above Young Gulch
National Forest, just above Young Gulch
March 10, 2012
It’s cool in the shade, but the bright sun warms me up in no time as I follow Makenzie and Henry up the ridgeline towards Peak 7890 just above Young Gulch. Seems like a nice hike for a warm spring day. The initial long stretch of open grassy slope is easy-going, with only thin, isolated patches of snow, but when we hit the trees after the first saddle, the snow is deep and crusted over, and it’s miserable going, especially with all the unseen downed timber lurking beneath the snow to grab my boots and trip me up. I ascend through this deep snow less than 50 meters before turning back and dropping down the long slope back in to Young Gulch.
We head up the familiar canyon, and after about 2 miles we are in some fairly deep snow on the trail. The stream is largely frozen-over, but the unmistakable burbling of moving water echoes from beneath the blue ice. The canyon curls to the west. I watch my topo map, and at what seems like a reasonable spot, we leave the trail and head north, up a dry south-facing slope of grass, juniper and occasional ponderosa pine trees towards the rocky summit of Peak 7515. Upon reaching the summit, I am really not sure where it is: there are several likely suspects within a 50-meter radius. Not being pressed for time, we explore them all, and I find the southernmost point to afford the nicest view of Young Gulch below and Mt Ethel across the gulf…still waiting to be climbed. Someday soon, perhaps.
This hike is significant
because, though I of course don’t consider it at the time, this entire
landscape was engulfed in the flames of the High Park Fire which lightning
ignited almost exactly 3 months later. The High Park Fire became the 2nd-largest
wildfire in Colorado history, burning over 87,000 acres of some of the
prettiest terrain in Colorado. Change and renewal come to the forest whether
we like it or not.