Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Homestead Meadows, Larimer UN8380, UN8380, and Kenny Mountain via Hermit Park.

Homestead Meadows is another destination listed in Foster's book that isn't in RMNP, but very close to the area and worth a visit.  Since the Lion Gulch trail is still closed due to the 2013 floods, the best access comes from Hermit Park.  This is slightly east of Estes Park on highway 36, and there is a six dollar day use fee, payable by card only.
Since I was also doing this day as my long run, I parked centrally, near the pavilion.  It looks like you can continue to follow the road to a circle, and park along there to shorten the journey.  Either way, it really isn't too bad, with a bit of elevation gain to come. 
Along the road.  You'll pass several cabins in Hermit Park before joining some single track and then a jeep road- just keep out of the signed private property.
There are a number of old roads you can take once you get to Homestead Meadows, with most destinations being signed.  I took a right as I wanted to continue south through the area to visit two of the ranked Larimer County peaks. 
The first homestead I came to was not in great shape, the building slowly returning to the earth.  However, you could still look into the windows and see remnants of the life once led here. 
Back on the road, I met a intersection which wasn't very clearly signed.  It looked like the right branch went to private property, so I took the left branch... which soon ran into a gate and private property!  Overland I went until I hit a trail.  I followed this to a road and continued on my way south.
The Laycook Homestead is the southern most structure in the area.  It's still in very good shape, with glass in the windows.  One can enter the structure to look around a bit.  There's still some wallpaper clinging to the remnants of the interior.
In pursuit of the peaks 8380, I headed south, entering some signed private property.  One could stay on USFS land to reach the first 8380, but this would require some off trail travel through very rugged terrain.  Make your decision.
I spied a herd of Elk in this area, with the remnants of one on the ground before me.
I continued up towards the summit.  According to LoJ, the summit is the southern most smaller closed contour, and this point requires a short and fun scramble. 
The summit of 8380.  I had a snack, and tried to spy a good route to the next 8380.  As I got up to move, I saw a bear, only the second one I've ever seen out and about.  And like the first one, it was running away from me!
I headed east downhill to remeet the trail, and then headed south. 
It had rained the day prior, but I could see someone had been on the trail both by horse and atv before that.  Fortunately, I didn't see anyone today.
The southern most 8380 would be a little tricky to visit legally.  It is connected by a thin strip of land to the forest to the south- the best legal approach would be to start at Johnny Park and make a long, off trail journey. 
Near 8380.  En route, I of course convinced myself it would be easier to contour around rather than make a few hundred feet of superfluous gain.  On the way back I stayed up as high as possible.  My advice?  Stay up as high as possible!
The music of nature. from Andy Rose on Vimeo.
I happened upon this small unnamed pond on the way back, and enjoyed the chorus of frogs for a few minutes.  It was quite loud to be there in person.
On the way back, I tried to stay on public land as much as possible.  Sometimes, it's a bit silly.
Here I am on the other side of a fence.  Note the trail about 20 feet away.  Oh well. 
Without crossing another fence, I eventually crossed a small creek and found some nice single track headed west back into private property.  At least this time I could argue I didn't cross a fence and it wasn't signed if someone saw me. 
Pierson Mountain and Lion Head (I think). 
I found myself back near the Laycook Homestead, and on an old jeep road once again.  Back in Homestead Meadows, I took a right to head up the old trail towards Kenny Mountain.  In reality, the old trail is yet another old jeep road, and pretty easy to ascend.  Things were going swimmingly, and spirits were high...
I've been looking at Kenny Mountain for years, largely from the south.  It is distinctly unforested, due to the 2002 Big Elk fire.  While the old jeep road gets you pretty close to the summit, it's off trail for the last 300 feet or so of elevation gain.  Almost all of the trees that formerly stood in the area were killed but not burned by the fire.  Which means there is tons of dead fall.  Nightmarish quantities really.  Going was tough and annoying, but finally...   
The summit of Kenny Mountain, 9290 feet. 
I took an alternative route back down which helped avoid some of the dead fall.  I eventually rejoined the jeep road, and dropped back to Homestead Meadows.  I had really wanted to check out the sawmill, but the day was getting on and night was coming.  I continued north back to Hermit Park, running the flats and downhills. 
This was my first return to the car in darkness of the year, but solely owing to the late start.  I've not been sleeping well and have felt unmotivated to get up early.  The drive back home was uneventful. 
Thank you to Larimer County, and particularly Hermit Park Ranger Rick Wilcox for their hard work in maintaining the area.  Your efforts are much appreciated, and you probably don't hear that enough.
Link to hike map/GPX on Caltopo.  Note that due to user error, part of this track is hand drawn.
Homestead Meadows, Larimer UN8380, UN8380, and Kenny Mountain via Hermit Park (distances as part of the hike):
Homestead Meadows, 8610 feet: 2.8 miles, 195 foot gain*.  Easy+.
Laycook Homestead, 8307 feet: 5.8 miles, -108 foot gain.  Moderate-.
Peak 8380: 7.7 miles, -35 foot gain.  Third class, possible Bear home near.  Moderate.
Peak 8380: 10 miles, -35 foot gain.  Moderate+.
Kenny Mountain, 9290 feet: 17.5 miles, 875 foot gain.  Moderate+.
As a whole, this day covered 25.04 miles with 4132 feet of elevation gain.  Strenuous-.
*= My figures indicate you'll have to do about 400 feet of gain to get to Homestead Meadows in the first place.  Due to the elevation of Hermit Park, some of the peaks have a negative gain.  Of course, there is alot of up and down along the way.

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