Backpacking the Sangre de Cristo Mountains with Doug and Zip.

I guess I should actually finish my post for this trip seeing how it’s been a week since I went.

After looking at a bunch of different places and deciding against them for various reasons (Too many people,  Too hot, Doug had already done most of them) we decided to head down to the Sangre de Cristo (Blood of Christ) mountain range down by Westcliffe, CO.  We headed down Sunday after Doug got off work and ate at a killer pizza place in Westcliffe.  Then we drove up to the trailhead and camped the night there.  I bet there were pretty close to 50 vehicles total in the 4 different parking lots along the way.  At the Upper where we parked there were probably 20 cars.  After seeing them we sure did expect to see a bunch of people.  But we hoped they would mostly go home that day since it was Labor day and they had to get back to work.

IMG_2852On the hike from the parking lot to Upper Sand Lake we saw quite a few people.  I think we passed at least three scout troops and several couples/groups.  Hiking up to the upper lake we came across someone that had been up fishing.  He said that they weren’t biting up a the upper lake but had more luck down at the lower lake.  He asked where were planning on camping the night and when we told him that we were heading over to Dead Man lakes he said with a smirk on his face “Well that will be interesting!”.  We didn’t see anyone up at the Upper Sand Creek lakes as we laid down for a short rest.  After that we headed to the Lower Sand Creek lake where there were a few people fly fishing there.  After having lunch there we decided we better get on our way up the pass (The one we had originally chose was sheer cliffs so we had to find a different route .. and had to hope it would work and not leave us on a cliff ledge).  This was the last we would see of anyone until our way down music pass on the last day.

IMG_2866Hiking up the side of that mountain sure showed me how much more in shape I need to get.  That and I need to get adjusted  to the altitude here.  It was pretty damn difficult keeping up with Doug and Zip.  Zip kept looking back at me with the Hurry Up look in his eyes.  After we scrambled up the mountain side we skirted across another mountain side and over to a saddle.  Then we headed down yet another rock field where you would take one step and then slide 3 steps.  Once down to the bottom we crossed some marsh land and found a really cool boulder to take a picture on top of.  From a distance it looked like a perfect square.  But to get the right lighting we had to take a more realistic shot of us on it)  After that found Dead Man Lake up the next gully over.  We set up camp and soon enough Zip was making whimpering sounds in his sleep. (BTW … DON’T get the freeze dried Beef Stroganoff …. Even with a lot of salt and pepper it still tastes bland and hard to get down … I ended up burying part of mine)

IMG_2881The next morning after checking out our options we decided to go up what the author of one of Doug’s books called a rocky but passable pass.  Which is exactly what it was.  Though I’ll tell you what.  This pass was one hell of a lot easier to pass than the one we did the day before.  We were to the top of the pass around noon.  (If you look really close you can see Doug in the crack at the top of the pass)   Zip took a power nap at the top and Doug and I enjoyed being on top of there.  After we got down the pass and to the Lower Little Sand Creek Lake we decided to go for a swim.  I don’t think I lasted a minute in the water because it was freezing my nuts off!  But it sure did feel good and refreshing.  Doug even helped get Zip to take a quick dip and then he was crazy for a while rubbing up against bushes and in the grass.  Pretty damn funny behavior.  But he still liked Doug after that incident 😉


IMG_2915 After out dip mother nature decided it was time to rain on us.  So we quickly headed down not wanting to get struck by lightning.  Looking at the map and noticing the trail went around the valley then down the gully we thought it would be better to just cut across the valley.  Big mistake as we got cut off by several big cliffs on the way down.  Finally we found a steep but doable route down next to the creek and some amazing waterfalls.  I tried to get pictures but couldn’t do it justice.  then it started hailing and we had to hurry and scramble down a boulder field.  But we finally made it down and back to the trail.  We hiked several more miles down the canyon the back up the main canyon to where we set up camp in a field for the night.  That night we both had better dinners (Doug had some pasta primavera with veggies and I had chicken breast with potatoes)  We watched the sun set over some amazing peaks then fell asleep listening to some Elk bugle.

The next morning we got up and made the final ascent then decent back to our vehicle (Where a mouse had made it’s home for a few days).  The whole trip was amazing and quite the adventure.  Maybe some day I’ll get better at writing so I can voice the fun/interesting/scary time we had.  But until then ……

 Sangre de Cristo

Sangre de Cristo Elevation 

GPS Tracks – Open file with Google Earth, Garmin Topo, or your GPS software 😀

2 thoughts on “Backpacking the Sangre de Cristo Mountains with Doug and Zip.

  1. Bob says:

    Nice post! My son and I, and possibly our dog, are thinking about taking the same route. You refer to a book you used as a reference, what was that? Is the route on Federal land, and is a permit required?

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