Colorado Trail Segment 10 – Gear in Review

13620348_10210189498922088_6950105116381746369_n
Segment 10 runs along the base Mount Massive.

A little synchronicity happened in our schedules allowing Marybeth and I to embark on a short backpacking trip to tackle segment 10 of the Colorado Trail.  It was a good chance to test out our gear and have a little adventure.  We started our trek in the great little town of Leadville, where we met up and had dinner at the Tennessee Pass Cafe.  I popped into the Leadville Outdoors & Mountain Market to pick up a dehydrated meal for our trip and ended up walking out with a new air mattress and a bunch of maps.  The Market is a small but well-curated shop and the owner was very helpful and knowledgeable about her products.  I can definitely recommend stopping in if you’re in the area and need some gear.

IMG_3402
Fluffy Dog along the trail.  Most of the trail is nicely shaded in pine forest.

Segment 10 of the Colorado Trail meanders through a pine forest along the base of Mount Massive, and aptly named 14er that is the second highest mountain in Colorado.   There are two long up climbs going either direction on the trail.  We started from the Mount Massive Trailhead, hiking “backwards” from the way most people choose to do it.  The grade is not too bad on the legs and lungs (and about the same whichever direction you choose), though I think we both were a very happy when we completed the second uphill portion.  Water crossings are abundant which made this a good section to go lighter on the amount of water in our packs and I didn’t need to carry extra water for Fluffy Dog which was a welcome change from most of my hikes.  The trail winds mostly through pine forest and grants you occasional glimpses of Mount Elbert (which is right next to Mount Massive).   After 10 miles on our feet, we found a good campsite at a large clearing with views of Leadville and the surrounding hills just inside the Mount Massive Wilderness.

IMG_3436
Fluffy Dog is guarding the tent.

The lack of good rain this summer and subsequent burn ban meant we couldn’t build a campfire, so we made quick dinners from our dehydrated meals.  It would have been perfect except we were swarmed by mosquitoes for a couple of hours before the sun went down.  We took shelter from the pesky bugs in Marybeths tent until they settled down for the night.  We broke out the campstove again to toast marshmallows for ‘smores, my favorite camping treat.

IMG_3457
You can enjoy ‘smores, even if you can’t have a campfire!

While Marybeth and Fluffy Dog spent the night in her tent, I brought along my hammock and rainfly for a trial run.  In one night, I’ve become a hammock camping convert!  I spent a very comfortable night (even when it rained) with the exception of my sleeping pad shifting.  A new sleeping bag with a pad holder is now on my wishlist, along with a bug net.

IMG_3481
My morning view from my new favorite piece of gear, my hammock!

My pack weighed in at 28 pounds including 1 liter of water and all my food.  I’d like to get that pack weight down a bit (under 20 pounds if I can) when my budget allows buying lighter gear.  I have a toasty warm sleeping bag, but it weighs in at 4 pounds and takes up an extraordinary amount of pack space.  A lighter, smaller sleeping bag is first on the list!  Fluffy Dog is also going to learn to carry his own food, dog booties, some of his water and few other pup supplies.  His gear and food (not counting water) adds nearly 3 lbs to the pack so I’ll be searching for a pack for him soon!

IMG_3438
Fluffy Dog got to take it easy this trip, but soon he will be outfitted with his own pack.

I’m loving my Osprey pack (3 lbs) which is big enough to carry all my gear, but not terribly bulky.  My spur of the moment purchase of a Thermarest NeoAir sleeping pad was a welcome upgrade from my old foam pad.  I cut the foam pad down to Fluffy Dog size so he could have his own backcountry dog bed. My trusty Down Under oilskin hat, my trekking umbrella and my versatile shemya, round out my 3 favorite pieces of backpacking gear.

IMG_3567
All my gear.  Note the size of my sleeping bag!  It’s definitely time for a smaller one!

We packed up our gear the next day and had a quick 3 mile hike to the Timberline Trailhead.  It was time to get back to civilization and our jobs (so we can buy more gear!).  We’re already dreaming of our next journey!

But first, a few more pics…

Happy Trails,

Katie

 

 

 

 

All The Pretty Horses

IMG_1635
Pryor Mountain Mustangs, 2016
In a remote region of Northern Wyoming and Southern Montana, the Pyror Mountain feral horse herd roams free over vast high mountain meadows.  The Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range is one of those very special places where it feels like your soul has found home.  I first visited this area in 2003, then again in 2004.  A return visit had been on my mind for a while and I finally had the opportunity to visit my old friends again last week.
At the top of the mountain, the views of the Big Horn Canyon and surrounding public lands are stunning, but the horses are the main attraction.  The Pryor mustangs tend to be small in stature and many have primitive markings such as dorsal stripes and zebra striping on their legs.  They are accustomed to gawking humans and their inquisitive nature often leads to close encounters.
2004-09 Pryor Mountain 2 - Pryor Mountain (142)
The foals are especially curious about humans.  2004
Several local groups (along with the BLM that manages the herd) keep close track of the herd, including naming each newborn foal and keeping track of lineages and deaths.  The most famous of the horses is White Cloud, a pale palomino stallion that stands out for his unique coloration.
2003-07 Pryor Mountain 1 - Wild Horses (4)
White Cloud and his harem, 2003
On my first visit to the range, in 2003, I had the mountain top and horses to myself.  It has since become a more popular destination, but there are still plenty of opportunities for alone time with the horses.  The bulk of the human visitors only come up for the day, so if you camp out overnight, you’ll find more solitude.  There are several good locations for dispersed camping on top of the mountain.  If you’re lucky, a few of the horses will come over to check out your tent.
There are three roads that access the mountain range, Pryor Mountain Road (aka Sage Creek Road), Burnt Timber Ridge Road and Sykes Ridge Road.  I have driven all three on different trips to the area.  The Pryor Mountain Road is a (mostly) well-maintained gravel road that is passable by passenger cars, but it does get a bit bumpy over the last few miles.  Burnt Timber and Sykes Ridge are 4WD roads.  Burnt Timber is a bit easier on the suspension than Sykes.  Keep your eyes peeled on both roads for horses grazing at lower elevations.
2003-07 Pryor Mountain 1 - Wild Horses (112)
An old tractor lies at rest on Burnt Timber Ridge Road.
Sykes Ridge Road was the first real 4WD road I ever drove and it can take a toll on your vehicle.  On my first trip up Sykes in my old pick-up truck, I managed to blow out a sidewall on one of my tires, destroyed my power steering gear box and seriously damaged my alignment.  It’s not a road to travel unprepared.  It is 16 miles of very rough road and a high clearance 4WD vehicle is required.  While it doesn’t have any particularly dangerous sections, there are stair-step and rock garden obstacles along with steep, rocky ascents that will require use of 4-low and your skid plates will likely takes some hits.  This trip, my trusty Jeep made it just fine.  Whichever road you chose, take a good map.
IMG_1535
They aren’t kidding about the 4×4 recommendation!
This is a place that is better described in photos than words, so on with the show!
2003-07 Pryor Mountain 1 - Wild Horses (6)
Scratching an itch, 2003
2003-07 Pryor Mountain 1 - Wild Horses (26)
A stallion and his mare, 2003
2003-07 Pryor Mountain 1 - Wild Horses (104)
Hey friend! 2003
2003-07 Pryor Mountain 1 - Wild Horses (173)
A foal in a meadow of lupine, 2003
2003-07 Pryor Mountain 1 - Wild Horses (133)
Damage acquired on Sykes, 2003
MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA
Overlooking Montana on the Pryor Mountain Road, 2004
2004-09 Pryor Mountain 2 - Pryor Mountain (96)
Mares and foals, 2004
2004-09 Pryor Mountain 2 - Pryor Mountain (108)
Just 3 little buddies, 2004
2004-09 Pryor Mountain 2 - Pryor Mountain (174)
Nap Time, 2004
2004-09 Pryor Mountain 2 - Pryor Mountain (175)
Mustangs at a salt lick.
2004-09 Pryor Mountain 2 - Pryor Mountain (190)
Evening is settling over the range, 2004
2004-09 Pryor Mountain 2 - Pryor Mountain (215)
Foal friends, 2004
2004-09 Pryor Mountain 2 - Pryor Mountain (237)
Must be love, 2004
IMG_1550
Sunset in the lower reaches of Sykes Ridge Road, 2016
IMG_1689
Relaxing with Fluffy Dog on top of the Mountain, 2016
IMG_1697
Even the “good” parts of the road are rocky, 2016
KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA
Views of the Big Horn National Recreation Area on the way up Sykes Ridge Road, 2016
KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA
Typical coloration of these mustangs, 2016
KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA
Hello there! 2016
KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA
Views of Wyoming from the top of the range, 2016
KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA
Resting among friends, 2016
KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA
Curiousity, 2016
KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA
A very angry marmot.  He didn’t like Fluffy Dog coming near his den. 2016
KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA
A foal in evening light. 2016
KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA
Grazing in the last light of the day, 2016

For more information about the Pryor Mountain Mustangs check out:

KBRHorse.net has directions for getting there, but still take a good map, the directions are a little off.
Wild In The Pryors Nice blog from a gal that takes people on tours of the mountain.
BLM Website but, don’t rely on their maps to get there!
Happy trails!
Katie