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Lost Creek Wilderness (part 2)

Started: 2008-06-22 20:11:00

Submitted: 2008-06-23 22:33:20

Visibility: World-readable

I'm sitting in my tent in the middle of a thunderstorm in Lake Park, Lost Creek Wilderness, and I can't think of any place I'd rather be. (I wouldn't mind having Kiesa with me, but the solitude has been nice.)

I woke up this morning in McCurdy Park, having survived spending the night next to the massive granite formation in the middle of the meadow, within range of any large chunks of rock that might have detached themselves from the rest and come crashing to the ground. (I deemed the likelihood of that actually happening vanishingly small, much too small to justify moving my tent.) I ate breakfast, broke camp, studied the straps on my backpack, and found two straps that pulled the top of my pack closer to my shoulder straps. These were the straps that I missed before: once I pulled them tight, they pulled the pack into my back without cinching the shoulder straps so tight they pinched my shoulders. After hiking yesterday, my shoulders hurt so bad I could barely stretch my arms straight out, but this strap seemed to put everything in the right place.

I rejoined the McCurdy Park Trail and hiked up to the saddle point on the south edge of the meadow. (This saddle is unlabeled on my map, but it seems reasonable to call it McCurdy Pass.) I dropped my pack fifty meters off the trail and pulled off the top section, which included extra straps to convert it into a day pack. I headed west along the Brookside-McCurdy trail, through another saddle point and into a ghost forest around timberline with burned snags surrounded by young growth. This high, it's hard to say how long ago the forest was burned. I departed the trail near its highest point and climbed the valley between the two summits of McCurdy Mountain. I went for the 12,168-foot south-eastern summit, four feet higher than the other summit. I was pleasantly surprised to find a summit register at the top in a plastic jar. The last recorded ascent was Thursday, 19 June. I signed the register and surveyed the view. As the second-highest point in the Tarryall Mountains, I had a commanding view of Pikes Peak to the south, Mount Evans and Mount Bierstadt to the north, and the snow-studded Continental Divide across South Park to the west. I also thought I might be able to see Grays and Torreys Peaks and -- though this might be a stretch -- James Peak.

Jaeger self-portrait, McCurdy Mountain
Jaeger self-portrait, McCurdy Mountain
Ghost forest at timberline on the Brookside-McCurdy trail, Lost Creek Wilderness
Ghost forest at timberline on the Brookside-McCurdy trail, Lost Creek Wilderness

I descended the way I ascended, picked up my pack at McCurdy Pass*, and descended to the south via the Brookside-McCurdy Trail. My possibly-broken left little toe, which hadn't bothered me since the injury Friday morning, started aching in response to the pressure caused by the consistent descent. I turned east and ascended the Tarryall Mountains on the Lake Park Trail. I hit my highest point on the trip while carrying my full pack, 11,500 feet, and descended towards Lake Park. I passed some amazing valleys flanked by broad, rounded granite columns with some great camp sites, but they didn't have any water nearby and I had run out while climbing the Lake Park Trail.

[* Not an official name.]

I continued my descent into lake Park, my planned destination for the night. I dropped my pack and headed out in search of a good campsite. I found a number of good, reasonably-secluded spots with plenty of flat ground, but no nearby water. The middle of the park was one giant marsh, but I couldn't get close enough to find any actual running water. I picked up my pack and moved it to the southern edge of the park, then dropped it again to hunt down filterable water and a good campsite. I finally found water on the eastern edge of the park, where the creek draining the marsh picked up steam flowing downhill in an aspen grove. I returned to pick up my pack, which proved more easily said than done; I forgot to mark my pack as a waypoint before setting off without it, and it wasn't obvious in the two-meter willow bushes and four-meter scattered pine trees. I located a point where I was pretty sure I didn't have the pack and another point where I was pretty sure I did have it and criss-crossed the ground between the two points until I located my pack, sitting on a rock where I could walk up and strap it on without any heavy lifting.

With my pack safely on my back, I returned to my chosen campsite. I filtered water and made supper. I finished pitching my tent and cleaning up after supper while a storm rolled in; the rain started as I headed to the safety of my tent.

Camp in Lake Park, Lost Creek Wilderness
Camp in Lake Park, Lost Creek Wilderness

It amuses me that I have entries in this physical volume dated exactly a year ago, when Kiesa and I visited Washington, DC for her ALA conference.