Monday, June 23, 2008

St. Mary’s Falls and up to Mt. Rosa

I had set the alarm for 4am as I wanted to be out the door early morning. Two reasons, first I wanted to get done before it rained and secondly I like being the first one on the trail. It’s nice to not run into anyone and you have the best chance of catching wildlife before they get scared off. The only problem with being first is you get a face full of annoying spider web. Spiders string from a tree on one side of the trail to the other. The strand of web is so fine, you don’t see as your walking, you just feel it on you face.

The alarm went off but I didn’t get out of bed until 5:20/am. Got dressed, double checked my pack and hauled ass out the door. I reached the Gold Camp Road parking lot at about 5:50/am and was on the trail by 6:00am. As I had planned, I was the first one up their and no other cars were in the parking lot yet.

When I packed last night I reviewed the map and decided to do the St. Mary’s Falls trail #624 up to Road 301 and then catch trail #672 that leads up to Mt. Rosa. By adding about 1.8/Miles to the trek, you can take the trail off of #672 that leads up to the summit of Mt. Rosa. You will be able to identify the summit trail as rocks outline a T shape intersection. I had passed it before, but this time decided to make the effort and it was definitely worth it. Then planned to finish trail #672 and catch the Pipeline Trail 668 to Seven Bridges and back to Gold Camp Road.

Trail Outlined in Red
According to my map, trails #624 and #672 are flagged as difficult. Hence part of the reason why I chose to go this way. It’s pretty much an up-hill climb and a couple of sections with multiple switch-backs up the mountain. You will definitely work up a sweat and if you don’t then “you the Man or Woman!” I stopped at the base of St. Mary’s Falls and snapped a few photos. As I continued up trail #624 I am pretty sure that I saw a large Elk. It was much larger than any of the Deer that I have come across and it addition the rack on him was much larger. That’s when I stopped and pulled out the camera and just decided to let it hang around my neck so next time I would be ready.

After passing the top of the falls, I found another small trail that lead down to the creek. It was mainly an animal trail but those are the best for exploration. Once down to the stream I found what was once a make-shift shelter that someone had built. No idea how old it was but it was pretty cool. I snapped off a few and headed back to the trail.

From trail #624, I reached Road 301 and turned right. You only need to go about 50 yards and keep looking to your left. You will see a couple different sets of rocks piled upon each other. Usually stacked about three high. Look further up from the piled rocks and you will see the trail sign. As you start up trail #672, you realize what you are in for. The first section is pretty tough and will take your breath.

After trudging up the loose gravel and larger boulders that make up the trail, you come out into an open area that flattens out. You actually have some pretty great views from this area to the west with Pikes Peak being visible and is great photo opportunity. Large dead tree stumps scatter the area, most are white/very light in color. Actually there is lots of dead tree debris up most of the trail. This section has fewer living tree’s, with some wide open space. As you follow the trail you will see to your left a formation of rocks that someone has placed. The rocks are placed in a large circle with rocks running across the north/south east and west. In the center is another smaller circle of rocks. I took two photos; you would have to look at them to get the idea. I have no idea if it was made by Indians, Hippies or some Cult, but it’s pretty slick to come across and wonder.

Shortly after the circle formation and on your left you will come to the T shape rocked outline intersection. Head off to your left and you are on your way to the Mt. Rosa summit. When you reach the top of Mt. Rosa (11,499 ft) you have a great 360% view of Colorado. I have updated the slide show on the blog and commented the pictures that I took. Lying at the top of Mt. Rosa was an 8-inch long tube and about 3-inches in diameter with a cable connected to one end and a screw off cap on the other. The cable was attached to the ground inside a pile of rocks. At first I wasn’t sure what it was, thought it might be a weather measurement tool, to collect temperature, hydrometer or barometric pressure. I had to look, so I picked it up and screwed off the cap and inside found a rolled up logbook and pen. I pulled out the rolled up paper and found the names, dates and residency of folks who had reached the summit before me. So like the others before me I put down my name, date and comment. It was pretty cool!

While at the top I rested for a few minutes, drank some water and pulled my trek poles out to make the hike back down. The gravel is loose and I try to move quick as I come down and they will help you keep your balance when you slip, and you will. Also remember to lift you feet as you are coming down. Rocks and roots stick-up and if you don’t lift your feet, the toe of your boot or shoe will catch and you are in for a header. Another reason the trek poles come in handy as they will stop you.

According to my GPS the entire hike was 15.8/Miles. Total hiking time was 6.5/hours and I had logged about 1/hour of stopped time, for breaks, photos and to catch my breath. The slowest portion was going up trails #624 and #672 as it is a fairly decent incline. The rest of the trails from that point are mainly down hill, so you can move pretty quickly and catch up on lost time.

On my way back down the summit trail to Mt. Rosa I ran into the first other hikers I had seen that morning. I think they were pissed that someone had already beaten them to the top. I shouldn’t say pissed but I am the say way that’s one of the reasons I leave so early. It appeared to be a married couple with their two dogs. I said hello and she said you must have started early this morning. I replied with yeah, I wanted to be the first one at the top.

I didn’t encounter anyone else until I caught the Seven Bridges trail on my way back to Gold Camp Road. I think some of the folks I came across were a little intimidated by me as we passed. I was moving pretty quick and came upon most of them by surprise to them. I had a 15/inch bowie knife strapped on my hip. Wearing an orange beanie with goggles, my hiking boots, hiking pants and a long sleeve spandex shirt with a full pack on.

Firstly the knife was probably a little scary to them and secondly I looked a little creepy like I had just come out of the mountains on a 15.8 mile hike. Most of the folks on the trail are out with their families and probably do two miles in and back. Not only that, I stank from all the sweat. I mean I could smell myself and I am sure as I passed folks that they caught a whiff as well.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I know this blog is more than a few years old but I still enjoyed it! I got as far as the junction area where 672 and the Mt Rosa trail intersect but could not proceed up to Mt Rosa because of deep snow and could not find the trail, had to turn back. I carry a knife too, not as big as a bowie knife but I make sure to remove it from my belt and throw it into my backpack as soon as I get to the busier trails so people don't worry about me.