Victory at Trout Creek

Ever wondered what lies on the other side of this ridge? We certainly have. Reinecker Ridge looms impressively in most of our photographs taken at the Buffalo Peaks Ranch. Last year, Jay and I made a half-baked attempt to walk to the base of the ridge, but we didn’t get any farther than Trout Creek (you can read about that misadventure here). The next day, we all piled into Sarah’s Subaru and tried to reach the ridge via service roads, but we were stopped short by a locked gate. Determined that we would summit this beast in 2017, we researched our best route to the ridge by studying aerial images of the valley. What appeared to be a culvert, well to the north of last year’s route, gave us hope that we would reach our destination. Just after sunrise on a cool, windy and beautiful October morning, we set out.

The photo above (my favorite of the day) was captured by Sarah, who followed us through her lens until we were swallowed by the shadow of the mighty ridge. The next two photos also belong to Sarah. Here we are at the starting line, fueled by a hearty breakfast…

Striking eastward across the valley. The cows paid us no attention…

Even without the fence or the cattle trail to follow, our target would be easy to find…

The promised culvert! Our ticket across Trout Creek…

After hopping the final barbed-wire fence at the base of the ridge, the climbing began, as did the anticipation. What would we see on the other side? Our route from here would be improvised. As the slope steepened, we entered the last of the morning’s shadow…

Which soon disappeared as the sun found us once again…

The terrain grew rockier as we ascended. We discovered many large red boulders embedded in the ground; this one resembling a giant egg in a nest…

And this one, split in two by natural forces who knows how many thousands of years ago…

A look at the slope as we switchbacked our way to the top; Trout Creek winding below toward its union with the Middle Fork South Platte River…

Huzzah! Happy hikers at the summit…

Jay, leaning into the wind; me, trying to hold onto the phone. Once we had left the valley floor and started our climb, that morning’s hard west wind steadily grew stronger as we gained altitude, pushing us up the hill. At the summit, with the ridge out of its way so it could fly freely, I conservatively estimate the wind was sustained in excess of 60 mph; wouldn’t be surprised if it was actually higher than 70 mph. Standing still was quite difficult…

A beautiful and long-awaited view of the Buffalo Peaks Ranch…

To our knowledge, the very first time that the Rocky Mountain Land Library banner has been flown over Reinecker Ridge…

Reaching the summit was quite rewarding, but the real prize was waiting for us on the eastern side of the ridge. As we walked down a short distance, the wind continued to howl overhead, but it became little more than a gentle breeze at ground level. We stood there looking out over a vast and beautiful landscape stretching all the way to the distant mountains; no signs of civilization, no moving creatures…just hills and valleys, grass and rocks, a few scattered trees, sitting in silence under an immense blue sky. Such a powerful and sublime vista.

Jay, in the lower left corner, sitting down for a moment to take in the scenery. That bald hill in the middle distance is known as Bald Hill (as seen on this topo map; elevation 9556′). As we gazed at this wonderland, we couldn’t help but make plans for our next visit to the ranch, which will include an extended exploration of this valley and, of course, a march to the summit of Bald Hill…

With so many amazing peaks and parks and trails in Colorado, this particular spot isn’t likely on anyone’s hit list. And by the numbers, avid hikers and climbers might find it less than noteworthy. Our one-way walking distance from the ranch was just over one mile; the elevation at the summit of the ridge is 9481′ (confirmed by the topo map and the altimeter app on my phone). From the floor of the valley near Trout Creek, that’s an elevation gain of only 370′. Still, it’s no exaggeration to say that this was the most satisfying hike of my life. I’ve visited the high points of 31 states (all of them, incidentally, lower in elevation than this ridge), but treks of that nature are all rather predictable…a known destination, a well-marked and well-established trail shared with dozens of other hikers. But on this day, we were explorers. We were out there alone, blazing our own trail. And the adventure climaxed with an element of discovery—something that’s not frequently experienced in this century. We had some giddy moments up on that ridge, and I’m sure it wasn’t simply due to a lack of oxygen.

Before we began our walk back to the ranch, I recorded a video which features a 360° view from the top of the ridge. It’s a little shaky, as the wind was trying to rip the phone from my hands, but it will give you a much better look at the land to the east of the ridge (and a better appreciation for the strength of that gale). The link below will take you to Vimeo (video duration is 1:51). Enjoy the view!

Watch the video here.

3 thoughts on “Victory at Trout Creek

  1. Pingback: East of Eden | Riding with Carl

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