Our seven days in town had drawn to a close and we had to vacate our cush rooms
at the Hotel Telluride. We planned
to be in Albuquerque on the 14th for the eclipse,
but our options in getting there were pretty fluid. We had considered driving
to Ouray and doing something in Yankee Boy Basin, then working our way south on
US550 to hit up Engineer Mtn and some other peaks, but after seeing how much
snow was still at the higher elevations on the north slopes, we decided on a
lower elevation option. Groundhog Mtn is a P1K in Dolores County and the
Uncompahgre NF, west of the San Miguel Mtns. There's a lot of dirt road driving
to reach it from different directions. We would combine this with a handful of
other summits in the eastern part of the county for what would be as much a
driving exercise as a hiking one, enough to keep us busy pretty much all day.
It was 25mi of dirt road driving from SR145 to reach our starting
point for Groundhog. Luckily, the roads were well-graded and in decent
shape with little mud. Still, it would take us well over an hour of driving in
the Jeep and we didn't get started until almost 10a. Our route to Groundhog
followed a track posted by John Kirk on LoJ, from the south. A
spur road heading west is gated and no longer driveable, but makes for a good
parking spot. The route is barely 2mi roundtrip with less than 1,000ft of gain,
but not an easy effort. We followed the indistinct South Ridge
with a lot of downfall, eventually becoming
above 11,600ft, after half an hour's effort. The talus
is somewhat loose and than one would expect from a minor
summit. we encountered in a few places made for easier walking
than the talus heaps. After reaching a plateau, the route turns
and , the found at the west end
of several rugged points, all class 2. are quite nice even if the
climbing is forgettable. The we found was nearly as messy as
the slag pile we'd just climbed. But the views we enjoyed -
to Lone Cone, and across Aspen forests in fall colors, and then
harsher desert terrain beyond, in the SW corner of the state. We
via the , about two hours for the effort.
This minor summit lies a short distance SW of where we'd parked for Groundhog.
Other TRs made use of Forest Rte 534B (no longer driveable) to reach the peak
from the north. We started off doing this, but quickly changed our minds when
we realized one can start from Rd 52 (Forest Rte 534), less than a quarter mile
from the northeast. This goes up more steeply, first ,
then up that form the NE Ridge. The talus was much
like that found on Groundhog, though not as loose. It took only 15min to reach
this way, with similar to those of the
previous peak. Beth Lakin had left here a year earlier, ours
making only the second entry (though there are dozens of entries recorded on
LoJ). We were the same route in a similar amount of time.
This one is found 3-4mi off the main roadway. In dry conditions, high-clearance
should suffice to allow one to drive nearly to the summit. We had some
and were happy to have 4WD to engage. From where
, the hike to took less than two
minutes. We wandered about the indistinct highpoint area, but found no register
or cairn. Kindofa dud, this, despite almost a thousand feet of prominence.
Peak 10,411ft - Willow Divide
Willow Divide is about 3mi southeast of Black Mesa, but there is much driving
to circumvent the deep drainage between them, about an hour and a half's worth.
The roads are a bit rougher, but because the summit is 1,000ft lower than Black
Mesa, there was almost no snow or mud to contend with. is
located at what used to be considered the Willow Divide HP, and still is on PB.
However, LoJ has identified to the northwest that is
higher by a few feet based on more recent LiDAR data. We managed to drive
nearly to both points, maximizing our laziness quotient. We
wandered about the woods at both locations to satisfy requirements to claim both
points, then sat on some downed logs with partial views to the southeast to
enjoy some relaxing herbs - peakbagging can be hard work.
This was the most enjoyable summit of the day, despite being the most work.
We used , commonly used to reach Navajo Basin and
the 14ers in the Wilson Group. A lesser trail forks off shortly after starting
out where it crosses over the Dolores River. It is easy
to follow initially as it climbs out of the river
drainage to reach , to the west. The trail only
roughly matches what is shown on the topo map as the Groundhog Stock Driveway.
Once the plateau is reached, the gradient eases and the trail becomes
as it goes through a series of and
. There are a series of that
, easier to follow on than on the
way up. We even spent some time trying to fix that
had fallen over. Losing the trail is no big deal as the
is relatively tame. The from
the aspens and scrub oak were some of the best we'd seen on the day.
is found towards the south end of the mesa, on the border
of a large, grassy meadow and the forested slope that drops down the east side
towards the river. We wandered about looking for a cairn or register, finding
neither. We spent a little over an hour in reaching the summit, about the same
for . The other vehicles in had left
upon our return at 6p.
It was getting late as we drove back to SR145 where we'd left Eric's car. We
took showers off the highway before heading into Rico looking for dinner. The
Enterprise Bar & Grill was the only establishment open upon our arrival, but
there was no cook to support the "Grill" in the name. Two characters were
watching Monday Night Football while the bartender puttered about with various
chores. She eventually warmed up after dismissing our dinner request, offering
to warm some chili for us if we'd like. We took her up on the offer and had
a couple bowls each before we were satiated. Afterwards, we headed off to a
campsite above town I'd used a week earlier before our stay in Telluride. It
fit two vehicles nicely and we spent a quiet night there undisturbed...