Saturday, July 14, 2012

Santanta Peak and Lake Dorothy

Saturday 14th July

While for those of my friends who are Franglophiles the place to be today was undoubtedly La Place de la Bastille in Paris, I think Livvy and I found somewhere better. I hadn't intended getting up so late and, for that, we paid a price and arriving at the Fourth of July trailhead there must already have been about a hundred vehicles - 7.45am and we were going to be slogging up through the hoardes to the high country and then tripping over them again on the way down.

I wasn't best pleased and our initial pace from the trailhead was, shall we say, purposeful.

I have a lot of respect for those who chose the outdoors for their leisure. Unlike the spreading girth of the nations couch potatos, I am always encouraged by the numbers who do venture outside and find myself hoping that whatever genetic variation is produced by their alleles, it is much more favorable and advantageous to our evolutionary trajectory. It's somewhat of a contradiction that the very people who I respect end up annoying me the most. I don't mean they annoy me personally, just that solitude is so important to me. And it was my fault today.

Of course, there are a small number of people in the outdoors who really annoy me and there are others who just leave me shaking my head as I watch them stumble and trip across the parking lot in their jewel-studded flat-shoes, Tommy Hilfiger shorts, Ralph Lauren shirts and aviator sunglasses. For them, the outdoors is what they think they should like, until the first patch of mud curls their lip and their cell phone loses its signal. The ones who annoy me don't do it deliberately, they just don't think. Sometimes they have a dog off leash and not under control. Others persist in standing and taking photos while blocking the trail. Some fail to give way to those heading uphill. These are not grand crimes and misdemeanors, but they cummulatively erode patience.

Some of these folk are fair game for a little unexpected, opportunistic fun. Livvy's flexileash extends to about 12 feet - it's not one of those heavy handled retractable leashes with a plastic case...just a strong elasticated cord...and she likes to stretch it out sometimes. About 5 minutes into our run we could see a bored young teenager straggling at the back of his group thrashing the heads off wildflowers with a stick with zero correction from his parents. Livvy has a habit of running up silently behind people and sometimes touching their leg with her cold, wet nose. She's done this to me in the yard sometimes and it is a little disconcerting. This particular teenager got the treatment and it scared him witless. It's not as though she prodded her nose full on to his leg - it was just the faintest of brushes. But it turned him into a pirouetting, uncoordinated blur and he tripped backwards and sat in a very wet and sticky pool. His Calvin Klein jeans (I might have made that part up because I'm not sure I would recognize a pair if they had a yard high label on them) were a picture...a picture mirrored by his face as the reality of his situation literally soaked in.

Despite being slowed at each group passing...and most of the passings were through really nice groups of people...we maintained a pretty brisk pace.

We emerged from the treeline after 2 miles and passed about 20 people having a break at the Fourth of July Mine. Just above there, as the trail turns extremely rugged, we felt the heat of the morning on our backs and the track ahead curled upwards towards Arapaho Pass. Mount Neva (inaccessible to dogs from the North ridge) cuts an imposing shape over the upper Boulder Creek and Lake Dorothy, hidden to its north in the upper cwm.

Other than to take the occasional photo, Livvy and I ran the whole uphill route and we passed the last of the morning's stragglers just before we crested the pass at 11,100 feet. From this vantage point, with uninterrupted views for 270 degrees (Mount Neva blocked the view to the south), we could pick out many previous places we had ran and climbed, in particular, South Arapaho Peak to the north east.

This photo looks north east to the near summit of Quarter to Five Peak with South and North Arapahoe Peaks dominating the skyline.

This stunning view of Caribou Lake is framed by our destination - Santanta Peak, with its rugged, rocky summit highlighted by the morning sunshine. Our route would trace the obvious ridgeline.

I hadn't been to this place before. On each previous occasion I had run up the Arapahoe Pass I had turned off the trail at the Mine and summited South Arapahoe Peak. From the summit I had often looked at this trail and knew it would only be a matter of time before I would be running up here. If I'm honest, my past reluctance was due to the lack of an obvious summit. With Mount Neva too demanding for a dog, I scoured the map for something that would fit the bill. I wasn't too keen on Quarter to Five Peak and when I saw the Caribou Pass trail with a spur leading to Santanta Peak it seemed a logical choice. We reached the top of our climb in less than an hour from the trailhead and Livvy was wanting more.

The short descent on the Caribou Pass trail from the col near Lake Dorothy is tremendous and exposed and at one place, quite dangerous. At certain points the trail narrows significantly and this enhances the feelings of exposure. We rattled along a a quick pace.

We cut off the trail before it plunged down the steep valley side and headed across open country towards Santanta Peak. There are two false summits and the highest point is the last rocky knoll on the ridge and that is where we headed for a break, some water and a snack.

The view east across Caribou Lake is majestic. To the extreme left it is possible to make out the switchbacks of the Arapahoe Pass as it descends to the lake, and on the right the raking descent of the Caribou Pass trail is visible across the north shoulder of Mount Neva. We were there only minutes earlier and this would be our return route.

Livvy looks longingly at the lake waters.

Snack and drink over she's ready to go.

We retraced our route and descended past Lake Dorothy. Although we could see people down near the pass there wasn't a person near the lake.

Lake Dorothy with Mount Neva behind.

We made a fairly quick descent down the trail and we were able to sidestep the small number of parties heading to higher elevations. We only stopped once...and for predictable and reasonable reasons...Livvy needed a cool down.

Livvy first sat, then lay down fully in the stream as a young couple walked past. They were in hysterics. There really is something comical about a dog making these kind of choices.

A little lower we ran by a group with a Lab that was splashing and barking in a stream - for it the water was a play zone no different from any other. For Livvy it served a purpose to be exploited - no larking around for her, no splashing, no barking. I like that in a dog.

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