With a belly full of bacon and eggs, I launched an overnight trip from the N. Tenmile trailhead on a flawless bluebird Saturday. Volunteer rangers from FENW (Friends of Eagles Nest Wilderness) were staged at the trailhead to help assist tourists with forest service info. I was told of a duo of hunters on a scouting trip looking to do the exact same off-trail route that I had in mind. I found it hard to believe, and never did end up seeing them.
This point to point hike features busy trailheads, with a whole lot of nobody in-between.
Peak Wild Rose blooms everywhere in the 9,500′ to 10,000′ range
North Tenmile Creek
Past the junction with the Gore Range trail, the Tenmile dispersed and disappeared into thick willow and mud bogs. I had thought to myself that I should have known better to pick an off-trail trip such as this so early into the backpacking season. It had only been weeks since the last patches of snow had melted from the area and I was paying for it in the form of an arduous effort through swamps.
I was all alone after the junction, and like most of the trail-less drainages in the Gore, there was no sign of human presence past of present. I moved quietly, taking my time and being content with it. As I stood and scouted my intentions to climb over the unnamed pass to the Gore Creek watershed, I spooked a herd of elk that moved from right to left across my line of sight.
I watched and waited for them to disappear, so as to not disturb them anymore as they moved down into the timbered sections of the valley. One lone one to two year old bull trailing thirty cows into the forest below me.
While climbing the pass, I turned around to see the cross couloir on Mount of the Holy Cross in plain view. Many of the peaks of the Sawatch were visible, including the unmistakable and gigantic snowfield remaining on the eastern face of Mount Massive.
While I had the opportunity, I climbed the shoulder of Deming Peak to get a bigger perspective. Here I can see my route down to the bench lakes and much of the 12’s and 13ers overlooking the Gore creek valley. The sights in the sky exquisite, my descent held snow; a perfect opportunity for an afternoon glissade down the north facing runout.
After my quick method of going down, I had a bit of up to complete in order to reach a string of three unnamed lakes I had been eyeing for years.
Much of the fun involved in this process is to scour the topo and identify potential honey holes for fish. Sometimes I show up disappointed, sometimes I get lucky in finding an inhabited and nameless tarn high in the alpine. Sadly I’ve busted out the rod just twice this season.
I ended up finding just one lone and old camp by the third lake in the series. A rotted log used for a bench next to an old fire ring had small blades of green grass growing in the middle of the circle of stones.
With no fish to be caught, later into the evening I left camp to climb into some of the higher peaks above the shelf.
From the perspective in the photo above I could see I-70 and Vail to the west. To the east I could again see the six lane interstate coming down from the continental divide, and a small sliver of the Eisenhower-Johnson tunnels. When the interstate was first proposed from Summit to Eagle county, officials originally wanted to build the road right below where I was standing in the photo above. Local citizens in both counties were outraged and successfully fought the prospect to put the interstate through this vast Wilderness valley. Instead developers brought their earth movers to Vail Pass instead; an environmental hinder that wasn’t much better. In the early days after the road was built, locals called Seventy the great wall of death for wildlife.
I slept in late in my tent until the sun forced me outside on another exemplary day. As part of the Adopt-a-Trail program launched this year in Eagle county in conjunction with the USFS, a group of us took responsibility for some of the maintenance on the Gore Creek trail. From the base of Red Buffalo to the graves, I recorded a log of work to be done. The hope is to get back here for an overnight later this year, or next to knock out some much needed trail work back here. I never need much convincing to come back to a place as peaceful as this.