The forest section is rather steep, then more gradual through the
willows, and becomes steep again up through the alpine zone.
Jim thought I would have had problems with his trickiest creek
crossing last week, and I can see what he meant. He couldn't see bottom
when he crossed here because the water was flowing so fast. Although it
was about as high today, it was clear:
Seeing the bottom made it less
risky and I had no problem getting across either time (up or back). I
was glad to have my trekking pole, though. It really helps with
balancing as I gingerly step, step, step on slick stones and make sure
one foot is stable before moving the other foot. Even in the early
morning when I thought the creek level would be lower, it was still
almost to my knees (even though it doesn't look that deep in the photo
I just loved the numerous creeks and little waterfalls today. Here
are a couple more, one in the cool forest and a dramatic one up high
in the colorful rocks:
I've often mentioned "drainage areas" when I talk about going up or
down through valleys between mountains. This is a good illustration of a
drainage area close to its origin at a high elevation, before the
snowmelt and raindrops really form a "creek:"
The early morning sun is glinting off the water, making
it easy to see. It is in one of several "basins" or bowls that I passed
on the way up to Rolling Mountain Pass. The photo below shows the slope
above this basin:
See why I call it a "bowl?"
Each successive basin held more snow, although the levels were lower
than only a week ago when Jim and I were up here:
There were SO MANY flowers on this trail! I just loved them and often
stopped to gaze around me. Probably half of the 102 photos I took today
were of flowers --
flowers in the foreground,
flowers in rock niches
and masses of multi-colored flowers:
It was nearly impossible to find just a single specimen:
I was in
flower heaven! I'll show more of them in a separate wildflower entry one
of these days. This is just a small sampling for your enjoyment.
On the way up to the pass I saw a post ahead, similar to the ones used for
this trail and the Colorado Trail in the upper basin. When I got closer,
it looked like just a tree stump. Silly me! When I got up to it, I saw
the number 507 carved into it -- the trail number. It really IS used as
a post. That's one of the
more interesting trail markers I've seen, with its charred top and all!
The views at and from the upper basin and pass were everything I expected and more.
It took me only about ninety minutes to reach the top, despite all my
photo stops and a nasty fall that left a two-inch long gash in my arm
(oddly, it didn't bleed -- must be some sort of puncture wound). I spent
over forty-five minutes on top inspecting the basin, where the
snowfields were noticeably smaller than a week ago, and the large snow
cornice in the saddle that I missed then.
The Mineral Creek Trail dead ends at the Colorado Trail about 300
feet below the pass. I followed the CT to the saddle and was fascinated
with the snow cornice I found:
Remember why I came up here? I wanted to see the valley on the other
side because I enjoyed the view so much last year when I did this
section of the Colorado Trail. I wasn't about to let a snow cornice stop
me -- well, not if I could either safely walk on it or around it.
Cody made me more than nervous when he walked right out in the snow
and started rolling around in it! I had no idea how big of a drop-off
was on the other side, so I made the dogs walk with me in the rocks to
the left of the cornice.
Good things, because there was at least a thirty-foot
drop down to the trail!
Note that the CT goes right through it. I saw footprints on this
side, but don't know how they reached the trail on the other side. One
set of footprints sort of traversed the snow at a gradual angle down. It
was a big drop down whether you went to either side of the snow in the
rocks or right over the top and slid down. It's difficult to show that
perspective here. Just trust me.
And here is the view from the saddle that I wanted to
You can compare these photos with the ones I took last year when I
did all of CT Segment 25 (2006 journal, July 2). I loved running down
the multiple switchbacks to the basin below but not enough to do it
again today! I haven't had to climb back
up yet. Jim did on a 30-mile out-and-back run (2006 journal, July 10)
from Molas Pass to Cascade Creek and back. He said it was a tough climb
back up with over 1,000 feet in the mile and a half below the saddle.
After spending a a while enjoying the pass and the upper basin
on the north side, I started back down to the truck.
It took less than an hour, even though I walked a lot of it. I took
more photos and tried not to fall again on the rocky areas and where the
trail was a narrow trench.
This time I appreciated last triple crossing of South Fork Mineral
Creek more than three hours earlier. I was warmer and it was a good
opportunity to get the dust and mud out of my shoes. I made my way back
that bumpy road to the camper. I'd love to do this run/hike again, but
I'll have to wait until enough time has elapsed to forget the drive!
After fixing lunch and cleaning the
dogs, myself, and my gear, I happily relaxed the rest of the day until
Jim called me at 5:30 to come get him in town. I couldn't wait to see
his photos and hear stories from his trail work day on Handies Peak.
Next entry: that's it -- Jim's trail work day on Handies Peak.
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Cody, and
© 2007 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil