|Hike on May 19, 2007
Trailhead: 38º55’10”N, 105º22’0”W, 8677 feet
Top of the rocky hill: 38º56’7”N, 105º22’5”W, 9122 feet
Camp Alexander southeast fence corner: 38º56’17”N
105º22’31”W, 8476 feet
Walking distance 4.6 miles
|In Lake George, turn southwest from US 24 onto Park County
Road 96, at Starkey’s Liquor and Groceries. This road follows
the South Platte around the south end of the lake, and then up
Elevenmile Canyon. Go about 1 mile, and turn left onto Park
County Road 61. This road leads you south, past Blue Mountain
Campground, along the east side of Blue Mountain, and then turns west.
Go past the junction of a road to Florissant, and continue
west up the hill, and park beside the road at the start of Forest
Service Road 244, 5.7 miles from US 24. The road is also marked
by a sign that says “Circle C Ranch” and “Horse Motel.” Don’t
cross the cattle guard, which is just past FSR244 on PCR61.
It’s hard to resist going to check out a mountain or valley that bears your surname, and it’s hard to stay at home on a crystal clear morning. I fell to the temptations and headed south through Lake George to the same trailhead I used to go up Blue Mountain almost two months before.
Rankin Gulch begins in the Circle C Ranch, and flows north to the South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon. On the way it passes through Camp Alexander, a camp for Boy Scouts. A hike is nicer if you can make a loop, rather than following the same path out and back, so I plotted a course north over the top a low hill between Blue Mountain and Rankin Gulch, then down to the gulch and upstream back to the start. I figured I would have no trouble staying off the private properties of the Ranch and the Camp.
From County Road 61, I went north on Forest Service Road 244. The sun was shining warmly through clear skies. The only snow I found was miles to the east on Pike’s Peak. There were but a few puffy clouds on the western horizon, and a hawk circled lazily overhead. After three tenths of a mile, I came to a fork in the road, and followed FSR 244A to the left. A black squirrel with tufted ears ran across the road ahead of me, and soon thereafter a pickup truck full of freshly cut fi redwood drove by, his permit clearly visible through the windshield. At another fork in the road, I passed FSR 244D, staying on 244A.
There were a few muddy spots to avoid, but otherwise the walk on the road was quick and easy. There are many aspen in the area, some ready to start showing some green, others already sporting dime-sized leaves. I continued on 244A at a fork with 244B, and at an unmarked junction, and then came to a bit of a bog in the road. Many vehicles driving through had made the area one big, brown, muddy mess. That and the chainsaw of a woodcutter nearby convinced me to skirt the mud to the left, leave the road, and head straight up the hill.
The fluffy clouds had risen off the horizon by the time I left the road, and were quickly joined by others. The climb was alternately steep, then easy, then steep again. A fairly clear forest floor gave me many paths to choose from. The hill became rockier as I ascended, and was capped with rocks, allowing views in many directions. The vistas north, west, and southwest are better than those on the higher but wooded summits of Blue Mountain. There
is a wonderful view of Lake George, and of the lake near the north end of Camp Alexander.
From the hilltop, my proposed path was down to the north, then west. On the way down, my path was crossed by another squirrel, this one brown, with rounded ears. There are many rocky outcroppings on the northwest side of the hill, which kept me going north farther than I had hoped for. After finally turning west, I soon came to a north-south fence, the eastern boundary for Camp Alexander. I turned south and went along the fence back uphill, dodging more and larger rocks the higher I went. Although the fence soon ended, I knew I wasn’t south of the camp,
as I could see roads, trails and tent camps in Rankin Gulch below me. I kept high on the ridge, moving south and west, and found a second north-south fence. It soon turned west at the south end of the camp property, and I headed down to the creek.
The walk up Rankin Gulch was quiet and pleasant.
The gulch is narrow, but its sides are low and gentle, and the forest thin, leaving plenty of room to dodge the bushes, aspen and narrow leaf cottonwoods along the water. The fl ow is slow, with many pools, and the walk along the banks easy and pleasant, especially after skirting rocks on the ridge above. Higher up I crossed a well-used trail at right angles to the creek. The valley steepened, and I came
upon an abandoned beaver dam, and then the valley widened. I crossed a fence, and walked along a freshly maintained forest service road. An ATV and several dirt bikes went by me, so I was happy to leave the road and continue up the creek.
The valley continued to widen as I walked, and the creek spread into a shallow bog, where a spring was piped into a stock tank. I moved to the east into the trees and onto dry ground, followed the gulch to the newer fence of the Circle C Ranch, then turned east and went back to my starting point.
I’m pleased that I enjoyed the gulch that shares my name. The stroll up Rankin Gulch was restful and serene; the walk up to the rocky hill was invigorating, and rewarded me with nice views of Lake George. Going up and down the steep ridge east of Camp Alexander was wearying. For anyone headed this way, I’d suggest going out and back, either to the hill for an invigorating but not too difficult hike, or down and back up Rankin Gulch for a restful stroll.