||4 hr 5 min
||Baldwin Gulch TH (4WD)
Sydney and I had a day to ourselves while the rest of the family had other obligations. I had been eyeing Antero for many years. Some amount of sheer confusion given the whole 4WD road up to the ridge. Would I want to give that a shot? In the Hummer? Or maybe take ATVs? What about this being North America’s highest gem field? Do I need a pick? Could I strike it rich? Decisions.
Well, in order to strike Antero off the list, you gotta hike 3,000 feet. Bummer. So Sydney took up the challenge. She never asks how long or far. So refreshing. I popped out of bed and got her up at 5:30 AM. Lots of light. The sky looked wet but it wasn’t raining. The forecast showed 80% chance of rain and afternoon thunderstorms. Ew. Well, let’s go and check it out.
The trailhead is just down the road from the Mount Princeton Hot Springs. I should have brought our passes. We could have warmed up in the pools after the hike.
The trailhead greets you with a big map of the area. It proclaims to be the “Highest OHV trail system in the USA”. Nice! There is just enough trailer parking down the road from the trailhead if I did return with ATVs. One question answered.
Instead, I put the H2 back in action by crawling up the trail. It wasn’t that technical but it was a bit thin for Sydney’s tastes as she was against the wall while I hung off the mountain. We didn’t encounter any other traffic so it was pretty smooth. Plenty of clearance in my truck or in a Jeep along the trail. After 3 miles, we were up at the creek crossing. It wasn’t deep. But it was nice having the truck to cross.
We parked just up the road from there at a point where we would still have 3,000 vertical to go. However, we quickly learned that we could have taken the H2 probably another 2 miles easily before it got more sketchy. But on an ATV, I could have been on top in minutes. Easy trail.
The hike up was actually pretty nice along the road. Given the grade for 4WD, you aren’t really taxing your climbing. Keep a good pace and you make quick work of the distance. Kind of a nice change from the usual hands on knees grind.
It started to lightly rain and we started adapting. However, I was underprepared with the clothes. I had what I need when I run. I did not have enough stuff for a wet kid plus a hike speed Dad. We made due but I was worried how it might play out later on.
The trail was pretty straightforward. We stayed on the road and didn’t cut switchbacks, even though there are some iffy cuts you can make. As we came around the final hill before the ridge, the cold winds came. And with that, the rain turned to snow. Sydney had the majority of the clothes on and she was cold. I kept checking with her but her spirit was going downhill.
We made it to the start of the ridge where the 4WD road ends. The last section of that is only drivable by those with skills or no fear. Anyway, we made it out on the ridge and Sydney was starting to feel the pain of the cold. I asked her how things were going and she was crying. She doesn’t cry as in “cry like a baby” but more that cry when you are working and it isn’t going your way and you push through. I have seen it before. It’s a strong cry and she doesn’t like me to see it but I did.
The summit was just ahead in the fog. We were full whiteout. Other than the fact that I knew to head in whatever direction was up, we really couldn’t make out much on the ridge. I knew to stay centered on it so we did. As soon as we got to a point that seemed to flatten out, we called it good and turned tail back down the mountain. By this point, my hands were gone too and my shirt soaked. But I have been in worse situations. And when your kid is there and you have to return her to Mom in one piece, your comfort is not important.
We made quick work of the ridge down and were back on the road in no time. Still cold. Sydney couldn’t really hold her poles anymore. Her gloves were soaked through. We just kept a good pace and moved down the mountain. When we got maybe a mile off the summit, the sun started poking and the storm cleared in minutes. We had blue sky. Still cool out. But we stripped the wet stuff and let the sun dry us out.
I could see the thunderstorms from the forecast to the west building. Just a rough day with the forecast. Should have went another day. But this is the kind of stuff that makes great stories. So it was fun. Sydney was very excited about the adventure. The whole 4WD adventure, the dogs, the snow, and all. Everything seemed to fall in place. We chatted and finally arrived back at the car as it started to rain again.
I only have Holy Cross left in the Sawatch now. Kind of bitter sweet. I sort of came to like those mountains. I am sure I will continue to repeat some even if I have my sights set on the San Juans.
We finished at K’s in BV. Hot dogs & free doggie cones for the kids!
Until next time…Ozzy and Lizzy, out.