July 16, 2012 … a lonely goat herd

There are fifty-four mountains with peaks above 14,000 feet in Colorado. US Geological Survey Bench Mark on the summit of Mt Evans (photo by Mary)

Yesterday, Mary and I walked together to the summit of one of them. This was no great feat since the summit at 14, 258 feet, is just 34 feet higher than the carpark. But first we had to get there.  In hindsight maybe I should have paid the USD$79 for the GPS for the week, but I thought I could read a map OK.

The catch is, that on the ground, the intersections bear little resemblance to their representation on the map. And many of the intersections are very subtle in the positioning of the exit signs in relation to the exit you really need, and sometimes they sneakily disguise themselves as something else … you are looking for US93 so obviously you go past the exit that says “6”, not knowing that they are the same road.

And to compound that, there seem to be many locals who have never ventured more than ten blocks form where they live, and although they have lived in Denver all their lives, they think they may have heard of Boulder, but have no clue in which direction to go to find US36 to get there.

On the other hand, there was the helpful guy in Lafayette (which was nowhere near where I should have been)  who drew me a neat map and warned me where to expect speed traps. In short, both coming and going we made many false turns  and saw far more of Denver than we had planned, since the road from Boulder to Idaho Springs does not pass through Denver.

In hindsight, I could now find my way from Boulder to Idaho Springs and thence to Mt Evans at least an hour faster than last time, and might even get home again first try.

But the mountain. You have to wonder why anyone would take a paved road to within a few steps of the summit of a 14er. There was a restaurant there once, built in 1941, but destroyed by fire in 1979 as the result of a mismanaged propane bottle switch. As you might imagine, by the time the volunteer fire brigade from Idaho Springs got to the scene things were out of hand and they had no water anyway. No one died.

I would like to think that in these more enlightened times no one would dream of putting a road up a mountain. And I had qualms about actually using this one, but I shall probably never have an opportunity again to be at such an altitude except in a plane.

We saw mountain goats, buzzards and marmots, and several hundred cyclists powering up, or hurtling down the road. My knuckles were so firmly clenched on the wheel, and my eyes so glued the steep drop on one side or the jagged rock wall on the other, that no images of those things eventuated.

At the top, the next battle was to find a park. And then join the long line of people who desperately needed a rest room. With these essentials dealt with, it would be a crime not to make it to the top, which is about a ten or fifteen minute walk, depending on how you are coping with the oxygen deprivation. We were among the fortunate ones, and got there briskly.

This is a place that absolutely demands panoramas. Please click to see them in full. The first one is to the North and overlooks the summit lake several thousand feet below. Panorama from the summit of Mt Evans, CO, looking North across Summit Lake

To the South East the view was a little more cluttered with other visitors but here we go:

To the South East from the summit of Mt Evans, CO

Got to love those clouds. By the time we got down to Idaho Springs to have lunch by the river, there was a thunder-storm in progress and heavy raindrops so the picnic was completed inside the car.

We got back to the hotel eventually,