As Gabriel mentioned in her triplog, it was her fault
that we ended up on this hike instead of something more sedate... and less snowy! Thankfully Cherry Creek Road was in great shape all the way to the Devil's Chasm TH so no flat tires dramas or the like... the drama would come on the way out. Stay tuned...
Although it wasn't that cold to begin with, on Gabriele's insistence it would be COLD I wore heavy cargo pants and four layers of shirts/jacket. Within 1/4 mile it was obvious I was overdressed and as we climbed more the hotter I'd get, so we stopped and I removed my two outer layers
(no just the tops!) and I think Gabriele may have shed her fleece jacket. To begin with the trail was clear and dry, then into some patches of snow here and there and until then our hike was uneventful. When we got to the more serious stuff we hit a variety of challenges, sometimes deeper snow, sometimes less snow but with an icy crust, sometimes greasy mud and other times slimy, wet moss /lichen. And of course, when would we encounter the myriad of hazards
you ask? Could it be on nice wide and flat ground?
More like every place the trail was angled down toward some nice exposure.
Sure, it wasn't 200' but even a 20-30' fall would definitely ruin our day, if not our life.
So careful was the order of the day. Numerous spots we were practically like chameleons, very slowly placing weight on one foot or the other, testing whether our footing would hold when we stepped forward. Sometimes the snow crust would break through and we actually gained some traction, but more likely what little traction we had was lost. It seemed whenever we completed a particularly treacherous section Gabriel would wonder I don't know how we will get back down that part on the way out
to which I eventually responded I wonder who decided we should hike here today?
And being the good sport she is, she accepted the mild admonishment cheerfully... I know, I know!
I didn't help matters much when I managed to leave one her hiking poles at a place I practically crawled up. So in a few areas, rather than precariously following Gabriele, who could use the pole to aid traction, I would climb up through sometimes ankle deep snow until I had enough brush or deadfall to hang onto while safely traversing the area. Ordinarily when I was back in MN going through snow like that would be nothing to give more than a passing thought, but wearing Teva's with wool socks brought to mind just how cold snow can feel. As long as I dug the snow out from underfoot when I got a bit too much in there it wasn't bad. But eventually they were cold and wet, and about halfway up my feet were begging me for dry socks. Knowing there was more to come and wanting to save the dry socks as long as possible, I told them to shut up and keep moving!
Finally we got into some areas clear of snow where the footing was better, the best being bare, dry rock sections. Taking photos here and there along with a few videos we continued on. At the huge boulder it wasn't too big a deal with the rope to assist up through the keyhole but I managed to step into some water just before climbing, so it was a matter of pulling myself hand-over-hand to climb up.
(I made note of that fact for the return trip) When we came to the falls we saw a good-sized rope hanging partway down, followed by another section tied in that did not give us much confidence.
After a second look and realizing that whole side was wet along with my previous experience not long before, we decided to climg the rock wall on the right side. Again this was chameleon-time, checking out each step before making it,
but it worked out fine.
As we got into the higher elevations the temp dropped and the wind picked up so I added back a layer to cut the chill. But once we started the last, steep slog (in heavy or hard crusted, icy snow again to boot) the effort was enough that not only did I keep my body warm, my hands were sweating in my gloves and although the socks were thoroughly soaked, my feet were now warm as well. This was a fun area because many times I'd reach out to grab onto a seemingly nice, benign shoot of brush, only to get pierced through the end of a finger by a needle-fine thorn.
Eventually I stopped reaching for them and would just kick my sandals through the icy surface of the snow to gain enough traction to move on. I don't know how Gabriele fared here as she was just out of sight behind me. Hopefully she could make use of the steps
I was trying to create. As we fought our way through this last bit of snow all we could think of is getting to the ruins and dropping down for a well-earned breather and some sustenance for the return trip. I think this is when Gabriele first mentioned the need for a nap. Ha, I thought, just so long as you don't fall asleep at the wheel on the way back out!
Success!!! We made it to the ruins! Taking photos came first, some of views through the round holes that once held the roof beams, others of pottery shards, the walls and a few photos of each other. Enough! Now time to grab something to eat, rest a bit and change into dry socks, although I wondered why should I? We'd be going through the heavier snow almost immediately. Oh well, I told myself I'll be more careful to keep the snow from getting under my feet. Yeah riiiight!
By now having burned well over 4 hours it was time hit the trail. What now?! We hadn't gone 50' from the ruins and Gabriele already is worrying about dropping 6' down some damp rock.
No helicopters are going to lift us out today,
so let's just get on with it!
So with me holding my hands under her boots at each step down it was a breeze. Ok, let's get going! Now into the deeper snow section I decided to forget about holding onto the brush and just stomp through the icy crust with my heels and just walk down. That worked up until it got a bit too steep, when I just sat down, let go and started sliding. Ten feet and I realized by time I got to the end of this section I'd be soaked through to my shorts, so then put my right foot below me and the left out in front of me and just glissade
down through this section. It worked great, I was able to control myself enough to swing back and forth following the trail maybe for 50-60' until where the snow surface had melted in the few minutes of sunlight it received while we were at the ruins, and I simply sunk in and came to a stop. Gabriele was still trying hard using the brush and hiking pole to slowly work her way down. I yelled up to her to just slide down... no worries about sliding too far between the deeper snow and more brush to hold you up.
Now done with that snowy section we started making some time again, hopping rocks and boulders on the way back down to the falls. Looking down from the falls gave us pause, and for a moment, I really didn't feel like climbing down along the way again.
(and I don't doubt Gabriele had similar thoughts) But with no choice, we started down the wall. At the bottom, with that mission accomplished, we set out again with a bit more swagger back in our step... we can take on anything now!
Or so we hoped... We came to one section I had completely avoided by climbing around on the trip out due to how slick it was, and now it was Gabriele's turn to coax me through the section. It did look easier from this side so with a little extra care I managed ok. On to the big boulder... I made the mistake (to Gabriele's dismay, and hopefully not too much pain) of telling her to lean toward the wall when dropping back down with the rope. No good! As soon as she cleared the first rock the tension on the rope swung her back out and she slammed sideways into it.
Man! My first thought was that had to hurt!
followed quickly by boy, am I an idiot, I should have thought that through first.
Gabriele didn't complain, just gave me the warning not to do the same thing.
Thanks! I hope you're not hurting today because of that!
Just a few more fun
spots left to retrace now. The first being where I left the hiking pole Gabriele kindly let me use, at least until I misplaced it. She had gone a different way in that spot, probably a bit easier, but that's where the pole was laying, minding it's own business, so that's where we went. That accomplished we had only one hazardous (or at least more hazardous most of the trail) spot left to go... only to find out after traversing it that we didn't have to... on the return trip we didn't see the trail spiral down an easier place. I was in the lead at that point so it was my fault... by now I think we're even on that note. Because I took us down a place that I originally had climbed partway and back down before finding the noted spiral on our trip out, again it was up to me to coax Gabriele down providing footsteps with my hands again. Done! Now it's just a matter of cruising down the last part to the trailhead. Once there, not wanting to get Gabriele's car, thankfully I brought along some spare hiking pants and I changed out of my cold, wet, muddy pants. A quick glance at my outer shirt layer and by the mud caked on there that was replaced by something warm and dry as well.
That's it for the triplog you think??? Hardly, there's more drama to come. (Hey... you should know by now my triplogs read like novels)
Although the road is in great shape even at the trailhead, not far from it we come around the corner and find a bull in the middle of the road.
Not one to let any bull stop her, Gabriele gave it the horn, to which it responded by turning around and trotting down the trail, the middle, of course.
A few more honks and nothing changed until the road got slightly wider and the bull stopped and turned around to stare at us. Ok, no honking now, just drive carefully by and we're good to go. That accomplished, we continue on, only to come across the second bull. Hmmm, seems to be a lot of bull
around here, huh?
This time let's not use the horn, just drive slowly toward it and he will probably just turn and move off. He turned around as we approached, then stepped just on the other side of a small berm piled up when the road was graded and just stopped to stare. Gabriele is taking it slow and careful now, but as we start to crawl by the bull starts to move forward and toward the vehicle. Gabriel is ready to step on the brake and stop but I just told her to step on it! We got clear just in time! I don't doubt if it weren't for that small berm the bull had to jump over that we may have had a bull-Expedition encounter.
Free and clear now, we're on our way... But wait, next corner, what do we see? Nope, no bull this time, just a meek looking cow minding her own business, no more drama here. That's all folks!
Thanks Gabriele for a fun, if challenging hike to a great spot!
Maybe next time I'll try it in rattler season for challenges of a different sort.
Finally... my photoset is posted here and the rest on my web site:http://www.changephoenix.com/11/2011-01-14DevilsChasm.html
And I actually got one of my videos edited and on YouTube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NTGqDjQMvPo