Buffalo Mountain is a 12000 ft+ peak right off of I-70 that really dominates the scenery for the town of Silverthorne.
Located in the rugged Gore Range, it is a mountain I have seen many times and have even done some trail restoration work on as well.
But, I did not know the backside of the mountain too well.
The Gore Range is surprisingly remote feeling because it does not have any 14ers. As such, it is ignored by many hikers…and trail maintenance crews!
Every time I go in the Gore Range there is always route finding challenges (sometimes difficult, sometimes no so much), rocky, rooty and steeps trails…and awesome mountain scenery, secluded areas and wide open walking.
This past Sunday was no exception. Throw in PERFECT early Fall weather, and the hiking was awesome.
The route for the trip was a loop around the mountain that was about 15 miles or so with 3500' elev gain (a guesstimate on my part).
The hike started off at a trailhead just off the busy interstate. Within a mile or so, the trail already seemed much more remote.
Joining me for the hike was my friend Andy (Garlic) who just completed the AT and his Triple Crown. What better way to catch up with a hiker friend than on a hike?
After popping into the woods, we came to the wide open meadow and spied our destination for the first part of the hike: Eccles Pass.
One website described the pass follows:
(Featuring) magnificent views of Gore Range, alpine meadows, and the valley behind Buffalo Mountain…the pass at 11,900' that will reward you with some of the most stunning scenery in Colorado.
It was not hyperbole. The entire morning we were surrounded by the wonderful mountains, with bright blue and cloudless skies and a touch of crisp coolness to the air.
After the pass, we worked our way down to the valley and made our way to a short side trip to Red Buffalo Pass.
This pass was equally outstanding. The highlight for me was seeing Buffalo Mountain flanked by Grays and Torreys peaks. Two 14ers (Grays the only 14er on the Continental Divide) that were probably very busy on this Fall day. On this pass? We had it all to ourselves!
The flank of Buffalo Mountain flanked by Grays and Torrey's
After all this magnificent mountain scenery, we made our way back into the trees, hiked up some very steep and not-too-well-marked trails and enjoyed the occasional view towards the mountains.
The hike was almost over when we came upon Lily Pad Lake. A very popular family hike (very gentle trail, only ~3 miles R/T), it is very pretty. Alas, there was much evidence of the current nemesis of the Colorado high country – Pine Bark Beetle kill.
The trail continued in a pleasant (if infected) wooded area. We dropped lower and entered into the elevation where much aspen is growing.
With the lighting at its best and the trees placed just so, one grove of aspens reminded of a cathedral.
On this Sunday, I had entered a church.
Not a church of brick and stone.
Rather a church that seems somehow more genuine than any formal place of worship. No church, synagogue, mosque, stupa or what-have-you can equal this simple aspen grove in letting me give thanks for being in the mountains. Letting me celebrate what was around me more so than any organized place of worship ever could.
Not long after, we reached the cars. Drove to the neighboring town of Frisco and celebrated and worshiped another equally compelling artifact of my Sunday hiking rituals: BEER.
Life, as I continue to think, is good.
All the photos