Short Hike from Horse Ranch Park to Beckwith Pass – September 03, 2009

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Looking at Beckwith Bench from near the pass

It is an interesting juxtaposition to be writing about the end of Summer nearly seven years ago as this current Summer is about to begin.  In Twenty Aught Nine the summer was rapidly coming to a close, being about three weeks in the future when I took this hike up to Beckwith Pass.  Now, in Twenty Sixteen, Summer’s beginning is three weeks away and the days are long.  Then, the nights would be increasing in duration and the green was fading into the familiar shades of yellows associated with the then imminent Autumn.

Beckwith Pass may be reached by accessing a number of different trailheads from either the north or the south.  It is much closer to the two located to the north and I chose to begin this short hike from near Horse Ranch Park.  After seven years, I have only the faintest memories of this hike and most of my recollections of the area are based on more recent and repeated visits to this pass between the Anthracite Range to the east and the Beckwith Mountains to the west.  All are part of the West Elk Wilderness and managed by the Gunnison National Forest.

There is a Horse Ranch Park Trailhead shown on the map, but that accesses the north side of the Kebler Pass Road.  I parked at the Cliff Creek Trailhead and hiked off to the south of the aforementioned road.  Both trailheads are located in Horse Ranch Park and offer stunning views of the expansive aspen forests and tall peaks found in this vicinity.  It is only two miles or so from the trailhead to the pass, but those two miles are a scenic splendor.  The trail winds its way through small hillocks and copse of aspen interspersed with groves of conifer.  To the north can be seen the southern end of the Ruby Range and a grand sight it is.

This trail isn’t too steep but does climb.  I can’t remember for sure if it was this hike or not, but one time I came here after a fierce Summer rain storm and the path was so muddy that I could barely hike uphill without slipping.  What I remember most about this hike is that I reached the pass and stopped there making a mental note to return to this area, especially the Beckwith Bench located to the southwest of the pass.  I am happy to say that I have done that a number of times since, although this portion of the West Elk Wilderness is so vast and wild that there are still portions of the landscape nearby that remain unexplored to me.

The view from the pass is stunning and all superlatives go wanting.  The mountains directly to the east and west loom over without imposing, exposing steep slopes of craggy rock.  To the north lies the Ruby Range, rising up from the earth with the reddish tinted soil that provides the name.  The southern views include the wild heart of the West Elk Wilderness and numerous peaks and drainages found within those boundaries.

I am not sure why I didn’t take more snapshots than I did.  Perhaps I was feeling a bit indifferent or indolent.  The color of the grass is worthy of photography being a mixture of yellow and green and heralding the changing of the seasons.  I also wonder about why I would drive way back beyond Kebler Pass to make such a short hike.  It is possible that I made a loop drive around the West Elk Mountains and included this short hike in the day’s activities.  Whatever the case may be, this hike was almost certainly the first time that I ever visited this realm.  It was a happy introduction, and I have returned since then numerous times to further my acquaintance with the land and wild things that live here.

Third Visit to Pomeroy Gulch and the Molly Murphy Mine – September 02, 2009

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The second tram leading down from the Molly Murphy Mine to Romley, above Pomeroy Gulch

Nearly seven years after my third visit to Pomeroy Gulch and the Molly Murphy Mine in the previous two weeks I am beginning to understand why I have not been back since.  It would seem that I had taken the time to see all that I could and thus have never felt an impetus to return and further my knowledge of the area.  Besides, regardless of which road I took it would be a nearly two hour drive to get to this remnant of the Chalk Creek Mining District.

In fact, I am not sure why I had decided to return this third time.  It now seems a bit excessive, but I do recall being somewhat enthralled with these remains, especially the aerial tramways that had been concocted to carry the ore from the mine’s adits to the railroad below.  I had taken photographs of the first and third trams but now realize that until this final visit I didn’t have any of the second tram.  Perhaps that is why I wanted to return, plus it would seem that I explored a couple of other aspects of the mine site that I had not done previously.

Of my three visits, this would seem to be the shortest.  I had hiked up to the Pomeroy Lakes on my first visit and then up and over to the Iron Chest Mine on my second.  Having virtually no recollections of the purpose and intention of this third visit, it would nonetheless seem that I merely hiked up Pomeroy Gulch along the Pomeroy Lakes Road, visited the mine site, took some digital images and then returned.  Perhaps I made a visit to Leadville or some other area that I enjoy visiting but didn’t document with the camera.

Upon reflection, I do have some memories of this visit.  I remember looking into the gated adit where there had been some recent workings occurring.  I wasn’t sure if this was actual mining or remediation work to mitigate the pollution that the mine site regularly discharges into Chalk Creek.  The amount of tailings in this area is vast, considering the era, and I remember thinking about the wasteland of sickly looking yellow, orange and red rock.  For in the mountains gray is the normal healthy color associated with exposed rock and all the bright colors are considered diseased.

The strongest memory from the entire day regards Sheba the German shepherd.  She, along with Lady Dog, had accompanied me on this and the previous two explorations of this area.  What I remember is that Sheba caught and subsequently devoured a small marmot.  Called “whistle pigs” by some due to their high-pitched whistles emitted whenever danger lurks, they are generally wily.  I felt bad about this one being caught, as I do not like the dogs hassling wildlife of any sort.  Besides transmitting infectious disease, the large rodents can also turn the table on an aggressive predator.  I have heard a story, perhaps apocryphal, of a dog losing an eye to one such wee beast.  Certainly, the numerous stories of dogs requiring stitches cannot all be mere hyperbole of these creatures’ ferocity.

Here is where my memory becomes macabre.  Sheba, as I aforementioned, consumed the marmot.  I would have to say that this act she did with relish and gusto.  The audible sounds of her crushing the skull were reminiscent of cracking crab.  I watched for a bit until one particular mastication caused an eye ball to pop out at which point I walked off a short distance.  While generally interested in predators and predation, I can shy away from the more gruesome aspects.  Lady Dog followed me over wagging her tail furiously in anticipation of some such similar food reward as Sheba wasn’t about to share her prize.  Unfortunately for Lady Dog, I was not about to go out and fetch her a marmot or any other such wild creature.

Some ten minutes later Sheba finished her unplanned snack and wandered over.  Her chest, a bib of fur, was coated in pale green, what could only have been marmot innards.  I was a bit upset about the situation considering the serious breach of etiquette created by the poor creature’s demise but Sheba was about as happy as a dog could be.  In twenty-five years of canine handling this was the only marmot to be killed and I am content that there never be a second.

Returning to the car, we stopped at a culvert in the road where the waters of Pomeroy Gulch passed underneath.  Here, I took Sheba down into this stream and attempted to wash the marmot off of her.  This act was to no avail and she wore the bib for the next couple of weeks, an open reminder of her intervention in the wild world.

I would like to say that the rest of the day, once we arrived back at the car and drove down the Chalk Creek Road, was a blur, but the reality is that my memory of it is a mere blank.  Upon reflection, what was of more immediate import was that this would have been my first hike of September of that year.  Summer of Twenty Aught Nine was within three weeks of being closed.  The cool down would have begun and it was time for me to prepare for Autumn.

Exploring the Mary Murphy and Iron Chest Mines – August 25, 2009

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Point 12351 above Chalk Creek in the Sawatch Range

At one time the sounds of hard rock mining echoed off the high peaks and ridges of the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.  It still does in some places but generally has been greatly diminished from its heyday in the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Centuries.  I am not as enamored today with our destructive industrial habits as I was nearly seven years ago when I made these snapshots but they still hold interest.  While I am mostly opposed to modern mining methods because of their magnitude in the destruction of our environment, at least there is scale of these works relative to humanity.  What I mean is that today’s open pit mines and tar sands developments are so vast as to defy human magnitude, being mostly built using machinery.  These structures I visited on this day seem like they were built by men more than machines.

These works are still discharging pollution in the form of acid mine drainage and toxic heavy metals, but I believe that some mitigation work has been done and I would be curious to see the results some seven years on.  I visited this area three times in quick succession and have not been back since.

Similarly to my visit a week prior on the nineteenth of August, I drove up the road that leads up from the Arkansas River Valley between Salida and Buena Vista.  This road leads along Chalk Creek and past the hot springs at Mount Princeton and the old mining town of St. Elmo high in the Sawatch Range of Colorado.  That range is the backbone of the mighty Rocky Mountains found in this area and its crest is also the Continental Divide for dozens of miles in this region.

Past St. Elmo I parked the car near Pomeroy Gulch and walked up the Pomeroy Lakes Road.  This area is generally managed by the San Isabel National Forest, although it includes some private property that was withdrawn from the public domain during the mining era, and this road also carries the number 297.  I walked up to what I called the upper wheelhouse in my previous blog and again took note of the various structures found here.  From that point I continued along the road but instead of hiking back up to the lakes I instead made a switchback on an old mining road and climbed up to the Molly Murphy Mine.

After searching for this mine on the internet I have found out a few things.  This mine was the major producer for the Chalk Creek district and is well known among enthusiasts for such things.  Also, what I had called the upper wheelhouse is more often referred to as the tramhouse.  I had speculated about one structure being a boarding house and have since found that I was essentially correct as it is called a bunkhouse in other documentation.  I also found out both in person on this hike and online that there was a second tram that led off from the mine in a slightly different direction.

The highlight of this trip, though, was climbing up to the small saddle between Chrysolite Mountain and Point 12351.  On this cloudy day I was a bit concerned about lightening, but I remember that the clouds seemed calm and not full of the energy that I often associate with electrical storms.  Sheba and Lady Dog had both accompanied me once again and we walked over to the latter point where a prayer flag had been erected.  It was a scenic and inspirational sight and served as an antidote to the ecological carnage that was strewn out nearby.  Speaking of which, I found that the state of Colorado initiated much of the remediation in the area due to discharges from this site contaminating Chalk Creek to the point were hundreds of thousands of trout would be killed at the state run fish hatchery located downstream.

Hiking down the opposite slope from the Mary Murphy Mine led me to the remains and ruins of the Iron Chest Mine.  Here was another tram system, the third, and some of the towers were immense considering the dates used and materials involved to build the structures.  A huge flywheel sits on the ground beneath the structure from which it was disgorged when the wooden beams holding it in place finally rotted away.  I found myself fascinated that such heavy pieces of iron machinery could be hauled in to this location solely by physical exertion from man and beast.  Incidentally, the marker’s mark on one old boiler and hoist read “Lidgerwood Mfg, 10 Liberty St. NY”.  Apparently, this company provided many of the cranes and cable loading systems that helped to build the Panama Canal.

I decided that I could hike down the slope back to the road below by following this third tram.  I didn’t take many photographs of this portion of the hike but I did enjoy it as it passed through beautiful woods full of sub-alpine conifers.  I would suppose that much of this forest must have been chopped down to provide fuel for the mines’ boilers and general firewood as well as possibly railroad ties for the old Denver, South Park and Pacific Railroad that served this area up until 1926.

A portion of the slope was surprisingly steep and my awe at this ancient tram gained a new appreciation.  I just could not fathom how such a thing was built.  Once I reached the road my memories of this journey come to an end.  I believe that I headed back down to the Arkansas Valley directly and did not explore any of the nearby area.  Once in the valley, I have no idea of what I did.  Sometimes I like to visit Leadville, located about an hour by car upstream.  I might have returned via Cottonwood Pass but most likely I finished the day by simply returning over the direct route that uses Monarch Pass.  Now that I write this, I realize that I assumed I had driven from my home in Gunnison, Colorado, to Chalk Creek via U.S. 50 over Monarch Pass but it could be that I drove over Cottonwood Pass first.  I just cannot remember after all this time has passed.  Such lack of clarity and certainty in my memory has been a good impetus for me to document my collection of digital images that I have been making since 2006, and a fine hobby it is.

Hike to Pomeroy Gulch and Agnes Vaille Falls – August 19, 2009

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Upper Pomeroy Lake and Pomeroy Mountain

Nearly seven years have passed since I made this journey up to Chalk Creek and the ghost town of Saint Elmo.  Although I remember this journey well, the particular details have mostly faded with the passage of time.  Chalk Creek drains into the Arkansas River between Salida and Buena Vista, two small cities in Colorado.  Saint Elmo was a small city as well but having been directly allied with mining interests it faded when they did.  Now, all that remains are some relic buildings, mining ruins, summer homes and much pollution.

To get there, I drove over U.S. 50 east of Gunnison, my home, and up and over Monarch Pass before turning north on U.S. 285.  There is a turnoff for Chalk Creek and this I took, following the narrow road up into the mountainous country of the Sawatch Range.  The western slope of said range drains down into the Gunnison Country and the waters pass by my house.  My interest in this area had been piqued by sighting the several ruins from the crest of the range above the ruins of the old Alpine Tunnel.

I don’t remember entirely if I had brought along Sheba the German shepherd and Lady Dog, but I believe that I did.  Regardless, the first stop I made after driving up past the Chalk Cliffs and their concomitant hot springs was to inspect the old town itself and some of the foundation ruins of what looks like an old mill.  Incidentally, the old main line of the Denver, South Park and Pacific Railroad led up this drainage to the Alpine Tunnel.  There are places were the road follows the old grade and others where the grade can be seen from a distance.

Next, the car bore me up the road past Saint Elmo to Pomeroy Gulch where I parked the mechanical beast and began to hike up the steep, four-wheel drive road.  Here, at the gulch, lies the abutments of the old railroad bridge as well as a large structure used during mining’s heyday.  This building was the terminal for an aerial tram that carried ore from the mines to the waiting transportation.  I did spend a bit of time here investigating the ruins and became amazed at the past industry that once called this now quiet area home.  According to the map, the railroad siding here was a townsite called Romley.

I remember the waters cascading down Pomeroy Gulch and the thick conifer forest found along the way.  Most folks were driving up here in their Jeeps and four-by-four pickups, but I had wisely left the Subaru below.  The land ownership in the area is confused, much of it being private property interspersed within the surrounding San Isabel National Forest.  Therefore, for the most part, I remained on the road although I am not sure that public passage is a deeded right-of-way.

About a mile up the road I came upon many parked vehicles and numerous mining ruins, including the other end of the aerial tram.  The United States Forest Service, the bureaucracy that manages the various National Forests, was attempting to mitigate much of the pollution that still emanates from the various glory holes and adits found throughout the region.  Simultaneously, they were attempting to preserve the historical aspects of the site.

What caught my attention was that much of the machinery remaining in the upper wheelhouse was reminiscent of some of the earlier models of two-seated chair lifts I saw as a child at some of the ski resorts.  Although fascinating to see, I am glad that most of the mining in this area has been relegated to the past as I enjoy the quietude, clean air and fresh water found in most mountain settings.  Still, looking at the old boarding house I could not help but wonder that so many people called this place home for a time.

I continued to hike another mile to the end of the road.  From here on the passage could be made, legally, only on foot or horseback.  Nearby was Pomeroy Lake and another mile of fairly level hiking brought me to Upper Pomeroy Lake.  This latter body of water sits under its namesake mountain high up above treeline in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.  An old trail, one which is not maintained and only shows on older maps, could be seen leading up and over an unnamed pass to the east of Pomeroy Mountain.  Apparently, it leads to another mining district in the vicinity of Billings Lake although I have never been there.

My recollections of the lakes are of a mixed variety.  Although very scenic, with pockets of snow lingering in the deep, shaded crevices, I could discern a certain forlorn aspect to the region as if the ruins of the mining and accompanying pollution yet haunted the hills and valleys of the area.  Given time, this will heal, but for the time being it is a warning to our modern society regarding the trade-offs that come with the industrialization of our landscape.

I ate lunch, something I clearly remember, at the upper lake before deciding to wander back down to the main road where my car was parked.  Prior to that, however, I walked over to the small ridge that divided Pomeroy Gulch from its neighbor Grizzly Gulch, a larger and deeper parallel defile.  From this vantage I could stare down at the lush grasses below and the expanse of Grizzly Lake.  The surrounding eminences cut into the sky with their serrated rocky ridges.  Pockmarked with old tailings piles and mine sites, the vista still retained a grandeur of mountain majesty.

Once I had walked back down past the trailhead and the steep road I drove the car up to the old Hancock townsite.  According to the signage put up by a local historical society there had once been a plethora of structures here, but now naught remained but one old shell.  This was also the site of the train’s final approach to the tunnel waiting above.

Having now had my fill of mining heritage I drove back down the Chalk Creek Road to the Chalk Lake Campground managed by the Forest Service. I found this setting to be to my liking, being full of my favorite tree, the ponderosa pine, and thought that this would be a fine place to spend a night or two.  However, I have yet to fulfill that whim.  On this day, though, I did make the short hike up to Agnes Vaille Falls.  The name of the falls was conferred by the local citizenry upon the cascade to honor a Colorado woman, a mountaineer, who had long made her home in the state and perished attempting to climb the east face of Long’s Peak in early Nineteen Twenty-Five.

The falls are quite beautiful but are now closed to public access.  Four years after my visit a large rockslide killed five people hiking on the trail.  I thought it odd at the time that I felt a distinct queasiness when I stood at the base of the cascade but now I realize that my intuition about the inherent hazards of the area were correct.

I don’t remember anything about the remainder of the day.  I would guess that I simply drove home, back the way I came, to Gunnison.  Regardless, I had a full day of hiking and exploring and was happy for that.  I do recall feeling exalted at having discovered so much.  The weather was also pleasant, and although I appreciate the rain, I do enjoy hiking under blue skies!

Backpacking to the Second Meadows of Elk Creek, Day 3 – August 18, 2009

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Lady Dog on the Elk Creek Trail in the South San Juan Wilderness of Rio Grande National Forest

Chris and I woke up in the South San Juan Wilderness on this our second morning and third and final day at the Second Meadows of Elk Creek.  The day dawned with few clouds scudding across the deep blue sky and the verdant meadows stretching out within the mountain valley.  Nearly seven years having passed, I don’t recall too much about this morning.  I didn’t take too many photographs of this third day of backpacking but judging from the couple that I did take it would seem that we left fairly early in the day to begin our hike out.

This was a magical place to visit.  I was saddened that upon my return eight years later in Twenty Fifteen that most of the surrounding conifer forest had been killed by beetles.  I suppose that such occurrences are part of the natural cycle of things as beetle killed forest has been documented in the past.  However, it seems that this recent decimation of the forest has been increasingly linked to global climate change and that does create some worry when I see thousands of acres of arboreal carnage.

Of the two photographs, one image captured some trail improvements made over small wet areas.  These helped to keep the trail from braiding through the delicate marshes.  Eight years later many of the works then recently made had been ruined by cattle grazing.  I remember distinctly thinking on my second hike that the area was overstocked with cattle and now looking at some before and after pictures I am convinced of it.  On this trek I don’t recall the presence of cattle at all, but that could simply mean that they had already been removed from the area.

One of the few memories I have of this hike back out to the trailhead is that Lady Dog did not want to carry her dog pack and I ended up strapping it onto my own pack.  I don’t think she was really in pain but more just did not want to be burdened.  I can’t say I blamed her, although I was a bit frustrated at her recalcitrance.

The day was warm and I am sure that both my friend Chris, the dogs and I were all happy to have left early so as to avoid the intense heat of the mid-day.  Although not especially hot relative to temperature, the thin atmosphere creates a situation that causes the sun to feel searing.  We might have stopped at the First Meadows to let the dogs water themselves as well as to simply enjoy the scenery, but I don’t remember for sure.

It is unfortunate that I don’t remember more about this hike.  Suffice to say that eventually we reached the trailhead were we could unburden ourselves from our load.  Chris was living in Taos at the time and as I lived in Gunnison, so we shook hands and hugged our good-byes before driving off to the south and north, relatively.  We had had a fine hike and it was good to commiserate with an old friend.  We know each other from our days living in the upper Huerfano Valley in the vicinity of Gardner.  Chris has since moved back to the region while I still live here in Gunnison, Colorado.  Seven years isn’t that long, but this trip seems locked in the distant pass to me.  Odd, how some memories from Twenty Aught Nine seem so recent while this and others seem almost like another lifetime.

Backpacking to the Second Meadows of Elk Creek, Day 2 – August 17, 2009

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Unnamed lake on the mesa between the Conejos River and Elk Creek, towards the east end of the Valle Victoria Trail

My friend Chris and I woke up on the first morning and second day of our backpacking trip in the Second Meadows of Elk Creek within the South San Juan Wilderness.  A fine day greeted us with a minimum of clouds in the sky.  We explored the meadow a bit before making a day hike up to a high mesa that we had seen on our hike in.

The Second Meadows continued to impress, a nearly two-mile long by half a mile wide expanse of mountain verdure.  Elk Creek winds placidly throughout, moving sinuously from one side of the valley to the other.  Forests of thick conifer hover up-slope on the mesa sides with groves of quaking aspen fluttering their green leaves with each breeze.

Chris and I hiked back downstream along Elk Creek until we reached the Notch Trail.  That trail leads up to a notch in the mesa that sits between Elk Creek and the Conejos River to the north.  We made the short, half a mile climb up to the pass where we then climbed up the Valle Victoria Trail and onto the main mass of the mesa.

From our vantage point we could see the canyon formed by the Conejos River as well as the crest of the southern San Juan Mountains.  A few patches of snow remained on the lee side of the crest where the cornices had formed.  These mountains are known for rain, and it was amazing that we had nothing but blue skies filled with a few scant puffy white clouds in our midst.  Considering that we were in an area prone to lightening that was just as well as there was no quick and easy descent to make from the mesa lest the weather should become electrical in nature.

Near Point 11072 lies an unnamed lake that fills a divot within the mesa’s surface.  This lake had ample water lilies growing near the shore and was a fine place to repose among the wildlands that surrounded us.  Sitting in the shade, there was naught to do but stare out at the few clouds and watch them silently glide by.  The lake’s water reflected the cerulean heavens above and a more inviting location is seldom found in this world.  Eight years later, I would return to this location based on the memories I had of this day.

Chris and I lounged at the lake for a good portion of the afternoon before we decided to return to camp in the Second Meadows.  After nearly seven years most of the memories of this day have faded beyond recall and I don’t remember most of the later afternoon.  Suffice to say that the evening was spent making supper and talking about the topics of the day.  Looking at the photographs I see that I also must have explored the meadow again, wandering down to the creek and through the thick grasses that grew along the banks.

This is a special place and both Chris and I felt blessed that we were able to set aside some time to visit here.  The clear skies must have been the result of a high pressure system that brought along colder weather.  I distinctly remember being cold again, to be expected in the mountains, but colder than was usual.  It might have even frosted a bit.  Certainly, by mid-August the vegetation at elevation begins to prepare for Winter’s dormancy.  Regardless, it was a pleasure to be spending a second night out in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.

Backpacking to the Second Meadows of Elk Creek, Day 1 – August 16, 2009

I love mountain meadows and parks, the wide grassy openings found in the forests usually with a stream gurgling through.  For some time I had seen the appellations of First, Second, Third and Fourth Meadows strung out along Elk Creek within the South San Juan Wilderness and had wanted to visit them.  So, talking this over with my friend Chris from Gardner we decided that a two-night backpacking trip to the Second Meadows would be a fine idea.

For some reason, I did not take any snapshots of this first day of hiking into the South San Juan Mountains and thus have only what few memories have not faded into oblivion from which to recall this day.

I remember that I met Chris in the parking lot of the grocery store in nearby Antonito, Colorado, where we gathered a few supplies before driving up Colorado 17 to the Elk Creek Trailhead.  This area where we were to hike is managed by the Rio Grande National Forest and is part of the public lands that belong to us all.

I remember the weather being warm and dry, a fine day to get out into the woods.  Unfortunately, I also remember that I had lost a sock, letting it fall out of an open door, back in Antonito and thus had to use regular cotton socks to hike in.  Regardless, our packs were soon made ready and we strode down the trail to the bridge that allows an easy crossing of Elk Creek and access to trail of the same name, also known as Rio Grande National Forest Trail 731.

Chris had brought his dog and I brought along Sheba the German shepherd and Lady Dog.  Chris’s dog is much like a fluffier Lady Dog.  All three got along well and we cruised up past the ponderosa pine leaving most traces of the fast paced world behind us.  I remember coming across the First Meadows and being suitably impressed.  Here Elk Creek winds it way slowly through sinuous bends, flowing placidly through a large verdant opening surrounded either by our bare hillside upon which sat the trail or a dense montane forest.

Sometime later we met a cowboy on horseback near the Notch Trail, where Lady Dog attempted to become a bit too familiar with the horse’s hooves and was almost kicked.  It was a bit amusing but could have been perilous for all involved.  Continuing onward along our five to six mile trek, we came up to a steep grade that led up and over what looked like an ancient landslide that perhaps blocked ancient Elk Creek and created a lake that later filled in with sediment and became Second Meadows.

Second Meadows was exactly as I had pictured it would be.  That was my first impression and a lasting one it is.  The trail crosses a bridge over the first plunge the creek takes leaving the meadows and the view was one of an expanse of meadow greens surrounded by high ridges swaddled in thick conifer forest.  This was the type of wilderness setting that I had always wanted to see and know existed.  We both had big smiles upon our faces as we stared out at the peaceful setting.

Chris and I hiked a bit further on and chose a camp.  We set up our gear and discussed our options for the next couple of days.  We might have done a bit of exploring of the local woods but I remember sitting up and watching the sunset and the ensuing darkening sky become spangled with twinkling pinpoints of light that are the stars and galaxies outside of our own Solar System.  It was cold in mid-August, even considering ten thousand foot elevation and mountain climate, but the setting was sublime and a finer night could not be had.