Saturday, July 7, 2018

North Fork Basin loop.

I mapped this monster a few years ago, I believe shortly after my first visit to the area with Dan in 2013.  Doing a loop to connect all of the peaks above the basin seemed like a logical choice, and while entirely off trail, there isn't too much scrambling.  In fact, with good route choice, casual rock touching is minimized to almost zero.
This marked my second attempt on this route, with the first being a week prior.  I think that one was destined for failure from the start.  I went to bed the night before with my stomach feeling a little upset, and it didn't feel any better the next morning.  I didn't sleep well, or long enough (though that in itself is not unusual), and I was really feeling it.  And it was windier than predicted.  And my heart just wasn't in it.  
That happens, and it is important to listen to your body and evaluate the conditions rather than force things.  The first attempt did come with a lesson in the route choice, as I'd planned to go clockwise.  But the bushwhack up to Mount Dickinson was not fun and rather difficult.  Perhaps going counter clockwise was a better option.  I'd still have to do the bushwhack, but would have the assist of gravity to go downhill.  Maybe that would make it easier?
The original route I mapped started and ended at the Dunraven TH, taking the Bulwark Ridge trail to Signal Mountain(s).  After a rather jolly time on the trails east of the Signals last year (and a hellacious bushwhack on a trail on the map that isn't there in real life), and wanting a little bit of a bigger day elevation and distance wise, I decided to add on some time on these trails.  Why not?
I started from the Dunraven TH at 5:43 am.  The initial climb is pretty steep, taking down about 1000 feet in 1.3 miles or so.  The other side brings a fun and fast descent on the Indian Trail to Miller Fork.
I took a left here to head west- it is not necessary to cross the creek though it looked like it was.  At the first fork after this, I stayed left for the Donner Pass Cutoff trail, then left at the second intersection to take the Donner Pass trail.  
Early signs...  These trails don't appear to get much use, but someone had been through fairly recently with a chainsaw.  That made things alot more pleasant.
Along the Donner Pass trail.
This is the meadow where I decided I was going the wrong way last year, and then went the wrong way to a trail that was on the USGS map, but not there in real life.
I arrived at Donner Pass at 8:13, and took the short and not in great shape or distinct trail to Lookout Mountain, the first peak of the day.
The start of the Lookout trail.  It gets worse with deadfall, though it's still mostly ok to follow until the trail seems to disappear.  There are cairns up to the summit, but those are widely spaced and also difficult to follow.  So I just kept going up.
The views from the top are quite enchanting.  It was pretty hard to wrap my head around the idea that I'd be over there in just a few hours.  It was also a little intimidating!
I took the trail back down to Donner Pass, and then continued on trail 934 west.  Here I could see some signs of usage, as dirt bikes are allowed and it was clear someone had been through.  Peak 10582 is right off the trail, and I made sure to visit the summit if oh so briefly.
I continued along this trail at an easy jog/hike.  Next up was the clearing with the intersection with the Signal Mountain trail.  There was a little bit of deadfall here, but nothing major.
Signal Mountain trail intersection.  This is trail 928.
It breaks treeline soon enough, and the views are awesome, though the trail becomes a little less distinct.
At the summit of Signal Mountain, 11262 feet.  Over there was still looking pretty darn far away.
It was a quick jaunt over to South Signal Mountain.
Looking forward.
I can't say you're above treeline for the rest of the day from here, as you aren't.  But the lowest elevation you'll face until the final descent from Dickinson is between Pennock Peak and Stormy Peaks, at around 10500 feet.  In my mind, the extended time at elevation/above treeline is the main difficulty.  Starting at Signal Mountain, it's about 20 miles at elevation.
Another benefit of doing the loop CCW was that the now very faint Signal Mountain trail between Signals and the Stormy Peaks trail is alot easier to follow going down.  Last year I lost it multiple times climbing, and faced more hard bushwhacking.  As it was, I still lost it once before refinding it and topping out Pennock Peak, 11058 feet.
Looking back from Pennock.
Down into the valley.
Here is where the Signal Mountain trail ends/starts on the other side.  Note that there isn't a sign indicating it is a trail.  It's hard to follow from this side, with deadfall in multiple places and numerous animal trails crossing/taking off from it.
I headed up towards Stormy Peaks after a sit at the intersection.  I was already thinking maybe I should head back.  It was already noon.  Continuing on would give an exceptionally long day.  But I'd come this far.
I stayed on the Stormy Peaks trail for what seemed like a long time- I didn't want to go too far past the east summit to have to backtrack to it, yet I also wanted to be high up enough to avoid the bushwhacking and willows between myself and the summit.
In the end, it worked out completely fine.
Back down.
Stormy Peaks West (the true, ranked summit) from Stormy Peaks East.
It was a fairly quick jaunt between the two, with a touch of scrambling to meet the summit.  East from West.
I made the quick descent west from there, and stayed down and north of the next small bump to continue on to Sugarloaf Mountain.
Things fell apart here a bit.  I was really struggling even though the terrain is pretty easy, and the gain is not steep.  I was extremely disappointed to top a small rise and see I still had a bit to go to Sugarloaf.  I sat for what felt like a long time but was in fact a few minutes.  It was now around 2:30 PM.  I could just turn around and take the nice, easy trail back down, which meant I'd be home at a reasonable time.  It would be nice to be back home, comfortable, eat some real food, cuddle with the dogs, pet my wife.  Oops!  Reverse that.
But then again, I mapped this day.  I planned on it.  I already tried once and turned back.  I was pretty far in and to turn around now meant I'd have to come all the way back here once again.  I wanted this day.
To Skull Point and the climb up beyond.
Onward I went.  It's weird to describe what I was feeling, both wanting to quit or be done and wanting to continue on.  I guess part of the reason for continuing was that even if I turned back now, I'd still be facing a not very short run/hike back, even though it'd be mostly downhill.
Skull Point was a quick and easy rock hop to the summit, and then a quick descent to Icefield Pass.
Great views to the east, down the entire basin I was looping around.
The permanent snowfields between Little No Name and Rowe Mountain look to be the highest elevation/farthest out feeders for the South Fork of the Cache la Poudre River.  There was a mini waterfall, rushing, icy cold water, and astounding views.
I found the view to the north west to be particularly striking.  Of all the special places I've seen and been in the park, this one was extremely memorable.
One aspect that bears mentioning for these long days above treeline is water access.  I'd planned on several, some of which will be seasonal only, fed by the snow melt from the year before.  Thus, doing this in September might mean long stretches without.  The only definite accesses I'd count on then would be Miller Fork, the above melt stream, and Rowe Glacier Lake, so one would need to make sure to have enough to get through the sections between those.
The view from Little No Name was awesome, but getting there definitely took some time.  I was moving pretty slow and really felt like I was dragging.  Aided by several breaks, I made the top eventually.
I felt a little bit better from there up to Hagues.  Maybe the lack of oxygen was helping!
Gibraltar Mountain from Middle No Name.  Middle No Name is pretty silly as a summit, with virtually no prominence.  Gibraltar isn't much more impressive, but at least the movement is a little more interesting.
I made the quick trip out to Rowe Peak from there.  I'd looked at and planned to include Rowe Mountain while I was close, but the day was getting on.  Even just twenty minutes out and twenty back would be another forty minutes.  As I thought about it, if the goal was to do a loop of the North Fork Basin, Rowe Mountain wasn't a peak that bordered it, nor would it contribute to the drainage at all.  Thus, I decided to skip it.
Looking across to Hagues and Rowe Glacier Lake.
I made my way down some talus to the lake and enjoyed the silence and beauty of it while I filled up on water part of the way- I knew there was a place I could fill up between Hagues and Dunraven, and the less weight I had to carry, the better.
The climb up to Hagues felt like it took forever, but the reality was about 20 minutes.  I signed in for the third time this year, and then headed east.  Though I've done Hagues multiple times, I only discovered a really great end to the traverse this year, as I previously stayed up on the ridge as high as possible.  I stay north and down from the summit, which gives a nice, relatively flat and wide passageway to a series of social trails up the north face, which go easy.  There is almost no rock hopping at all, and it seems alot easier than staying on the ridge.
As I headed east, I considered where I was.  It was now around 6:30 PM, and while I had also planned to visit Mummy Mountain, I decided to disqualify it for the same reasons as Rowe Mountain.  Time, and most importantly, it does not border the North Fork Basin, nor does it contribute to the drainage.
With the impending sunset, I was hoping to be at least somewhat into the bushwhack downhill before I had to get the headlamp out.
A herd of Elk between Hagues and Dunraven.  I stopped to fill up water here for the last time above treeline.
Up to Dunraven.  I gave myself the goal to get to Dickinson from Hagues in two hours.  It looks like it's about 5.7 miles between the two.  I guess that seems like a reasonable time goal, and I was motivated to reach it as I wanted to minimize the whole bushwhacking in the darkness thing.  Funny, as Erin remarked the week before as we bushwhacked up to Dickinson how much it would suck to do it in the dark.
I tagged Dunraven, then Dundicking, and finally made it to Dickinson in 2:07.  Close enough I guess.  I turned north and started the descent.  Upon reaching treeline, I found and followed some cairns and a goodish trail.  I'd like to know where that ends or goes to if anyone knows, as I lost the cairns and descended as directly as possible.
A last sunlit look back at a long day.
I've usually stayed to the east of the rock face on the north side of Dickinson, but decided to stay west of it this time.  The theory was that the route to the east looked like it had a longer stretch above treeline, but the route to the west looks like it is more direct.  In reality, it probably doesn't matter at all.
The going was pretty ok and easy at first, as I was able to find clear avenues through the trees.  But I got lower, turned on the headlamp, and darkness came.  The bushwhacking got alot more difficult and thicker.  Now I was cursing my route decision (CCW vs CW), as if I'd went the other way I'd be on a nice easy trail at this point.  But on the other hand, the bushwhack was definitely easier going downhill.
I used the app on my phone a few times to see how progress was going.  While steep here and there, the going was pretty okay other than the brush I was fighting!  This section actually felt pretty quick, and looking at my tracker, it was exactly 50 minutes down from the summit to the trail, about 2300 vertical, bushy feet.
I ended up in a flatter meadowy area and scared something big that I never saw which fortunately headed opposite me.  I also got my feet wet.  I'd managed to keep them dry until now.  I hit the North Fork of the Big Thompson, the namesake of this day.  I quickly looked for a down tree to cross, but I was still in a meadow and there were none.  The creek didn't look too deep and my feet were already wet, so I waded it.
Joy of joys, I happened to cross at the one place where the trail practically touches the creek, and found it in a few paces once I climbed the bank on the other side.
"Could it be?" I said.
And it was.
Now it was simply motor on down.  I surprised myself by actually feeling like I wanted to run and could do so, and alternated between jogging and power hiking the remaining 7ish miles or so.  This felt like it took awhile, but I was finally back to the car about an hour and forty minutes later.  I'd been down the trail six days prior and nothing looked familiar, but at least I had the comfort of passing the signs for the various campsites.  There was also a ton of insects and mosquitoes out, one of whom bit me in the face.  This face needs all the help it can get, thanks jerk.
This was two days before a full moon and I kept thinking I was seeing things off the trail, as white flowers appeared to almost glow in the night, shadows were longer and exaggerated, and the white water on the creek looked like tents with lights in them.
I am pretty sure I saw some campers at one of the spots in RMNP, but when I though I saw a bunch farther down, I realized it was actually the moonlight on the water.  Several times, until I was like, "Wow, there's alot of people camping here.  Great spot right next to the river.  Hey, wait a second...."
I arrived back at the car at 10:51 PM, just over a 17 hour day.  Phew.
What a day this one was.  I was particularly enthused to link these peaks together since I first mapped it a few years ago, perhaps it has taken that long for my fitness to rise to the level of my ambition.  This loop covers alot of incredibly scenic alpine terrain.  The extended time at altitude is certainly the biggest difficulty here, in several ways I've already touched upon.
Link to hike map/GPX on Caltopo.
North Fork Basin loop:
Lookout Mountain, 10626 feet: 8.3 miles, 2826 foot gain.  Second class.  Moderate.
10582: 10.15 miles, 2782 foot gain.  Second class.  Moderate.
Signal Mountain, 11262 feet: 14 miles, 3462 foot gain.  Moderate+.
South Signal Mountain, 11248 feet: 14.75 miles, 3448 foot gain.  Second class.  Moderate+.
Pennock Peak, 11058 feet: 16.7 miles, 3258 foot gain.  Second class.  Strenuous-.
Stormy Peaks East, 12020 feet: 20.95 miles, 4220 foot gain.  Second class.  Strenuous.
Stormy Peaks West, 12148 feet: 21.5 miles, 4348 foot gain.  Second class.  Strenuous.
Sugarloaf Mountain, 12140 feet: 23.65 miles, 4340 foot gain.  Strenuous.
Skull Point, 12060 feet: 24.55 miles, 4260 foot gain.  Second class.  Strenuous.
Icefield Pass, 11840 feet: 24.85 miles, 4040 foot gain.  Strenuous.
Little No Name, 12530 feet: 25.65 miles, 4730 foot gain.  Strenuous+.
Middle No Name, 12760 feet: 26.2 miles (a marathon), 4960 foot gain.  Strenuous+.
Gibraltar Mountain, 13300 feet: 27.05 miles, 5500 foot gain.  Strenuous+.
Rowe Peak, 13420 feet: 27.75 miles, 5620 foot gain.  Strenuous+.
Rowe Glacier Lake, 13100 feet: 28.3 miles, 5300 foot gain.  Strenuous+.
Hagues Peak, 13560 feet: 28.85 miles, 5760 foot gain.  Strenuous+.
Mount Dunraven, 12571 feet: 31.25 miles, 4771 foot gain.  Strenuous.
"Dundicking", 12312 feet: 32.15 miles, 4512 foot gain.  Strenuous.
Mount Dickinson, 11831 feet: 33.75 miles, 4031 foot gain.  Strenuous-.
As a whole, this day covered 41.5 miles with 11219 feet of elevation gain.  A slightly shorter and less elevationous day could be had by taking the Bulwark Ridge trail up or down from the trailhead, but any way you go, this is a big day.  Again, the time above treeline is extensive, and the difficulties that come with that are the main obstacle.  Strenuous+.

Monday, June 25, 2018

A better day in the mountains.

I have visited and revisited Mummy Mountain and Hagues Peak a number of times now.  These two have become a early season tradition of sorts, due to proximity to home, ease (or difficulty) of access, and at least one of the access options being pretty well traveled, with any snow well packed.  There might be a short stretch of snow around treeline, but the going is generally pretty clear and easy once you get to the enormous east slopes of Mummy, which don't hold much snow due to exposure.  It's also a good way to have a stretch above treeline and work hard.
Last year I had a heck of a time on these two, and not due to any difficulty.  I just was not in a good place mentally and very upset due to the very recent death of my dog.  It was a hard day all around.
This year I've generally been feeling good, and wanted to give it another go for the aforementioned reasons, as well as for perhaps some chance at a redemption of sorts.
Again, I planned to start and end at Lumpy Ridge, looking for a longer day and more elevation gain than last years route selection.  I was (not unusually) the first car in the parking lot at 530, and on the trail shortly after.  I resolved to run as much as possible this year, and to try to keep my mind and memories on a positive track.
It was easy at first, as I arrived just as the sun was starting to rise, and got to witness the alpenglow light show on the peaks to my south.
One of the major obstacles to any speed last year was the amount of dead fall on the Black Canyon Trail west of the intersection with the Dark Mountain Trail.  Fortunately, that was largely not an issue this year.  Maybe it wasn't as much of an issue as it felt like last year either, and it was all in my mind.
I was looking for it, and did manage to find the same exact rock out there on the trail.  I noticed its likeness to a heart shape last year, which lead to one of the many breakdowns as I thought about my pup who had died the day before.
As you near the apex of the trail, the terrain changes a bit, going from a heavily forested to a more open character.  You cross the Black Canyon Creek a few times, and I was able to fill up on water from it.
Close to breaking north to visit Mummy.
There is a pretty well put in social trail up here, which leads from the trail up to the east face of Mummy.  I've found it several times, but missed it this year and eventually went for it, deciding I was past it.  Thus, the initial gain was a bit more difficult, with some bushwhacking and maneuvering to avoid the little snow there was.
And how little snow there was; this year is the driest I've ever seen it around this time of the year.
Looking up at Fairchild Mountain and the Crystal Lake basin from the climb.
And up the east face of Mummy- no snow!  Not that the climb was any easier.
I finally reached the summit and looked across to Hagues.  Some years there's been enough snow that I haven't visited Hagues at all, this year...
Largely clear sailing.  I don't think I stepped in snow once, as it was all avoidable.  I was able to stop and refill water between the two from a melt pool, the good thing about doing these ridge traverses in the early part of the year. 
Hagues brought the usual good views, though I actually found a better approach by staying down and north of the ridge a bit.  The air was still, and I met the ravens who must live in the area at the summit.  It was pretty neat to actually be able to hear them flying, the air rushing around their wings and bodies. 
I was equally surprised to look north and see Rowe Glacier Lake and area were largely clear- or at least the snow could be avoidable.
I made a decision here, which was to not go back the way I came, but head east out to the Dunraven ridge, and then descend down the Husted Trail to North Boundary, and then take that south over the few lumps in the way.
Looking out to the Dunraven Ridge, some rock at first and then smooth sailing on tundra.
The dramatic east face of Gibraltar Mountain.
I found running water in this area and filled up yet again, as the next definite place I'd be able to fill up was at West Creek, and definitely a good bit away from where I was.  And as it was pretty warm, I'd need every drop.
The undramatic Mount Dunraven.
The last time I'd see water for awhile.
The excursion out to Mount Dickinson went without issue, and I saw several herds of elk along the way.  I briefly headed back west from the summit and then dropped south, following occasional cairns.
Due to the 2010 Cow Creek fire, there is a ton of dead fall along the way.  Up until now, I'd only done this in winter and it was alot easier with the snow covering everything.  Travel was pretty tedious until I reached the still living portion of the forest and got on a good trail.
At North Boundary, I turned south and was able to find water almost immediately.  Great, because I'd been out for at least half an hour already despite the fill up near Dunraven.  There was a RMNP trail crew out, and I made sure to thank them all for their hard work.
I jogged and actually ran some of the fun downhill to West Creek, crossed it, and started up the steepish climb on the other side.  It's only about 500 feet of gain, but it always feels worse, particularly this late on a big day.
I took the Cow Creek trail west, and realized I'd forgotten how long it takes to get to the Gem Lake trail, but it came soon enough.  And now for the final 1000 feet of vertical.  There are some steep parts here, but I was able to keep a high pace and power hike most of it.
I arrived at a peacefully deserted Gem Lake.  I expected to see a ton of people there, even though it was now around 530 at night. 
Low wind led to a nice reflection.
I passed several people heading up and a few on their way back down to the parking, jogging as much as I could.  I got back to the car at 5:51 pm, a 12:20 day.  It's always nice to change into some street clothes, and I've recently started taking along a thermos of ice to enjoy a cold coconut water on the way home.  
In last years outing, I compared my effort to previous efforts on these peaks.  It's not a direct comparison of course, as this years' effort included about 5 more miles and 1200 more feet of gain in much more bushwhacky and deadfally terrain from Dickinson than if I'd just visited Mummy and Hagues and went back the same way.  I was about 12 seconds per mile faster than I was last year; certainly not alot of time, but with the above difficulties added in, I'm happy with that.
Link to hike map/GPX on Caltopo.
A better day in the mountains:
Mummy Mountain, 13425 feet: 10.74 miles, 5560 foot gain.  Second class.  Strenuous+.
Hagues Peak, 13560 feet: 12.53 miles, 5695 foot gain.  Second class.  Strenuous+.
Mount Dunraven, 12571 feet: 14.88 miles, 4706 foot gain.  Second class.  Strenuous.
"Dundicking", 12312 feet: 15.78 miles, 4447 foot gain.  Second class.  Strenuous.
Mount Dickinson, 11831 feet: 17.57 miles, 3966 foot gain.  Second class.  Strenuous.
As a whole, this day covered 30.02 miles with 8558 feet of elevation gain.  The main difficulty in my mind is the time spent above treeline.  Strenuous+.

In loving memory of Jersey the dog.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Milton Seaman Reservoir loop.

I suppose with the hiking end of RMNP being near, I've been directing my sights elsewhere.  I just don't know how many people are interested in reading about sub-8000 foot peaks in Larimer county, so I've not been writing up anything.  Consider the MOST climbed peak in this report, 6712, has 38 registered ascents (counting 2 repeats by one person, and 4 by another) on, while the most climbed 14er in the state has nearly 1300, and that site is probably not used by the vast majority of people climbing Mount Bierstadt!  So it's a low summit that doesn't see much traffic.
But this day a few weeks ago was too good to not mention, though it was not an easy outing to visit three  lowly 6ers.  Rugged and challenging but rewarding terrain, bushwhacking, just a touch of scrambling, and adventurous route finding?  Check!  And I didn't see a single person until I got back to the dam.
I started at early o'clock, as I hoped to beat the traffic north through Fort Collins from my home in Longmont.  During the day it's always slow, and this way I'd only have to sit through it once.
I started on peak 6176, right near the mouth of the Poudre.  By now, I've driven by it numerous times, but funny that I've only been up the Poudre before once ever, and that was only last year.
This summit lies on state lands, and as signed at the pullout, dedicated for use for hunting only.  I suppose there might be some penalty for not hunting there, but it doesn't say what you have to be hunting (do summits count?), and I arrived pre-sunrise, so I felt ok going for it.
I missed a nice trail going up in the dark, and after a rock and scrub filled gully, exited north onto a nice grassy slope with a bit of talus to the broad summit area.  There were a few candidates, and no cairn or register, so I made sure to pay attention to them all.
Sunrise near the summit.
I stood for a few minutes and enjoyed the view down to the plains to the east.  What a big world it is, and how pleasurable to see another sunrise.
I headed back down but took the trail, which starts or ends behind the "Don't go here unless you're hunting" sign previously mentioned.
I headed up to Hewlett Gulch to run... only to discover it was closed for this one day only.  Argh!  I stopped at the next pull out and looked at the map- I had a quarter tank of gas and knew that would get me back to civilization from where I was, but didn't know how much farther up the canyon I could go and get back, and at this point it would have to be pretty far to visit something new.  I also knew if I went that far, I'd take CR27 back so I wouldn't have to drive through Fort Collins, which meant I'd be away from potential gas for longer if I was to run low.
A few months ago I visited Gateway Natural Area with the dogs to do the hike I'm about to talk about, but could not do it due to construction which was supposed to be over by the time I was there.  I'm glad it didn't work out, because this would've been a pretty hard day for them.
So I headed back downhill to Gateway, where I was the first vehicle in the parking lot shortly before 7am.  I was freezing at first, but knew I'd warm up once I got some sun, and I didn't want to carry an extra layer all day for 10 minutes at the beginning.  I crossed the now completed bridge and started up the Black Powder Trail.  Once it flattened out, I turned east, hopped the first (unsigned) barbed wire fence of the day, and started up for real.
Above the reservoir.
I'm sure some of these fences mean something or once did- most of the land covered over the day was public (though of varying ownership), and most seemed to be relics of another time, with the wooden posts rotted enough to fall over, the barbed wire badly rusted, and gates left wide open.
I was feeling alot of joy when I took the photo above.  Though I'd started with my teeth chattering, I'd now warmed up enough to appreciate the cool breeze blowing, the early morning sun, and the songbirds in the area were filling the morning with music.  It was pretty perfect!
Some Pasques just starting to bloom.  There are one of the first flowers of spring.
I hit the ridge, and began the undulating hike to 6823.  Along the way I encountered more of the same style fencing, most in disrepair.  In some places the barbed wire was no longer attached, but rather looped around on the ground.  A good place to keep your eyes open!
The terrain was a bit more open here, so I was able to jog a bit.  My legs were already well scratched up from the scrub I'd encountered up until now.
I got to the summit and was unable to find a cairn or register.  It was hard to tell with certainty, but it looked like the high point might actually be slightly east of where it's marked on the map.  
The hills of Larimer County.
Looking west from the summit of 6823.  You can see all the scrubby stuff as well as the striking Greyrock Mountain, my photographic muse for the day.  
The next part of my plan involved descending the long west ridge to the inlet of the reservoir.  It was easy enough, some runable, some not, again mostly due to thick scrub.  I'd had enough of it here and my legs were pretty mangled already.  Fortunately, the other side of the valley looked like it was clear of this, or it was at least avoidable.
I got down to the water.  Man, what a beautiful place.  Much to my surprise, there was a thin trail running along its edge on the east bank.  I headed upstream, looking for a point to cross and feeling happy that I'd come to be at this place at this time.
About half way to Obenchain Draw, I encountered some rocks, but there were not enough to rock hop.  Ah well, I got my feet wet and waded a bit, scaring two ducks who took off in the process.  Again, I was impressed by how much this short loop to three 6ers had delivered.  Why would anyone want to climb a 14er?
After the initially steep uphill, the terrain flattened out nicely and I was able to jog/fast hike most of it, scaring a herd of deer in the process.  I followed an animal trail around the north side of 6377 and then basically stuck to the ridge from there to the summit of 6945.
An extremely pleasant meadow I passed through on the way.  I was seriously about to go full on "the hills are alive" and skip through it singing, but I somehow restrained myself.  It was just beautiful!
Greyrock Mountain, standing proud and a story for another day.
I ran out of water near the summit, but was not concerned in the slightest.  I would've brought my filter, but since I planned to do something else I didn't have it with me.  Ah well, only a few more miles to go, or so I thought!
The rocky summit of 6945.  I took a few minutes to enjoy the scenery, and dropped south to the creek below.
My plan from here was to cross the creek, and ascend up the other side of the valley, going by point 6632 and then staying on the ridge until I intersected the old Wintersteen Trail.  The scenery would change abruptly on the other side of the creek, as it is a forest fire burn area.
As I've said about everything, the creek was awesome!  How many people have had the privilege to stand here and listen to it, feel the coolness of it's water?
I decided that I should fill up just in case, as I always keep tablets in my backpack for that very reason.  That turned out to be a good call as I was alot farther from the car than I thought, and I would've been dry for some time until I'd gotten back.
Forest fire burn area and deadfall.  Unfortunately, the deadfall was too much to make this area runable, but I was still feeling great.
A closer up view of Greyrock.  It looks improbable that there's an easy trail to the top, but there is!
I don't know if I would've been able to find or follow the Wintersteen Trail without the mobile app that I have.  It was not very distinct and covered in deadfall at these higher elevations.  There were some cairns which certainly helped.
A cairn leading the way. 
While in the area, I looked for the old Brinkhoff mine that you see on the topo and think I eventually found it WSW of where it's marked.  It's not much to look at, just a channel dug into the hill.  I did not locate any buildings or anything.
Using the mobile app and all of my bad trail recognition tools, I was able to follow the trail into the saddle north of 6712, where I left it direct for the summit.  This one was a little challenging due to the steepness and looseness of the burned area.  But really a quick up and down.
The summit area.  An enchanting view was had of the Poudre Canyon to the west from the top.
Said view.  Could the day get any better?
Well, it was all downhill from here (literally).  I'd yet to see a single person.  I had food and water (fortunately).  Things were pretty great!
The Wintersteen Trail got better.  Someone or someones maintains this section, so most of the deadfall was cut or had a textured flat cut into the top in the case of the bigger trees.  Still not super obvious, as I would soon find out.
More kind of trail.
Somewhere after this, I lost it.  Since I didn't plan on doing this day, I didn't have the Laporte Quad saved on my phone.  I lost the trail where I started follow an old animal trail which must've looked more obvious.  It didn't take long to figure out that I was not going the right way and guess where the trail must've gone from where I was. 
A quick uphill through some more scrub and I was back on it, and moving a bit quicker, as it was now dirt and easily visible.
Getting close to the Seaman!
Back above the reservoir.
The outlet was pretty cool, and I saw the first people of the day here: a girl walking her dog, and a guy fishing.  There were a number of people out enjoying the day that I passed as I made my way back to the car.  What a great day! 
I got back to the car a few minutes later, changed, and started for home. 
I drove home feeling fortunate to be here, and was pretty happy that I spent the day on three lowly 6ers.  A really fun thing on concentrating on a county peak list is that I've gone to places I never would've otherwise, or didn't even know existed.  Gateway Natural Area and the Seaman loop delivered in a big way. 
Almost all days outdoors are great, and this one was particularly memorable.  How lucky I am to live in the place, and have these hills in my backyard (or just a short drive away!).
Link to hike map/GPX on Caltopo.
Milton Seaman Reservoir Loop:
6823: 3.65 miles, 1473 foot gain.  Second class but bushwhacky.  Moderate+.
6945: 7.65 miles, 1565 foot gain.  Second class.  Strenuous-.
6712: 11.1 miles, 1332 foot gain.  Second class.  Moderate+.
As a whole, this day covered 14.6 miles with 4519 feet of elevation gain though some splendid scenery.  Strenuous-.