Southeastern Gore Range Backpack – Day 1
July 21, 2001 in South
Day 1: The Hike to the Gore Lake Trail Junction
During a backpack, you can see and experience so many more things than you’d ever have the opportunity to during the typical day of peak bagging. Four days is a great amount of time to spend in the back country, giving you plenty of time to witness all sorts of natural wonders. Here’s the story and description of the first major backpack of the year that I’d planned, a trip that has certainly convinced me to try more of these and less of the quick in-and-out day trips. I planned this trip for my sister, Ruth Ann, her boyfriend, Pat, and myself. It is one of the few truly feasible loop hikes in the Gore Range. The backpack began at the Gore Creek/Deluge trailhead. We followed the Gore Creek trail to Gore Lake, then on to Snow Pass to Deluge Lake, and out Deluge Lake trail. Along the way we climbed the major peaks and explored various hidden spots. This was a great trip…
After two days of rest, planning, and acclimatization in Denver and the environs, we headed for Vail. We arrived fairly late in the afternoon, maybe 4 pm if I remember correctly. Our first day would consist of hiking in about four miles and 1500 feet of elevation to a camping spot along Gore Creek. I was hoping that we could camp somewhere near the turnoff to Gore Lake.
We began the hike at the Gore Creek trailhead which is at the big bend in I-70 just before arriving in Vail. We paused for a moment to take a group photo at the trailhead (the plan was to take one at the very beginning of the trip and one at the very end). We began the hike in very hot and dry conditions. The beginning of the trail was very dusty and atypical of a lot of the Gore Range trails. It was the perfect trail, however, to begin on. It wasn’t very steep, that way everyone would be able to more comfortably settle into a rhythm.
Not far at all after the trailhead (less than a quarter of a mile) is the left-hand turnoff for Deluge Lake, the trail we would be descending on the fourth day. Beyond that, we followed Gore Creek fairly closely as the trail headed almost due east into the wide Gore Creek valley. The beginning of the valley isn’t anything special scenically although we did pass some neat beaver ponds and a section of aspen that had been leveled by them.
In our excitement of starting our hike, we paused often to take pictures, unaware of the exceptional natural beauty that awaited us beyond.
We passed a few hikers along the way and saw less and less the further we hiked. The further we hiked, the prettier the scenery became. The dry early stage of the hike was slowly being replaced by the typical wet and thickly vegetated terrain that I’ve grown accustomed to in the Gores. We began passing through large meadows that were absolutely loaded with alpine wildflowers. These meadows contained by far the highest concentration of Monkshood and Larkspur that I’d ever seen.
After crossing over a small bridge in a very dense pine forest which was the Deluge Creek confluence, I think, we began keeping an eye out for possible campsites although we all wanted to get as close as possible to the Gore Lake trail junction, which was a left (due north) turn off of the main trail. The trail that we were on, the Gore Creek trail, eventually led to Red Buffalo Pass, which, if you continued to follow it, would lead you to the South Willow Creek and on to the town of Silverthorn.
We’d also seen on the map that there was a “Grave” annotation at the junction. We all were wondering what sort of grave we’d find. We knew that once the creek followed the trail very closely again that we’d be near. Sure enough, not long thereafter, we saw a sign along the trail and we knew we’d arrived at the junction. Most of the prominent Gore Range trails are well-marked and this one was certainly no exception.
There were camping spots right at the junction and we dumped our packs immediately and started looking around. Almost immediately, we saw the grave (right) which was about 15 yards up the Gore Lake trail. The grave was actually two stone graves with bright yellow flowers growing through the rocks and a large, gnarled, and dead tree that was missing it’s upper half standing above them. The graves were of two brothers apparently named Recen who had died sometime in the early twentieth century. It certainly was a unique and interesting landmark.
The continuing trail to Red Buffalo Pass is a good bit more faint after the Gore Lake trail. Right after the junction the trail crossed the creek and went into a meadow that had about twice the density of wildflowers of any previous meadow. We waded through the waist deep flowers and arrived at the edge of the ponderosa pine forest at an absolutely perfect campsite complete with a small bluff overlooking the water. We immediately decided to move camp to this more private area so we returned to the junction, grabbed our packs, and returned and began to set up camp and prepare for dinner.
Our first dinner was delicious. We cooked veggie and regular hot dogs over our small fire, but the piece d’ resistance were the potatoes that Ruth Ann prepared. The recipe consisted of quartered small golden potatoes mixed with onion, cheese, and spices contained in aluminum foil. We put the foil in the fire for 15 or 20 minutes. The potatoes were soft and basted in juice from the onions and melted cheese. Absolutely delicious! Not that we needed it, but good food is always a huge morale booster on hiking and climbing trips and this one certainly delivered.
The mosquitoes, which had been annoying a couple of hours earlier (another trait of the Gore Range thanks to the surplus of water and lakes), had disappeared thanks to the cooler weather. We turned in around 10:30 or so. I slept out in the open next to the fire and Pat and Ruth Ann slept in the open tent which was also next to the fire. We went to sleep with the sound of the dying fire and the cascading creek. It didn’t take long for me to fall asleep at all and I slept soundly.
On to day 2.