A Walk In The Clouds: Three 14’ers, One Fine Foggy Day

One Day, Three Mountains

The Mosquito Range from Kite Lake the evening before our hike. This was the clearest look we got of the mountains, before the clouds descended.

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!

The Rover & The Rattler at Kite Lake

The Rover & The Rattler at Kite Lake- 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.

Cairn on the shoulder of Mount Democrat

Cairn on the shoulder of Mount Democrat

The Summit of Mount Democrat

The Summit of Mount Democrat

Summit Marker on Mount Democrat: 14,148 feet

Summit Marker on Mount Democrat: 14,148 feet

Somebody's left behind summit sign. I packed it out.

Somebody’s left behind summit sign, stuffed under a rock. I packed it out along with an orange peel and another summit banner. I left the full, unopened can of PBR.

Mining Ruins At 14,000 feet

Mining Ruins At 14,000 feet

As clear as it got all day

As clear as it got all day. We’re heading for that ridge line, barely visible through the fog.

Crossing the saddle over to Cameron

Crossing the saddle over to Cameron

The broad, flat summit of Cameron (14,238). Cameron isn't actually considered an official 14'er because it lacks at least 300 feet of prominance from the next closest mountain.

The broad, flat summit of Cameron (14,238). Despite its elevation, Cameron isn’t actually considered an official 14’er because it lacks at least 300 feet of prominence from neighboring Mount Lincoln.

On the ridge between Cameron and Lincoln. I loved this part of the hike. That ridge was as sharp as it looks!

Following Dio through the fog on the ridge between Cameron and Lincoln. I loved this part of the hike. That ridge was as sharp as it looks!

Summit marker on Mount Lincoln (14,286 feet)

Summit marker on Mount Lincoln (14,286 feet)

USGS Marker on Lincoln

USGS Marker on Lincoln, placed in 1951

Cloud Clearing

Cloud Clearing, Looking towards Bross. Someday… 

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.

Resisting the Money Wrench urge to give this sign the finger.

Almost down. The Mount Bross bypass runs several hundred feet under the summit of Bross. This descent was long and steeeep.

Almost down. The Mount Bross bypass runs several hundred feet under the summit of Bross. This descent was long and steeeep, cold and rainy. Still, there’s nowhere I’d rather have been than here!

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.

About theblondecoyote

Mary Caperton Morton is a freelance science and travel writer with degrees in biology and geology and a master’s in science writing. A regular contributor to EARTH magazine, where her favorite beat is the Travels in Geology column, she has also written for the anthologies Best Women's Travel Writing 2010 and Best Travel Writing 2011. Mary is currently based in Big Sky, Montana. When she’s not at the computer she can usually be found outside -- hiking, skiing, climbing mountains and taking photographs. Visit her website at www.marycapertonmorton.com.
This entry was posted in Bowie & D.O.G., Hiking!, Photography, Road tripping!, Teardrop Trailer, Uncategorized, Vagabonding 101. Bookmark the permalink.

23 Responses to A Walk In The Clouds: Three 14’ers, One Fine Foggy Day

  1. Wow that’s one hell of a hike, its stunning scenery despite the fog. I love the summit markers, but what a shame about Gross, its really wrong someone can own a mountain, why shouldn’t everyone get to enjoy such beauty. Fantastic hike and photos as always. x

  2. Karen says:

    I love your hiking descriptions. And what pictures! Have you done Mt. Whitney yet?

  3. Franz Fuls says:

    Respect to you for honouring private access. If more people did this we would have more access to private land! peace.

  4. Reblogged this on Jesse Talks Back and commented:
    Awesome vista

  5. Graceland says:

    Newby joining! Excellent pics and truly well written.

  6. Mary, what a great day of hiking. Love the foggy photos! One time when I was hiking up St. Mary’s Mountain in the Bitterroot Range, it was snowing so lightly that it looked like fog in the photos and gave great ambiance to the scene. Best to you, Carol PS – we are finally scheduled to leave for Idaho 2 weeks from today.

    • I’ve hiked up St. Mary’s a few times! What a great mountain. Love that fire tower on top! Sounds like a great day for photos! Good luck on your move to Idaho! New adventures await! Cheers, M

  7. I like everyone of those pics, but most of all I miss the fog! We don’t get that in Utah with our 8% humidity. Looks like a great place:)

  8. beachman says:

    love the pics of your feet, makes me feel like I am there…but so cold and rainy 😦 makes me glad that I am in south florida and plan on going to beach today..

  9. I really enjoy your photos! Your dog looks like its having a blast!

  10. Kirk says:

    Mary I have the latest pics if you would like them send me an email address

    Kirk in Frederick

  11. Love the Pictures! I thought that was a Bear at 1st in the Rover Rattler Picture, but then I noticed what seemed to be large tail? Plus 2 other Dogs I guess, so who were Your Beautiful Hiking companions? I only remembered one I thought pictured before, and it was not that Large! Keep on Hikin/Trukin! ♡ 8~} ♥And Campin! ♡

    • The fluffy dogs are Bowie the Bear my 11-year old border collie/ Newfoundland mix and D.O.G. aka Dio my 5 year old border collie/ chow/ purebred mutt. The black and white dog is Odin, my friend Drew’s one-eyed border collie mix. All rescues, all road trip professionals!

  12. Sorry I don’t think the little box was checked in My last Post?

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