24: The Shafthouse

A powerful gust of wind comes up from over the western ridge.  Burned trees start to topple.  A thirty footer falls across the trail just a few yards ahead.   Looking around, I catch another one crashing to the ground behind me.  Quickly, I flip off the hood of my wind shirt and remove my sun hat.  To make it through this charred landscape, I’m going to need every bit of my peripheral vision.

A day earlier, I’m strolling downhill along this trail into the Lost Creek Wilderness.  It’s sunny and windy, the opposite of what I like for making photographs, but I’m happy to be here.  Though I’ve hiked this stretch of the Goose Creek Trail many times, both before and after the 2002 Hayman fire, this trip will be different.  Usually, I make a brief visit to the Shafthouse as part of a longer loop.  Now, I’m taking the time to really explore the area.

Overlook

The trail continues with ups and downs and views of rock formations on the opposite side of Goose Creek.   In two hours, I turn down a spur trail to the Shafthouse area.

Caveman

The afternoon is spent exploring boulder caves and scrambling among the unworldly rock formations.  My pack is light enough that I don’t need to take it off;  I’ll find a camp later in the day.

By late afternoon, I’m tired and find a high perch in the shade of a boulder where I can rest and survey my surroundings.

About the gear:  When I’m outdoors, I like to be comfortable, so for this trip I’m using a scrap of Ridgerest as a cushion against the rough granite and the padded back of my Vapor Trail as a back rest.  A trekking pole is jammed into a boulder or tree to prop up the pack.

Rejuvenated, I continue to  explore the area.

Granite

Winch

This is about all that is left from a attempt to dam Lost Creek by the Denver Water Department.  Starting in 1893. they tried for over twenty years but eventually had to give up.  Score one for Mother Nature.

This cabin was used as a workers’ quarters during the attempt to dam Lost Creek.

In the evening I head downhill toward Goose Creek.

Water and Granite

I explore up and down the bank of the creek, then fill my water bladder and walk up a steep hill looking for a place to camp.

About the gear:  True confessions time.  Though I know the weight of each item of gear to within a tenth of an ounce,  I can’t be bothered to make up a gear list.  When packing for a trip, I just grab items off my gear shelves that seem to be appropriate for a particular trip.  Mostly, this casual approach works well for me, but occasionally I forget an important piece of gear.  On this trip, it’s the alcohol burner for my Caldera Cone. Remembering a nearby fire ring, I build a tiny cook fire to heat the water for my dinner of couscous, black beans, and dehydrated vegetables.

After dinner, I walk farther uphill in the fading light where I find a good flat spot to set up my shelter.  I fall asleep to the sound of the wind in the trees and the creek running far below.

Golite Shangri-La 2

Around midnight, a big gust of wind hits my camp.  I walk around my shelter to make sure all the stakes are secure.  It’s going to be a windy night.

About the gear:  In windy conditions, in the relatively loose soil at this elevation, I really like to use eight inch Easton Aluminum stakes for a very solid pitch.

Starry Night

Though the moon is bright tonight,  constellations are still visible through the canopy of trees above my camp.

I awaken when the sky starts to turn light.  My bed is so comfortable that I’m tempted to sleep in for a while.  But I resist the urge, grab my camera, and walk down the steep hill.

My morning exercise routine:  rolling boulders around the wilderness.

Goose Creek

Watching the water flow

Cloud and Cliff

The sky turns brighter.  Clouds appear over the granite walls of the canyon.  Swallows dive and swoop near the top of the cliff.

While having breakfast back at camp, a hummingbird buzzes me a few times, apparently mistaking my red jacket for a giant flower.

The wind intensifies now as I break camp. Lighter items have to be weighted down to prevent them from blowing away.   I hike back up the spur to the Goose Creek trail, then turn south toward the trailhead.  The wind gathers strength.  I pull on the hood of my wind shirt and walk on.

Granite formations along Goose Creek

Before long, I’m back at the Hayman Burn.  Being aware of the danger, I hesitate for a second, then hike in.  The wind swoops down;  charred trees fall.  When I finally reach the trailhead, I warn a solo backpacker who’s about to hike down about the falling trees.  From the relative safety of the parking lot, I watch as more trees tumble.

Later on, I learn that wind gusts in excess of 70mph  were recorded in the area.  At Fort Carson, a soldier broke his leg when the tent he was occupying was carried away by the wind.

But now I’m focusing on driving away from the Hayman Burn.  As I negotiate the winding maze of dirt roads, I see branches, limbs, then a whole tree trunk blow across the road in front of me.  A blackened limb bumps against my car.  More trees go down.

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14 thoughts on “24: The Shafthouse

    • Thanks for that, Eugene. Now that I’m done writing this up, I can spend some time reading. I noticed that you have a new post on another trip in the Gila Wilderness. Can’t wait to get to it.

    • Thanks, John. It’s great to see you visiting here. I had considered bringing my barbell set but didn’t want to violate any lightweight backpacking codes. It turns out that rolling boulders works just as well. 😉

    • Thanks, Hendrik. I think I’m becoming addicted to photography. By now you should be on your trip with Roger and the other Scandinavian bloggers. Looking forward to the wealth of trip reports that will come from that get-together.

  1. Even though I’m more than tired of gear obsessions I’ve really come to enjoy your reports. I haven’t been to far into the Lost Creek since June 2002 when I hiked the CT across and got kicked off the trail around Kenosha. What a beautiful place. Thanks for sharing

    • Great to see you here, Double Cabin. I think that I may be outgrowing some of my gear obsessions as well. After all, it’s not about the gear, it’s about being out there. Yeah, Lost Creek is such a beautiful place with so many different facets. Can’t wait to get back there.

  2. Hi Dondo Your report reminds me that its time to get back over to Goose Creek some time soon. I wanted to tell you that I have done a couple of desert backpacks in May and if interested go to http://www.earthwalk.shutterfly.com Also I was thinking of getting a lightwt tripod recently but instead I stuck a threaded bolt into the top of my hiking pole handle and made it into a monopod.
    Have a fun summer! David Heath

  3. David, it’s great to hear from you. I checked out your Little Dominguez photos. Wow, what a gorgeous area. Last spring, I did a 24 in Big Dominquez. but you always wonder about the path not taken. Say hi to Dick and Larry for me.

  4. Hey
    nice meeting a fellow wanderer in McCurdy. Looking forward to your next report. I like your site, it gets the juices flowing for the next trip. .. Pete the Brit.

    • Hey Pete, it’s great to hear from you. Hope the flight to England went well and you weren’t too trashed to enjoy the wedding. A couple minutes after you left up the trail, I checked my camera settings and discovered that I had taken your photo in shutter priority setting at a one second exposure. So now I have a very exposed, very blurry photo of you striking your mountaineer’s pose in McCurdy Park. Aargh!! Anyway, I’m putting the photos together for my trip report and would really appreciate it if you could send me the good photo from your camera. I’ll send you my email. Thanks!

  5. I haven’t been packing around Goose as much because I’m avoiding the crowds but I can shed some light on the area a little. Starting south : Under the natural arch that can be seen from the trail across creek is an interesting cave formation. You could get 6 people in there but it’s not flat enough for sleeping. Also, you get a little paranoid about the arch coming down which it will one day. From the Shafthouse heading back to Goose Creek Trailhead I usually take the creek. There are only a few up and over obstacles thet you need to bypass and there is a trail most of the way. It keeps you from having to see the same scenery on your way back. Also, there are endless possibilities of exploring if you climb west up from Goose anywhere along the creek. If you bushwack long enough you will eventually make it to Lake Park. One of my favorite camps along the Goose Creek Trail is where the trail passes through Reservior Gulch. Huge pine tree keeps camp dry. Actually, I think this is where I spotted the hidden natural arch, not Refrigerator. From the campspot, head east by following the stream until you get close to the big cliffs that run from N to S. Look left or north for a ridge that is fairly open. Climb it and look along the cliffs on the other side of the gulch to the east. Farther along the creek heading north, right before you get to the bridge on Goose that starts the climb up McCurdy Park there is a valley/gulch on th west side of the creek that I found a faint trail up but didn’t take it all the way. On the other Trails Illustrated map (not 105) it shows there to be climbing routes at the top by McCurdy Park so I’d like to check it out sometime. Also at the bridge area (where the big boulder campspots are), if you head uphill form the creek to the north there are some really interesting rock formations and a really cool ravine that’s up out of sight of the trail. Other than quite a bit more ground to cover by bushwacking either side of goose Creek, the area I haven’t been to is the box canyon where they herded horses into by Refrigerator Gulch.

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