National Summit Day: Calico National Recreation Trail Peak Bagging
Friday & Saturday, July 31 – August 1, 2020
Last weekend I was supposed to go backpacking in the Weminuche Wilderness with Jackson, but those plans got rained out by the wet weather we had, so this weekend I really needed to get back into the mountains and since Saturday is National Summit Day, I figured some peak-bagging was in order. I had considered heading down to my favorite area of the San Juan Mountains between Ouray and Silverton, but things have been pretty busy over that way this summer, and I was looking for somewhere with a little more solitude. After thinking about my options during the week I decided that I wanted to return to the Rico Mountains. While Diane and I were hiking along the Colorado Trail near Bolam Pass two weeks ago, I had noticed Calico Peak in the Rico Mountains on the horizon since it stuck out pretty well from the surrounding peaks, and I knew that I would have to climb it eventually since I have a cat that we nicknamed Rico (which is short for Tellico) who just happens to be a calico. It must be a sign! While researching Calico Peak I found that the Calico National Recreation Trail went right near it, plus there are a couple of other 12ers nearby, so I thought it would be a good idea to follow that trail and bag a couple of other peaks in the area, too. Why only bag one peak on National Summit Day when you can get four or more!
I left work on Friday afternoon and headed down to the Rico Mountains by way of Ridgway and Telluride. Before reaching the town of Rico I turned off onto the Dunton Road and climbed up to The Meadows at the edge of the Lizard Head Wilderness. I was originally planning on camping near the trailhead, but as I was driving through The Meadows I passed a campsite with a great view of Mount Wilson and the surrounding peaks, so I decided to stay here so I could watch the sunset. It was a little windy out in the open, but that helped keep the bugs away. Stopping to camp here turned out to be a good decision since the sunset was spectacular this evening!
Before returning to the open campsite I had passed in The Meadows, I stopped to check out the Calico Trailhead.
The beginning of the Calico National Recreation Trail.
I think this will be a fine place to spend the night!
There were some interesting clouds in the sky this evening, which I hoped would make for a nice sunset.
The full moon rising over Flattop Mountain (12,098) and Hermosa Peak (12,579).
Mount Wilson (14,246) towered above my campsite.
Just as I had hoped, the sky put on a light show this evening!
Looking east to Sheep Mountain (13,188), San Miguel Peak (13,752) and Grizzly Peak (13,738).
One more shot of Mount Wilson at sunset.
Last light from my campsite in The Meadows.
When the light show was over and all that was left was the light from the full moon I got into my sleeping bag and went to sleep so I could get an early start on Saturday morning. Since the monsoon season seems to be missing this year I didn’t need to get too early of a start because afternoon thunderstorms were not that big of a threat this weekend, but I still woke up about an hour before sunrise to drive over to the East Fall Creek Trailhead so I could watch the sunrise from the trail.
The sunrise on Saturday morning was looking pretty nice from the East Fall Creek Trail once I got high enough to see over the trees. I was really lucking out this weekend!
There was a good view of Groundhog Mountain (12,165) and Lone Cone (12,613).
Following the East Fall Creek Trail with Dunn Peak (12,620), Middle Peak (13,300) and Dolores Peak (13,290) in the background.
After about a mile and a half I reached the Calico Trail and started climbing up to the ridge.
Following the Calico Trail to the saddle below Sockrider Peak.
At the saddle I reached a junction in the trail that goes over to Sockrider Peak, but headed the other direction to climb Elliott Mountain first.
Looking down on the over side of the ridge over Papoose Creek.
The Calico Trail & Sockrider Peak
Telescope Mountain (12,201) on the other side of the Dolores River.
There were good views of Sockrider Peak (12,308) as I followed the ridge up Elliott Mountain.
Hazy views looking east to the rugged peaks of the San Juans. Engineer Mountain really stands out from this viewpoint.
Following the ridge to the summit of Elliott Mountain (12,340).
A view from the summit of Elliott Mountain to Anchor Mountain (12,327) and Expectation Mountain (12,071) and the La Plata Mountains in the distance.
From the summit of Elliott Mountain I continued down the ridge on the other side.
Looking back to the summit of Elliott Mountain.
My next destination would be Papoose Peak (11,866) which is that rounded grassy hump below.
Papoose Peak isn’t really much of a peak, but it was there and I was able to hop back on the Calico Trail.
I followed the Calico Trail back around the west side of Elliott Mountain on my way to Sockrider Peak.
Looking back to Elliott Mountain as I followed the hiking trail to the summit of Sockrider Peak.
The final ridge to the summit of Sockrider Peak was more rocky than any of the other hiking I had done so far this morning.
I followed the ridge down the other side of Sockrider Peak where I would meet the Calico Trail yet again.
Once I got over the summit of Sockrider Peak I finally had my first view of Calico Peak (12,026) today.
Back on the Calico Trail as I made my way over to Calico Peak.
Looking back to Sockrider Peak as I climbed the rocky ridge of Calico Peak.
From the summit of Calico Peak I had a good view over Johnny Bull Mountain (12,012) to the San Miguel Mountains.
Looking to the west was Eagle Peak (12,113).
I was hoping to climb Johnny Bull Mountain next as I made my way back to the trailhead, but by the time I reached the saddle the sky was looking a little threatening and my legs were pretty tired, so I decided it would be best to just head back and save that one for another time. I figure that I can hike that one whenever I come back for Eagle Peak. Instead of returning the way I had come I followed the West Fall Creek Trail down to the Eagle Peak Road and followed the road back to my Jeep completing a loop. While I was hiking down through the trees there was a little rain, graupel and a few rumbles of thunder, so I think heading back was a good decision.
I spotted a butterfly on these flowers along the road.
After returning to my Jeep I drove down to Rico so I could top off my fuel tank and while I was there I grabbed a burger from Enterprise Bar & Grill. Then I headed over to Dunton so I could hike the Geyser Spring Trail to Colorado’s only true geyser, since it was nearby.
Here it is- Colorado’s only geyser. Unfortunately, this geyser doesn’t shoot up like the more popular ones in Yellowstone, it mainly just bubbles like a hot tub.
The warning sign near the geyser. You don’t want to get into this one, otherwise you can suffocate to death as carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulfide gas can displace the oxygen near the surface of the geyser.
Here’s a short video of the bubbling geyser. While I was visiting the geyser a thunderstorm moved through the area so you can hear a rumble of thunder at the beginning plus the falling rain. Yes, I got soaked!
After hiking back down from the geyser I returned to my Jeep and drove further west onto Black Mesa to find a campsite for the night. It had been a very good day and I was looking forward to hiking one more 12er on Sunday morning before heading home.