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This was supposed to be an easy day, and in some respects it was, but we still ended up walking 10mi with more than 1,500ft of gain. The game plan was to take the Gondola out of Telluride to the top of Coonskin Mtn, then a 2,500-foot climb along the ski area trails to Flat Rock at 12,900ft, before descending 4,000ft back down through Bear Creek Canyon to return to Telluride. Oh, and we planned to drop acid back at the start of all this. How we thought 12mi+ and 2,500ft of gain was "taking it easy" seems foolish in hindsight, but there it was, and we didn't even have the drugs to blame for the plan.
It was a lovely Fall day in the San Juan Mtns. Temperatures we crisp and chill, a light breeze, harmless clouds floating around above the skyline. There were a few other folks wandering about outside the San Sophia Station where we exited the gondola in the not-so-early morning. We picked up the See Forever Trail, a dual purpose trail - blue cruiser ski run in winter, hiking trail in summer/fall. The route follows the main N-S ridge that forms the crest of the Telluride Ski Area, with some world-class skiing off both sides of the ridge. We made our way up to Green Cone, one of several sites along the ridge seeing major renovations/upgrades. Here they were upgrading Giuseppe's Restaurant with a brand-new building with just stunning vistas.
After perusing Green Cone's highpoint (top of The Plunge chairlift), we continued south along the ridge, climbing to 12,200ft before considering the original plan. Neither of us were too interested in continuing to Gold Hill (which we'd both visited) nor Flat Rock (which I had visited previously). The LSD was kicking in nicely at this point and what we really just needed was to relax and take in the incredible scenery all around us. So we headed off on the Wasatch Connector Trail that traverses around the east side of Gold Hill before dropping to the Bear Creek drainage. There was a surprising amount of snow on the shady slopes at the top of the drainage, though none on the trail we descended. We spent an hour at a very slow pace descending to the creek below, at the junction of the Lena Basin (to the west) and the East Fork. We found a large sunny rock to put out our picnic spread of cheese, meats, olives and crackers. We would spend a full hour here before packing up and continuing down the trail, now heading north.
We would spend the next three hours descending about 4.5mi back to town. There was much lolly-gagging, nap rock options, old mining stuff, and Wilderness appreciation moments. There are very few folks that wander past the first few miles along Bear Creek, and it seemed we had this incredibly scenic drainage mostly to ourselves. Once we reached the waterfall view below, we had to share it with dozens of our fellow townsfolk. Things then got busier the further we descended. We ended up following a couple on a side trail off the main Wasatch Trail that took us directly to the Telluride Oktoberfest going on in the park at the east end of town. The beer was one of the finest we'd ever tasted, and our grassy seat on the ground the most comfortable either of us could remember. A fine day, indeed...
This page last updated: Fri Oct 20 13:11:30 2023
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