Devil’s Kitchen (Colorado Nat’l Monument)

carved stone steps take you to Devil's Kitchen at Colorado National Monument.

May 6, 2020, Colorado National Monument

The Devil’s Kitchen trail takes you on a short out-and-back to some super cool rock formations. It lies at the Eastern extreme on Colorado National Monument, near the park entrance. The same car park services the Serpent’s Trail and No Thoroughfare Canyon hikes. I highly recommend the former if it’s not too hot. Devil’s Kitchen proves short and easy and it packs a scenic punch—not to be missed!

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No Thoroughfare Canyon (Colorado Nat’l Monument)

Totem-like rock formations in No Thoroughfare Canyon

May 6, 2020, Colorado National Monument

I parked early in the day near the Eastern entrance to Colorado National Monument. Just inside the entrance, there’s a car park home to three popular hikes: the Serpent’s Trail, No-Thoroughfare Canyon, and the Devil’s Kitchen. Having just completed the Serpent’s Trail, it was time for me to explore the latter two. Right up front, I’ll give you my hot take: Serpent’s Trail is an excellent workout with great views. Devil’s Kitchen is short and fun to explore, especially with kids. No Thoroughfare Canyon is a bit of a trek with minimal payoff. I’d maybe skip this one if you’re short on time.

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Serpent’s Trail (Colorado Nat’l Monument)

Sunrise over No-Thoroughfare Canyon, as seen from the Serpent's Trail at Colorado National Monument.

May 6, 2020, Colorado National Monument

I arrived bright and early at the Eastern entrance to Colorado National Monument around 7 am. The “monument” features a collection of canyons that form the western wall of the valley containing Grand Junction.

Across town, the Sun had just begun to peek over the rim of the Eastern mesas. Its golden rays lit up the canyons I was about to hike in a stunning fashion. I can list many reasons to start a hike as early as possible—heat, safety, and better parking being the most important. But a gorgeous sunrise is perhaps the most compelling reason of all.

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Quandary Peak (Colorado)

May 5, 2020, Quandary Peak trailhead

Rocky Mountain High

The day began with a pre-dawn drive under the continental divide along I-70 (11,000′) from my hotel just above Golden, CO (7,200′). I sped past the Dillon Reservoir, shimmering in the day’s first direct light. From there, I pulled off the highway and headed south through the resort town of Breckenridge, at 9,600′. After Breck, the road climbed even higher, back towards 11,000′ and the trailhead for Quandary Peak.

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Mount Sniktau from Loveland Pass

Low, afternoon sunlight accentuates a melting cornice along Mount Sniktau's summit ridge.

May 4, 2020, Loveland Pass

Kanorado

My day began two states over from this hike’s trailhead, in Kansas City, Missouri. I would spend the week slowly making my way across the continent, from New York to California en route to a new job in the Bay Area. Along the way I’d pass through a nation largely under a pandemic-induced lockdown. A few days of empty highways and empty hotels later, I arrived at the midpoint of that journey. With no open bars or restaurants for thousands of miles, the only thing left to do was to take a hike.

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Esther and Whiteface via Marble Mountain

The herd path between Esther and Whiteface on a sunny day in mid March 2020.

March 15, 2020, Atmospheric Sciences Research Center

Arrival

I pulled into the Marble Mountain trailhead to Esther and Whiteface around dawn. This Sunday, the Ides of March, would mark the completion of my 3.5-year journey to become an Adirondack 46er. I didn’t know much about the forty-six high peaks when I began this adventure. But I always knew Whiteface would be last.

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Cliff and Redfield via Lake Arnold

Ice and snow atop Cliff and Redfield in mid March

March 14, 2020, Adirondak Loj

I got an early start from Heart Lake en route to Cliff and Redfield. These peaks lie roughly equidistant from both the Loj and Upper Works trailheads—annoyingly remote either way. The plan involved a traverse to the Uphill Lean-to via Lake Arnold, making fast work of the hike in and gradual ascent. From there I’d tackle my last two summits in the High Peaks Wilderness in height order.

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Mount Marshall (nearly twice)

Mount Marshall from a false summit just north of the peak.

March 7, 2020, Adirondak Loj

Arrival

The journey to Mount Marshall began on a largely ordinary weekend in early March of 2020. It was likely the last ordinary weekend of 2020. The novel coronavirus had already begun to increasingly dominate the news cycle. But that was hardly evident on this sunny, beautiful Saturday. Alpine and nordic skiers, snowshoers, and post-holers had already filled the parking lots of Heart Lake. Between the rows of cars, excited conversations took place in both French and English in equal measure. There’s usually one (maybe two) weekends in March where the bright sunshine of nearly-spring and the thick snowpack of a full winter collide. This was that weekend.

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Black Mountain via Rhus Ridge

The meadows of the Rancho San Antonio preserve, as seen from the the trail up Rhus Ridge, with Black Mountain in the background.

February 23, 2020, Rhus Ridge trailhead

A big change of scenery

Deep snow and wintry landscapes have dominated most of my early 2020 adventures. But this hike would prove quite the opposite. Just hours earlier I had arrived at SFO for a job interview in Silicon Valley. It was a Sunday afternoon and I had time to kill before the next day’s interrogations. My original plan was to wander around San Francisco, but I missed the CalTrain, and the next departure was a shocking 90 minutes later. After wandering around the Mountain View farmer’s market and grabbing a couple of tacos, I decided to load up All Trails and find myself a good hike.

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