I’m writing this Saturday morning on Windows Live Writer for posting when I can get an internet connection. We’ve had some rain for the past day and a half making it unsafe to try and climb the mountain. Right now we’re scheduled to give it a try starting at 11 am….but I’m getting ahead of myself.
I left Gunnison first thing Thursday morning with a full water tank, empty waste tanks and a full charge on the house batteries. It only took 90 minutes or so to get to Pitkin and find the Forest Service campground that was to be home for the next 5 days or so. I had never been to Pitkin so I was excited to explore a new road. Pitkin lies about 15 miles off one of the main Colorado highways up a beautiful valley. The valley contains numerous ranches and farms and the hills surrounding the valley are dotted with mines and mills dating to the early 1880’s.
Pitkin itself dates to the 1880’s as well and is a charming old town consisting of one paved street and 8 or 9 short dirt streets. Today there is only one going commercial concern, a general store that has the normal tinned food, snacks, sundries and 1 gasoline pump. There is even a “hotel” of sorts that I haven’t had a chance to look at inside. I know it will be rustic at very best.
The team met at 8 am on a clear and sunny Thursday morning and proceeded in 4WD vehicles to the jump off point. I can tell you that I was nervous about my physical ability to make the climb to 13,000 feet. I became even more nervous when the Forest Service archaeologist told us that each of us had to carry about 25 lbs of sand or lime in addition to our own gear to the top. These items were needed to make mortar to repair the stone walls of the lookout.
As you can tell from the title of the post, I survived. It took about an hour and a half to make the summit and I was pretty exhausted when I got there….but I did get there. I’ll let some pictures do the description.
There is a payoff for the physical exertion. The view is probably the most spectacular I have encountered in my 62 years on this earth. I suppose the view from the top of Mt. Everest might rival it, but I don’t think I’ll ever experience that. The fire lookout is just mind boggling in so many ways. What kind of effort was required to build this tiny shack to begin with. There was also a telegraph in the lookout which required those original builders to plant telegraph poles down the mountain to a mine some three thousand feet below…and string the telegraph wire. It must have been incredibly difficult to stay on top of this mountain for long periods. The can be wind is absolutely viscous. With all the rocks around, and the sheer cliffs, it is extremely difficult to just move around safely.
By the time we were halfway to the summit high clouds moved in and made it pretty chilly. We could see rain storms all around us but we got lucky and dodged all of them. We spent about four hours tearing down part of one stone wall and rebuilding it. This required mixing mortar on site. The archaeologist had visited the lookout in May and filled up five gallon buckets with snow to use as water for the mix when we arrived. We also had to find appropriate sized rocks to use in the wall…..easy…and carry them to the hut…very difficult. After about four hours it was time to start down. The descent was a little easier but it still was plenty strenuous. No need to say that I slept like a rock that night.
It rained hard all Thursday night and was still raining Friday morning so we scrubbed the project for a day. Even though the day was not the best, I went with another of the volunteers for some sightseeing in her truck. We went over Cumberland Pass into the little town of Tincup, around Taylor Canyon, Gunnison and back to Pitkin. It was a great loop and we saw lots of scenery and the remains of numerous mines and mills.
It rained again this morning about 6 am so we’re going to wait a couple of hours and see if the weather will break….Gotta go for now. Stay tuned.
Thanks for visiting.