Sunday, 5 January 2014

Blast From the Past: Lost Creek Wilderness

I haven't had much time to get out birding lately, so I thought I would recap a trip I took this spring.

This blast from the past takes us back to my most recent U.S backpacking trip that I took with Kyle, Jensen and Mike this past May.  We decided that we would mix things up and head a bit further north than the previous year when we visited New Mexico.  After some extensive research I came up with Lost Creek Wilderness in Colorado.  This wilderness area has numerous trails and spectacular mountain scenery.

The drive this time was a mere 24 hours, which we did non-stop (again), with a small detour to South Dakota to see Mount Rushmore, at Mike's insistence.  This time Mike and Jensen drove down with me and Kyle had to make the trek from Calgary all by himself.

We stayed in Denver the night we arrived and started out bright and early to our starting point at the Goose Creek Trailhead.  After getting lost and asking for directions, we finally found it, and were immediately rewarded with a stunning vista.

The hiking the first little while was easy with mostly down hill sections.  Our goal was to make it to the "shafthouse" area that was supposed to have some good spots to camp.  Along the way we encountered the occasional patch of snow and saw some cool birds including Dusky Grouse, Mountain Chickadee, Townsend's Solitaire and Stellar's Jay.

The "lost creek" that tumbles over boulders and disappears occasionally beneath the mountains.

Mountain Mike perched on a boulder.

Mike and I sitting on one of the many gigantic boulders that Lost Creek is known for, at our first campsite.

Lost Creek carving it's way through the rocks.

The second day of hiking was by far the hardest of the trip.  I may have done more grueling things before, but at the time I was having a hard time remembering them.  The trip reminded us of our earlier trip to Gila, with several significant differences: steeper mountains, higher elevation and deep snow!  That night I was lucky enough to hear two Flammulated Owls calling right near our camp!

The next day the trail rapidly climbed towards the sky, topping out near 11,000 feet.  Here we encountered plenty of snow, with drifts nearly as deep as our waists!

Kyle "post-holing" his way through some snow.

Our goal for this day was to reach McCurdy Park, a flat area surrounded by even higher peaks.

Nearing McCurdy Park.

Lynx tracks!

As we were arriving at our camp spot it started to drizzle, and with temperatures hovering near freezing we tried to make some serious ground on looking for a suitable spot to pitch the tents.  We eventually settled on a rocky overhang that provided us some shelter from the rain and wind.

Trusty Marmot tents hiding under the rocks.

We started a fire and tried to dry out, hoping the rain would stop soon!  Jensen's boots were soaked as well as Kyle's.  We tried to dry them out as fast as possible, and Kyle melted his boots on the fire while he wasn't paying attention, much to the rest of the groups amusement!

Drying out.  Note the pictograph on the rock wall showing the burnt boots.

Trying to dry out.

The scenery at this site was great as usual.

View from camp.

The next day dawned sunny and bright (and cold), and we quickly packed up and got ready to hit the trail.

Mountain Chickadee

This would be the last trip for Jensen's boots which gave him nasty blisters!

We headed out, planning to take the high pass across Lake Park to get down to less snowy elevations.

Photo credit to Kyle

As we arrived at Lake Park, we discovered a note at the trailhead.

Kyle and I voted to take Lake Park, which was the most direct route, the other two recommended taking a slightly longer trail that would quickly take us down to lower elevations.  We decided to to head off the mountain in order to ensure safety.  It actually turned out to be a much more pleasant hike, although it did mean we had to climb back up over 2000 feet once we descended.

Long story short, we hiked for a long time, and eventually found a suitable campsite after getting poured on by a freak hail storm.

The next day we climbed a nearby talus slope up to the summit of a cliff for fun.

Me on the cliff edge getting some shots. Photo credit to Kyle.

On the last day we headed out of Lost Creek and saw some cool birds including Mountain and Western Bluebird and Red-naped Sapsucker.

Red-naped Sapsucker

Mountain Bluebird!

At the trailhead we realized we were supposed to have a permit...too late!

Photo credit to Kyle

On our way out after another great trip!

The ride home went smooth, except for getting pulled over in Nebraska.  The cop noted that Mike was weaving out of his lane, and tried to convince us that we were in fact high on Marijuana.  After threatening to search our vehicle he eventually wised up and let us go.  What is it about 4 guys from Ontario that makes the highway patrol want to pull us over.

Anyways, a great trip, and Jensen found a dinosaur to ride at a sketchy gas station. Bonus!


  1. You forgot to mention that it was the real naturalist that spotted the Mountain Bluebird!

  2. Hahaha how could I forget buddy!