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Sunday, June 25, 2006

Holy ****; and no pictures :-(

I went out early Sunday morning (up in Lincoln) with it in mind to find my way to the Stonewall Mountain lookout, which I haven't been to for a couple of years. However, it's a formidable trek — about 17 miles roundtrip from the regular Sucker Creek trailhead. The last time I did it, I found a way from the North Fork of Sucker Creek logging road that put me a little closer. Unfortunately, I forgot to bring my camera to Lincoln this week.

Today, I went to that road, but it's blocked near the main road by a gate, ostensibly for wildlife preservation purposes. Looking at a map (none that I have show a lot of detail), it looked like at worst this would be about the same distance as from the trailhead, so I set out.

Wrong. I'm not sure of the distance, but if I had to guess (and I do for my log below), I'd put it at about 10 up and 10 back. And I didn't do the 10 back (read on).

First, I discovered what I'd guess is the real reason for the road closure, a washout in a small drainage a mile or so up from the gate. It's been patched with big rocks, but not in a way that the good old FS would see as desirable for public traffic. Anyway, I proceeded to the spot where I parked a couple of years ago, and did what I did then: bushwacked up the fall line to cut off an unknown amount of switching back and forth on the old road.

The first problem I encountered was that the "headwall" has been overgrown in two years. I didn't realize (being no kind of silviculturist) what a couple of years can do up there. Nevertheless, I made it up, found the trail and headed out.

The second problem (though it wasn't really a problem; more like a difference) was that there's been a sizable fire up there since I last visited. The trail finds an old firebreak and zigzags across it.

All of that was fine, though I marked that I would have to stay on the old road on the return trip, not wanting to bushwack that stuff downhill. I got to within half a mile or so of the lookout, but the snow and my timeline turned me around (it would have been a small thing to walk on up to the lookout — running on the softening snowdrifts would have been unbearable — but I'd told Nora to call out the dogs if I wasn't back by noon).

The way down was uneventful, but at about the 3-hour mark, my old feet problems started hindering me. I dealt with it as well as I could, but it wasn't nice for the last 45 minutes or so of running.

And problem three was that the switchbacks to get me back down to the North Fork bottoms and the main road added much more distance to the trip, more than I anticipated, including a substantial amount of uphill.

Anyway, it was gorgeous, I was satisfied (if a little sore and crampy by the end), and I know more about the area now than I knew yesterday.

It was about 35 degrees when I started; about 70 when I got down. I expect it reached 80 by afternoon, but I was gone. I saw numerous deer, a few elk (including a newborn calf that could barely run to get out of my view) and all kinds of birds. No bear signs, at least not from this year.

I ran (as opposed to stopped to drink, etc., or walk) for pretty close to exactly 4 hours. Because of the slopes (at least 2,000 feet, and probably more), I was slow on the ups, so I'm going to conservatively peg it at:

22; 40; 82-1/2; 673-1/2

which should make 100 much more doable for the month unless I'm crippled tomorrow.
Posted by Mose, 3:46 PM

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