Steve and I have been getting a bit of cabin fever lately as we sit around waiting for the phone to ring with jobs for us on the other end of the line. We needed to get out of the house, and fast! With summer waning, we knew that we had dwindling opportunities to play in the mountains before snow comes. After perusing our many options we decided to first hike Devil's Causeway near Steamboat Springs, then head down toward Breckenridge to climb a trio of +14,000 ft peaks.
Devil's Causeway is an interesting piece of geology where the remnants of an old volcanic area have been weathered, and now what remains is a thin ribbon of rock that has a thousand foot drop on either side. We started in the high country and followed a steady, steep trail to the top of the Causeway which was nearly 12,000 ft. Notice how the trees are stunted from the altitude.
At the top we had fantastic views of the surrounding Table Top Wilderness area, and the valley below that we had climbed from. It was disturbing to see hundreds of dead trees which were killed by the ruthless bark beetles, however the golden colors of autumn were brilliant against the green forest.
At the narrowest section the Devil's Causeway is only three feet across. You stand at the top and look down a thousand feet on either side. Luckily it wasn't windy because this would have been far more treacherous. As it was I tried to look straight ahead until I got past the tricky part! Only when I was on the other side did I look down.
The rest of the trail was lovely and smooth. As I mentioned, this was the Table Top Wilderness so once we climbed to the top of the Causeway it was flat as could be. Toward the end the trail very gentlty sloped down, taking us past beautiful scenes of weathered rock and golden brush.
We were completely by ourselves until near the end where we encountered anglers in the stream. We also saw hunters in their bright orange vests, probably out hunting elk. I was so thankful Steve decided to wear his orange shirt today. I was in no mood to be mistaken for an animal and shot.
On the way back from the Devil's Causeway we stopped our car to take photos of the beautiful quivering Aspen in their golden glory. I didn't know that the colors changed so early, but I guess up here it's hastened by the altitude and colder weather. We felt very lucky to see the trees at their peak, especially against the dark, stormy skies.
Speaking of dark and stormy skies, our plan was to drive over to the Mosquito Ranges to camp at the base of a trio of 14'ers so we could get an early start in the morning. We reached the campsite near dusk and just as we set up our tent the skies opened up into a furious thunderstorm. Steve was worried about getting struck by lightening, and we nearly decided to leave. The storm passed quickly though, the rumbles of thunder growing further in the distance. In it's wake we found the ground covered with icy sleet. Things grew calm so we ate dinner and went to sleep. Just after midnight the wind picked up and began flapping the fly of our tent. Not only was it too noisy to sleep, but a couple of gusts were so strong that they nearly snapped the poles. Inside we watched as the walls leaned over and came close to collapse. We spent a sleepless night listening for the gusts coming off the mountains and then shooting our sleeping bag-wrapped legs into the air to keep the walls supported. Every hour or so we had to unzip the tent and reach outside to restake the fly since the wind kept ripping the pegs out of the ground. The campground was at 12,000 ft. and is the highest maintained campground in the country. Because of the altitude, everytime I sat up to fix the pegs or even rolled over I could feel my heart pounding for the next few minutes. Sounds weak, eh? You try it! What a wretched night.
In the morning we we worried about how much snow had fallen on the peak due to the storm yesterday. The wind had also not let up. We decided to not push our luck and just hike until it became too slick on the trail. But just as we were eating breakfast another dark cloud descended and fresh snow began to fall. Screw this! We give up! Lesson learned, mid-September is too late to start climbing 14ers. In face of snow and fierce wind, we turned tail and head back down the mountain to Dever where the skies we sunny and the day was warm. Despite having to turn back it was still a great trip and we are already looking forward to getting some snow shoe for the winter months!