[cdt-l] Never Summer - RMNP Loop Report - Part 1

Karl L. Luce k_luce at comcast.net
Wed Sep 19 17:17:19 CDT 2007


This is a route dreamed up 7 years ago when I became inspired to hike the
CDT.  Both this and the Creede-Silverton Loop were designed for 2 reasons:

 

a)       There are sections of the official and un-official CDT that
thru-hikers skip.

b)      I needed some CDT practice sections before I do the big one.

 

No CDT thru-hiker that I know of ever does the official loop through RMNP.
By the same token, the same goes for Jim Wolf's Never Summers route.  One
can combine both for a tune-up for the CDT and minimize guilt when passing
through Grand Lake for real.  I used the newer TI 200 map (bought right
before the hike) with Jim Wolf's Guide to the CDT vol 4: Northern CO (1st
ed?)

 

Day 1: Tuesday, September 11

 

Took a while to leave Denver, eat breakfast, get the RMNP site reservations
at Kawuneeche Visitor Center (KVC).  By the time it was all said and done,
it was 11 AM when I walked out of the Tonahutu / North Inlet TH.  The valley
crossing was slow going.  I decided to take the stock trail twice, not
recommended.  Stick to the road between KVC and the CO river bridge.  Keep
the map handy as you navigate up road 491.

 

Somewhere in this area, a female moose was parked on the road.  She didn't
want to budge as I approach so I wondered if there was a calf somewhere but
where, I cannot see.  Okay, go around on the upslope.  Which is when I
realized why the cow is not moving.  There was a bull moose directly ahead
of me uphill.  Time to retreat and let the lovers pass.  Bull made wonderful
grunting sounds as he crossed the road.

 

About halfway up the roads, you will reach a set of road jctns where 491
meets the well-graded Kawucheene Road 120 as well as the rougher steeper
North Supply 4x4 road.  (The older map shows it in better detail while the
newer map seems to delete some of it for simplicity.)  Take it for approx 2
miles versus the 3.5 miles (so says the sign) on the smoother road.  Tough
first day with 8 days of supplies.  The weather held up fantastic without
the usual afternoon congregations.  Was happy and pooped to make it to Bowen
Lake at 5:20.

 

Day 2: Wednesday, September 12

 

Instead of the highline route (which I had dayhiked 3 weeks earlier), I went
the Bowen Gulch short-cut to Bowen Pass.  From Bowen Lake, I am convinced
this saves about an hour and a lot of energy.  That energy was reserved for
Farview which, for the second time this summer, kicked my butt.  The summit
view is definitely a highlight and was able to scout out part of the route
to Red Dog Pass.  This time down to Parika Lake, I was not being chased by
hail and thunder.  2nd day in a row with nary a cloud to comment on.  Hard
to say where the trail to Baker Pass and from Jack Creek meet; I did not
notice it.  The only real trouble I had this day was finding my way from by
the "perennial creek . just below a flat meadow at 8.8" until I found the
cairn at the lower edge of the meadow, hidden by a small spruce.  At that
point, the half-mile scree/talus walkway did me in and I stopped for the
night at the pond wedged between Mount Cumulus and Howard Mtn.  A sublime
campsite!

 

Day 3: Thursday, September 13

 

By this time, the hiker should be comfortable navigating across open meadows
with no tread and sparse cairns.  The route drops further below the divide
in order to get around nasty talus tongues where the tread magically
reappears to get through whatever cannot be avoided.  At the base of the Red
Dog Pass slope, one looks up from the last cairn and can trace out the tread
running diagonally across to the left.  I was one-third up from the cairn to
the end of the path when I looked over to my left and saw . a bear with his
body pointed down-slope stopped to look at me.  About 200 yards away, maybe
more.  I felt no threat, only curiosity.  After a minute lookover, I decided
he and I were going in different directions and resumed upward progress.  He
bolted down the slope after that.

 

The astute hiker should also notice how different the route is from the TI
map.  (A good advanced read of Wolf's route reveals this.)  But you would
think by the latest edition they would get it right.  Right?  O well.  As an
encore to the bear, on the other side of Red Dog Pass were 3 bull moose
congregating at the pond at 12.2.  Another place the map could use
correction is the Silver Creek TH, which is where one starts to meet up with
the jeep road and the supposed continuation of 1141, the Never Summer trail.
After reaching the TH and signage, continue down the drive-able jeep road
and over the shallow ford and then the small creek which is the end of Jim's
section 1 to Silver Creek.  The signs are long gone but the campsite is
still evident.  From the campsite, head up the slope, parallel to the small
creek and voila, there is tread.  In Jim Wolf we trust.  Another meadow with
disappearing tread after the switchback climb; just continue straight and
contouring toward Seven Utes Pass.  Startled some grouse just before the
pass (just as Jim predicts!).

 

The crux of the day's route hinged on the saddle at 2.6 of Section 2 (which
is a double dip).  The discernible tread goes over the knob (11187), not to
the right of the knob as the bible says it should go.  The knob does have a
jeep path going down its northern spur (which shows up on the old map but
not the new one).  The route I wanted, however, was back at the saddle.
Back I go and start walking off the side of the ridge.  There is a short,
sketchy section of steep eroded-but-hardened gravel slope which is hard to
dig in with your boots.  No discernible tread so put forth your boots and
chant: In Jim Wolf we trust.  After getting across the sketchy section, I
looked 20 yards downslope and . lo and behold a faint path appeared!
Eventually this runs into the jeep road which hairpin-turns into another,
now badly overgrown, jeep road headed to Lake Agnes.  A relief to get back
to real tread!  I met a mtn biker on the Michigan Ditch road, which has
obviously been improved.  He tipped me off to the mother and calf moose near
the trail leading down to Crags FS Campground. This is right near the water
impoundment structure next to the MI Ditch road and a good place to get
water.  The blue-diamond markers up from this point represent mile 6.1 in
Jim's text.  Oddly enough, this trail shows up on the new map but not the
old.  Guess they got that right.  Great climb to the great set of Michigan
Lakes and my campsite of the night.  

 

Two unfortunate things also happened on this day: 1) I notice significant
peeling of the boot tread to the leather body and 2) I lost my map.  It blew
away after I had left it unattended with small rocks to hold it down.
(Strong wind gusts at MI Lakes!)  

First time I have lost a map.  Normally, losing your map would be a
disaster.  But this route was etched into my mind after 7 years of
contemplation.  No way was I going to quit now.  (to be continued.)

 

Karl Luce

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