33rd Colorado English Motoring Conclave

Sunday, September 18

I’ve been to the Conclave as a spectator twice. Three years ago I registered the car but the floods caused a postponement and the rescheduled date didn’t work for me. I figured I was overdue for a return trip.

"What's it say?"

“What’s it say?”

When I got back from the Laguna Seca trip I decided to get track outlines for each track I’ve driven it on. I’d put them on the hardtop, which sits in its canvas bag on a shelf all the time. I’d like to build a wall mount for it, put it on display and free up some shelf space. I haven’t figured that out yet, but I can certainly mount the roof on the car for car shows. I have all the tracks except CSP, which should be available soon. In the mean time it’s nine tracks. I can’t remember when I last had the top on, it must be at least three years.

The car is pretty filthy. I need to get all the road grime and black marks removed. I didn’t even give it a good wash; I just rinsed it off, didn’t touch the wheels. It definitely looks like a road warrior and not a show car. I figured I might have the dirtiest car in the show.

I made up a picnic lunch, took water and sunscreen, threw a chair in the boot, and headed to Oak Park. Registration started at 7:30, I figured 8:00 would be good. Arrived at the planned time. I was the second Lotus. A couple cars ahead of me I saw a mid-fifties Chevy. What’s a Chevy doing at an English car show? Then I noticed it was right hand drive and thought that was the answer. But it was misdirection: the car isn’t English after all, it’s Aussie.

2016-09-18-12-33-56sThe other times I attended there were about fifteen Lotus, a third of which were skittle colored Eliges. I think we had two Evoras as well. Today there were no Exiges, no Evoras, and I was the only Elise. There was an Elite, an M100 Elan, two or three Europas and the rest were Esprits and Caterhams. One of the Esprits was shod in Giugiaro design tires. I had no idea such things existed. I heard dozens of people say “That’s the James Bond car” but never heard one Pretty Woman reference.

2016-09-18-12-17-11_stitch_scaleWhen we moved to Colorado fifty odd years ago, my Mom and Dad and brother and I drove two cars from Ohio. One was a 1962 Hillman Minx, light blue. I don’t have any vivid memories of the car, other than crossing Nebraska in the summer in that Hillman. Air conditioning wasn’t common and neither car had it, but Dad’s car had a radio. Mom’s Hillman didn’t. My brother and I took turns in each car, so we didn’t even have each other to pester. We sold it soon after we got here. Parts were impossible to find here.

2016-09-18-12-18-22sSo, of course, I always look for a Hillman. There was one the last time I was here, but not a Minx. It stood all alone in one corner of an area for miscellaneous marques. Today there were three: two Huskys and a Minx convertible. I chatted with the owner of the Minx. He has replaced the motor with a different English make. He also told me that in 1959 Hillman was the second most imported make. Funny, then, that by the mid-sixties parts would be so hard to find. When I first approached him, he was telling another gentleman, “It’s rare, but that doesn’t make it valuable!”

Powered by Lotus

Powered by Lotus

One of the Huskys is worth mentioning. It has a bunch of medallions on the grill. When I was walking up to it, I noticed that one of them was a Lotus roundel. I wondered what that was about, as to the best of my knowledge Lotus didn’t have anything to do with Hillman. Normally it doesn’t, but this fellow powers his Husky with a Lotus motor.

My track decals were a topic of conversation. One older gentleman asked me what it said. “I don’t recognize the language.” Another guy said he was thinking of buying an Elise. I had him sit in it; he didn’t say it, but I think he was concerned he was too tall. He was maybe an inch taller than me. He had a bit of trouble getting in and out. I know I did the first time I sat in one.

It was quite the enjoyable day. The weather was fine – sunny, clear, calm, a bit on the warm side but not hot. I talked to people who were interested in the car. I made a couple circuits of the place and saw at least one of damn near every British car make I’ve ever heard of. Yup, it was a good day.


Beyond Lost, Day 2

Sunday, September 11

I was awoken from a deep sleep by the wind. A gust came down on the tent, hitting it like a drum: boom! It was 12:30. The wind certainly didn’t die down at sunset. Listening to music, waiting for the stars to appear, I found a rock someone had placed next to a tree. It made a nice seat. Leaning up against the tree resulted in a rocking motion, the tree swaying considerably in the wind. The wind had mellowed a bit by the time I climbed into the tent but now there was nothing mellow about it.

From 12:30 to 6:30 I didn’t get much sleep. The tent only drummed once more but the wind gusted and raged the rest of the night. At 6:30 I heard an odd noise. Sounded like a snort. At first I thought it was an odd noise for the tent to make in the wind. But it sure sounded like a snort. A few minutes later I heard a couple more snorts, farther away now. Elk, perhaps? I didn’t hurry and by the time I got out of the tent there were no critters in sight.

I had breakfast and took down the tent and packed everything but the bear vault into the pack. When I was done I stepped through the trees to the lake and met one of the guys in the big group. Yesterday, four or five of them went up the canyon all the way to Rowe Glacier, then summitted Mount Dunraven. Sounds like a great day to me. I told him I wanted to go as far as Scotch. He recommended taking the ramp I spotted yesterday.

While we’re talking he points to the marshy area I crossed to climb the hill. “There’s a moose.” He went off to get his long lens. I grabbed some water and started off the way I went yesterday. The moose had disappeared now, but I was heading that way so I kept on the lookout for him. Never did spot him again.

I retraced yesterdays route to the tundra slope south of Husted. The wind hadn’t died down much. At sunrise the sky was clear but as the morning progressed a wave cloud formed just to the east, putting the area in shadow.

I needed to get to the other side of the valley and it wasn’t clear to me which way to go. It’s a wet marshy area with a couple of ponds, lots of willow, lots of flowing water. I started working my way across, got in an area of long grass. Near a wildlife trail the grass was matted where a couple of elk may have bedded down.

In a particularly spongy area I had stopped and was looking for a good way to go. I saw some movement on the ground out of the corner of my eye. I wouldn’t have seen it if it had just stayed still but it took another hop away and I saw it. The frog was three or four inches long, matched the color of the muck pretty well. He was gone in a few seconds. First frog I’ve ever seen in the Park.

Ultimately I got stymied in here. I tried a couple of different routes with no luck. The clouds were getting bigger, the wind wasn’t getting better, I decided to abort. There’s obviously a way across, I just need to take another look at it. This is a pretty cool place and I have an excuse to come back again. So it goes.

I headed back toward Husted. I decided to go circumnavigate it. The southern shore of the lake is mostly tundra. The peninsula is big rock slabs. The northern shore is more talus. Standing at the outlet you have a nice view of Gibraltar, ‘Middle No Name’, and ‘Little No Name’.

I made two round trips up the slope between Husted and Lost. I passed a jawbone all four times. About eighty feet downhill and across the stream from it is an antler fragment, two points off a bigger rack. Likely the same animal.

2016-09-10-15-09-54sI was back to the camp by 9:30 and on the trail by 9:36. I immediately ran into another one of the guys from the other camp. He was off to look for Lost Falls. I’m pretty sure there’s a camp site there, but I believe it’s closed. I didn’t see any signs for the falls or the site and neither did he.

We chatted a bit as we walked. He told me they were “llama supported.” They hired an outfitter out of Estes who packed their gear in by llama and will return to fetch it tomorrow. They’re all carrying their day hiking gear instead of big backpacks. They hiked all the lakes and a few of the summits. And perhaps find Lost Falls. I wished him a good day and at that he was off, running.

A few minutes later I caught up to four more from that group. Two couples, one of each who had to work tomorrow so they’re on their way out. The first guy I met was here. I last saw him as he ran off to get his telephoto lens. He asked, “Did you see that moose move through your camp?” It was there when he got back with his lens. I was on my way up the hill by then. So this would be the second time a moose was in my camp and I didn’t see him. It was a moose that snorted outside my tent, not an elk.

We passed each other a few times as the day wore on. Next I met two young women headed to the lake. I gave them the scouting report and my map. After exiting the Park I started seeing more people. I was too early yesterday to see the day trippers, but they were in peak rush today.

Before now I haven’t given llamas much thought. There’s that sign on the campground shortcut to Thunder Lake: “No Livestock – Llamas excepted”. Llamas can carry something like eighty pounds. That means probably three llamas did a round trip on this trail Friday. Llamas are pretty low-impact pack animals. I saw absolutely no sign of the llamas except for one thing. I’ve been seeing llama shit on trails for years and never realized what it was.


Beyond Lost, Day 1

Saturday, September 10

I’m a hiker, not a backpacker. I’m working on changing that. On my Laguna Seca trip I spent five nights camping to see if I could deal with sleeping on the ground. I passed that test. Now it’s time to carry all my gear up a trail. A few weeks ago I made the rounds and borrowed a tent from John and a backpack from Jerry. I made my reservations that night. I snagged a spot at Lost Lake, 9.7 miles up the North Fork trail from the Dunraven trailhead.

I suppose I was under-prepared for the trip. I only assembled the tent once. I did one test pack of the backpack. I fiddled around with the backpack a bit but was never happy with the fit. But I get points for not forgetting to take everything I needed. When I did my first test pack (no food or water) the pack weighed in at 20.5 pounds. Final pack was 31 pounds but I tossed in the iPod and headphones before locking the car.

Denver’s forecast for the weekend was low-80’s on Saturday, upper-80’s Sunday, clear and dry. I figured it would be different at 10,700′ and was anticipating clear skies, high winds, and near freezing temps by morning. My sleeping bag is quite old and I don’t know how well it handles the cold so I made sure to have plenty of layers.

I’ve never hiked in this part of the Park. The trailhead is in the Comanche Peaks Wilderness of the Roosevelt National Forest, a few miles from Drake. Drake was more or less erased by the floods three years and a day ago. I haven’t been through here since then. The road is better than ever, billiard table smooth. The dirt road to the trailhead is very good also.

As I said, the trail starts in NFS land. The first section of the trail drops down a gully to the river. The flood damage here doesn’t seem so bad, three years later. It’s obvious how big the river was at full flow – there is nothing but rocks and sand for several feet on each side of the river. Weeds haven’t even taken over. I saw only two man-made pieces of debris. The trail was washed out in a few places and has been moved or rebuilt robustly.

After a short stroll along the riverbank the trail crosses private property – Camp Cheley. Stables, corrals, a rodeo ground. Just before returning to NFS land there are concrete bridge abutments without a bridge. Not long after leaving Camp Cheley we leave the riverbank and work our way upslope. By the time we return to the river there is no sign that any flood occurred.

Most of the hike offers nothing to look at. The trail goes through mixed forest and has no outstanding views. No views at all, really, until nearly at your destination. Although the trail climbs steadily, I was feeling pretty good that I hadn’t come across one of those four hundred foot climbs in a kilometer. I didn’t get on the trail until a bit after eight and wasn’t keeping my usual pace. I hoped to have camp set up by two and figured to picnic well before getting that far.

There’s a campsite called Halfway. I had assumed the obvious, that it’s half way from the trailhead to the lake, a little over five miles. This is incorrect. It’s not half the distance, it’s half the climb. It’s closer to six miles. So from here to the lake will be, on average, about half again as steep as we’ve been doing.

Not far past Halfway the trail returns to the stream. I found a pleasant spot for a break. I was happy to shed the backpack for an extended time. I had been taking more breaks than normal, but all quite short. It felt good to take an extended rest. As it turns out, I took my break right at the bottom of a long, steep (by pack trail standards) section. It wasn’t quite as steep as four hundred feet in a kilometer, but it was more like two kilometers than one. And the trail, although well maintained, is more like the campground shortcut to Thunder Lake than the trail to Nokoni – no shortage of roots and rocks to step over. On this stretch my legs really felt the thirty extra pounds.

I’m going to Lost Lake, but everything in the area is Lost. There’s also Lost Falls. I didn’t find Lost Falls, but I wasn’t really trying. There’s a campsite called Happily Lost. And after the steep section of trail, after the trail crosses a rock outcropping and gives us our first view, the sight of miles of forested valley below us, behind us, we arrive at Lost Meadows. Now we finally catch a glimpse of the mountains ahead. Just a glimpse – the bare hulk of Mount Dunraven.

By now I’ve been hiking five and a half hours. I’ve run in to six people. At the trailhead there were only a few cars; all still had dew on them so I was the first arrival of the morning. As I was stepping onto the trail, a truck pulling a horse trailer arrived. It was two women riders, who passed me just after Camp Cheley. I asked them how far they were going. They said they didn’t know: as far as they could go. They were happy to see the trail finally open.

I met the occupants of both the Lower Lost Lake sites on their way out. First was two guys, my age, perhaps a few years older. They told me the Upper Lost Lake sites were taken by a big group (“They had llamas. A big Coleman stove, everything but the kitchen sink”). Of the two Lower sites they felt they had the best one, #1. The next couple, French accents, had stayed at #2. They said the wind wasn’t that bad, that it had mostly died down after sunset.

When I got to the lake I went to the Upper sites to see if the big group was still there. They were, although nobody was home. Two large tents were erected on one site and the Coleman stove sat on a table in the other. Their bear canister was off the trail below the camp. Their setup struck me as a pretty good one: a bedroom and a kitchen. No sign of any llamas, though.

On my side of the lake I headed to site #1 and dropped the pack there. Then I walked back to #2 to check it out. I preferred #1 as it had a view of the lake. This was probably not the best choice. The other site was farther back in the trees; I only had a few trees between me and open water.

2016-09-10-16-28-02sLost Lake, like Lawn Lake, Pear Lake, Sandbeach Lake, and others, used to be bigger. It was dammed in 1911 and reclaimed in 1985. It’s the lowest of a string of six lakes forming the headwaters of the North Fork of the Big Thompson River. Sugarloaf Mountain is a miles long wall on the north, Icefield Pass is at the western end. A side canyon runs south, ‘Little’ No Name, ‘Middle’ No Name and Gibraltar Mountain making up the western wall. Mount Dunraven is south of Lost Lake and also forms the eastern wall of the side canyon. Up this canyon are Lake Dunraven, ‘Whiskey’ Lake, and ‘Scotch’ Lake.

I might be tempted to say Lake Louise is the side canyon, as it’s much shorter. But the canyon where Lake Dunraven sits hangs about four hundred feet above Lake Louise’s outlet stream. There are a couple of unnamed ponds where the two streams find confluence. If you continue past ‘Scotch’ you end up at the foot of Rowe Glacier, a bit over 13,000′.

I had camp set up shortly before three, nearly an hour off my estimate. No worries; that still leaves me plenty of time. The goal for the afternoon is to visit both Lake Husted and Lake Louise. The trail ends here at Lost Lake. The Foster guide says to go up the hill from the other camp but it looked easier on my side. It’s a bit marshy near the lake. The water flowing from the top of the hill makes no obvious course here; it is distributed across a wide area making the whole area spongy.

The slope is easily climbed. Near the top, continuing to follow the small stream leads to thick willow; it’s easier to pass through a narrow strip of sparse trees to the left, south. Then it’s around a rock outcropping before emerging onto gently sloping tundra. The view here is spectacular. Lake Husted is now to my right, one more hump to cross. It’s a fairly substantial lake, shaped like an open cartoon mouth: the uvula hanging from west to east. Lake Louise, which is farther up the canyon, is actually slightly downhill from here.

I spent a bit of time studying the other side of the valley, looking for the best route to Lake Dunraven. Foster suggests bushwhacking up the stream, working through thick willow. It looks to me, though, that there is a nice wide ramp a bit to the east. This will take you slightly above the lake but looks to be pretty easy. I will go that way tomorrow. I headed over to Lake Louise. I didn’t stay for long as the wind was picking up. Back at Husted I went to the end of the peninsula before retracing my footsteps back to camp.

I had dinner and listened to some music as the sun set. Here, though, it doesn’t really set. It falls behind the mountain well before sunset. We’re in shadow a long time before it gets dark. The sky is still bright and cloudless. Passing jetliners are brightly lit and look like comets. The air is so dry their contrails evaporate in a few degrees of arc.

The moon is fairly bright; no Milky Way for me tonight.

Pettingell Lake fail

Sunday, September 4

Last year, crossing back over the ridge that separates Lake Nokoni from Lake Nanita, I saw what looked to be a fairly well-defined trail crossing the ridge between Lake Nokoni and Pettingell Lake. Having successfully done the 22.2 mile round trip to Nanita and knowing that Pettingell is the same distance, it seemed like I should be able to bag Pettingell.

The weather forecast for Denver predicted a high of 91 with mostly sunny skies and only a slight chance of rain. I probably should have checked the forecast for Grand Lake. Between Granby and Grand Lake the road was wet. I might have thought it had rained in the pre-dawn hours but there was so much standing water it would probably be more accurate to say the rain had just stopped falling. But the rain had stopped, and that’s what counts.

I planned for a 7:30 start, which means leaving the house at 5:30. I was pretty much on schedule, putting boots on the trail at 7:37. Two guys started hiking while I was changing my shoes and I caught them shortly before the first campsite at Summerland. They looked to be traveling oddly light, carrying only a plastic bag containing a couple of rolls of toilet paper. I chatted briefly with them. They spent the night in camp there but managed to forget one important item, thus their early morning trip. They were visiting from Mississippi and had just spent the first of several nights in the park. I expected to see them later in the day as they said they’d be heading to Nanita.

Not long after leaving them at their camp I saw some moose tracks on the trail. I always expect to see moose in these parts but tracks are all I saw. There were these fresh tracks on the trail, still very distinct so I guessed they were put down after the rain stopped. Just moments after seeing these tracks it started raining. Just sprinkles at first, but before long I had to don my rain jacket.

It rained for two hours. It wasn’t a hard rain but enough to cause rivulets of water to run down the trail. Rain drops would hang on the brim of my hat, dance back and forth with my gait for a few steps, then fall to my feet. The rain pattered softly on my hoodie while occasional larger drops falling from the trees made louder plops.

As the morning wore on, I passed several groups of backpackers making their way out. The weather wasn’t exactly conducive to stopping and talking, so we just exchanged greetings. I did ask most of them where they were hiking from; all were in camps along the North Inlet.

It stopped raining after I passed Ptarmigan Creek. About here the trail finally starts gaining some elevation. The first six or seven miles are pretty flat, passing through some wider sections of U-shaped valley where the river meanders in big loops and the occasional pond lies near the trail. After Ptarmigan Creek the trail starts working its way up the side of the valley.

I arrived at the trail junction as quickly as I made it last year. I make a right turn to head to Nokoni whereas most traffic goes on the trail to the left, towards Flattop and Bear Lake. One of these days I’ll have to arrange logistics such that I can hike from Bear Lake to Grand Lake. It’s well over twenty miles, but I no longer have any doubt I’m capable of it.

The roughly two and a half miles of trail from North Inlet Falls to Lake Nokoni is quite the feat of trail making. Last year I didn’t pay particular attention to the trail itself. I took in the views and was always concerned with my progress. More relaxed this time, I couldn’t help but notice how the trail facilitates quick travel.

This is a pack trail, so it is constructed according to whatever codes apply – minimum width, maximum grade, and so on. But the thing that stands out on this section is the absolute absence roots, rocks, and stairs that interfere with your gait. And although I’ve seen many pack trails that have sections that climb four hundred feet in a kilometer, this trail has no steep parts.

But what amazes me about this trail is that it does all this while traversing some incredibly steep terrain. In the mile below Lake Nokoni there are several sections where the trail is literally carved out of the rock. Words and pictures don’t do it justice. These two and a half miles are perhaps the easiest two and a half miles of hiking in the entire park. That, in conjunction with the relative lack of incline on the first six or seven miles make this ten miles of trail easier than many trails half the distance.

I had no sooner stood on the rock shelf along the east side of Lake Nokoni than I heard somebody coming up the trail behind me. It was a solo hiker, a trail runner, and the only person I encountered all day who was older than me. He started where I did, at about eight. His pace was only a couple of minutes per mile faster than mine which was quite the ego boost for me: I’d covered the ten miles in 3:47, or about 2.6 miles per hour.

Now I confess that I forgot to bring a map. I wasn’t concerned, though, because as I said, I saw the trail last year. All I needed to do was find the trail and I’d be on my way. I figured I couldn’t miss it if I just started working my way up the slope. So that’s what I did. The slop turned out to be a bit steeper than I anticipated. I did eventually find a trail of sorts. But it’s loose gravel and I wasn’t happy using it. My footing was much better without the trail. And it’s not really a trail – it fades into nothingness on both ends.

Without a map I was expecting to be able to see the lake when I topped the ridge. So I was a bit disappointed that my target wasn’t in sight. I decided that it must be farther to my left and that I’d need to cross a talus slope. By now it was noon, which is my “bingo” time. I want to be at my destination, or in sight of my destination, by noon. No lake in sight, so I pondered my options.

I could continue, expecting to arrive at the lake within another half hour. That’s not so bad, but it puts my return to the car an hour behind schedule. The rain had stopped, but the sky was still threatening. The only blue sky I could see was a thin ribbon along the divide. The “mostly sunny” forecast looked to be true, if you were east of the divide. Here, it looked like it might rain again. Finally, I’d managed to keep my feet mostly dry until I headed off trail. Once I was walking through grass my pants were wet below the knee and my feet were thoroughly wet. And today I wore my hiking shoes, not the boots. With the boots my feet probably would have stayed dry. And I’d certainly be happier in boots when crossing this talus field. (New rule: wear the boots if the hike goes off trail.)

So I decided to turn around.

You may have noticed that the panoramas I’ve been posting to the blog are sized quite small. They certainly lose most of their impact when they’re tiny. I’m playing around with a couple of options to improve the experience. For this entry I’ve uploaded the panos to Photosynth. First, press the “Click to View” button. You may have to activate Silverlight. Then, for the full effect, press the little tool on the right (expand/contract viewer) to make it full screen. Then you can pan and zoom all you want.

No big deal. I can get to Pettingell if I decide I like camping. Or, if I hit the trail at 7:00 instead of 7:40. And wearing boots and carrying a map. (It looks like I didn’t need to cross the talus field after all. That would have been the hard way.)

I cautiously worked my way down the slope back to Nokoni, where I selected a large flat boulder to sit on and eat my lunch. By now the clouds had broken up a little bit, providing alternating sunshine and shadow. I took off my shoes and socks, wrung out the socks, and set them on the rock to dry. But the sunshine was fleeting and a breeze kicked up and my socks never had a chance to dry out. I wasn’t looking forward to hiking ten miles with wet feet.

The weather did clear up quite a bit. Back in the valley, once I got below the lake, I was in sunshine again. The clouds were just hanging around the peaks. About half way back to North Inlet Falls I was finally able to take off my rain jacket for the first time in five hours.

Upper North Inlet valley

Upper North Inlet valley

On the way out I took a couple of short breaks. The Upper North Inlet valley is one of the remotest areas in the park and the steep terrain below Nokoni means the view is often unobstructed by trees. I paused several times to take in this view. I also took a short break at Big Pool to eat some fruit. I was back to the car shortly after five. I was happy to put on dry shoes and socks and surprised that the wet-footed hike out wasn’t the least bit uncomfortable.


Up Down
Trailhead 07:37 AM 05:11 PM
Cascade Falls 08:40 AM 04:02 PM
Big Pool 09:09 AM 02:41 PM
Ptarmigan Creek 09:51 AM 02:20 PM
Lake Nokoni 11:24 AM 01:01 PM

Shelf Lake, Solitude Lake

Saturday, July 27

I killed Victor.

We hiked to Shelf Lake and Solitude Lake. I don’t know why I have so much trouble finding where we leave the Black Lake trail. When I hiked to Blue Lake this spring I looked for the spot and missed it. I missed it again this time. We went a bit too far up the trail. We headed across a marshy meadow and made an easy crossing of Glacier Creek and headed upslope.

I heard water to our right and knew we needed to be on the other side of the stream so we worked our way over, passing through some nasty deadfall at one point. When I saw the stream, I also saw the trail and knew we were finally in the right place. I don’t think Victor was much of a fan of our little bushwhacking expedition.

We had just started a kilometer section of trail that climbs eight hundred feet. And it’s not really a trail and there are a few places where you need to use your hands. Earlier in the day Victor had joked about not wanting to do the Bataan Death March and here I am leading him off-trail and then up just about the most grueling kilometer of hiking I could have picked.

Here we ran into some other hikers. Two young guys came up behind us and passed us like we were standing still. We may have been standing still. Closer to the top we chatted with a couple coming down. They’d been up there since Thursday, said they’d had a couple cold nights.

2016-08-27 12.08.36_stitch_crop_scale

Shelf Lake

Above the trees it was quite blustery. The sun was shining brightly but it was cool, and the wind was cold. We had lunch at Solitude, trying to take shelter on the lee side of a boulder along the water’s edge. We needed a bigger boulder.

Even though I didn’t expect we’d want to sit there very long, I attempted to set up the GoPro for a time lapse. There wasn’t much cloud action but you never know how things will turn out. In this case, not at all. I couldn’t get the camera to work in multi-shot mode. It kept emitting a series of beeps, showing a message that said “camera busy.” So no time lapse.

2016-08-27 12.39.23_stitch_crop_scaled

Solitude Lake

By the time we got back to the trailhead, Victor could hardly walk. He may never want to hike with me again, but at least he had a memorable day 🙂


Saturday, August 20

I was the beneficiary of Scott’s misfortune. He had registered and paid for the track day with CECA at the Colorado State Patrol training facility. But his car was still in the shop. The original plan was I’d show up for a while and he could give me a ride. Instead, I ran in his place and I gave him a ride.

This was my third time here, the other two were back in 2012 and 2013. Back then the dirt road leading to the facility was heavily rutted and a challenge to navigate. We had to crawl up, often switching from one side of the road to the other to avoid bottoming out. It was a pleasant surprise to see that it has been substantially improved. It’s hardly the same road. This road will never get ruts like it used to.

There was a nice turnout. The event was limited to forty cars. I had heard that with a week to go there were only eleven entrants. I didn’t count but would guess there were twenty five or thirty cars. I could be over estimating, though. CECA allows second drivers for free, so several cars went out in more than one group. In any event, CECA is back to break-even for the season

Nissan Skyline GT-R

Nissan Skyline GT-R

It was an interesting mix of cars. There was another Elise, Mark, who’s had his pretty blue car for only a few months. A Caterham made up the rest of the Lotus contingent. There was quite a group of 1960’s cars. CECA days always have a Hertz GT 350. There was also a nice orange Mustang fastback, a green Firebird, a white Falcon (1964, maybe?), and a red Corvair that smoked like he was spraying for mosquitoes. There was a later Mustang, a race car, but pretty beat up, and a recent GT 350. A few Miatas, a few very expensive 911’s, two silver Scion FR-S’s.There must have been a Corvette, certainly, but… perhaps not.

Two cars in particular attracted my attention. I couldn’t help but notice a Nissan Skyline GT-R, right hand drive. Not a flashy car, grey inside and out, but unmistakable. It has something I’ve never seen on a coupe or sedan: a wiper for the back window.

The other was a recent Mustang. Metallic blue, with gold stripes, a GT-500 Super Snake. He just had it dyno’d – seven hundred ninety something horsepower at the flywheel. He thinks it’s capable of 180mph and says that to get it to 200mph it would cost an additional $20,000. He was running in the green group and we were never on the track together.

Mustang GT 500 Super Snake

Mustang GT 500 Super Snake

I have no data from my earlier visits. I may have had a lap timer on my old phone, but if I did the data is long gone. Laps are counter-clockwise and cover about 1.4 miles. Depending on how you count it’s either eight turns or three turns and a chicane. A lot of the guys say it’s flat, but that’s not true. There are two big humps that make some passengers nauseous. And the entry of one turn has enough downhill grade to make late braking more challenging. One thing I like about it is that there are no long straights: it’s not a horsepower track. That said, I manage to hit 100mph twice each lap (well, most laps) and average 70, which is a higher average speed than I manage at HPR.



The weather couldn’t have been much better. It was cool in the morning, clear and calm. It stayed clear, with the usual brilliant blue Colorado sky, but never got hot. In the morning, oversteer was a common complaint. Everybody expected it to get better as the track got some heat into it, but my car felt loose all day.

Scott seemed reluctant to take a ride. He said he didn’t want to slow me down with the additional weight of a passenger. But I like giving rides. I told him I don’t really notice much change in the car, and doubt that my times are significantly slower. We speculated that it might be two seconds a lap here. It turned out to be more like a half second. I was able to do a 1:13.6 in the second session and 1:13.4 in the fourth. Most days my times improve each session so I might have been able to do a 1:13.5 in the third. With Scott as a passenger, I managed six laps in the 1:14’s with a best of 1:14.1.

When Scott got out of the car he complained of a bit of nausea. I hope it was the humps and not my driving. I missed a lot of apexes and took some funny lines. And made my biggest mistake of the day: braking too late on the downhill section. I couldn’t get the car around the corner and put four wheels off. I wasn’t black flagged but should have self-reported. I didn’t. I had the car straight and under control, down to 25mph.

The fourth, final, session was open track – all groups could run. But a number of people had had enough by then. There weren’t many cars on the track, even with whatever green and blue drivers were out. I managed six consecutive laps without traffic. Scott took a few laps in Mark’s car; he exited the track just as I was catching him. Then Mark drove and did the same thing. I was hoping to get his car on camera for a few turns but so it goes.

After the last session I had a nice chat with Bill and Heike. Bill had an interesting proposition. “The track,” he said, “isn’t really a track. We use it like a track but it’s really an endless two-lane highway.” He’s correct, of course. It’s built like a road. It has a crown like a road, it is striped like a road. The Troopers use it as a road. Bill suggests “Stay in your lane and see how fast you can do a lap.” Next time I come here I’ll have to give it a shot.

The video is two laps plus my off. The map gauge worked this time. I have no idea why it works sometimes and not others.

Cony Lake

Sunday, August 14

Cony Lake sits on a bench 11,512′ above sea level, surrounded by Mount Copeland, Ogalalla Peak, and Elk Tooth. It also sits on the southern boundary of RMNP. To get there, you must first get to Pear Lake, which is six or seven miles from the trailhead (depending on where you start). At Pear Lake, follow the trail by the hitchrack. This trail passes a small pond where it crosses the park boundary.

Lower and Middle Hutcheson Lakes are in Roosevelt National Forest. The faint trail leads to the lower lake before heading uphill on the northern bank of Cony Creek. The trail gets fainter and eventually disappears. Route finding from here to Upper Hutcheson can be difficult over terrain of rock benches, grassy ramps, and bands of dense willow and krummholz.

This is the fourth year in a row I’ve set off for Cony Lake. It doesn’t bother me to fall short when hiking in the Park. I’ve almost never had a bad day hiking. Each of the other times I tried Cony were memorable. The first time I had to stop at Pear Lake but got to watch clouds roll in just feet off the surface of the water. The second time I saw a bear sitting on the trail in front of me. Last year I watched an eagle catch a fish.

I started from the Allenspark trailhead rather than the Finch Lake trailhead. It saves a little distance and elevation. I wanted to drive the Chrysler because the parking lot is not Lotus friendly but it was in the shop. It was drive the Lotus or stay home, and I wasn’t about to stay home. There are two entrances to the parking lot at the trailhead. The first one features several large craters but the second is not so bad. I was able to get in and out without scraping.

The weather was ideal. Clear, cloudless sky, a brilliant blue all morning and only a slight breeze, even above treeline.

Over the last few days I’ve spent some time visualizing the hike, mainly the approach to Upper Hutcheson. I saw myself working my way uphill without getting into the willows. I could see the ramp you descend to cross the creek right below the lake. Last year I made it as far as the inlet to Upper Hutcheson and was stymied there. I had stayed along the shore and intended to ascend alongside the creek. It’s not a good route. This time I’d start climbing almost as soon as I got on the other side of the lake, traverse the slope to above the obstructions.

Just as I saw it in my mind, I made my way up without getting stuck in the willows. I crossed the stream right at the outlet of Upper Hutcheson. This is easy to do this time of year when the water level is down somewhat. It’s probably not a good route in July. There’s a nice grassy ramp right down to the water, a few stepping stones and you’re across. I made it the rest of the way without hitting any willow. Instead, it was a lot of rock hopping. Perhaps an excessive amount of rock hopping; I was certainly tired of it by the time I was done with it.


My approximate route (drawn on a 2015 photo)

I spent an hour at the lake. I was happy with my pace all the way up. I put boots on the trail at 7:30 and dropped my pack on a rock at the lake at 12:15. It took me fifteen minutes longer going back down, but that includes a stop to refill the water bottle. I didn’t get back to the car until after six, the latest finish I can recall.

The lake is bigger than I was expecting. I sat on a giant rectangular boulder the size of a bedroom, got the GoPro running and tucked into my lunch. There were no squirrels in this boulder field, and there were no birds. A few mosquitoes buzzed me and a few flies were somehow attracted to the camera. It was quite calm, which is unusual along the divide. Some clouds were attempting to cross but were never more than incipient. They got more energetic shortly after I left Cony, some white puffs drifted over Elk Tooth, diffusing the shadows and taking the edge of the bright sunshine.

Cony Lake

Coming down from below Upper Hutcheson I ended up in a maze of krummholz and willow. I found myself in a few of the same spots I was in last year, or the year before. I went one way, back tracked, tried another. And another, and another. Eventually I dove through a particularly nasty clump of krummholz and from then on was in the clear, but I’m disappointed I wasn’t able to retrace my steps.

I’m wearing my hiking shoes, not the boots. On the way up I hit my right ankle on a rock, tore a flap of skin. This was situated right above the shoe and when I little toe was uphill of my big toe, that flap rubbed on the shoe. About half my steps when rock hopping had my foot situated that way. By the time I was back on the trail my ankle had gone from irritating to annoyingly painful.

I was surprised at how few people I encountered. On the way up, I exchanged hellos with a group of three and a group of five. I had a brief chat with a fellow from Luxembourg. He hiked Mt. Idea a couple weeks ago, then camped in the Grand Tetons. Then it was the Badlands and a stop in Nebraska before returning to RMNP. His plan today was to lunch in Estes, then drive to the Great Sand Dunes. A pretty cool trip. I met him just below Pear a few minutes before ten.

I didn’t see another person until I was nearly back to Finch, almost six and a half hours later. I’m usually the one asking people where they’re headed, or where they’ve been. Today, though, I was the one being surveyed. After passing Finch Lake, I saw only six people. One young guy coming the other way asked “Finch or Pear?” I told him “Cony.” He hadn’t even slowed down to ask the question, but my answer stopped him in his tracks. “Way to go, buddy!” It was deja vu just after the big trail junction. A guy passing me asked “Finch or Pear?” “Cony.” “Wow”.

It’s been my habit to say something along the lines of “I felt great when I got back to the car.” That would be a fib today. I was pretty fatigued and the ankle didn’t help. It’s not the longest hike I’ve done, or the biggest climb. But I’d say it’s one of the most difficult. It’s a long hike to Pear, then miles of no trail and challenging route finding.


Up Down
Trailhead 07:30 AM 06:10 PM
Trail Jct 08:10 AM 05:26 PM
Finch Lake 09:05 AM 04:26 PM
Pear Lake 10:05 AM 03:20 PM
Lower Hutcheson 10:40 AM 02:50 PM
Middle Hutcheson 11:00 AM 02:35 PM
Upper Hutcheson 11:25 AM 02:10 PM
Cony Lake 12:15 PM 01:10 PM