Seeking a good Colorado loop for youth
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Mina Loomis
(elmvine) - MLife

Locale: Central Texas
Seeking a good Colorado loop for youth on 02/09/2012 14:19:24 MST Print View

I do hope this is an appropriate forum for my question. It is certainly where I expect to find folks most likely to offer answers. I am the coordinator (volunteer) for the youth backpacking program for our local Camp Fire USA council. (Camp Fire is one of the original US scouting organizations, for girls until 1975, for everyone since then.) We have some youth who are asking for a longer and more challenging trip than what we have been doing. After some discussions, the kids have concluded that southern Colorado would be a good target, to minimize boring days in the car. I've been car camping in Colorado, but do not know much about backpacking routes there; because it seems to be a popular destination for scout troops, I am hoping perhaps some of you all can help us find a good route.

Here are the parameters:
1. The group will be 7 youth ages 14-16, with 3 adults. The youth have all been on a number of weekend backpacking trips in central Texas, plus at least one 5-day/4-night 20-mile trip in Pecos Wilderness in New Mexico. We will have both boys and girls on this trip. All of the adults have moderate to extensive backpacking experience but not much off-trail.
2. We have the evening of July 19 through the evening of July 29, 2012 to do this trip, based on the participants' schedules. We figure on a day and a half driving each way from Austin, plus some slower travel at the backcountry end to get to a trailhead. This will give us time for a 7-day/6-night trip or so.
3. We'd like to find a loop or near-loop so as not to spend a lot of time shuttling. We are aware of the Durango-Silverton train, and wouldn't necessarily rule it out, but cost would be a concern for some participants.
4. Because we are coming from a lower elevation (Austin is at about 550 ft.) our route should ease us into the higher country over the first few days, with higher elevations later in the hike. If there is a mountain to climb (walk-up only—none of us has technical climbing skills or equipment) the kids would like that.
5. We figure on taking a couple of layover days for exploring, so overall maybe a route of about 40 miles, give or take a few depending on terrain.
6. We don't want to carry a lot of water weight, and the kids said they like big trees, so the drier reaches of western Colorado would not be suitable.

So if you are familiar with the region, and especially if you have taken scout groups on this type of trip there, I'd love to hear your ideas.

Thanks! Mina

Paul Johnson
(johncooper) - F

Locale: SoCal
Re: Seeking a good Colorado loop for youth on 02/09/2012 16:07:02 MST Print View

It's great you are leading this trip. I have a boy in Boy Scouts and my girls nine and 10 are very jealous they don't have the same opportunity. I do family backpacking with them, but they are looking for more. I will check with Camp Fire Girls to see if our local group has the type of adventure you are providing.

FYI, I know they can participate in Venture Scouts at 14, which is the plan ... but four years from now.

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Here's some ideas on 02/09/2012 16:20:49 MST Print View

In July you will have thunderstorms in the afternoon so you need to plan on being off the high areas by 12:00.
The Wimenuche Wilderness is big enough to have some good options.
1. Go up Vallacito Creek from the south of the wilderness area. Than go back down Rock Creek. Its not a loop but its close enough. It startes at about 8000 ft. elevation so you'll have some time to get used to the altitude if your first day or two are easy days. Total distance is 36 miles.
2. Head up the Los Pinos River, than up Flint Creek to a pass (not sure of the name) than back down Lost Creek. This connects back to the Los Pinos River. This trek is lower on average. Thats good for elevation but I'd just do some research to ensure the scnery will be good. Total distance is about 34 miles with options for side trips.

There are a number of south flowing rivers in the southern half of the Wimencuche. You could come up with all kinds of options for loops or near loops just by going up one valley and returning down another one.

Another option is the Lost Creek Wilderness. You could do a short 20 loop there at relatively low elevation than go back to the cars and drive somewhere else for the rest of your trip. Or you could stay there and do a longer trip.
Here's what I'd do.
Day 1. I'd start on Goose Creek and follow it up to Refrigerator Gultch and spend the night.
Day 2. Than I'd go north to the Wigwam Trail and camp in East Lost Park. This would give you two nights at relatively low elevation. If you camp low you'll be a bit far from Bison Mountain and McCurdy Mountain which you need to cross before the afternoon thundertorms. So...
Day 3. I'd do a short hike up close to timberline and camp along Indian Creek. This will be a very short day so you might make it a rest day. If the weather looks good you could set up a basecamp and try to hike up Bison Mountain (the trail doensn't' go over the actual summit).
Day 4. Get going early and go above timberline past Bison Peak and McCurdy Mountain. This will be about 5 miles above treeline. In the spring there is water but its dries up by fall. Indian Creek will probably be your last reliable water source until you reach Hayes Creek. Try do go a few miles beyond that before you camp.
Day 5. Hike up over Hankings pass and down to the Trailhead completing the loop.
I think the total distance might be 38 miles or so. This itenary leaves isn't super ambitious, you could do it in less time but you can do side trips on layover days if you want. One idea would be to camp in McCurdy Park (a bit off this route) and do a day hike up McCurdy mountain first thing in the morning.
Day 5. Cross Hankins Pass and complete the loop.

There is a shorter loop option that goes over Bison and McCurdy Mtns. down through Refrigerator Gultch (very scenic) and back out to the Lost Park Trailhead. The total distance would be about 27 miles. You could do that trip than take a day off at the Lost Park Campground than do a second loop combining the Colorado Trail with another trail into the Kenosha Mountains. This would be a bit less of a wilderness experience but it would get you into the high country a bit more.

Mina Loomis
(elmvine) - MLife

Locale: Central Texas
I got a Weminuche map... on 02/10/2012 10:19:31 MST Print View

Luke, Thanks so much for your suggestions. I picked up a Weminuche map yesterday at REI, and will study it to trace out your routes and see. Lost Creek looks interesting, web site talks about unusual rock formations. Fun with research...

John, I understand what you mean about the girls. Girls the age of yours love it out in the woods. Not many groups are taking girls out as a regular focus. Then folks are somehow surprised and disappointed that their grownup girlfriends and wives don't want to rough it. Back in the '90's when I was a Camp Fire club leader and my older kids became large enough, our Council didn't have backpacking, but I started taking them on club backpacking trips because they were game and it was what I really wanted to do. Other club leaders took and interest, and pretty soon we had a Council backpacking program going. Later some other volunteers started a canoeing and kayaking program. Now we have many backpacking and paddling trips going out each year. In the backpacking we have recently started a "family group" for folks who want to bring younger kids who aren't large enough to carry all their own stuff. If you have a local council, and if they don't have an outdoor program like this up and running, they might be willing to discuss starting one, if knowledgeable volunteers are available.

Carl Zimmerman
(CarlZ993) - MLife
Loop Hike in Colorado on 02/10/2012 11:23:46 MST Print View

Another possibility is what is known as 'Four Pass Loop' outside of Aspen in the Maroon Bells Wilderness Area. I've done that before. Its a 3 or 4 night hike. It's a two-day drive from Austin (where I also live). One the way, spend the night at Las Vegas, Raton, or Trinidad (at elevation). Spend the night before (at altitude) at a driveup camp near the trailhead (Silver Queen is one of them, can't recall the names of the others; need to reserve them in advance). The loop is about 26 miles long. You go over 4 passes over 12K'. I'd go clockwise and spend the last night at Snowmass Lake. If you want to add an extra day, spend two nights there and possibly climb Snowmass Lake (14er; can be a little tricky; Class 3).

I've also done the Silverton Hike. Really neat, but the train ride is pricey. It just depends on the budget that the kids (& adults) have.

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Re I got a Wimenuche Map on 02/10/2012 19:37:08 MST Print View

Sounds like you're on the right track checking out a map of the Wimenuche.

The Lost Creek does have some amazing rock formations. I've got a couple trip reports of it as do several other members here. A lot of people focus on the canyons and neglect the alpine areas. If you go I think you should try to get both. The alpine areas aren't quite as spectacular as say Indian Peaks or RMNP but they are nice. On a clear day you can have views acrooss South Park and the Sawatch range and of Pikes Peak.
A good source of info on Lost Creek is SummitPost.org, they have some amazing pictures and info on different destinations.

I have not done the four pass loop but I've heard is awesome (and becuase of that a bit crowded). It looks like it would be sort of high though, I'd see if you could start a bit lower on another trail than link up to the loop.

Kai Larson
(KaiLarson) - F
Some suggestions on 02/10/2012 20:19:31 MST Print View

Here are a couple of Colorado trips that I've taken scouts on. One is in the Weminuche, one is in the Flat tops.

http://www.larsonweb.com/flyfishing/id2.html

http://www.larsonweb.com/flyfishing/id5.html


Another good Weminuche loop I've taken scouts on starts at the Williams Creek trailhead, heads north, then west, and finishes at the Cimarrona Trailhead. You can take either the Williams Creek trail or the Indian Creek trail for the first section, then head west and link up with the Cimarrona Creek trail. (I've done both, they're both nice.)

Mina Loomis
(elmvine) - MLife

Locale: Central Texas
Thanks! on 02/12/2012 10:24:00 MST Print View

I am looking more closely at Weminuche now. Have ordered a couple of guidebooks, too. Sounds like the fishing is wonderful in there; sadly, we know almost nothing about fishing. (No mountain stream for fishing in to be had around central Texas. Just reservoir stuff and bass tournaments. Not the same.)

May need to post followup questions when books arrive.

Thanks!

Kai Larson
(KaiLarson) - F
fishing on 02/12/2012 14:00:32 MST Print View

The good news about fishing in the backcountry is that it's easy. The fish haven't seen many hooks, so they tend to attack whatever you throw in the water. No big fish in those mountain streams, but you can have a lot of fun anyway.