Monday, July 23, 2007

Special Edition, Backpacking Colorado- Part I


Hancock, Jamie, The Animal, Melissa, Pat, The Doctor, Creen, Me. (left to right) Our group about to embark on our journey and nearly completely assembled at the Missouri Lakes trailhead in the White River National Forest, Colorado, Day 1.

Every year for my birthday (7/20) a group of us gather for a special trip. In years passed I have hit areas in the RNMP, Moab, Southern Utah and even Alaska. July is a great month to get out and explore the backcountry. This year’s trip takes us to an area rich in not only Colorado’s mining history but also in its spectacular views, lakes, rivers, wildlife, mosquitoes, plant diversity and adventure.

One of the Fourteen High Alpine Lakes in the area.


First, let us travel back in time, to the year 1880. Perched high on the shoulder of near by Battle Mountain the small, scenic, mining town of Gilman begins to thrive. Founded by prospectors from Leadville, it is a service town where miners and prospectors can re supply food, tools and other rations transported to the area by the newly constructed railroad.

At 9000 feet above sea level the town overlooks the Eagle River canyon from 600 foot cliffs, which are an intense red with dramatic black streaks from the iron and manganese oxides in the rock. The town of Gilman was originally known as Clinton, Battle Mountain, and/or Rock Creek, but in 1886 it was renamed Gilman as a tribute to Henry M. Gilman, a representative for mining interests in Baltimore, who was found dead on a street in town from an apparent heart attack.


Near the old Cross Creek mining cabin.

Missouri Pass July 2007
gets its name by the area’s violent history. Bloody battles between war parties of Ute and Arapaho Indians in the late 1840’s were common.
The River below the small town roars as snow runoff squeezes through and cuts its way down the narrow passage. It is teaming with native trout species, like the green back cutthroat.
The area is famous for its once-prolific production of well-crystallized and aesthetic specimens of jet-black sphalerite, flattened rhombohedra,"potato chip" siderite, and spectacular specimens of lustrous pyrite with its many crystal habits and mineral associations.(FA)
However gold was the money maker in the area which led to most of the area's development. Gold production in the Area from 1890 to 1990 was 400,000 ounces. The population of Gilman had reached three hundred in 1889, when half of the town was destroyed by fire, including the Iron Mask Hotel, the schoolhouse, several residences, and the shaft house and machinery of the Bell mine.

Although the town is extinct, reminisce of this rich history is strewn throughout the region.

Entire valleys of wild flowers.

Taking time to enjoy the views, water down, eat and of coarse nap in the Colorado sunshine.

Historic Information referenced from
Minerals of the Gilman District and Eagle Mine Eagle County, Colorado
by William J. Warren, Jr., Ed Pedersen


Special Edition, Backpacking Colorado- Part II


Small Alpine Lakes and Ponds are sprinkled throughout the Holy Cross Wilderness.

The Holy Cross Wilderness was designated in 1980 and offers opportunities for hiking, camping, horseback, hunting and fishing. The wilderness encompasses around 123,409 protected acres and has long been recognized for its pristine and historic qualities. At 14,007 feet above sea level Mount of the Holy Cross which dominates the north end of the Sawatch Range is the area’s prized “fourteener”. However the surrounding country is just as magnificent with abundant wildlife, dense timber from 8,500 to 11,200 feet, wild flowers, beautiful vistas and abundant glaciations. The associated kettle lakes, Cirques, Drumlins, U shaped valleys and trout streams make this area truly diverse and adventurous for all enthusiasts.The wilderness also has over 160 miles of trails that will take you from aspen benches through steep glacial valley on to the spectacular high alpine tundra before dropping back down in the lush flower and trout stream filled valleys. The presence of so much water is largely attributable to the weather patterns that cross and often get caught in this valley, thanks to the orientation of the mountain range. The alpine lakes are of considerable size and dot the basins in abundance. Each filled with wily trout, a fly fishers heaven!

Creen catches and releases (the hard part) her first fish (a brook trout) with a fly rod and reset her line for another go. She really enjoyed learning to fly fish. Her great fishing quote from the week, about the ladies learning to fly fish. "We just like to cast."

The green back Cutthroat trout, a Colorado native! Like me.
Some fish facts (ref. CSU):
1. Cutthroats (greenback, Colorado River, Rio Grande, and the extinct yellowfin) are the only trout native to Colorado and were once widespread and abundant.
2. The greenback cutthroat trout was originally found in cold-water tributaries of the Arkansas and South Platte Rivers of eastern Colorado.
3. By the early 1900's, habitat loss, unregulated fishing pressure, and the stocking of non-native trout greatly reduced the distribution and abundance of the native cutthroat trout.
4. Recovery efforts for the federally-threatened greenback have brought it back and expanded its range so that it has been down listed from "Endangered" to "Threatened".
5. This fish was declared the State Fish of Colorado in 1994.
6. Maximum length: 12-18 inches

Old Mining Ruins in the drainage.
This machinery was probably extremely difficult to get back here. The pieces looked to be solid steal and too heavy for a single horse or mule. I'd love to know how this was possible.


A quite moment above tree line at Treasure Vault Lake.
Thunder storms in the background build up intensity.


Special Edition, Backpacking Colorado- Part III


Morning Yoga with the Ladies.

Old man Tree, just below tree-line. (I like this shot.)

Water pollutants from leftover mining parts rusting in stream beds and wetlands.

Looking out at mining ruins from the Cross Creek cabin just before dusk.

Around the camp fire, Day 3.

My “Chaco” feet on the tundra. (Elevation 12,100 ft)