Saturday, July 6, 2013

Day 15: East Ridge Mount Yale to Raspberry Gulch

After an abbreviated and fitful night's sleep, I was torn. On one hand, I really wanted to climb Mount Yale, just over two, scree-covered miles to the west of our ridge-top camp. On the other hand, the skies remained gray and I worried that the previous night's storm might return before we were safely off the mountain. And we hadn't really budgeted the time to climb the mountain. We decided to hike on, saving Mount Yale for another day.

After descending to the next road crossing, we passed through a section of trail overgrown with young aspens and fragrant wild roses. Near the trail we spotted a swampy, placid beaver pond reflecting the towering Mount Yale. A tall, domed beaver lodge rose from the center of the pond.

We stopped for lunch net to a small creek, its quiet urge barely audible over the rustling aspen leaves. Before we packed up, thunder rumbled in the distance and a light rain began to fall. But when a shirtless man hiked by with his dog and made no effort to don rain protection, I decided I wouldn't either. The slow drizzle soon petered out.

Section 13 crosses several roads, and the last five miles are all road walking on dirt and asphalt. Midway through the roadwalk we passed Mount Princeton Hot Springs Resort, crowded with vacationers enjoying the long holiday weekend. Covered with trail grime, we didn't want to join the freshly washed and laundered crowds and, after briefly investigating Chalk Creek, we hiked on.

As we passed the hot springs, we began to notice the dramatic chalky sandstone cliffs just to the west. These fragile and imposing cliffs were carved by the elements, and may be part of the reason the trail veers so far east and drops to such a relatively low elevation in this area.

My father met us at the Chalk Creek Trailhead and cooked us a delicious dinner before we hiked on. We passed several nice campsites close to the trailhead, but when we started looking for a site there were nine to be found. The Data Book promised camping about four miles from the trailhead in Raspberry Gulch. Although it was getting dark when we arrived, we could see a large car camping group spread across the campsite. We hiked on.

Finally, we found a flat piece of ground next to the trail and quickly tossed up the tent. None too soon. We fell asleep to the pitter patter of raindrops rhythmically pelting our tent.

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