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      Close to Heaven… Down to Earth


San Isabel National Forest

The Huerfano Valley Trailheads are all within a short stretch of countryside
inside the San Isabel National Forest just beyond the southern end of the Huerfano
State Wildlife Area
. From here there are paths leading to Slide Mountain,
Point 13,828, Mt. Lindsey, Mt. Blanca, Ellingwood Point, and Lily Lake. Some of
them are well marked, some aren’t. The Lily Lake Trail was rebuilt by volunteers a few years ago and is a beautiful
trail leading to Lily Lake, above treeline but just below the rock wall rising up
to Ellingwood Point. Part way up this trail is another cutoff, to the right, leading
up and over the ridge and eventually to California Peak. There are streams, ponds and marshes everywhere on the valley floor.
There are also waterfalls scattered throughout the valley.

Before the road closure is a sign pointing to the beginning of the Huerfano Trail
which leads easterly into the forest and eventually goes to Slide Mountain. The
Ute Trail leaves the Huerfano Trail after a couple of miles in the trees
and heads south, crossing a saddle and coming up at the bottom of Mt. Lindsey at
the beginning of Ute Creek. Another trail leaves the Ute Trail and heads upslope
onto and over Point 13,828 (also known as “Huerfano Peak,” one of Colorado’s 100
highest peaks).

At the road closure, the primary trail heads straight south. This is a pack trail
that ends up somewhere near Gash Ridge on the east side of Mt. Blanca. In a large
meadow at about 10,740′, the Lily Lake Trail leaves this trail and heads
west, up and across the hillside to the lake. About 0.2 miles further, the trail
leading onto Mt. Lindsey crosses the Huerfano River and heads southeasterly up the
hill in the valley beside Nipple Creek.

This valley is a very beautiful place where the human world seems incredibly far
away. Walking above treeline always brings me to question what happened here geologically.
It looks as though a massive chunk of granite pushed straight up into the air and
then was broken into pieces and separated through the actions of glacial ice. The
rock walls are sheer with boulderfields and talus everywhere. There are lakes formed
behind rockslides in the valleys and many, many avalanche chutes through the trees.

Update: the Pre-Cambrian rock in this clump of mountains was formed some 1.7-1.8
billion years ago. The Sangre de Cristo’s were pushed up some 27 million years ago
and are composed mostly of Pennsylvanian-Permian rock some 245 to 320 million years
old. The fault lines that define the Sangre de Cristo Uplift are all east of these
mountains. Technically, the Blanca Massif is not part of the Sangre de Cristo’s.

There are camping spots everywhere but most of this area is part of the Sangre de
Cristo Wilderness Area and motorized vehicles are forbidden. Horses are allowed
on the pack trail but they would have a lot of trouble anywhere else in here.

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