Sunday, February 10, 2013

Butler Gulch Trail

After taking a few weeks to go through all the shots from our Florida trip, I was long overdue to get out for a hike and take some pictures here in Colorado.  And I'm getting more and more particular about trying to shoot in the best possible light, which means starting early.  So just after 5:00 Saturday morning I was in the car headed for the Butler Gulch Trail west of Empire.

I finally remembered to bring the cheap headlamp I got at REI months ago, and I was glad I did.  It was still pretty dark out when I got to the trailhead a little after 6 a.m.  But it wasn't too long before the skies to the east started to lighten and I was earnestly scouting for a spot to shoot the sunrise.  This wasn't it, but it was still worth a stop and a few snaps.

Just in time I found what I was looking for -- an open meadow with a decent view to the east.  I didn't exactly get the explosion of color in the sky I had hoped for, but nonetheless found the scene looking toward Stanley Mountain pretty beautiful.

There are no pictures of the next 90 minutes or so of my hike, because the trail eventually got so steep and I was doing so much postholing that I had to put my camera away to free my hands to help with the climb.  I was feeling pretty puny, and wondering how I'd gotten in such bad shape that I was struggling so much with a trail that was supposed to be easy/moderate in difficulty.  Eventually I decided the tracks I'd been following couldn't possibly be marking the main trail, and turned around.

My descent proved much quicker than my ascent, and I soon saw a couple of cross-country skiers through the trees on what was obviously "the" trail.  They jokingly confirmed that they had seen my tracks veering off a ways back and wondered where I was going.  I was just glad to be back on something much wider, more packed and more gradual.

I followed the skiers above treeline, looking for a good spot to shoot the vista and the beautiful patterns the wind was carving in the snow.  An attempt at that summit was out of the question -- I was pretty wiped out from my earlier efforts off the trail.

I didn't spend nearly as much time up here as I'd hoped.  I'd lost feeling in my toes a while ago, and in just the short time I took my fingers out of my gloves to shoot the last scene and this one they'd quickly gone numb, too.  There were plenty more pictures I wanted to take.  I just didn't think it was worth an extremity to get them.  So I quickly packed up and headed back the way I'd came.  The skiers had opted for a quicker return straight down this face.

I assumed I had lost the main trail after shooting the sunrise.  But it turned out I had done so even earlier when I was looking for a spot to shoot.  This is where it happened -- I'd headed left toward some open space, and forgot while shooting that the main trail was off to my right.  So I kept following what were eventually only ski tracks that were likely made by folks coming back down rather than going up like I was trying to do.

Red Mountain in the distance, with some nice sunlight streaming through a break in the gathering clouds.

As I was driving back home I stumbled on a nice bonus -- these seven ladies out for brunch.

I don't know what scent this gal had picked up, but she seemed quite enamored by it.  And she and several others seemed quite pregnant, too.

I watched the girls' club for a while, hoping they might do something interesting.  They seemed content not to, so my attention wandered until I spied this striking frozen waterfall further up the slope.

One little ewe was smaller and darker than the others, which I assumed meant she was younger.  Whatever the case, she was definitely the cutest of the bunch.

The hike took me almost exactly four hours, and given my adventure off the trail I really don't know how much distance I covered.  My best guess is only about six miles.  Definitely seems like a place worth returning to when the wildflowers are blooming.  If I do, I'll just have to be sure to pay more attention to where I'm walking!

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