long, and quickly retraced my steps back to the saddle.  Here’s the overall route

And step by step

Back down the dip, where there are some very faint tire tracks that have now become social/game trails

And following the ridge southwest to the road

I then followed the road back to my truck.

This was a quick and simple hike.  Here’s a topo map of my route (I parked just before 644):

Now, on to the next trailhead!

Panorama Point – 5429’ – Nebraska Highpoint

This highpoint is a drive up, and something I did on the tail end of hiking the highest points in North Dakota and South Dakota.  I hiked Black Elk Peak in South Dakota that morning, then drove to Panorama Point in Nebraska. 

The drive was simple, until I made it to the cattle guard / gate that gains you access to the actual high point. Here’s what the gate looks like:

They have a very informative sign at the entrance.  Read it before you go in, and pay the $3 per person fee (there were no envelopes, so I just put 3 dollars into the slot). Also, in case you missed it, NO FOOT TRAFFIC. 

There were warnings of bison, but at this time of year they must have been in another area.  There was a lot of evidence they’re here regularly however, in the form of established game trails and lots of bison chips.

I passed the gate and put my truck into 4WD:  there wasn’t a lot of snow in the area, but all of it seemed to be drifting directly on the dirt road.  At this point I wasn’t sure if there were bison present or not, and I didn’t want to get stuck with no way to get back.

I drove along the road for a mile to the highpoint (circled in red).   

There isn’t much around here but open grassland and windmill farms

Here’s the ‘summit’

I got out of my truck, left a sticker in the register, and took a few pictures

Panorama Point:

It was windy and I really wanted to get back home after a lot of driving in the past 2 days, so I turned around and drove back to the gate. 

When I got there, my GPS told me to head out a different direction than I’d driven in, which wasn’t odd because I’d driven from South Dakota and was heading back to Colorado.  I was a bit nervous some of the dirt roads wouldn’t be passable, but I had plenty of gas, so I crossed my fingers and said a prayer to the GPS/cell service gods and was on my way.

As I was driving somewhere between Nebraska and Colorado, many, many miles from a paved road, I actually saw a cow give birth! I stopped my truck in the middle of the dirt road and went over to check on mama and baby. I was a little worried because the calf initially didn’t move, but mama licked him a few times and he started stirring. I congratulated mama and left them alone. So cool!!!

Mama and Calf:

What a fantastic way to end a great road trip/highpointing weekend!

Black Elk Peak – 7242’ – South Dakota Highpoint

RT Length:  7.65 miles

Elevation Gain: 1732’

The drive from North Dakota got easier as the miles went on.  It started out with lots of snow, but by the time I made it to Custer State Park the snow had ceased.  Once in the Black Hills I stopped at a Subway to get a sandwich, and a Starbucks to get my mug.  I was surprised at how many establishments in South Dakota were closed.  I’m hoping they were closed because it’s off season, and not due to Covid.  I stopped at the Ranger Station to pay the entrance fee, and was surprised to find it was $20 (that seems kind of steep for a day visit). 

I had wanted to ask if it was ok to sleep in my vehicle overnight, but there was no one at the Ranger Station.  There was an information pamphlet, and I scoured it, looking for information on camping, or if I could stay overnight and boondock.  It said curfew was 10pm-6am (strictly enforced) but other than that, no rules on sleeping in my truck.  I paid the $20, which gave me entrance to the park for 1-7 days, and drove to the Sylvan Lake picnic area.  I drove around looking for a spot, only to find the parking lot almost full.  The dirt lot was inaccessible due to mud, and there seemed to be an awful lot of people walking around.

I finally found a spot I could back into, and realized why the lot was full:  the local police were handing out food and supplies (laundry detergent) to local Lakota.  I saw them with boxed up meals, lining up to receive them and eating them in their vehicles before driving off.

Sylvan Lake appeared frozen, and I was astonished to see a family, 2 parents with young kids, walking single-file over the ice.  It’s currently spring and because it was so late in the season I was worried for their safety, but they weren’t the only ones doing this:  I saw several more parties venture out onto the ice, and all left unscathed.  They made me nervous. 

I sat in my truck and ate my sandwich and people watched as I jotted down the day’s notes in my journal.  I got out and walked around to find the start of the trailhead, and it started to snow.   Here’s a look at the trailhead entrance in the daylight

I went back to my truck and decided to read until it was time for bed.

I watched the snow, and turned on my heater for a bit as I read

I have a heavy-duty indoor heater, and it usually works so well I only keep it on for a few minutes before turning it off.  I also lit a candle because I like candles, and even learned a little something:  When the heater burns up all the oxygen the candle will go out.  Also, matches won’t light.  This reminded me a bit of a canary in a coal mine, and I found it useful information.  I turned off the heater and was able to re-light the candle about 5 minutes later, using a flashlight in the meantime.  I used the turned off heater to dry my socks (I LOVE this heater!!!)

As the sun began to set the snow picked up and the parking lot emptied.  I heard a couple of Canada geese fly in, and then honk to each other for a good half hour.  I enjoyed some whiskey and thought to myself how cool it was to be inside of this metal box, deep in the Black Hills, as it was snowing.  With the heater off I could now see my breath.

I went to bed prepared to face the frigid night, and also the hike in the morning:  I was wearing my fleece lined pants, puffy and outer jacket, mountaineering gloves, balaclava, and wool hat.  I snuggled under my 3 sleeping bags and crocheted blanket, and fell asleep.

I didn’t wake up until my alarm went off at 5:30am.  I peeked outside, and the moon was just setting over the ridge behind Sylvan Lake.  Also, there was much more snow than I’d anticipated!  I was glad I’d decided to park here overnight, because I’m not sure what the drive in would have been like this morning (but I could guess:  not fun). Funny how a 20% chance of snow can turn into 4-6 inches. 

I went to open my back window, and it wouldn’t budge.  Hmm. I must have locked it last night?  I turned the handle to unlock the window, and it still wouldn’t move.  That’s when I realized the ice and snow had frozen the window shut!  Oops!  I just needed to make sure it was indeed unlocked, and was then a little more forceful.  I pried open the window, and stepped out into several inches of fresh snow.  I actually got in from the passengers’ side door, so as not to get snow on the front seat while I got ready. I turned on the truck, blasted the heater, and had my windshield wipers clear away the snow while I put on my hiking boots and ate a few dried mangoes for breakfast.  The truck’s thermometer said it was 23 degrees outside.  Not bad:  I’d been warm all night.

When I went to bed there were still dozens of vehicles in the lot, but now, my truck was the only one.

I was waiting for the sun to rise, but as soon as it was light enough for me to see without a flashlight I hit the trail, around 6am.  But first, I used my scraper to clear off my truck, to make my exit easier later in the day.

I took my snowshoes and ice axe just in case (they weren’t needed) and headed out to find the trailhead

The trail to Elk Peak has several different names:  Elk Peak Trail, Harney Trail, and Trail #9.  They all go to the summit.

The trail was covered in snow, so I wasn’t sure if it was a trail or a 4WD road, but one thing was for sure:  it was easy to follow, even with snow.

The views were beautiful as the sun began to rise

I continued following the class 1 trail, and came across a bench

Directly across from the bench you can see the summit tower (Harney tower).   This is the 1 mile mark of the hike.

I continued on, and started seeing Lakota tobacco ties/offerings on the trees.  Tobacco ties are basically prayer ties. They are to be thought of as a physical manifestation of a prayer. Each color of cloth represents something. Within the Lakota culture, a white cloth is used for a prayer for healing, a red cloth is used for our ancestors and a yellow cloth is used for giving thanks. Blue and green cloth can also be used. 

I continued on, breaking trail

Until I came upon this sign.  From here the trail lost 250 feet of elevation, before gaining elevation again

One thing about this hike:  I loved being in the trees, but all the views were obscured.

The trail was very clearly marked, just be sure to stay on the Elk Peak Trail, Harney Trail, and Trail #9. 

I came to a small plateau with a view and more prayer offerings.  This is where the wind started picking up

Now I was headed north

Note, go LEFT at this sign, as going straight won’t take you to the summit

I rounded the west side of the peak

And then had a clear view of the tower

To get to the tower I headed northeast, going through this rock, and up the stairs.  This is where it got really icy:  the ice was over a foot thick, and slippery, similar to a metal slide covered in ice.  Microspikes and good balance are required here

This led me to some slippery steps, and the summit tower.

Just below the summit area was a pole with a lot of offerings.  It made for a great summit photo

It was really, really windy on the summit area.  I’m guessing 40-50mph winds.

I continued on, climbing up the tower stairs.  Just for reference, the true summit is here.  I scrambled there and sat on top just to say I’d summited.  (For anyone thinking the true summit is across the way, click here).

Here’s a video from the Harney Tower

More views of the summit area.  I was all over that summit, and let me tell you, the wind just kept getting worse.  

Time to head down.  I was careful on the snow/ice filled steps not to slip

Then I followed my footsteps back down

After hiking for about half a mile I was surprised to encounter another hiker!  He’d started at about 6:30 this morning, and had been following my tracks the whole way.  He said the roads were terrible, and I hoped they were plowed before I made it back.  I wished him luck and continued on my way.

From here in areas the wind had covered both my tracks and those of the other hiker, but the trail was still easy to follow

When I made it back to the trailhead there was a snowplow there, clearing the parking area.

The area around my truck was nice and clean! 

I made it to my truck at 9am, making this a 7.65 mile hike with 1732’ of elevation gain in 3 hours.  Not sure why the sign says it should take 4-6 hours to complete?  I did it in 3, while breaking trail through the snow, and spending quite a bit of time on the summit taking pictures.  Also, it’s longer than their stated 6 miles (closer to 7.5 miles round trip).  Here’s a topo map of my route

All in all, I was really pleased I’d chosen to take this road trip!  It was still really early, so I started my drive south to Nebraska, for my third highpoint of this trip.  I only hoped there wasn’t too much snow…

White Butte – 3506′ – North Dakota Highpoint

RT:  3.59 miles

Elevation Gain:  446’

I can’t remember if I’ve ever been to North Dakota.  I’m sure we went on a family road trip back when I was younger, but I don’t have any pictures or recollection of the state. 

Originally, I’d planned to have a friend go with me, but at the very last minute he bailed.  Or, rather, he never showed up.  I said goodbye to my daughters, who were still awake, playing Minecraft with friends.  They weren’t interested in going with me. 

Solo now, I left the house at 1am Friday morning, and drove to North Dakota.  One thing I noticed was how different each state was in dealing with masks and covid.  Southern Wyoming had a mask mandate, but in northern Wyoming no one seemed to care.  South Dakota had a mask mandate, but North Dakota did not.   I was a little worried at the amount of snow I encountered in Wyoming, but as I headed further north the snow on the ground lessened.  I passed through South Dakota, and when I made it to North Dakota I stopped at the state line and took a picture with the sign.

As I was driving through North Dakota I saw several pheasants, some dead along the side of the road, others flying across the road, and some in fields. 

My initial plan was to head to Starbucks first for my mug (I collect them), but as I was driving I passed the turnoff for White Butte, and turned around.  It looked like it was going to snow, and I felt it would be better to get the short hike in first.  The Starbucks was another hour away, and I didn’t want to chance missing my hiking window.  

There were signs indicating where to turn to make it to the trailhead.  The trailhead was about 5 miles down dirt roads that went through ranches.  I saw young calves with their mothers is big herds.

The trailhead had parking for 2 vehicles.  Also, the fences are electric. 

I backed my truck in, parked, and got out my gear.  It was colder than I’d anticipated, and there were snow clouds forming.  I put on my wool hat and gloves and was on my way.

The trail follows an old dirt road for about a mile to an unlocked gate.  Along the way I saw more pheasants, and a few emerging pasqueflowers.

I passed an abandoned house as well

The gate was a little tricky to get open (hint, just push it hard)

Here’s an overall view of the rest of the route

The trail is easy to follow the entire way.  There wasn’t any scrambling, but I did notice how it could be slippery if wet.  Luckily today the trail was dry. Here’s a play by play of the route:

It was very windy at the summit, as a storm was blowing in. 

Summit of White Butte – North Dakota

Here are some summit highlights:  I don’t often sign registers.  I didn’t sign this one, but I did leave a sticker.

And summit views

It was windy and cold and I had more plans for today so I didn’t stay long. I turned and headed back the way I came.

Here’s the route I took back to the trailhead

Along the dirt road I saw a HUGE pile of ants, all clustered together

And some structure that looked like if was left there by a tornado

I made it back to my truck and headed back down the dirt road.

The entire hike took me about an hour and a half.  Here’s a topo map of my route:

In the 5 miles it took me to get to the paved road it started snowing, and mist was circling the road.

I made the decision to just drive to the next trailhead and skip driving further north to the Starbucks for my mug, as it would add 2 hours to my trip.  This ended up being a great decision, as the snow really started coming down.  When I got home I could always order the mug online, which was probably cheaper than the gas it would take to get there.

Mt Pittsburg – 8197’ and PT 8220’

RT Length:  6.63 miles

Elevation Gain:  2214’


I went back and forth on whether or not to post this, but I pride myself on posting honestly and openly, and I think this information can help others.  I believe in respecting private property, and am always on the lookout for signage.  I’ve turned back on several hikes when I’ve seen a sign indicating I shouldn’t be there.  Also know I took direction from others who’ve already done this route, albeit it quite a few years ago.  It is no longer a good idea to summit these peaks this way.  It seems a lot has changed in this area in the past few years:  I encountered roads not on topo maps, so there is most likely an easier way to summit.

I drove slowly the last 2 miles to where I parked, following a large, industrial truck.  The roads were icy from the overnight storm, so I didn’t mind going slow.  I kept looking for a good place to park, and maybe it was the recent snow, but there just wasn’t one along the entire drive in.  Finally, just before reaching the quarry, I saw a place I could park.  I pulled over, backing up a few times to make a nice parking space in the snow, and looked around.  I didn’t see any ‘no parking’ or ‘no trespassing’ signs, so I sat there for 15 minutes, putting on my gear.  Here’s where I parked, just in front of an open gate, near a mailbox

As I did so, several large trucks passed me.  I assumed they were workers going to work for the day.  I waved.  I got out of my truck and proceeded up the road a few yards, then turned right and headed east up the ridge.  The entire time I was in sight of the quarry office.  I never crossed a fence or a ‘no trespassing’ or a ‘private property’ sign. 

This hike was full of bushwhacking.  There were no established trails, so I took game trails where available.  The game here didn’t seem to get taller than my waist.

From the ridge, here’s looking at the quarry office.  I would like to note I had a red bandana and was quite visible due to the fresh snow.  No one tried to tell me I wasn’t supposed to be there or follow my obvious tracks in the snow to talk with me about my intentions.  I’m sure they have bullhorns at facilities like this, right?  Surely I was within range of bullhorn communication if I was doing something wrong.  But no,  I was simply enjoying my hike, and at this time thought nothing amiss.  

Once on the ridge I followed it north, until I came to a…. road?!?!?!?

I followed this road, which I eventually found was called Henry Ride Heights.  When it crossed with Phantom Canyon View I turned left and continued following the road to the towers.  There were loud, barking dogs here.

Once at the towers the road ended, so I followed the ridge as it wound north

This ridge goes up and down and up and down.  The scrub oak is particularly unsettling, but on a positive note it was mostly dead and broke away when I hiked past. Here’s the summit of Mt Pittsburg

Here’s looking back at the route in

It doesn’t look like this summit gets a lot of hikers.  I placed a summit register and was on my way

My next goal was PT 8220.  I wasn’t sure where it was exactly from Mt Pittsburg, as the weather wasn’t cooperating.  For reference, this is the peak and my overall route

I started out by heading northeast down to the saddle. 

It should be noted the bushwhacking never got better for this entire hike.  In fact, it kept getting worse, so I’ll stop mentioning it.  I’d just like to point out if I were doing this any other time of the year I most likely would have come out with dozens of ticks.  Once at the saddle I then climbed the rib/ridge to PT 8220, making several ups and downs along the way

Here’s looking back on Mt Pittsburg

And some more pictures of the ridge hike to PT 8220

Here’s a look at the summit of PT 8220

I wasn’t sure where the exact summit was, so I walked all over, and yes, even sat on that ‘point’

I left a summit register, and turned to head west down the mountainside

I headed down, following a sort of steep gully, until it hit a ravine, and then I followed the ravine down to a road.  It took me 2.75 miles of hiking down this ravine from the summit of 8220 to make it to the road.  Here are some highlights:

I found an old structure along the way.  This truly was in the middle of nowhere:  very overgrown and not even game trails here.

I was so excited when I finally made it to the road!  I followed it south

I passed a generator and a fire extinguisherand thought that was odd?

Then I came upon tire tracks.  I was now elated, because I knew I’d soon be back to my truck

Well, elated, until I saw this:

Ugh!!!  My map told me I was to walk a road next to the Quarry, not THROUGH it!  I was probably 200 yards from my truck at this point, and by looking at my map I knew the only option I had was to continue walking along the road.  I briskly followed the side of the road, keeping my head pointed straight ahead. There weren’t any ‘no trespassing’ signs, but I did not feel comfortable. I wanted out of here right away, but I also knew my only option was to continue forward.   I felt a sigh of relief when I passed workers and they didn’t seem to care I was there.  Here’s a picture of the office (after I’d passed it).

My relief was short lived though:  About 20 yards away from my truck a man drove up from behind me and rolled down his window:

“We were looking for you earlier.  You’re not supposed to be out here without a hard hat”.

I thought that was a curious thing to say, but apologized just the same and he drove away.  Immediately afterwards another man pulled up behind me.  He was a little more upset, and told me he’d called the cops on my vehicle because he hadn’t known who it belonged to.  I was nice to him, and let him know I hadn’t intended on ending up in the middle of their operations and I just wanted out of there as fast as possible:  I’d looked for ‘private property’ and ‘no trespassing’ signs and hadn’t seen any this entire hike, including where I parked (OUTSIDE of the open gate, I might add).  It wasn’t until I made it back to the road near the quarry I began to think anything was amiss.  He said there was a sign located somewhere behind a sign (I never saw it). 

I apologized, and got a lecture on hiking alone and mountain lions (“You shouldn’t be out here alone, little lady”).  I refrained from saying anything, but I did grit my teeth on how he was lecturing me.  I got the feeling he was only doing it because I’m a woman. After all, I know of two other men who’ve taken this route, and when they passed the Quarry (described to me differently before this attempt:  I’d been under the impression the public road went NEXT to the Quarry, not through it) the men said the workers just waved them on as they hiked by.  I wanted to give him a lecture on proper signage and procedures that should have been taken BEFORE calling police, but I held my tongue.  Once again, I apologized and he let me be on my way.   

So, now I’m expecting the cops to show up at my house at any moment to talk to me about trespassing charges. 

Oh, and here’s a topo map of my route.  Also, I don’t’ recommend taking it.

PT 10940 & PT 10770

RT Length:  8.32 miles

Elevation Gain:  2186’

Since the weather hasn’t changed since I was in the area a few days ago, I decided to get in a quick hike before work.  Well, in the middle of work.  I got up super early, worked for a bit, and then drove to the trailhead.  The road in was still icy, and as I drove in the temperature gauge kept fluctuating between 0 degrees and 1 degree.  It was cold!

I was on the trail at 6:45am. The trail starts behind this locked gate.

I travelled on this road (383) for 1.15 miles to the Crags Trailhead. 

This trailhead will take you all the way to Pikes Peak.  Instead, I followed the trail for half a mile, and then left the trail and continued up the ridge.

I was met with about 4 inches of snow, which was awesome!  This meant I’d have an easy time re-tracing my steps back down.  I followed the ridge as it wound northeast

Until I came to a rocky area.  This rocky area kind of surprised me, and got more intense as I went on.  It was all class 3, but with the snow it became a challenge at times to navigate.

Here I went down the chimney, and then skirted the rock formation to the left.  This was the crux of the route.

That was the hardest move.  From here it was a simple (but still rocky) trek to the summit.

There was a little bit of rock scrambling necessary to reach the summit. 

I scrambled on over to the highest rock and sat quietly, looking down at the exposure.

And back on the way I’d hiked in

The sun had not yet risen over Pikes Peak, so it was still cold

I didn’t sit there long.  Instead, I scrambled back down, placed a summit register in the opening between the rocks below the summit, and noticed this place got a lot of bird activity

Time to head back

Here’s that chimney I climbed down.  Here’s how to climb back up

And then I followed the ridge back to the Crags Trail

Back at the Crags trailhead, I continued following the road south, past the Crags Campground (closed for the season)

I followed the road for just over half a mile until I came to a fork in the road and a locked gate to private property.

At the locked gate I turned right and headed west, across a meadow and then up the ridge

This entire hike is below treeline, so it’s difficult to gauge where you’re going.  I just followed the rib/ridge west.

I passed some wiki-ups

And came to a large rock formation, which I skirted to the north to avoid

Once past the rock formation I kept heading west towards the highest point I could see

There wasn’t much of a view

I walked all around, looking for the highest rock, and placed a summit register there

And then followed my tracks back down to the dirt road.

Once on the road it was an easy 1.75 mile walk back to my truck and the trailhead

Along the way I saw a couple snowshoeing with their two dogs, who seemed to be quite enjoying the cold.  It was now 16 degrees outside, which was a vast improvement on the 0 degrees from earlier this morning. I made it back to my truck at 11am, making this an 8.32 mile hike with 2186’ of elevation gain in 4 hours, 15 minutes. 

Since I hadn’t made my 10 mile/4000’ goal for the day I went back home and hopped on the treadmill for a bit before resuming my day.

Raspberry Mountain – 10,605

RT Length:  6.5 miles

Elevation Gain: 1579’

I arrived at the trailhead to find the roads icy but plowed all the way to the winter closure.  I was actually kind of surprised to find the gate closed, and this altered my plans just a little bit:  I’d planned to drive down the road to other peaks after this one.  With the road closed I didn’t have enough time.  I parked my truck and gathered my gear, noticing there was a light on in the vehicle next to me.  No one was inside the vehicle, and the doors were locked, so I couldn’t turn the lights off for them.  I’m guessing they were hiking Pikes Peak today, and would most likely run down their battery.  Luckily this is a popular trailhead, so they should be able to find help nearby.

It was a cold morning (once again, below 12 degrees) so I put on all my gear and set out just as it was beginning to get light.  I love hiking without a flashlight!  I walked past the gate and followed the road for .7 miles

After .7 miles I came to the Raspberry Mountain Trailhead

From here on it was a very simple hike: I just followed the bootpack.  In summer months this would be an easy to follow trail.  I had on microspikes, and didn’t need traction.  From the trailhead it was 2.5 miles of hiking north to the summit, following the Ring the Peak Trail

I passed through a small meadow

And then gained and lost some elevation as I rounded the west side of the mountain.  At the top of this small saddle there’s a trailhead of sorts.  Turn left here

As I followed the trail I could see Raspberry Mountain in the distance.  You actually summit from behind

I curved around the north side of the mountain and came to a rocky outcropping

This was class 3, but without any exposure and easy to navigate.  I just heel-toed it up this ramp

And I’d made it to the summit.  The summit had large rocks, but no exposure

There was also a nice view of the west side of Pikes Peak. This side doesn’t get much attention, I’m afraid.

There wasn’t a commit register, so I left one in an obvious place.  This is a Teller County Highpoint, so I found it odd there wasn’t a register.

My camera stopped working about now.  It froze, and I was told to replace the battery (this is what happens when it gets cold), and then when I tried to clean the lens the water instantly turned to ice.  So I started using my cell phone. Did I mention it was quite windy and cold?  Time to head back, first down the rocky area

Then re-tracing my steps back to the upper ‘trailhead’

And back to the lower trailhead

Following the dirt ‘road’ back to the gate closure

I made it back to my truck at 9:15am, with much of the day still ahead of me.  There were quite a few vehicles parked at the trailhead at this time. Today had been much easier than I’d anticipated, so I drove home and hopped on the treadmill for an hour.  Here’s a topo map of my route

Mt Sunflower – 4039, Kansas Highpoint

We live 3 hours away from this highpoint, so I’ve been saving it for a bad weather day, or a day in which I wasn’t able to hike but didn’t want to waste staying at home.  Imagine my surprise when I asked my daughters if they wanted to go with me, and they said YES!

Since my oldest was going we decided to make this a write off (we’re starting a business) and get some pictures for our facebook page.  We collected some stickers and snacks and were on our way.

The drive isn’t very pretty.  There’s not much between where I live and the highest point in Kansas except wide, open fields.  And no gas stations (this comes into play later).  I stopped at the last place to get gas, did some mental calculations and figured I’d have just enough to get there and back without seeing a gas station, and we were on our way. 

Also, we brought the cat.  Westley is quite the road tripper. He likes to look out the window, and has no problem snuggling up on various laps during the drive. He’s not fond of getting out of the vehicle though.

Finally, after almost 3 hours of driving, we made it to a 12 mile dirt road that took us to the ‘summit’.  It’s not a true summit, just the highest point, which was relatively flat.  I drove 65mph down those dirt roads, kicking up dust.  There was no one to see…

We pulled up and were the only ones at the site.  Yep, THIS is the highest point in Kansas

I came prepared with all my gear, but was able to summit in just sandals. I got Rebecca to wear a helmet, and Emily felt confident summiting without gear, while also holding the cat. 

We took a few photos just for fun, and then put one of our stickers into the mailbox (busines launch isn’t until next month).

They also have a nice little free library for anyone interested (bring a book to swap!)