I went on a hike on the North side of the Ophir valley yesterday and tried to reach an old mine / tram station up near the Ophir Needles (few hundred yards to the east), but of course took the wrong path and overshot it to the west and underneath in terms of elevation. I believe I made it as far as St. Louis Gulch where I turned around due to not wanting to deal with a goat track on a very steep cliff wall. It would be much easier to traverse through this gulch at either a higher or lower elevation.
So, I backtracked slightly upwards & spotted the clearing of what I believe to be a shack which resides immediately adjacent to the mine I originally was looking to make it too … but it was good 300 vertical feet higher than where I was currently positioned and was too tired to go higher.
So, I opted to simply continue the bushwacking back east and try and locate the main trail in order to find the proper route the next time around. The general rule of thumb for hiking on northern side of Ophir is that you can generally find SOME sort of trail, be it: a full on jeep road, old miner’s trail, or a well defined Elk / animal route … if you simply bushwack it up or down in elevation. Of course, it is important to realize there are many rock outcroppings, cliffs, and other natural features of the terrain which might not allow direct egress. Below is a shot taken from the choke of what is referred to as the West Badger slide path:
I scrambled straight down through the choke … which is basically a narrowing or bottleneck of the gulch by rock formations. Chokes on ski runs are often scraped off and rocky, since most skiers and snowboarders have very little room to manuever in order to pass through & typically scrape off the existing snowbase.
Back to the hike at hand: I realized that after years of snowboarding, I’m now very conditioned to look at what is actually steep terrain below me as almost being flat!!! It’s a sort of trick of the eye. It normally serves me well snowboarding; however, in the context of hiking, it is much more difficult to negotiated a decent down a steep path avalanche path vs. what would otherwise be a few quick turns on my board.
Once I did make it below the choke, I accidently stumbled upon/near a nest of Gunnison Sage Grouse which was on the ground and very well camouflaged. Luckily I didn’t step on any of the little chicks (or whatever they’re called), but did scare away mom … who I’m sure she returned shortly after I left the nest.
Below the choke, I quickly picked up one of the jeep switchbacks and continued downward, on a very rocky pathway, but ultimately figured out where I initially took the wrong turn at the beginning … so next time, I’ll be fairly certain about the route.
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