Hiking, Swimming, and Bush Whacking Colorado's Buck Creek Trail

Preparedness is a boring attribute. I guess Colorado’s weather has been particularly insane lately as I had to postpone this trip for two weeks due to freezing temps and snow storms. Back in Denver, my ride and adventure companion for the weekend, Paul, found himself stuck on the highway and me under an overpass patiently waiting out a random hail storm. A dude waiting out the storm with me said it was the fifth hail storm to happen that week.

But, we made it out to the town of Avon, about 100 miles west of Denver, and the next morning we were greeted to blue skies, skin-cooking sunlight, and loads of contrast. Buck Creek Trail is just a day hike, with a steady grade through a valley going into White River National Forest. I was immediately drawn to it as the trailhead was only a half mile walk from where we were staying. Though a car was needed to get out there, I had no intentions of being stuck in one the rest of my stay.

On the way up, you’re treated to hidden waterfalls and alpine forestry, though at this point in the season the snow melt turned most of our trail into a mini stream. I use snow-melt loosely, since at about 8000ft you encounter a wall of knee-deep snow. With the sunlight and 60º warmth this meant perfect conditions for an idiot like me in shorts and trail runners to posthole (punch through the snow instead of walking on top of it) the entire way u[. The trudging was totally worth it, though, as we reached a scenic point where A. we couldn’t really keep going forward without having to hike in even deeper snow, and B. we found a lake formed from the snow melt and decided it was time to do some skinny dipping. I don’t know why I insist on swimming in sub-30ªF water, but well there I was naked in the middle of the woods doing so. I know a lot of folks worry about animals and yetis when alone in the mountains, but what you really gotta look out for are crazy, naked, white dudes with intense tan lines and a lack of shame in regards to shrinkage.

Once we were warm and our socks (shouts out to staywildmagazine for my excellent sock game that day) had mostly dried, we turned about face. Paul had mentioned earlier on the mountain side to the west were some sandstone ledges that were unique to the area. Perhaps we were feeling invincible for getting our dingdongs chilled and surviving, or maybe there was just an overwhelming desire to show off once we came across other hikers for the first time that day, but suddenly our route changed from down the trail to bushwhacking up to the tallest rock ledge. Of course we never found a path up, that would be too easy, and the steepness of the mountainside meant forcing through tangled, thorny scrub and desperately grasping onto sagebrush to pull ourselves up. Once up there, though? Wow.

I had never hiked up to mountain tops prior to starting this project however many months ago. The feeling of being that high up I just… I don’t know if you ever get tired of that feeling, but I hope not.

Giddy, tired, and wanting to outrun the incoming storms, we chose to take the goat paths back to the hiking trail. If there’s one thing you should know about wild goats it’s that they are fucking crazy, so their trails are likely to avoid any kind of banking or switchbacks. Instead, it seems goats opt to go straight down this mountain.

And so we went.