After reveling in my very first Burro Days in Fairplay, Colorado, I headed up the road to the tiny town of Alma – the highest town in the U.S. – and then on to the highest campground in the country at Kite Lake. This was only the third time this summer that I have paid to stay in a campground (read my post on Boondocking 101: How To Camp For Free In Beautiful Places) but it’s not every night that you get to sleep at 12,000 feet!
Sometime in the middle of the night, it started raining and hailing, with the rain singing and the hail pinging against the trailer roof, it sounded cold outside, and I was ever so glad to be sleeping in my warm, dry Teardrop rather than a tent. The storm let up well before dawn, but when I opened the door, the air was heavy and the mountains were shrouded in fog. Undaunted I booted up, shouldered my pack and hit the trail at first light.
It’s best to get an early start when you have four 14,000-foot mountains on the to do list for the day: Mounts Democrat (14,148), Cameron (14,238), Lincoln (14,286) and Bross (14,172). Together these four mountains can be hiked in an 8-mile loop known as the “Decalibron” (for DEmocrat, CAmeron, LIncoln and BROss).
Right off the bat, the trailhead signboard had bad news: Mount Bross was closed to public access. Much of this area of the Mosquito Range is claimed by a number of mining companies and individual landowners. In 2005, due to liability concerns and ongoing problems with vandalism, the landowners shut down public access to all these mountains. The Colorado Fourteeners Initiative has worked hard to negotiate the reopening of Democrat, Cameron and Lincoln, but the summit of Bross is still closed. Bummer. I guess we’ll have to settle for three mountains in one day.
I admit I thought about giving the No Legal Public Access sign the finger and bagging Bross anyway. But I didn’t. I hate that these mountains are privately owned, and that the owners have left a dangerous mess, but the fact is that pubic access to privately owned places is a privilege, not a right. By trespassing I could be jeopardizing future access to the entire Decalibron trail and that’s just not good for my mountain Karma.
If you go: the road from Alma up to Kite Lake is rough, but doesn’t require 4WD. The Rover towed the Rattler up there just fine, but I wouldn’t recommend trying it with a trailer any longer than 10 feet.
There are a couple of places to camp for free before you get up to the campground itself, but none of the spots are very far off the road or especially level. The campground is $12 a night. The Decalibron is best hiked in a clockwise loop, starting with Democrat. Updated information about trail closures can be found on the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative website.