Fall is here and the Holy Cross Wilderness is a pretty good place to visit for an aspiring leaf peeper such as myself. I knew I couldn’t head up there just to look at leaves though. I needed an excuse.
Mt. Jackson (13,670 ft) is the high point of a long north/south ridge line separating Cross Creek to the east and Lake Creek to the west. Located in the northern HCW, the peak affords great views of Mt. of the Holy Cross, Gold Dust and Finnegan peaks, and the Elks to the west. The shortest route up Jackson entails a 21 mile round trip, predominantly on trail, so I had always been intrigued about doing it as a trail run. With two races coming up and the prospect of knocking off a solo-able peak that had long been on the wishlist, Jackson was an easy choice. And now I had my excuse to go gape at those aspens too.
The 7 mile trail approach up the long Beaver Creek drainage went quickly. I started at 7am from the upper parking garage in Beaver Creek and kept a brisk pace up the trail. Evidence of winter’s creeping slowly into the air was everywhere. Not just golden aspens but frost laden foliage and snow dusted ridge lines.
I love this time of year. Pumpkin beers are in, temps finally start to drop (even at lower elevations), and the hints of winter’s coming bring about flashes of excitement of ski season on the horizon.
I stayed on the trail to just shy of the upper-lake, looked to the west, and spotted the steep gully that grants access to Jackson’s north slopes. From the top of the gully a long tundra walk eventually led to this view…
I hit the summit and took a break to admire the majestic views of the HCW and down some much needed food and water. The summit register seems to have disappeared, replaced by a tin can containing a few Jolly Ranchers and a Jon Kedrowski business card. Oh well, can’t win em all I suppose.
Being so far back in there I wasn’t about to leave without adding Jackon’s ranked southern counterpart into the itinerary. After the 10 mile, 5,600 jaunt to the top of peak number one, peak number two felt like it went down rather easily. It didn’t take long to drop 600 ft to the saddle and gain 400 ft to the summit.
It’s a unique feeling, being really far in there on a day like this. Bluebird sky and complete solitude. I savored the summit of 13,433 for longer than I originally planned. The views from the top of this one are pretty awesome and I wasn’t really in a time crunch per say.
Even on the nicest days though, we can only be visitors here. Back up and over Jackson and down the long, gentle ridge line I went. Then down the gully and back to the trail. I had 7 miles to go, and the actual “running” part of the day finally commenced.
I cruised down the trail back to Beaver Lake and took a moment to soak in the views of those leaves. After all, they were what I really came for.
I coasted the final few miles into Beaver Creek and capped off the day at the Coyote Cafe (post-climb in the parking garage just didn’t seem all that appealing). It’s definitely fall up there. And I’m definitely looking forward to a change of pace and a new season here shortly. Thanks for reading and happy fall 🎃