The glaciated form of Waterloo Gulch, in the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness of Colorado
Ah, dawn in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, replete with dew-laden spiders’ webs and fresh air unpolluted by toxin nor cacophony of civilization. I awoke along Texas Creek near the addition of the waters of Waterloo Gulch, within that portion of the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness under the stewardship of the Gunnison National Forest. I immediately felt fortunate and blessed to be backpacking in such a sublime location without so much as leaving my home county. Typical for early August in the mountains, clouds dotted the sky above and added to the twilight’s crepuscular spectacle by catching the early light and illuminating the sky.
Draco and Leah, my two faithful hiking companions and true-heart German shepherds, immediately bestirred upon noting my own waking motions. I thus rose and donned my clothing, after which I released the canines from their cables stays. We strode down to Texas Creek, said waters gurgling as they flowed over the innumerable cobbles along its bed. The dogs slaked their thirst as I admired the sublime setting. We soon returned to camp where we enjoyed our repast prior to departing on our day’s expedition to the high country that loomed above our current setting.
The plan as formed in my mind compelled us to hike up the Waterloo Gulch Trail No. 540 to explore the alpine setting among a high basin tucked away on the west side of the Sawatch Range. We departed, after I had properly stored my and the dogs’ food by suspending it all from a branch so that it was ten feet off the ground and some four feet from the trunk. Therefore, this action placed my mind at ease and did not invite larcenous bruins to camp while we tramped about the country for the day. We strolled over to the trail junction between the mainline Texas Creek Trail and the seldom used path leading up the gulch. For a brief quarter of a mile the trail followed the creek that descended from above and the vegetation bore a lushness that corresponded to the Summer month then existent. After crossing the creek we began to climb two thousand plus feet over the next three miles.
The initial climb through the sub-alpine forest cast glimpses through the forest to the distant ridges that rose up to their serrated crest. The roar of water I heard at all times. The valley narrowed and slopes of talus ran down from the slopes above. Blue sky above, green immersion and gray slopes of rock spangled with specks of bright white snow. Climbing above into the alpine I could look behind me and espy the distinct U-shaped outline of the valley that denotes past glaciation. Draco, Leah and I hiked into the cathedral of verdure, water pouring down among chasms carved into the granite. The trail faded and we climbed up to a high lake retained by a dam, that is, a moraine left by the toe of some prehistoric glacier.
I chose a sunny meadow where I could repose in grace of the mountain grandeur that sprawled up to the higher reaches of the atmosphere. The hike had been replete with the dew that resulted from the recent storms. The sun consequently felt inviting and pleasingly warm. The sky, mostly cerulean, grew increasingly dotted with puffy white clouds as the morning progressed. They provided brief and welcoming respite from the sun’s rays. By the time the cloud departed the blast would be welcome again. As late morning rolled on, the searing quotient of our Sol had strengthened beyond comfort and additionally owing to our long languid condition I determined that it was high time to remove myself and my pack to lower elevations where shade would be found in abundance.
The trail had faded some half a mile or more prior to the lake and thus the hike up had been a bushwhack. From my vantage on the moraine I could look and trace the upward route. I decided to descend to the proximate location of the trail’s formation via a slightly different path. There are numerous such valleys as this that I then observed in the Sawatch Range and, while similar to each other, the vagaries of geology and topography render each distinct. As is often the case, I found the whole of the natural world to meld into a synergistic whole, and that totality fosters a spirit of contentedness that I find nowhere else. Contemplation comes easily as my mind lets dissolve the worries of the outside world. That happy state I found myself in as I trod down the trail, keeping up a steady pace but not forgetting to admire the natural beauty of the place.
Returning to camp I felt that the dogs and I deserved a rest and we commenced basking in the meadow under a large conifer that provided just enough shade to create a steady-state of salubrious napping. Later in the day we strolled somewhat aimlessly towards the creek so as to refresh muscles and replenish depleted stores of hydration. My worries seeped out of my soul and washed down the creek as the languor of the mountain afternoon possessed us. Towards evening I could feel a restlessness overcome my general state of inertia and thus I gathered up the dogs and we hiked up the Texas Creek Trail No. 416 to North Texas Creek about a mile above camp. Greenness greeted me at every turn, whether the dark green of the coniferous forest or the brighter green of the willow and grassy meadows. Here a ridge of rock suggests a huge outpouring of river worn cobbles from some past flood where the concomitant crashing of water continues to this day. There was no hurry to this hike, and I admired whatever caught my fancy and let my mind wander wherever it chose.
Back at camp I fixed my supper of Tom’s Camp Stew and set out kibble for the shepherds. The sun descended towards the west as is its wont, and the clouds remained a bit bright as the sky dimmed until all closed in darkness and naught but stars remained visible excepting for the patches of dark sky that announced the presence of a passing cloud. I had packed all the gear away so that I could watch the dusk and thus when I decided to encourage slumber I merely strolled over to the tent and slipped into my sleeping bag. I leaned out and lay on my back, my head reclining upon my hands, and watched the stars a bit more until I could feel the pulls of sleep and retreated entirely into the tent. The dogs curled up nearby and soon we all slept the sound sleep of the content.
North Texas Creek
Draco and Leah on Texas Creek, morning mist rising
Sun streaking over the high ridges above camp
Leah above Texas Creek
Texas Creek in morning
A small pond near Texas Creek, looking west, in the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness
Leah near camp in the morning light
Dew drenched spider’s web
The Waterloo Gulch Trail at its beginning on the Texas Creek Trail
Sign on tree, Collegiate Peaks Wilderness
Sun just over a ridge above Waterloo Gulch, Gunnison National Forest
Draco on the Waterloo Gulch Trail No. 540
Clouds silhouetted against the morning sun
Granite protrusion above Waterloo Gulch
Thick forest in Waterloo Gulch, looking down towards Texas Creek
Meadow with talus beyond, Waterloo Gulch
On the hike to Waterloo Gulch
Talus strewn slope above Waterloo Gulch
A fine setting in Waterloo Gulch
Aspen and conifer in Waterloo Gulch
Vast field of Talus in Waterloo Gulch
Carved ridge of granite above Waterloo Gulch
Looking up to the col above the terminus of Waterloo Gulch
The view down Waterloo Gulch, possibly Turner Peak third from left
Granite marked by glaciers in Waterloo Gulch
Nearly alpine in Waterloo Gulch
Small stream in the upper end of Waterloo Gulch
Snow clinging to recesses above Waterloo Gulch in the Sawatch Range
The view of the world beyond Waterloo Gulch
A small pond in Waterloo Gulch above treeline
In the Sawatch Range, Collegiate Peaks Wilderness, on Waterloo Gulch
Rocky setting above Waterloo Gulch
Clouds rising above the snow speckled ridges around Waterloo Gulch
Leah at the upper pond on Waterloo Gulch
The upper pond on Waterloo Gulch
Draco and me, in the alpine of Waterloo Gulch
Talus commands the very end of Waterloo Gulch
The waters of Waterloo Gulch emanate here
Hiking down the upper end of Waterloo Gulch
Swertia perennis (Star Gentian) on Waterloo Gulch
Probably Swertia perennis (Star Gentian) in a wet area of Waterloo Gulch
Purple blooms of a Star Gentian on Waterloo Gulch
Wildflower spangled meadow high in Waterloo Gulch
Granite ridge above Waterloo Gulch
Fine setting in Waterloo Gulch, the Rocky Mountains of Colorado
Clouds distant, over Waterloo Gulch
Waterloo Gulch cutting through some rock
Possibly Gentianopsis thermalis (Fringed Gentian) on Waterloo Gulch
Fringed Gentian, maybe, in Waterloo Gulch
Faded gentian on Waterloo Gulch
Maybe Gentiana parryi on Waterloo Gulch
Parry’s Gentian, possibly, on Waterloo Gulch
Probably Campanula rotundifolia, part of Campanulaceae on Waterloo Gulch
Draco and Leah on the Waterloo Gulch Trail No. 540
Looking up from camp on a fine afternoon near Texas Creek
Texas Creek in the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness
The glaciated form of Waterloo Gulch, in the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness of Colorado