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Chapter 6
Buckskin Pass and return to West Creek Trailhead








This was the last day of our backpack. We got up extra early this morning and skipped cooking breakfast. Instead we just snacked on some breakfast bars while we took down the tent and stuffed our backpacks. We were in a hurry to get up over Buckskin Pass and get back to the car. Unfortunately it rained during the early morning so the tent, which had been staying dry for the past few days, got wet just in time to take it down and pack it up. :-( It also drizzled lightly while we were packing up which meant it was nice to have the rain fly set up as a temporary shelter. The fly came down last and then we hit the trail. We had about 8 miles to cover before we got back to the trailhead and the car.

The first 2 miles or so were an easy walk thru gentle forests and meadows. The last meadow was totally flooded by a beaver dam. That beaver had the equivalent of a Texas sized cattle ranch for a home.

Meadow on way to Buckskin Pass

The trail passed thru this meadow on the way to Buckskin Pass.
The far end was totally flooded by a beaver.
In about a 1/2 mile the trail took a steep turn uphill.

After the beaver flooded meadow, the trail took a nasty turn uphill. From then on it was uphill all the way to the pass. As we looked back at Snowmass Mtn. We could see the weather turning bad behind us. As we were approaching the pass we noticed the dark clouds and rain leaving the Snowmass area and proceeding up the valley behind us. The race was on ... who would make Buckskin Pass first, us or the lousy weather? It turned out it was a tie. We crested the pass just as the rain, sleet, snow and lightning hit us. We quickly descended about a hundred feet down the other side of the pass, ditched our packs, covered ourselves with the rainfly, and waited for the storm to pass. Fortunately, it was a quick storm and when it was over we walked back up to the pass, leaving our packs behind, and took our photos.

Chasing storm to crest of pass

Here I am racing up to the pass trying to beat out the approaching storm clouds.


Snowmass from Buckskin Pass

Looking back towards Snowmass Mtn from Buckskin Pass after the storm has passed.


Miniehaha Gulch from Buckskin Pass

Looking towards Pyramid Peak and Minnehaha Gulch from Buckskin Pass.
The storm is now beyond Pyramid Peak.

From the pass it was all down hill thru Minnehaha Gulch down to Crater Lake. It was a long, slow, dry, downhill trudge. There were a few good views up West Maroon Creek valley to the right. From Crater Lake it was a loooonnnng 1.7 miles back to the car. We were tired and my heel blister was bothering me.

Once we got back to the car, it was a long drive south to the town of Buena Vista. Looking at the road map it didn't look far, but I forgot to account for the fact that we had to drive up and over Independence Pass. At times the highway narrows down to about 1 1/2 lanes wide as it winds and twists its way up the mountain. That night we enjoyed a real nice steak dinner in a restaurant in Buena Vista and a good nights rest at a small local Motel.



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last revised : January 13, 2007