Peak(s):  Mt. Buckskin  -  13,865 feet
London Mountain  -  13,194 feet
Date Posted:  10/01/2021
Date Climbed:   08/12/2021
Author:  petal53run
 Seeing Red on London & Buckskin Mountains   

Seeing Red on Buckskin & London Mountains

As I was passing through the kitchen with my climbing stuff, my Son in Law was drinking OJ in front of the open frig. We exchanged 3AM greetings and I invited him along since he appeared awake. My kids rarely go to the mountains, so I extend the opportunity. Mount Buckskin, a centennial peak, and Loveland Mountain were on my to do list to climb. I pointed out that unlike the Boreas Pass trip(6/30/2021 report), I would be driving on a flatter road.

We got through Frisco before the construction traffic woke up. S on CO9 to Alma, it took us a few tries to find the small black Kite Lake sign in the dark. The Caniglia Real Estate building across the street blended into the morning night too. Eventually I turned W to go uphill a couple hundred feet and set the odometer to 5miles as we followed the dirt road which goes by many names: FR416 and CR8 and Kite Lake Road(popular name) and Buckskin Street and Buckskin Gulch.

I was pretty excited to be part tour guide (Im a Dinosaur Ridge Tour Guide) as I finally solved what the 9 brown circle signs with wagon wheels decorating the side of the road did(pic1). This dirt road, plus 4 others in CO were designated by Congress as National Historic Trails in 1968. Managed by the (Pike)National Forest Service(NFS), these old pioneer trails are Auto Tour Routes(pic2) written in 1993, according to Tammy from the NFS. Westward expansion in CO was driven by mining. Thus the interpretive flyers(pic3) cover the mining action between 1849-1956. While researching I found this gulch full of spicy historical bits and I was full of facts.

Buckskin Joe, a lively, foot stomping town yesterday pic4 and today pic5, was named after an eccentric miner who was seen only in buckskin clothes(pic6). His real claim to fame was turning an abandoned claim into a successful gold mine. By September 1860, the mining camp had become the official county seat of Park County in 1862. Fully operational with a newspaper, Horace Taylor as postmaster, 2banks & 3hotels, 14stores and too many to count saloons, dance halls and gambling houses, it was a 24/7 miner party town. When the Phillips Lode played out in 1867, the buildings were dismantled and moved to generate civil towns. The courthouse marked Fairplay as the county seat and Taylors general store(pic7), amongst other assorted ghost town buildings, as a tourist attraction in the Canon City MGM amusement park. The only active parcel is the cemetery which Alma continues to use today(pic8).

We hiked the mile to the Kite Lake parking lot as the morning was warm enough to wear shorts. The trail to Loveland & Buckskin begins W of the restrooms on the Emma Lake trail(pic9). With Buckskin glowing ahead in the sunrise, the easy dirt trail quickly turns into a rock obstacle course(pic10). It gradually climbs upward for about ½ mile and levels off while snaking through the willows. After jumping over a narrow stream(pic11), theres sort of a trail in the rocks(pic12) after turning left off the Emma Lake trail. In the dirt we saw deer tracks(pic13). The terrain beyond is grass as far as the eye can see. Planted across the middle(E-W) of the meadow, there is a line of double sticked power poles. However, one has 3 posts(pic14). That’s the one to aim for as you leave the trail. The incline is comfortably steep to a flat spot at the S edge of the triple power pole. As we caught our breath, we saw deer(pic15). From there, its straight up and up the side of the seemingly vertical wall(pic16-17) of green to the blue sky. We saw pacing.

I did find some mushrooms(pic18) and flowers(pic19-20-21). While the footing is solid, it’s a game of hop scotch over clods of grass. About halfway up the rocks start to appear(pic22) and the tundra terrain is dotted with rock spillways. Picking a line is an independent decision as there is no evidence of a trail. Just more rocks(pic23), but look, a cairn(pic24)! I found enough small grass patches to string together to get up to the talus which was fairly stable. By now, it’s a very slow crawl. And just when I thought the ridge didnt exist; the mountain leveled out with large blotches of knotted grass and Mount Buckskin suddenly appeared(pic25) and in no time, I was standing on the 13865 summit(pic26-27).

Next was Loveland Mountain(pic28)which was directly opposite of Buckskin. An established trail led straight E. Pic29 of mining ruins, pic30 of Class2 trail going to false summit while staying to the right, meandering through chunks of rocks and on Lovelands 13692 summit(pic31-32). I took a selfie(pic33), checked out the views of the 14er crowds and back tracked to the low point of the saddle(13450) to pick my way down to the 3sticked power pole. The willows from this vantage point looked harmless so do NOT be tempted to beeline it the car. That’s why we read trip reports: to stay on the easy trail and not get tangled up in the willows. Found more hardy flowers(pic34) and retraced my steps to the Emma Lake trail per written advice. Back at the parking lot, my SinL had posted a sign at the restrooms that he was back at the car.

Regrouping after my 4hour RT to and from the car, we compared notes while eating lunch. He climbed halfway and went back to hike to Emma Lake(pic35). He thanked me for the opportunity to explore and see these big mountains in person. Driving in the daylight, we followed the Auto Tour guide in reverse. The Paris Mill(pic36-37) is significant because much of the original processing equipment is inside the building. It successfully produced gold, silver and lead 1894-1951. Restoration is in progress. Meanwhile the failing silver mine neighbor, the Home Sweet Mine (1873-1967) was throwing away chunks of red laced rocks. In 1991 the mine resurfaced as a multimillion dollar rhodochrosite mine as the worlds premier source of this red gem. Governor Bill Owens made it the CO state mineral with his signature in 2002.

In September 2018 I had the opportunity to tour the Home Sweet Mine(pic38). The staff shared part of their work day to demonstrate their tools(pic39), explain the mining process, walk down the shafts and gasp at the red veins(pic40). In August 2015, I completed the DeCaLiBron Loop. I was so proud then to be standing on Bross and 3 years later I was amazed to be standing inside the 14er.

In sum, these reasonable close to Denver duet of 13er peaks are very doable. Out and back and primarily Class 2, there were 2 worn trails: the beginning and on the ridge. The middle part is routefinders choice where I chose grassy sections between the Class2 rocky sections. The incline is steep but a slow steady pace moved me up the hill pretty quick. Descending can be sharp on the knees so a cautionary pace worked that direction. It seemed a red theme dominated this gulch for the tundra was dotted with the Alpine Springbeauty(pic41-42). Starting at 12000 feet makes the views of the surrounding Mosquito range super majestic and B&L and the car were always in sight. Encouraged by the NFS, driving for pleasure is one of Americas favorite outdoor recreation pursuits. What I noticed about this sport is I’ve gotten really good at geography and I know my way around the top of the world better than on the streets of Denver.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
Loveland & BUckskin
10/01/2021 17:40
Can the powers of be please change the title to Loveland? Not London.

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