Colorado August 2005 Trip Report
© August 2005 Adam Helman
(Click on any image for enlargement.)


This journey was a key component in my ongoing desire to reach the highest point of every county in Colorado. The initial plan was to spend an entire month highpointing on a single trip from California in order to lower the transportation costs - expenses now larger than ever due to mushrooming gasoline prices.

I split the effort into two separate trips because I realized that after one month I would be ticking peaks off a list rather than actually enjoying them. Thereby the current journey was cut to roughly three weeks duration, and with some seventeen counties contemplated as displayed on this route map.

I met John Hamann of Albuquerque, New Mexico for the first three mountains, in the San Juan Range, with Scott Casterlin present for the climb of Vermilion Peak in San Juan County.

I met Tim Worth of Fort Collins, Colorado for several of the northern Colorado mountains. The original plan was to climb just Hagues Peak of Larimer County. However a combination of circumstances, due to weather and Tim's summer availability, resulted in a full five highpoints being climbed together - and corresponding to seven Colorado counties.

Note: Colorado mountains have been well documented. The photographs of this report are limited to road travel aspects of my journey.

Trip Details

Wednesday, July 27

A summertime road trip from San Diego to southwestern Colorado necessarily travels through desert country when temperatures are intolerably hot - particularly for attempting to sleep in a camper shell. Therefore I camped at the 7,000 foot level in the Sunset Crater National Monument just north of Flagstaff, Arizona and off of route 91 as it wends past the San Francisco Mountains.

Tacoma truck
My Tacoma truck parked at
Sunset Crater National Monument.
My specific site was on a Forest Service road a few tenths of a mile south of the main loop road that takes one, over 32 miles of pavement, through both Sunset Crater monument and nearby Wuputki National Monument. I was perhaps one mile directly east of Sunset Crater itself - currently off-limits to hikers due to concerns about the resulting deterioration of crater features. The site is a good one because there is absolutely no water to be had - and thus mosquitoes are completely absent. Staying at 7,000 feet also provided me a measure of altitude acclimatization. The driving distance from my San Diego home is 510 miles, starting with I-8 clear to Gila Bend, Arizona.

Thursday, July 28

The day's highlight was visiting Four Corners National Monument. It lies immediately west of route 160, with $3 admission, and is run by Navajo Indians with plenty of jewelry and food stalls to choose from. A stranger took my photograph whilst I kneeled - one limb in each of four states. The driving distance to this southwesternmost tip of Colorado is some 725 miles from my San Diego home - a figure noted for future trips.

Four Corners
Four Corners National Monument
Upon arriving in Mancos, Colorado I headed north on dirt roads to the Sharkstooth Trailhead for climbing Hesperus Mountain the following morning.

John Hamann arrived by late afternoon - and we had a two+ hour dialogue about everything from the stupidity of current energy policy to, of course, mountains. John was surprised to learn that our elevation was 10,950 feet - high even for a Colorado trailhead.

Adam astride Four Corners
Kneeling at Four Corners
with a limb in each state.
Friday, July 29

By plan we were down the trail at 6:30 a.m. - bound for the northern slope of the east-west summit ridge of Hesperus Mountain. We elected to climb a black scree slope farther east than most would have. The resulting angulation, combined with my absence of adequate acclimatization, made for a most unenjoyable experience.

We topped out at a saddle, perhaps 11,800 feet. The route is not obvious, but generally trends east around the south side of the obvious rock butress, climbing gradually. Access to the ridge itself is via a series of three left turns to the north, with each northern segment no more than 50-100 feet in length, Class 2-3, and marked by a prominent cairn.

The ridge itself is walked for perhaps the final 600 vertical feet. Here the route is more obvious, with a use trail leading clear to the summit.

Lavender Peak appeared higher than us on the very top of Hesperus Mountain. The route over to Lavender was clearly technical.

After descent to the saddle I found my GPS unit absent. I suspected that I had left it on a rock at a rest stop prior to negotiating the scree slope. I spent perhaps 45 minutes searching in vain for the unit, wasting much energy and water in the hot sun during the effort.

Finally I decided to search my entire daypack - and, wouldn't you know - the GPS unit was sitting in a different compartment than where I normally would have placed it. I apologized to John (or at least I ought to have), and continued downslope to the West Mancos Trail and back up 200 feet to the trailhead.

My right thigh was feeling weak - the aftermath of an incompletely healed injury incurred on my last highpointing trip some three weeks previously, and believed due to inadequate potassium intake. That said, I was pleased that I could climb nearly 3,000 vertical feet, over three hours, without the thigh being an issue.

John and I caravaned to Mancos where, owing to the day's heat, we spent a good while sitting in the air conditioned comfort of a convenience store. We discussed the utter nonsense of extending Daylight Savings Time an additional four weeks. I had a cold Starbucks iced coffee with a chocolate chip / peanut butter granola bar.

We drove to the closest (and highest) campsite for Lavender Peak the following day. My vehicle was parked at the very location Edward Earl's pickup was located eleven months earlier in a previous attempt on Lavender.

A leisurely late afternoon and evening ensued, followed by bed around 9 p.m. after all became dark. I was becoming accustomed to sleeping in the new camper shell for my Tacoma truck. In contrast John had his "sleeping system" all figured out after years of practice - complete with real blankets and four pillows.

Saturday, July 30

By dark we drove in just one vehicle, mine, less than a mile to a wide section of the approach road where parking was safe, immediately prior to a nasty section I felt unsafe for my vehicle. We walked just after six a.m.

John and I climbed Lavender Peak, being surprised by the difficulties of the route on-high both at the Moss-Babcock ridge and on the final summit rock pinnacle.

From atop the highest point Hesperus Mountain appeared higher - just as had Lavender Peak appeared higher from atop Hesperus Mountain: a commonly observed optical illusion. However Lavender Peak appeared higher from Hesperus Mountain than did Hesperus Mountain appear higher from Lavender Peak. If I were a betting man I'd place better than even odds on Lavender Peak being the higher. However if somebody came with accurate leveling equipment and declared Hesperus Mountain the higher I would, although surprised, believe the result.

Until said measurement is made, anybody wishing to claim Montezuma County must climb both summits.

Details of our Lavender Peak ascent are provided in this definitive trip report.

I enjoyed a pint of ice cream from City Market on the south side of Durango, mixing-in a variety of dried fruit and granola bar pieces as well as blackstrap molasses (high in potassium) and peanut butter.

The drive from Durango to Silverton along highway 550 was most spectacular - and slow due to the winding road, with hairpin turns, and large, heavy vehicles without passing lanes. Peaks of considerable stature were everywhere. I was especially impressed by a set of jagged mountains to the east - later identified as the Windom / Eolus group.

John and I reconnoitered at the trailhead for Vermilion Peak - accessed via highway 550 and a Forest Service road located two miles from Silverton. We car-camped in the trailhead parking lot since the nearby campground was full. A weekend summer in Colorado is guaranteed to see an oversupply of campers and hikers - and this weekend, featuring immaculate weather, proved no exception. Indeed, the weather was unusually fine, with no buildup of afternoon clouds.

Sunday, July 31

John and I hiked up the trail in good time, passing the lower Ice Lake enroute to the upper Ice Lake. There we met Scott Casterlin who had camped overnight in this 12,200 foot alpine bowl.

The summit ridge was snowed-in. Normally that would not be a problem - except this snow appeared to be vertical and running along the entire length of the ridge. We decided to investigate by hiking to the base of the scree slope, at 13,000 feet, immediately underneath the Fuller-Vermilion ridge.

A rock projection appeared to breach the snow at one point. To confirm, I dropped my pack and hopped on boulders for another angle, climbing about 150 feet up and in the direction of Fuller Peak. The rills and minor features of the snow slope moved relative to the foreground rock on the summit ridge. Thereby the snow slope lay entirely behind the rock - such that the rock, in fact, did not provide a route of passage over the snow slope.

After a brief argument we decided the evidence suggested aborting the climb for another day. We walked back a few hundred yards to Ice Lake, stopping at a point where views into the approach basin and of the lower slopes of Golden Horn were both available. Why the latter? Because two (and later a third) climber were cautiously making their way up a scree slope, initially believed impossibly steep by John and I, leading eventually to the Vermilion-Golden Horn ridge and the summit of Golden Horn. As we ate our lunches, all eyes were focused on their climbing efforts - at once both impressive and absolutely crazy given our assessment of the scree's steepness.

We were humbled by their climbing achievement in light of our obvious failure.

Our descent to Scott's campsite, followed by the trail to the vehicles was uneventful. Again, my right thigh became weak for about the final hour of the hike down. It was most strange that my thigh never "acted up" on ascent - only upon descent when the stress on it was much less. The V-8 juice after every climb, upon return to my truck, was to replenish lost potassium from sweat. Was I pursuing the wrong diagnosis?

Scott, John and I had lunch in Silverton. My Reuben sandwhich was stuffed with corned beef - and I enjoyed adding blue cheese dressing from my salad because the quantity of swiss cheese was inadequate by comparison. It started raining and I parted company, driving north to Montrose for a room at the Blue Skies motel - the very same establishment where Edward and I had stayed the previous summer after climbing "the Wilsons" of Dolores and San Miguel Counties.

The peanut butter crunch pie slice, takeout from the restaurant, highlighted my evening - certainly more so than the potassium-loaded celery sticks. The Reuben had provided enough protein (and calories) that I felt no need for a main dish.

Monday, August 1

Today was supposed to be a rest day - one without any climbing. However I drove east on highway 50 and found myself with a perfectly good afternoon for Greenhorn Mountain of Pueblo County. I started the hike around 2 p.m. and was atop in all of 59 minutes. Despite the mid-afternoon hour, the day was clear enough to enjoy my snack at the very mountaintop without much concern about potential thunderstorms.

supper spread
Tailgate supper after Greenhorn Mountain.
Note the stilton cheese soup.
This was my first solo climb of the trip, and so I had brought a satellite telephone along in case of trouble. My mother was thrilled to hear me on top.

I descended a scree slope to the southwest, and then walked the bermed road back to my vehicle. Again, my right thigh started hurting on the (nearly level) road walk.

I camped at a broadening in the Forest Service road about one mile below the saddle containing the FR369/FR630 road junction, and about seven miles from pavement.

Tuesday, August 2

I awoke to a backache. My lower back seemed to "lock" into one position, with considerable coaxing needed to bend it into another. Specifically, driving is most horrible for my back, as it becomes immobilized and flexed into a bent (i.e. "hunchback") position no matter how hard I try to maintain a straight spine. I sometimes have to hang off a tree branch, or a bathroom door, or in this case my car door, in order for my back to become "stretched-out" again. Lying down also helps, especially with a pillow under the lumbar region to hyperextend the back.

I drove to Colorado Springs and, from Sears, purchased both a down pillow and a lengthy "body pillow" that would be placed under my entire torso while sleeping in the camper shell. After several experiments in different positions I find that the pillow is best used as a cushion device between my knees whilst sleeping on my side - and that the body pillow makes the camper shell nearly as comfortable to sleep in as a real bed - provided that I don't need a constricting (and hence uncomfortable) sleeping bag due to cold.

I visited a gourmet food store in the same shopping complex, purchasing stinky French cheese; Chinese wonton wraps; dried strawberries; anise lozenges; a fresh vegetable salad with olive oil, and more esoterica.

Wellington Lake
Wellington Lake and rock formations
two miles north of Stoney Pass.
I drove to Stoney Pass and found a fire ring (i.e. a campsite) at the geometrically defined saddle. This would be my starting point for a cross-country climb of Buffalo Peak, the Jefferson County highpoint, the following day. I ate a cold supper because of the rain threat: I do not want to be heating food on the tailgate when rain strikes. All that really matters are clear morning skies.

Wednesday, August 3

There is no easy way up Buffalo Peak. I elected a complete bushwhack from the northeast, starting, as noted above, from Stoney Pass. This climb was quite frankly unenjoyable - it featured deadfall for virtually the entire duration. It is quite annoying to constantly climb over fallen tree branches and full-size tree trunks, the physical effort multiplied well beyond what the net elevation gain suggests.

Details of the ascent are provided in this trip report.

I drove on Colorado 285 east to Golden and then west on I-70 to Exit 218. Here the trailhead for Pettingell Peak of Grand County lies within earshot of the freeway a mere hundred yards north.

I met Tim Worth this evening. He arrived around 6 p.m. just as I was about to open a sardine tin for part of a cold supper inside the camper shell: it was drizzling lightly. Tim was prepared for the rain with GoreTex.

In the effort to be sociable I exited the truck, and heated a large bowl of Ramen noodles in the sheltered entry to the trailhead bathroom facility. One-half the noodles were prepared as the manufacturers intended - while the second half was treated to tomato sauce, balsamic vinegar, and asiago cheese. I was quite gratified to watch as Tim enjoyed samples of both pasta varieties. Indeed, Tim said that he looked forward to my often eclectic food concoctions - but that he would stop short of having my foul French cheese!

I gave Tim a pair of earplugs, reserving a second pair for myself. Trust me - this is one trailhead you do not want to sleep at: even in the early morning hours passing trucks will disturb your slumber.

Thursday, August 4

This was a pivotal day in our plans. We awoke around 5:45 a.m. to dreary, leaden skies with a low ceiling. We agreed to cancel Pettingell Peak for the morning, and decided on a day of driving through scenic countryside - Hoosier Pass on route 9, through Park County with Alma and Fairplay; followed by driving east on route 285; a visit to the American Alpine Club Library in Golden, and closing the loop by returning west on I-70 to our present location.

no view
Tim Worth and invisible fourteeners
at Hoosier Pass on Route 9.
Hoosier Pass has a pullout with signs pointing to Quandary Peak and Mount Lincoln - both fourteeners. I took a silly picture of Tim in front of the Mount Lincoln sign, in the rain and fog, yet without any mountain to be seen - so demonstrating the inclement weather.

Alma is the highest incoporated town in North America. At 10,578 feet, this small community lies two vertical miles above sea level - besting Leadville by some 400 hundred feet or so.

We parked at a funky store, a one-time residence, now made over into a coffee and sandwich place. While Tim had a triple espresso, I enjoyed coffee with a double scoop of espresso fudge chip ice cream on the side. Chocolate rum balls from the gourmet food store were an excellent addition.

Satisfied that I had done "something" in America's highest town, we continued south to Fairplay, the Park County seat at some 9,900 feet elevation and far larger than Alma (but not Leadville). Here we visited the public library for Internet access and comprehensive weather forecasts.

The forecast was not good at all for our intended mountains in central Colorado. In contrast northwestern Colorado had fine weather on-tap. Given the hour, about 11 a.m., I suggested that we hightail it to Moffat County and attempt Black Mountain, its highpoint, that very afternoon. We could then knock-off Garfield and Rio Blanco Counties, on successive days, followed by a return to Castle Peak and Grays Peak when the local conditions improved.

This we did - arriving after five hours of driving at about 4 p.m. A passing thunderstorm suggested waiting five to ten minutes. We then walked up the short yet muddy trail to the top of Black Mountain, clearing skies proving a delight.

It had been a short hike, by western county highpointing standards, with about two hours of actual travel time. My right thigh began to annoy me about one-half way down, although not in any manner that would jeopardize the timeliness of completing the effort.

We camped a few miles down the approach road. Amidst the conversation we agreed that a bushwhack of Buffalo Peak should be considered a form of torture for political prisoners.

Friday, August 5

We stocked up on water and some food in Yampa and headed up 17 miles of Forest Service road to the higher of two dams, parking at a trailhead that provides access to Flat Top Mountain - the beautiful highpoint of Garfield County.

Our climb lasted about four hours, from about 10:20 a.m. onwards. Threatening weather suggested eating my lunch in a small recess, lower than the general plateau, and a few hundred feet lower than the very summit. My alcove had a wonderful view northeast across the valley.

Flat Top Mountain
Flat Top Mountain has over
4,000 feet of prominence.
Given our late start (since we had first to drive from Moffat County), I effectively argued that it was preferabe to do the shorter hike today since the longer hike (Rio Blanco County) is thereby reserved for a time, tomorrow, when we could start uphill at the crack of dawn. The entire aim here is to summit prior to afternoon thunderstorm activity.

I had a leisurely late afternoon at a campsite while Tim decided to drive onto a 1,000+ foot prominence conveniently located nearby.

A group of teenagers, with some adult leaders, arrived nearby. Not overly rowdy, they did manage to keep a camp fire going all night, drinking beer and toasting s'mores (my guess). To each his own.

Saturday, August 6

Tim Worth and I climbed to the unnamed hill near Orno Peak that is the highpoint of Rio Blanco County. Access is via a saddle located fifteen minutes south. On reaching it we found a large herd of sheep, tended by a rancher on horseback. The entire effort lasted five or six hours.

We caravaned south to I-70. After a giant chocolate chip cookie (Tim) and an ice cream treat (Adam), we drove route 82 southeast, eventually reaching the Aspen vicinity. Here we accessed a Forest Service road for the final drive to Castle Peak's approach and campsite for the night.

We camped at the 10,150 foot level, about 0.2 mile prior to the first stream crossing - one that upon inspection Tim felt confident he could cross at dawn the next morning.

Sunday, August 7

There was no need to damage both vehicles. Since Tim's was the older and more battered, and since he appears to have more experience in these matters, I joined him as passenger to see just how high he could take his truck up the four wheel drive approach road.

Tim got as high as 12,400 feet - right where a side "road" diverges to the abandoned Montezuma Mine. From here the entire climb would be under 2,000 vertical feet of elevation gain! I am impressed by his ability to get the vehicle so high. I would not have punished my truck in similar fashion.

The route southwest from road's end at 12,800 feet was obvious. However Tim did not like the seeming angle of the scree and snow along said route. So we struck out west, up a faint path, some 500 vertical feet to a bench. I took a GPS reading indicating that we had to travel one-third mile south over rocky terrain and with no elevation gain, in order to reach the very saddle that would have been far more efficiently accessed by simply going southwest in the first place. Conundrum, a subpeak, was immediately above us and slightly south.

On reaching the saddle we took a break and I stashed my superfluous ice axe - the remaining route was clearly snow-free.

We climbed the final thousand vertical feet and celebrated having reached the summit of two Colorado counties - Gunnison and Pitkin - and on a fourteener as well! While changing from tee-shirt to polypro sweater I was caught in the act with a summit photograph that has me naked from the waist up.

Independence Pass
Independence Pass is the highest point
on Route 82 - 12,095 feet. Note the lush,
green alpine tundra and residual winter snow.
Other climbers were heading over to Conundrum via the connecting ridge. I honestly do not consider Conundrum a separate mountain as it has only about 200 feet of prominence. There are plenty of thirteeners in the immediate vicinity of Castle Peak, rarely climbed, that are far more worthy of calling separate peaks than Conundrum.

After retrieving my ice axe we easily descended the scree slope that had initially concerned Tim.

After the climb we stopped in Aspen for snacks - including a pint of Yohoo!! chocolate drink. Despising the atmosphere's palpable haughtiness we left quickly, driving southeast on route 82 for a nice break at lofty Independence Pass.

We camped for the night reasonably near the trailhead for tomorrow's venue.

Monday, August 8

Even on a workday, Monday, the trail up Grays Peak, and nearby Torreys Peak, was crowded with hikers by mid-day. Fortunately Tim and I beat the crowd except for a few hikers that had also started early. We reached the Grays Peak summit in 2.4 hours elapsed time - so making for a mean rate of 1,250 feet / hour.

traffic jam
A traffic jam immediately west of the
Eisenhower Tunnel on Sunday afternoon
as Denver residents return home.
Grays Peak is the highest point on the Continental Divide at 14,270 feet. Noting this hydrological fact, I relieved myself down both sides of the summit ridge. For my sake, taking advantage of a unique opportunity cannot be faulted - especially when the result is absolutely harmless.

We climbed nearby Torreys Peak via the intervening saddle, reaching the top shortly thereafter. I found a lucky penny, and opened an Italian dessert, Torroni, replete with almonds, walnuts, candied orange peel, and a thick, brownie-like consistency.

I shared the treat with Tim and three teenage girls who, unlike most hikers, appeared quite prepared for the effort with glacier glasses and warm clothing. That said, one of them was so slight of build that she could have been blown off the mountain in a wind gust.

We arrived back at Tim's vehicle 5 1/2 hours after starting, and then returned to our campsite with my truck patiently sitting.

As the final joint climb we agreed upon a decent, sit-down meal together. This we did, in nearby Georgetown, at the German restaurant attached to a run-down motel. We both ordered breakfast, as cheese omelettes, despite the afternoon hour. I treated Tim; and enjoyed warm peach pie with two scoops of vanilla ice cream as dessert - my first choice, Kahlua cake, being unavailable.

Taking advantage of the venue, I simply took a room at 2 p.m. and promptly slept three hours plopped on the bed.

The Alpine Inn Motel in Georgetown
has a restaurant serving German food after
2 p.m. - and breakfast at all open hours.
I enjoyed a full evening of television - interrupted briefly to make a telephone call to home at a nearby Conoco station and enjoy a liter of diet Mountain Dew soda pop. I chose a liter, rather than the usual 20 ounces, because the empty container was then filled with water as a fourth container for my intended climb of Mount Holy Cross a few days later.

Tuesday, August 9

Day off. I explored various towns in the area, hoping to find the "Mother Lode" of something I cannot say what. Georgetown, Idaho Springs, and Central City all began life as mining communities. Nowadays they feature art stores, curio shops, and ice cream parlors for the tourist trade.

I visited the Forest Service office near Idaho Springs, alongside the Mount Evans highway approach road and immediately south of I-70. Here I obtained an Internet-based weather forecast good through Friday, as well as a trio of stuffed pets for a family member who collects them. These furry, five or six-inch birds make their characteristic sound (owl: "hoot hoot") when squeezed at the middle.

I purchased a book on high altitude baking in Idaho Springs, and visited a mineral shop. I enjoyed a pint of Rocky Road ice cream in the Safeway parking lot, air conditioning "on" in the truck cab with several mix-ins available - blackstrap molasses, dried fruit, peanut butter.

By early afternoon I was tired of this nonsense and struck out for the trailhead to the next day's venue - James Peak of Gilpin County. The large gravel parking lots noted in Dave Covill and John Mitchler's guidebook were blocked with boulders along their perimeters. Instead, there was a dirt pullout, long enough for about one dozen vehicles, on the west side of the paved approach road and immediately north of the start to the abandoned, rocky road one walks up to access the so-called Saint Mary's "glacier".

I backed into a space vacated by one hiking party, and simply waited, starting around 3 p.m., new book in-hand and lying down inside the camper shell. A passing thunderstorm cleared out the day hikers, leaving mine as the sole vehicle in the parking area by late afternoon.

It rained off-and-on the entire evening, forcing a cold supper and a miserable feeling that I would end up wasting another 24 hours of my life, as a tourist in search of appropriate activity, should the weather prove immodest at dawn.

Wednesday, August 10

Reasonably promising skies brightened my thoughts as I head up the rocky road leading to a lake and Saint Mary's permanent snowfield. I cached ice axe, and a quart of water, at 11,600 feet immediately south of a prominent rocky outcrop partway to James Peak along the high, treeless tundra plain.

A usepath made the climb of James easier than otherwise, and I was on top in 2 hours 50 minutes elapsed. After a satellite phone call to mother I left quickly since skies were darkening even by 9 a.m. I enjoyed some food at the ice axe cache, and had my summit lunch down at lakeside near several groups of hikers who came to enjoy the "glacier". I told everyone within range of my voice that the glacier is actually just another snowfield.

It was not even noon and the next day's venue was but an hour's drive away - that damned trailhead for Pettingell Peak - "damned" because it is 100 yards from a noisy and unsightly interstate highway. So I rented a motel room in Idaho Springs and enjoyed the entire afternoon and evening indoors while, predictably, it rained sporadically. A convenience store across the main street provided the microwave oven of my dreams - allowing me to heat food since the motel regulations prohibit cooking in the room.

Thursday, August 11

I did not sleep well because the Weather Channel radar had green returns throughout the region, even into the night - so indicating rainy weather at 2 and 3 a.m. I considered staying up and driving, in compete darkness, to Clark Peak of Jackson County. However I decided to not become impulsive and make a decision that would irreversibly place me on a suboptimal path, i.e. one that would see no climb of Pettingell Peak and possibly not of Mount of the Holy Cross as well.

So I fell asleep.

At 5 a.m. I saw stars. That was enough for me. After the twenty mile drive west to Exit 218 and the trailhead, I was hiking a wee bit after six.

I was unusually strong this morning. Indeed, I reached the north end of Herman Lake, at 12,000 feet, and 1,700 feet above the trailhead, in just eighty minutes time - with my usual, heavy daypack. However I did not bring ice axe or crampons: I had seen the summit ridge and eastern slope of Pettingell Peak from atop Grays and Torreys Peak - and the single, long snow slope seen just east of the ridge was in my mind readily bypassed.

I took a compass bearing and struck out for Pettingell. The scree and talus slope was arduous and unrelenting. I reached the summit ridge north of the summit - indicating that I had taken a route too far north of the optimal route - one that went over far gentler slopes of grass and talus. A brief ridge walk south of just 100 yards saw me at the highpoint of Grand County.

I walked down the grassy slope, having my food when a mere 600 feet above Herman Lake and just 0.23 GPS miles from my previous fix at the lake's northern end. The fried cherry pie, Dolly Madison I think, was enjoyed with asiago cheese, pistachos, chocolate chip cookies, and by itself. I selected cherry pie because I wished to contrast today's success with a failure to climb Lavender Peak the previous summer - at which time I also ate cherry pie on a "ridge leading to nowhere". Cherry pie is perhaps my all-time favorite fruit pie variety anyways - with blueberry pie being a strong contender.

My original plan was to take a day off prior to Mount of the Holy Cross because of the 5,600+ foot total elevation gain involved. However weather forecasts in generally agreed that Saturday would feature a front passing south, bringing rain for the entire day. I decided to climb Holy Cross on Friday - hopefully "beating to the punch" any seriously bad weather.

I treated myself to the same German restaurant, in Georgetown, where Tim and I had eaten a few days earlier. I wished to eat plenty as a type of carbohydrate loading for the next day.

inside tunnel
Westbound inside the Eisenhower Tunnel at
11,300 feet - the highest point on I-70.
Stupidity was mandatory to have taken this
photograph while driving the narrow roadway.
Sauerbraten, on the dinner menu, was not available until 2 p.m. Since it was only 1 p.m. I ordered the long-awaited Kahlua fudge cake, with two scoops of vanilla ice cream, and then patiently munched on hike leftovers until the appointed hour. The pickled cabbage and spaetzle were tastier than the beef entreé itself.

I drove west on I-70 the roughly fifty miles to Exit 171, and passed through Minturn. The eight mile Forest Service road leading to the Half Moon Trailhead should be called the "Road of a Thousand Pot Holes". It stank. Why the HELL can't the money be appropriated to REPAIR these god-damned pieces of crap?

I ate bread with asiago cheese and strawberry jam at sundown, the alarm set to 4 a.m. for a pre-dawn start to evade afternoon weather concerns.

The Half Moon Trailhead parking lot,
as with all rural Colorado, is dominated
by pickup trucks and SUVs.
Friday, August 12

The ascent of Mount Holy Cross was successful. Details are provided in this trip report.

Having returned to the trailhead at just 1:10 p.m. there was little point in staying around the area. After all, there was a 970 mile drive home to consider! By 6 p.m. I was in Fruita, just west of Grand Junction, and twenty miles from Utah. Staying in the smaller town generally brings lower rates than in a larger community.

Saturday, August 13

I had the option of driving home today - all 810 road miles. I would arrive around 8 p.m., with account of the hour gained. The evening would be spent checking mail after a fourteen hour drive. No joy! So I stopped short of the end-goal by staying in Barstow, strategically located so that a three hour drive the following morning would see me at home by lunchtime. Besides, 645 road miles in one day, from Colorado to California, is enough in any (sane) person's calendar.

The driving distance along I-70 from the Colorado-Utah border to my home is some 790 miles when paired with I-15 for the lion's share of the passage.

I have reason to believe that my truck odometer is about 1 part in 60 low. Thereby the actual distance may be 805 road miles. However it is still 790 "Adam truck miles" for my planning of future road trips, where 1 Adam truck mile = 1.015 statute miles.

Sunday, August 14

I completed my journey with the 165 final miles from Barstow to Del Mar. There was a cool, refreshing fog layer along the coast and as far inland as San Bernardino. It burned off later that afternoon.


I had attempted fourteen of seventeen counties originally planned - the difference, along the Wyoming border, to be made good next summer. By this means I was able to celebrate my mother's seventieth birthday, with both parents, on August 18.

Of the fourteen counties attempted, thirteen were successful - all but San Juan County's Vermilion Peak. I have visited forty-five of the Colorado county highpoints, with eight of the remaining nineteen counties planned for my upcoming journey in early September.

I reached county highpoint #300, James Peak of Gilpin County, on Wednesday the tenth. My current county total of 302 is not impressive compared with the several hundreds, and even thousands of counties, earned by several other highpointers. However one cannot help but be impressed by the fact that 287 of the 302 counties, as all but fifteen, lie in the thirteen western United States - a regional figure second only to Bob Packard's.

After 3,315.7 road miles in my truck, thirteen additional counties put my total county area at some 962,000 square miles. Finally, Montezuma County no longer limits my home glob radius to the southwestern tip of Colorado. Instead, the new radius is 575 miles, being limited by the southwestern corner of La Plata County, Colorado.