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    jeff gardner updated Pawnee Pass Trail

    about 1 month ago

    jeff gardner updated Pawnee Pass Trail

    about 1 month ago

    jeff gardner updated Pawnee Pass Trail

    about 1 month ago

    jeff gardner added Loops

    about 1 month ago

    jeff gardner reviewed Big Meadow and Ptarmigan Pass Loop Trail

    about 1 month ago

    Due to the length of this hike, I’m splitting the review into two parts

    Part One: Big Meadow and Ptarmigan Pass Loop Trail, Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP)

    This trail should be on every backcountry hiker’s short list. At around 30 miles (not 25) it can be done in two days (pushing it) or over the course 3 to 4 days (recommended). Let me tell you about it, including its meadows, wildlife and commanding views from Ptarmigan Pass.

    The Hike:

    I strongly recommend that you hike this trail clockwise. Get yourself the Nat. Geo. Trails Illustrated topo map (#200, Rocky Mountain National Park) and use it to plan your trip. This trail is well marked but you should always have a map and compass before heading into the back-country.

    To hike this loop, you must reserve your campsites in advance. Go to the RMNP “Wilderness Camping” registration page, fill out the forms, give them your money ($26.00 USD as of 2018), and pray. When you do get your sites, you must stop at the Kawuneeche Visitor Center to pick up your permit the day of your hike - so plan ahead.

    To begin the hike (going clockwise), drive to the Tonahutu/North Inlet trailheads just north of Grand Lake, CO. Park at the North Inlet trailhead (this is where you will exit the loop) and walk the couple of yards back to the Tonahutu trailhead to start the hike.

    Day One - Jumping In

    Going clockwise, try to reserve one of the following campsites on the West side of this loop: Paint Brush or Green Mountain or South Meadows. Each of these sites borders a BEAUTIFUL meadow with Moose and Elk, as well as a good water source close by.

    If you cannot get one of these sites, try for Upper Onahu, Onahu Bridge or Onahu Creek, just North and West of the loop. Of these three Onahu Creek is by far the nicest, though getting to it from the Tonahutu trailhead makes for a 7 to 8 mile first day - a long hoof if you start late.

    Day Two - Heading Up

    For day two, try to get a site that is as far up the North side of this loop as you can, for example Renegade or Haynach or Timberline. If you cannot get one of these, try for Granite Falls or Lower Granite Falls, both nice, but BEWARE, these sites have had issues with bear activity in 2018.

    Day Three - Summit

    What makes this trail worthwhile is summiting Ptarmigan Pass. Plan on packing up about 2 liters of H20 (or so), because while this trail is well-watered throughout, the summit has a nearly 5 mile stretch without any water.

    This summit is not, especially going clockwise, a tremendously strenuous hike. It is however, a bit of a psychological beat-down. Running nearly six miles from treeline to treeline, it is the pass that seems to never end. Just after Ptarmigan Pass, watch for the sign marking the junction with the Flattop Mountain Trail and turn right to the North Inlet Trail. Down this section of the trail you will see a row of double cairns stretching off and over the horizon - cool but weird.

    There is a large, resident herd of Elk that loves this summit. If you are lucky, they will cut the trail in font or in back of you, giving you a “caught in a herd of creatures” Jurassic Park movie type feelings. Again, just cool.

    Plan to get above treeline early and watch the skies closely. This section of the trail may take you some two to three hours, and that’s a long time to be exposed above 12,000 feet, especially in bad weather.

    On the way down, try to get reservations at July or North Inlet Junction campsites. If these are full, Ptarmigan is OK as well.

    Day Four - Getting Out

    On the way out plan to stop at Big Pool (shortly after the campsite of the same name) for a killer swim, and Cascade Fall for an awesome view.

    Once off trail, but before you leave RMNP and Grand Lake, plan to make a stop at Sloopy’s Grill for great burgers, fries and even fried chicken. It's a bit of a biker joint, but the staff is friendly to smelly hikers and the service is fast - just the ticket!

    jeff gardner reviewed Big Meadow and Ptarmigan Pass Loop Trail

    about 1 month ago

    (Due to the length of this hike, I’m splitting the review into two parts)

    PART TWO: Big Meadow and Ptarmigan Pass Loop Trail, Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP)

    This is a great hike, but as with any wander-through-the-woods, this trail has its ups and downs. Here are some of the pro’s and con’s.

    Pro’s:

    This trail is located in Rocky Mountain National Park: If most of your backpacking has been two to three day excursions and you are looking to make the transition to longer trips with more time on the trail - this is the hike for you. The trail is well marked and well maintained, and even without a map, you might have to work at getting lost. Since it is in a NP (no hunting) the wildlife is used to us two-legged creature, and will, if left unharassed, allow you to watch them for as long as you like.

    This trail is popular: While I love remote treks, I also like the company of other hikers, and this trail has plenty of that. You are likely to meet some interesting people on this loop, some of them even hiking the whole CDT which overlaps a long stretch of this trail.

    Con’s:

    This trail is located in Rocky Mountain National Park: I have a love/hate relationship with hiking in National Parks. While they are well maintained, they are also well regulated, requiring that you walk here and not there, sleep there and not here and so on. If I want to be told where I can and cannot walk/stand/sleep, I’ll check into a hotel. Having to reserve camping sites, carry a BearVault and get checked two or three times for each by a ranger tends to rub me the wrong way.

    This trail is popular: This trail is so popular that it suffers (IMHO) from an excess of what I call the “Idiot Factor,” or IF, and the resulting IF-driven regulations. The IF is that small percentage of people who, wherever they go, just cannot keep their damn hands inside the ride, stay the hell away from the lip of the canyon or, in the case of RMNP, figure out how to sh*t in the woods and NOT feed the bears! As a result, the IF never fails to scare the jeepers out of the resident authorities, leading to an excess of knee-jerk regulations that must be suffered by the rest of us. In RMNP, the scenario has gone something like this:

    “What this!” Some people cannot figure out how to dig a hole and bury their crap? Well, we’ll just have to require that everyone pack-out their toilet paper AND, coming soon, all human waste!”

    “Whoa, hold on, hold on!” “Some hikers just gave their dinner to a bear!? Pass the regulations, and quick! Two to three pounds of useless, freak’n dead weight in the form of a BearVault must be carried by everyone!”

    Concerning the requirement of a BearVault, I asked the nice ranger folks why they did not allow hikers to hang their food in bear bags, notably in PCT style. They responded that they tried that, but after some hikers pulled trees down on themselves (yes, I know, loud facepalm “smack!”), it was BearVaults for all.

    And there you have it. All pro’s and con’s considered, should you hike this loop? Absolutely. Why? First and foremost, it is a beautiful hike. Second, and this could be true of many hikes, while the idiots, like the poor, will always be with us, this trail, with its stunning meadows, majestic wildlife and sweeping alpine pass, may not be.

    Cheers,

    JG

    jeff gardner saved Pawnee Pass Trail

    2 months ago

    jeff gardner reviewed Big Piney Trail

    4 months ago

    I am not sure why this trail isn’t ranked higher, it is an absolute beauty of a hike. Located in the Mark Twain National Forest, this trail has a little of everything for just about any backpacker or ambitious day hiker.

    To get there, find your way to Roby, MO. If you are coming from the East, South or West, go through Roby and head North on HWY 17. Watch for a National Forest sign that reads “Paddy Lake Trailhead.” If you are coming up from Roby, MO, that is traveling North on HWY 17, the sign will be on your right - if you are coming from the North and heading South on HWY 17, that is traveling towards Roby, watch for the sign on your left before you get to Roby, MO.

    Go down the Paddy Creek Trailhead road (on the map it is Forestry Tr 274A) to Roby lake and the circular drive trailhead parking.

    Once you are parked and ready, to get to the actual “trail” trailhead, walk back up the same dirt road that you just drove down and look for a red metal gate on the right - here your hike begins.

    Once you enter the gate, you will traverse an open field, move through a small stand of trees and cross a dirt road to register at the trailhead box. Continue North on the trail, and shortly you will arrive at the junction of the North and South loop. IMHO, taking the South loop first is the better hike, so turn right at the junction.

    This trail is poorly blazed, with minimum signage as well. However, with a map (here is an excellent one - http://www.ouachitamaps.com/picture_library/Paddy%20Creek/Paddy%20Creek%20Map.jpg) and a compass, you should not have a problem.

    Note however, that if you are taking the south loop, that is going CC, the trail forks at around 4.0 miles, waypoint “006” on the map (see link above). When you get to this point, there is a sign for the left fork that reads “North Loop” and one for the right fork that reads “Paddy Creek Campground.” If you want to hike the whole loop, go right (“Paddy Creek Campground”). You you want to hike only ½ of the loop, go left (“North Loop”). The trail on the left is a connecting trial, part of an old military road, and descends to Little Paddy Creek. Right where the trail crosses the river, blazed with white diamonds (standard markings for a connecting trail), there is just enough space here and there to make camp, complete with a fire ring on the north side of the creek.

    If you are hiking the whole loop, go right at this fork (following the sign “Paddy Creek Campground”), and continue along top of a beautiful ridgeline for about 2 miles (waypoint “007” on the map). The trail then plunges down to the junction of Little and Big Paddy Creek, then up sharply to cross Forest Road 220. Turn right on this road for the Paddy Creek Campground. This is a developed campground with room for some 23 tents, some of them coming in by Paddy Creek Road (https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/mtnf/recarea/?recid=21782). While I tend to stay away from the developed stuff while I am backpacking, this is a nice (free!), well kept campground.

    Chill at the campground for the night, even taking a dig in the clear, cool Big Piney River.

    To finish the hike, get back on the trail and head north and downhill to Big Paddy Creek. Traverse along the southern edge of a bluff, before climbing it to a wonderful view of Big Piney River (“010” on the map).

    Enjoy the next two miles of the trail is it moves around a gentle ridge, and even begins to descend back down towards Little Paddy Creek over the next two mile. At point “012” on the map the trail is joined by the connecting trail that comes up from Little Paddy Creek. At point “013” it splits - go left to stay on the trail (the right path is actually the dirt road/connecting trail that came up from Little Paddy Creek).

    After point “013” the trails begins a series of “up/down” traverses, four (4) in all. Some of these will have water, and the last one, point “014” on the map, has a beautiful little waterfall and pool, perfect to rest up for the final push. When you cross this creek, the trail will turn down stream (going right) and shortly thereafter split, going either roughly straight or hard to the left and up hill. Take the hard left, and go up hill. Look for the small (add to it please!) cairn on the left at this trail junction.

    From that point forward, it is an easy walk back to the trailhead box, across the dirt road and back to the red gate.

    Once you are out, stop at Hoppers Pub in nearby Waynesville, MO (hopperspub.com), for a cold one and a great burger!

    Remember to pack it in, pack it out, and enjoy this little hidden gem of a hike!

    Jeff G

    jeff gardner completed Big Piney Trail

    4 months ago

    jeff gardner saved Long Creek Trail

    4 months ago

    jeff gardner saved Eagle Rock Loop

    5 months ago

    jeff gardner saved Onahu Creek Trail

    6 months ago

    jeff gardner saved Solitude Trail 038

    7 months ago

    jeff gardner saved Highline Trail

    7 months ago

    jeff gardner reviewed Gans Creek Wild Area Trail

    7 months ago

    This is straightforward and beautiful hike within minutes of Columbia, MO. As scenic and interesting as any of the many large state park in MO, this trail has some streams, bluffs and great vistas of the one from atop of the other.

    Starting at the trailhead BE SURE to pick-up a trail map, even (and especially) if you have the AllTrails map with you. What the AllTrails does not show is that this hike is not one trail but a combination of three: The Gans Creek Wilderness Area Trail, White Connecter 9 (WC9) and White Connector 10 (WC10).

    This trail is mostly well blazed (orange or reddish-orange), and nicely maintained. However, since the AllTrails version is a combo of the above mentioned three trails, watch for the following junctions and connectors.

    Going Counter-Clockwise

    Gans Creek Trail - Orange Blaze

    Starting at the trailhead (just off of Hwy 163), you will cross a small bridge. Before you do, look in the trail box for a colored trail map and notice the white connecting trails along this loop.

    To start, go East, and at roughly ¾ of a mile (on the AllTrails map) you will see a spur descending to the left. Ignore this spur if you want to hike the Alltrails loop.

    Just before 2 miles, you will come to a T-intersection, turn right. Very shortly thereafter, almost at the 2 mile mark, watch for the White Connecting Trial #9 on the left, marked with white blazes with the number “9” on them. Take this trail (that is, turn left).

    White Blaze #9

    On the White #9 trail, you will descend off the ridge down into the Gans creek “valley.” This is beautiful section of the trail, even in the winter. At about 2 ¾ miles you will reach the creek bottom. When you do, look for an interesting little cave under a small bluff on the right.

    The trail will move away from bluff, and for reason unknown, the white #9 blazes will disappear. Don’t panic, use your head (and map) and notice that Gans creek is still on you left, and since this is the only well-worn trail in this area, you are not lost.

    Shortly after three miles, white trail #9 reaches the river (still no blazes). Now, if you want to shorten your hike, cross the river and white #9 rejoins the main trail. Attention, there are still no blazes, either white or orange, along this section. Again, no need to worry, it is a very short walk up what’s left of white #9 back from the river to the Gans Creek Trail. Once back on the Gans Creek Trail, go left, all the way up the hill to a parking lot. It is here that the orange blazes begin again (who knows!).

    White Blaze # 10

    If you want to follow the AllTrails map, when you get to the river on White #9, look to your right for White Blaze #10. This trial will continue along Gans Creek (the creek will be on your left), ascending sharply from about 3 ¾ to 3 ½ miles back to the Gans Creek Trail (blaze orange).

    Gans Creek Trail (again) Orange Blaze

    When White #10 intersects with the Gans Creek Trail (top of the hill at about the 3 ½ mile mark), go left. Here, again, some blazes are missing. But since this is the only maintained trail, it is very difficult to get lost. You will descend back to Gans Creek, crossing it at about the 4 mile mark. From this point, it is simply a matter of staying on the trail, blazed or not, for the return.

    You will hit a parking lot at about 5 ¾ miles, the very same that you would have found if you had stayed on White #9 for the shorter hike. After this parking lot, the orange blazes return for the remainder of the trail.

    At about 6 ¾ miles, after a sharp descent, you will again cross Gans Creek, then start a steep-ish uphill climb back to the trail that you were on when, at ¾ miles, you saw a spur descending to the left. When you get to the top of this hill, go right on the trail. You are now headed back to the trailhead on the same trail that you came in on. When this trail forks, at about mile 7, go left (the right goes sharply downhill) and continue back to the trailhead.

    The posted time at the trailhead for this loop is 6 hours - it is not nearly that hard or slow (I did it in 2 ½ hours).

    This is great trail for a longish day hike or a good shakedown hike (it could be a heck of a workout with a full pack!) if you are getting ready for a longer trip (like I am to Rocky Mountain Nat. Park) somewhere else. Give it a go and tell me what you thought of the trail.

    jeff gardner reviewed Deer Run Trail

    8 months ago

    This is a nice, easy-does-it kind of trail. It is by no means moderate and very easy, and would be good for kids. For grown-ups wanting a more challenging hike, not so... For example, the posted time at the trailhead is 2 hours and 45 minutes - I hiked it in 1 hour and 15 minutes.

    The trail is well blazed (yellow), clear and well-kept. If you hike it counter-clockwise, most of the trail is downhill, save for the last ¼ mile or so back to the parking lot.

    The one down(ish) side to this walk-in-the woods is the piles of doggy poo on the trial. Dog people, please, have fido do his business off-trail, for heaven’s sake!

    jeff gardner completed Deer Run Trail

    8 months ago

    jeff gardner saved Surprise Lake

    9 months ago

    jeff gardner saved Mudlick Trail

    12 months ago

    jeff gardner saved Flattop Mountain Trail

    about 1 year ago