Saturday, July 25, 2015

Ptarmigan Pass (Sawatch Range)

Distance: 7.8 miles round trip
Elevation: 10,662 ft - 11,765 ft
Elevation Gain: 1,142 ft (net) 1,408 ft (cum)
Date Hiked: 2 July 2015
Bathroom at Trailhead: Yes
Dogs: Off leash

Looking southwest from Ptarmigan Pass near Vail
 A hike to scenic Ptarmigan Pass (the one near Vail) is an easy add on to the Wilder Gulch Trail (view post for all the details). Wilder Gulch travels three miles up a lush, open valley, and dead ends into Forest Service Road 747. From this point it is a short 0.9 miles (~500 ft gain) up (to the left) the road to the top of the pass. The only downside is the volume of 4x4 vehicles that can sometimes mare the otherwise serene experience.

Heading up the road to the false summit
Looking up at Ptarmigan Hill from the road
Looking down on the pass from off to the right. Several 4x4's are visible
The road itself curves sharply in several places, is unsurprising very rocky and wet, and has at least one false summit. But don't let that deter you. The views are worth it.

The right side of the pass is strewn with rocks that make for a great lunch spot.
Looking back down the road towards Wilder Gulch
Once on the pass, travel to the right and lounge amongst the rocks for a vehicle free view of the Holy Cross Wilderness. You can also "pop" (0.5 miles) up to the top of Ptarmigan Hill at 12,143 ft. Unfortunately, on this trip a large, ominous cloud was building over the peak, so we did not ascend further and did not linger on the pass for too long.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Old Man's Whiskers

Old Man's Whisker (Geum triflorum pursh), also known as Praire Smoke or Long Plumed Purple Avens, grows in large colonies in moist to dry woodland areas. While mostly a prairie flower, it has been growing en masse in the high country this year (2015). It starts out as a pod that hangs downward, but when in full bloom, turns upwards emitting a thousand tentacles.


Early stage of Old Man's Whiskers
The whiskers start to appear.
Tentacles anyone?