15 October 2014

Stardate 2014.789

Alpine Reservoir, Chalk Creek, Sawatch Range, Colorao

Season of Wither Ex Duobus

At the end of my last post I was taking a breather high on Alpine Pass, directly above the Denver, South Park and Pacific narrow gauge railroad's Alpine Tunnel. I was in the Krummholz, admiring the expanse of tundra above me. If you're wondering, the Krummholz is the alpine tundra/subalpine forest interface. In short, treeline. Here, tree growth is stunted and more shrub-like. Often, trees and shrubs are wind-trained, resulting in feathered branches parallel to the prevailing wind. Above this zone, natural shelter is quite limited.

Krummholz, Alpine Pass, Sawatch Range, Colorao

It was getting late and I needed to decide my fate. If I continued on with the Continental Divide Trail (CDT), and ended up hike–a-biking most of it, I probably would get back to the pickup after dark. Most of the CDT was on northerly and easterly aspects, and I knew much of the trail would be filled in with drift snow until I intercepted the Tin Cup Pass jeep road. If I did something stupid, and ended up spending the night up high, in a fairly remote basin, I was in for a long, cold night. I was about two hours late arriving at my current location. Drats... Very reluctantly, I chose to backtrack.

Turntable, west portal, Alpine Tunnel, Sawatch Range, Colorado

From my lofty perch I walked to the west side of the pass to look at the remnant buildings of Alpine Station and the west portal. What caught my eye first was the abandoned turntable that appeared to be weathering well.

Alpine Station, train depot, west portal, Alpine Tunnel, Sawatch Range, Colorado

Alpine Station and the west portal may be reached by 4x4. The northerly faces of 12,630-foot Paywell Mountain (left) and Point 12,314 (right) tower above upper Middle Quartz Creek.

14,197-foot Mount Princeton, Sawatch Range, Colorao

From Alpine Pass, I was able to zoom in on 14,197-foot Mount Princeton. In my opinion, Mount Princeton may be one of the more stately 14ers in Colorado. Snowcatcher and I summited Mount Princeton as one of our early dates.

The day wasn't getting any younger, nor the wind any warmer; I bid farewell to the tundra and started down. It didn't take long to pack the bike down to the east portal. It did take a while to hike all the way back up to the pass to retrieve my sunglasses.

Viewing across Chalk Creek from the Alpine Tunnel rail grade, Sawatch Range, Colorado

Actually, it was nice to backtrack and see the same topography basking under an afternoon sun angle. Another autumn has come and gone. It was a good year for color variety.

Alpine Tunnel rail grade, Sawatch Range, Colorado

Approaching St. Elmo, I wondered what sort of historians the aspen have been. Over time, did they take notice of how many indigenous people, pack animal trains, steam-powered trains, jeeps and high-clearance vehicles have worked their way up the grade? If only the trees could tell their tale.

St. Elmo, Sawatch Range, Colorado

Some patches of aspen were making their final stand.

St. Elmo, Sawatch Range, Colorado

Most of the original dwellings of St. Elmo appear to be owned by private residents. There is no ghost to it. Just about every window had a "keep out" or "no trespassing" sign in it. That killed the photographic vibe for me. On the other hand, the locals are inundated with tourists during the warm months. From that standpoint, I can understand all of the signage. Nonetheless, it's a quaint little retreat for a handful of people.

St. Elmo, Sawatch Range, Colorado

The above building was rather rustic. I think it may have been the old livery.

St. Elmo, Sawatch Range, Colorado

Some stands of aspen were unique. Their long skinny boles, sporting smallish tufts of leaves on top, bending with the wind are a good example of wind training.

Chalk Creek, Sawatch Range, Colorado

Small pockets of aspen hidden amongst the coniferous were still colorful.

Chalk Creek, Sawatch Range, Colorado

The drive down Chalk Creek Canyon had a yellow glow to it.

Another adventure has come and gone. See ya on the next one.



  1. What glorious color may be had this late in the season! My dad would love to see that roundhouse, I bet. I still hope I can join you on your next mountain bike adventure!

  2. That old turntable ... when I saw that photo I wondered what it had seen in its day!

    Still some great colour here and there, but the mountains have an austere beauty of their own that is revealed when the foliage is gone.

    Bummer about your sunglasses!


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