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2021-09-21  
V Mtn - Buckles & Harris Lakes, CO
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40 by photographer avatarCannondaleKid
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V Mtn - Buckles & Harris Lakes, CO 
V Mtn - Buckles & Harris Lakes, CO
 
Hiking8.70 Miles 1,552 AEG
Hiking8.70 Miles   5 Hrs   18 Mns   1.72 mph
1,552 ft AEG      14 Mns Break20 LBS Pack
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1st trip
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trixiec
Pagosa Springs, CO - September 2021 - Hike #1
After an overnight at 7,000' what better way to start than take on the second-highest elevation hike of all the 20 possible hikes I had mapped out, bumping close to 11,000 feet.
On the drive to the trailhead FS 663 was in great shape, dry & well-maintained so any vehicle could make it, albeit with a bit of care on standard passenger tires. (No worries for us with 10-ply Pro-Comp tires on the 4Runner)

Whew! Having done few hikes of any significant AEG while focusing on mountain biking for the last 8 months that 1,000 ft in the first 1.5 miles was a real butt-kicker. Thankfully there were a few short less-than-steep parts that allowed us to catch our breath.
Yeah, right! No such thing!
[Side note] Biting off the two highest elevation hikes in the first two days wasn't the best idea... by the end of the 2nd day my throat was pretty raw. Thanks to slightly lower elevation hikes along with a modification in breathing (slower, deeper breaths through the nose) I would do fine the rest of the trip.

Once at the 'top' of the rise on V Rock Trail we headed off for the summit of V Mountain. We were attempting to follow a 5-year old track I found on the web but the extreme amount of deadfall made it brutal. Although I'm sure Tracey was mumbling under her breath of bailing out, eventually we reached the summit, not that you'd know it, with nothing but trees and deadfall all around.
Facing south it appeared a bit lighter so we headed a 100+ yards in that direction to pop out into a clear grassy area with a great view of the Chalk Mountains and Navajo Peak. Since the open area reached around toward the SW and 'V Rock' itself we dispensed with the 'through-the-deadfall' route in hopes of following the contour around. No such luck... we didn't get far before reaching a steep, deep and long drainage, at which point we had a meeting of the minds and decided to skip V Rock and head back. The deciding factor was an elk trail that seemed to appear out of nowhere. While there were still spots where the elk bounded over that we had to bypass it wasn't quite as bad as our earlier crawling/climbing over deadfall and eventually we were in the clear.
Due to the steep trail the descent was every bit as breath-taking as the ascent... no, I'm not speaking of the views, as they were nothing but trees-upon-trees.

Back at the trailhead we knew as tough as the hike was so far, we still had fuel in our tanks so we headed out the Buckles Trail. With ongoing back, hip and foot issues 7-mile hikes have been pretty much the limit for me so it was with a little trepidation to continue, but the 'lakes' portion being relatively flat and the fact we could always turn back eased my mind.

Cattle, ducks and geese at both lakes and the mountain scenery provided a nice change from the V Mountain trek. Since we never got to V Rock, I made sure to take a few photos on the drive back.

A tough first hike of the trip but it was the spark to fire us up for the challenges still in store.
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CannondaleKid
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