Mission: Summit San Luis Peak (elevation 14,014') at night under a total lunar eclipse
Total Length: 13.5 miles
Elevation gain: 3600 ft.
This is not the first trip report for San Luis Peak. You might have even seen a report of a night hike of San Luis Peak before.
Night hike solitude
If you are a night person, you call it Tuesday night. If you are a morning person, you call it early Wednesday morning. Either way, in the dark hours preceding the sunrise on 10/8, there was a total lunar eclipse.
I decided it'd be sort of cool to see an eclipse during a night hike of Colorado's most remote 14er, San Luis Peak.
As usual for my weird mid-week adventures I would be myself. I guess it's not unusual to find myself alone on adventures that require a six hour drive from Boulder on a Tuesday evening. That's not even considering the fact that it's a remote trailhead that is accessed only after navigating 27 miles of dirt roads.
Many people will say there are no wolves in Colorado. I will dispute this point, because I have now seen one with my own eyes. Driving down the nearly abandoned Colorado highway 114, shortly before my turn off, I nearly killed a wolf when it darted across the road in front of me. I saw a speck of light which was a reflection from my headlights on something along the side of the road. I instinctively slowed down thinking it was some kind of animal. Suddenly, out of the shadows, a grey wolf bolted across the road immediately in front of my truck. I slammed the brakes and missed him or her by inches.
I did a double-take since I thought that wolves are not supposed to exist in Colorado. Having been to the wolf preserve in Silvercliff before, and having a wife that loves wolves, I am very educated with what they look like. I am 99% certain this was a wolf, and I'm very glad I did not hit it.
I'm on the hunt I'm after you
Smell like I sound, I'm lost in a crowd
And I'm hungry like the wolf
I turned onto the NN-14 dirt road at about 7:30pm on Tuesday night, still mildly shaken from nearly running over a wolf. From the time I turned off the pavement, I would not see signs of another human being for the next 18 hours. No cars. No houses. No tents. No headlamps. No sounds. It was true peace and quiet. True solitude.
By the time I finished the 27 mile drive from CO-114 to the trailhead, I was already feeling isolated. I curled up in my sleeping bag for a quick sleep. The plan was to wake about 1:45am and start my hike about 2am. I wanted to be at the summit before a 6:45am sunrise.
I was awake and on the trail. It was 2:15am. The trail was easy to follow and it climbed gradually up Stewart Creek and past a seemingly endless series of beaver dams.
I was in hiking zombie mode for a while. I was hiking in silence while keeping an eye on the full moon which was now fighting with some high clouds. My mind began to roam and wander.
I adapt to the unknown
Under wandering stars I've grown
By myself but not alone
The forest gives way to clearings with beaver ponds, and then before you know it you're back in the forest again. This pattern repeats itself for a few miles.
|Beaver ponds - pic taken on descent during daylight.|
Much of the forest in this area has been killed off by pine beetles.
|Dead pines everywhere - pic taken on descent in daylight.|
And while beetle killed areas are kind of sad, it does make for a some unusual photography, especially when paired with a lunar eclipse. I tried to make the best of it with my amateur photography skills. I caught only one decent picture of the eclipse before the light was too low for my ghetto camera. Soon thereafter the high clouds obscured the lunar eclipse completely.
|The only pic I got of the eclipse.|
There I was walking out of some trees into a clearing. And there next to a pond, I saw the not uncommon sight of glowing green eyes which were reflecting light from my headlamp. The eyes were close, but assuming it was just a deer I continued cautiously. I stopped in my tracks when I saw the silhouette of the moose's rack. This was at about the same time that my brain registered that these glowing green eyes were higher off the ground than they should be for a deer.
Know when to walk away and know when to run
Until I feel his breath at my neck
I was bummed that I couldn't get a good photo of this moose since it was so close, but knowing there was nobody within a 30 mile radius helped me make the correct decision here.
Wandering thoughts above the trees
With the trail continuing blindly into the cold darkness, I let my mind spew random thoughts all over San Luis's northeast ridge.
It shouldn't have happened but you let it
Now you're down on the ground screaming medic
The only thing that comes is the post-traumatic stresses
~The Beastie Boys
So I wouldn't come home low
Got no brains, I'm insane
It seems like no one cares at all
|The spectacular San Juans are amazing any time of year and at any time of day.|
|Rainbow above Organ Mountain.|
|Me enjoying the sunrise even though I couldn't really feel my toes at this point.|
I won't bore you with the details of my hike back to the trailhead, nor will I make you suffer through any more of my favorite song lyrics. Rest easy, I am not insane. I'll leave you with three quotes from Suicidal Tendencies.
Oh I'm sorry but, maybe you needed to be offended
But here's my apology and one more thing...