Sunday, March 25, 2012

Green Ridge, Spruce & Storm Mtns

Palisade Mountain and Longs/Meeker from Green Ridge.
One of these days I'm going to run to the top of Longs Peak from my house via an all-dirt route (that I'm still trying to figure out). Longs is easily the most prominent peak on our western skyline here in Fort Collins, and viewable from many a different angle from nearly every peak in the area with a southern or westerly view. Today was a scouting day ... a long scouting day.

Picking back up where I left off a couple of weeks ago, it was back out in search of ranked Larimer County peaks. Mine and Mike's plan for Saturday was to launch from Bobcat Ridge, heading in a northwesterly direction for Green Ridge (7,402') by way of the Valley and Powerline trails, before jumping the gate at the end of Powerline and quickly dropping into National Forest land on a forest road that dropped us under what we thought was the Green Ridge summit. Wrong. Again. Instead we were on a sub-summit to the south between Green Ridge and another sub-summit further down the ridge (Mahoney Knob, 7,141') that we had previously mistaken for Green Ridge on an expedition over the top of Milner Mtn in January.

Green Ridge summit hump.

Deadfall on Green Ridge's western slope. Mike descending in foreground.
The error was quickly remedied with a drop over mega deadfall to the saddle a couple of hundred  feet below, and a quick bop up to the true summit which offered nice views to the west (third time's a charm).

Spruce Mountain (7,781') became our fourth summit of the morning after we once again misidentified our intended target by pulling down a knob (7,722') to the north of Spruce. That, again, was quickly remedied, and after tagging at least five rock piles that looked like they could lay equal claim to the high point, we were off in search of FR 153. The route off Spruce, like Green Ridge, was littered with deadfall, laying like oversized matchsticks in the positions that the massive 2000 Bobcat wildfire had left them.

Spruce Mountain from Green Ridge.
Our morning's route took us through much of the burn zone from the fire, which started in Cedar Park at the southern base of Storm Mountain and spread east over Green Ridge into what is now Bobcat Ridge natural area and almost over the Masonville Road into Masonville. There are pockets of regrowth, including a nice wood of young spruce near the Spruce Mountain summit, but the ridges and gulleys remain largely barren. Needless to say, any off-trail work becomes incredibly slow in these areas.

Forest Road 153 is a popular one among hunters, jeepers and their ilk. For the jeepers, it offers challenging terrain, killer views and a length of burly mountain road that stretches from Buckhorn Canyon all the way west to the top of Storm Mountain. For the hunters this area between Storm Mountain and Green Ridge is loaded with game. From our first steps in Bobcat as day was breaking, we saw a huge herd of Elk and then continued to see them in large numbers all the way out to Spruce.

Anyway, once we were on FR 153, it was a slow icy grind of a run to the Storm Mountain summit (9,918'). The road was at times thick with drifted snow, at times icy, at times muddy and then also at times as dry as a bone. The road runs a rolling connecting ridge between Spruce and Storm, before dropping into and up Bear Gulch. All this area north of Cedar Park and east of Spruce was spared in the 2000 fire and remains heavily forested. All told it was about eight miles and 3,000 feet of accumulated gain on FR 153 to the summit.
Storm Mountain from Spruce.
A view of Storm before we cut across the southern slope.
Once out of Bear Gulch, FR 153 wraps around the southern flank of Storm before climbing sharply up the southwest slopes to gain the western summit ridge. Galuchie Park, an open space sitting 1,000 feet below the Storm summit, and Foggy Park on the western summit ridge, both looked like fantastic camping spots. The summit itself was okay, with good views between the trees, but they were far superior descending back through the Foggy Park meadow, which offered expansive views to the west of The Divide and Mummy Range. 

Foggy Park, about 500 feet below the summit (off to the right).
We picked a route to the south to return on, which involved a steep drop back down to the FR128/153 intersection at Galuchie Park, and then a right down perhaps the most deliciously graded road in the county. We dropped about 1,700 feet over four miles on FR 128 (Storm Mountain Road) passing through a couple of gulleys that had been totally devastated by the 2000 fire, before cutting east into the Cedar Park neighborhood, which sits nestled in the valley between Spruce Mountain to the north and Palisade Mountain to the south.

True to form, we got a little turned around in here, ending up at the end of a private road that we'd had to jump a gate to get on. Not wanting to back track, and with really no other option, we approached the property there and got the attention of the home owners who were conveniently out staining their deck. They were more than happy to offer navigational advice, while also giving us free rein to follow their private ATV tracks down to a small dry creek bed that feeds into the bigger Cedar Creek in Jug Gulch. They were also kind enough to offer a much needed water refill.

We found the road that was supposed to take us over Jug Gulch, naturally taking it the wrong way for a half mile before figuring out our error and retracing and climbing northeast out of Jug Creek, dropping down to Cedar Creek and finally hoofing it up Green Ridge back into the Bobcat natural area.

It was a long morning, which would have been considerably shorter with better navigation, but a very worthy loop nonetheless. All told, we covered 33 miles with about 7k' of climbing. This one minus the off-trail summits will be good to revisit a couple of times before June to take advantage of the long descents in the build-up to Western States.


  1. Does that new Highgear GPS have navigation functionality? If so, seems like it may indeed be worth the cash for adventures such as these.

  2. Kevin - it does, but I don't know how to use it. Either way, I don't think it's really my thing as I like pulling out maps and looking at the lay of the land (and then going in the wrong direction), rather than have satellites do all the work for me.

  3. Navigation function? I think Nick enjoys getting lost. I remember watching those flames in 2000. That fire was massive. Let's hope for some moisture soon.