A day of milestones

Despite less than optimal weather forecasts, we decided to continue with our plan to head down to 14,014' San Luis Peak for the weekend, the state's 50th highest peak. At the very least we would get out of town and get to camp in a new area. If we were successful it would be a couple of milestones for our group, my 30th, another person‘s first, and the first San Juan peak for the other guys. We left Avon at 11am, stopping for lunch and ice cream in Buena Vista on the way down. After following the driving directions to the trailhead we started to check out the side of the road for somewhere to camp. We found a great spot right past the trailhead where we made beef stew under a light rain, but as we sat chatting the skies started to clear and the Big Dipper wished us luck on our hike. The next morning we woke up and headed up the road on foot. What is an extra 1/4 mile each way among friends? The sun was shining on the damp willows and grass as we made our way up the trail. We made pretty good time and in about 2 hours we were at treeline having a snack break and admiring the surroundings. As we made our way up the gully to the Organ-San Luis saddle the difference in fitness became apparent. Soon I saw the last two climbers, one our first timer, making their way. At this time the clouds were starting to increase, but we all determined that at this time they were not severe weather clouds and tried to estimate how long we thought it would take us to finish. I went on ahead to scout the weather on the back of the ridge. I summited at 10.15am, took a few pictures and then headed back towards my partners now climbing on the final section of the route. By now our first timer was slowing down, and the other two guys went on ahead while I stayed with for encouragement. As we continued on the clouds briefly started to break as if to invite us to finish our journey. We all got to share in the joy of our companion‘s first fourteener summit at 10.45am amid the clouds. We decided to head back down and not press our luck. We made great time on decent, and were back at camp before 2pm. Along the way we got to admire all of the mushrooms on the trail and one of my partners picked a few porcini's. The last 2 miles of trail the rains started to come down heavy. We donned rain gear, but still got soaked. Luckily we had dry clothes to change into when we were back at camp. On the last section of trail where we were paralleling the road, we got to see a cattle drive. The cowboys and girls were herding the cattle along the road above, and luckily were past the trailhead by the time we got there. We negotiated around the various cowpies on the road and broke camp to head home. On the way out we got to see the herd grazing around Nutras Creek, and realized we had seen more cows than people on this trip. Its a pretty special 14er hike when the cows outnumber the people! On the way back we paid our respects to the cowboys we saw working hard on a Sunday in the rain with a round of filet mignon's from Quincy's Steakhouse. A well earned meal!

A view of the final section from the Organ-San Luis saddle, San Luis is on the left just being grazed by the clouds.