S24O – Englemann Peak

When you are a busy family person or have work stealing free time in my case during the recent past, the Sub-24hr Overnighter (S24O in popular parlance) is a convenient way to get some needed outdoor time.

Overnight trips, even short ones, I find are often a needed balm in a hectic life.

Sleeping under the stars, perhaps enjoying a nip or two of a medicinal beverage, and waking up to the natural world, seems to make everything correct in life.

Before I head to points north this week and move from the Front Range at the end of next month, my good friend Mike aka “d-low” wanted to go on a quick backpacking trip.

D-low and I met way back in 2002 on the Pacific Crest Trail.  Over fifteen years later our lives still seem to intertwine.  Family camping trips I’ve joined,   shared events within our community, and perhaps a pint or two of beer shared over the years.

Though I am leaving the Front Range next month, moving only a few hours away from a community built over 20-years ended up being key criteria.

And after a quick and enjoyable backpacking trip with a friend, I recognize the validity of this point for me.

***

D-low and I left his house mid-afternoon to avoid the weekend traffic.    We easily accessed our trailhead outside of the small town of Empire, CO.

We parked at the end of a 2WD dirt road.  Though my stock 4WD vehicle could have driven perhaps another mile or so, both of us would instead walk the mile than go up a rutted, rocky, and rough dirt road that would make for a bumpy ride.

View from the 2WD trailhead. Looking over I70.

The lightly used dirt road ended up being perhaps 2+ miles of walking. A pleasant warm up before reaching where the single track started.

Our hike would be up to Engelmann Peak.  The peak is named for the German botanist well-known for his study of botany in the Rocky Mountain region.  (And, more famously, the spruce that also bears his name.)

Appropriately enough, many wildflowers dotted the landscape.

Larkspur

We soon left the singletrack behind and hiked up a drainage. We made a pleasant campsite at the edge of the treeline.

At 6 AM, d-low informed me that he peeked at the weather forecast.  The dark clouds on the horizon, the drop in temps, and the breeze only confirmed what we both suspected: A rainstorm would be on its way sooner rather than later.

We deiced to at least make it up to Englemann Peak and then make a decision from there on an alternate route.

We made our way to the 13k+ foot peak (and where I realized my time at elevation has been curtailed this past year!) and enjoyed our views of the Continental Divide and the surrounding area.

We looked over our maps on the summit. Rather than head straight back to the car, or stay above treeline longer and be exposed, we chose an alternative plan. We’d hike a spur ridge down to the trail. A compromise between the two options.

The middle option proved to be more than an acceptable compromise. The middle option gave us a delightful walk along some rocky cliffs.

Off the ridge, and along a less steep portion of the tundra, we spotted a herd of elk.

We enjoyed one last view from the alpine area before we dropped to a drainage and near a creek.

A convenient elk path lead us through the willows, and almost to the creek we’d follow back to the single track trail.

We quickly reached our destination and made a lollipop to get back to my vehicle. By noon we reached my car, changed into sandals, and made the quick drive to Idaho Springs where we enjoyed lunch just as the rainstorm came down.  A pint of beer trumped being above treeline in the rain! 🙂

An enjoyable hike and a perfect way to spend time with a friend before I take off for a bit.

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