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Missouri Gulch Trail
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mini location map2016-07-12
20 by photographer avatarfriendofThundergod
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Missouri Gulch TrailSouth Central, CO
South Central, CO
Backpack avatar Jul 12 2016
Backpack16.94 Miles 6,757 AEG
Backpack16.94 Miles
6,757 ft AEG
1st trip
Partners none no partners
After Elbert, I immediately got back on the Colorado Trail with the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness on my mind. The stats reflect a six mile detour I had to made off the CT to reach the Missouri Gulch trailhead via a road walk along FR390.

Initially, I had planned to summit Belford and Oxford from a lesser used route via Pine Creek, however, a local assured me that the Missouri Gulch trail and TH was the way to go. He also assured me that someone would stop and pick me up along the way to the TH, but that did not happen and I ended up covering about 16 miles with the heavy pack including six along the road before I even reached the TH. Although, part of the problem may have been my hitchhiking skills, as I had never hitched before and probably looked a little out of my element to most passing motorists. After a few failed attempts, I was quick to give up and accepted my road walking fate. After all, I was thru-hiking the CT, what was six more miles along a road?

No worries about the little road walk though, as the TH re-energized me and after "loading up" on some water, I started making the climb to my campsite at 11,600 feet. I put loaded up on water in quotations, because a worried local had informed me to be careful, as there was about a two mile stretch to start the trail without water. The concerned local obviously did not know I was from Arizona, where we call three miles between water a blessing, needless to say, I filled up about a liter's worth. At this point in the day, I was willing to skimp a little on the H20, if it meant lessening the pack weigh a little, as with a TH elevation of 9,600 feet and 16 miles already under my belt, this would certainly not the easiest late afternoon climb that I had completed in recent history. The climb was a little bit of a smoker with a full pack, but I was rewarded with probably one of the better campsites above the treeline. After the usual camp chores, it was a struggle just to stay awake past daylight and I was completely out by about 19:30. Two long hard days, some warm temperatures, a lot of sun and a couple 14ers on the plate for breakfast, simply had me yearning for some much needed rest.

The tent and I survived a very windy night and early morning. It was so cold and windy that I made my morning coffee in the tent and opted for some powdered donuts that I had bought at a general store in Twin Lakes the day before rather than my usual oatmeal, as it would have required a quick trip to the stream for some water and that was not happening at 0400! Cold and wind aside, I finally got my butt out of the tent. The climb nearly started immediately for me and boy is it a climb up Belford! The trail literally stair-steps up what has to be a near vertical ridgeline in spots. I did see one other headlamp ahead of me as I started the climb. This served as a guide and a small source of sorrow, as the light just kept climbing and climbing, with no end for my tired legs seeming to be in sight. However, eventually I did meet up with the solo headlamp on the summit of Belford. We both agreed the wind might be a little dangerous to shoot for Oxford, but that was not enough to stop our morning there and we headed for the second summit together.

The hike to Oxford is probably one of the most pleasant stretches of hiking one could encounter while doing a 14er under "ideal" conditions. However, on this day the wind made it far less than ideal and maybe even a little dangerous. I found my hiking poles digging in very deep to the soil just to keep myself upright while dropping down the distinct ridgeline connecting Belford and Oxford. There were some brief breaks in the wind and even a few minutes of relief on the summit of Oxford. However, the conditions were generally frigid and not enjoyable, so we both left the summit after a few quick pictures.

After Oxford, my newly acquired hiking partner left me for a run at the trifecta and a trip up Missouri, but I still had to break camp and put some miles under me on the CT, so I opted for the less spectacular out and back, a return to camp and then TH.

It was a knee jarring, uneventful, quick hike down to the TH. I was successful in acquiring a ride back to the CT and picked up right where I had left off the day before after what seemed like a quick day and a half detour into perhaps one of my favorite new wilderness areas, the Collegiate Peaks.
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