8,812 Feet (3,050th highest in Colorado)
Bushwhack from CR 126 to Trail on West Slopes
May 19th, 2008
15.3 Miles Roundtrip
Elevation Gained: Approximately 3,000 Feet
The west side of Long Scraggy Peak viewed from the Colorado Trail
Long Scraggy Peak is a rugged mountain that just begs to be climbed. I first saw it from the summit of the relatively benign Genesee Mountain. Itís unique profile loomed large on the horizon, and towered above the surrounding peaks. Although it is only 8,812 feet, it has 1,272 feet of prominence and ranks 227th on the Colorado prominence list. It is located near Deckers in the heart of the devastating 12,000-acre Buffalo Creek Fire, which took place in 1996. The trees on the peak were spared, but the surrounding area is a maze of downed trees and standing snags. Nature is slowly rebounding, but it will be many decades before there is any substantial tree cover in the area. In the meantime, the blanket of grass, shrubs, and saplings supports a multitude of wildlife. Bears, coyotes, elk, mule deer, mountain lions, and many other kinds of animals find refuge in the gullies and rock fortresses in this part of the Pike National Forest.†
Parking at the trailhead on Jefferson County Road 126
The trailhead was at a gated road that formerly led to the now-defunct Top-of-the-World Campground. The road is in very good shape, and is still maintained by the Forest Service.
The scale of destruction of the landscape made an immediate impression on me. A nuclear blast could not have done much more damage. The healing process has begun, and the dominant plants in the community are now squaw currants, mountain mahogany, and wild roses. A few douglasfirs have taken root in the shady spots, and there are a wide variety of wildflowers dispersed among the carpet of blue grama grass.
Telegraph pole forest on the approach to Long Scraggy Peak
The road initially headed to the southeast, then gradually curved to the north. As I turned to the north, Long Scraggy Peak came into view to the east. It probably would have been possible to bushwhack directly to the base of the mountain, but it would have been difficult to pick my way around the Long Scraggy Ranch and several other tracts of private property. I wanted to stay on the National Forest lands from start to finish.
Long Scraggy Peakís silhouette seen from the Forest Service access road
One of the first wildflowers that I spotted was the cutleaf daisy, Erigeron compositus. Itís an early bloomer, grows easily from seed, and makes a nice addition to a low-maintenance garden. Itís a tough pioneer plant that can grow in seemingly impossible places.
The cutleaf daisy, Erigeron compositus
I took the first righthand turn in the road at about the 1.7-mile mark, and passed through the former top-of-the-World Campground. There were still a few trees standing at the site; it must have been quite a nice campground before the fire. The end of the road in the campground was 2 miles from the trailhead. I bushwhacked a couple hundred yards down to an old mining road. This road was on my Mapsource GPS software, but it did not show up on my Trails Illustrated Map #135. There are a number of uncharted roads in the area, and I was able to use a few to my advantage. I followed the old mining road, and after a few tenths of a mile, it crossed the Colorado Trail.
Junction of the old mining road with the Colorado Trail
The old mining road followed the meanders of a mostly-dry unnamed creek. Some parts of the road were fairly clear.
Old mining road northwest of Long Scraggy Peak
Other parts of the road were virtually impassable due to the fallen snags. This was not going to be an easy hike.
Fallen snags across the mining road
The old mining road eventually petered out, so I did what Bear Grylls would have done; I followed the creek bed. It was a mixture of granite slabs and packed sand, so it was relatively easy going. I didnít have to contend with much water.
The dry creek bed
There were a few outcroppings of oddly-shaped Pikes Peak pink granite. They were not as numerous or as bizarre as the rocks on Bison Peak, but they definitely reminded me of my proximity to the Lost Creek Wilderness.
Pikes Peak pink granite boulders
I left the dry creek bed near the point where it entered Spring Creek. I could see a mining road high on a ridge that appeared to lead to Pt. 7,879 north of Long Scraggy Peak. It was fairly rough terrain between the creek and the ridge.
Ridge to the north of Pt. 7,879
I headed up a gully, and immediately noticed a large quantity of pegmatite rocks. Pegmatite frequently contains tourmaline crystals or rare earth minerals like beryllium or uranium, and it is an indicator of mineral wealth. There were several defunct pegmatite mines in the area, and I was grateful to follow a few stretches of their roads on this epic bushwhack.
A pegmatite boulder high on a ridge
These dry, sunny slopes are an ideal habitat for the ball nipple cactus. It was somewhat late in the season for them to be blooming, but I saw several cacti in full bloom. In the winter, these cacti retract almost entirely beneath the ground to protect themselves from sharp hooves of deer and elk. In the spring and summer, they emerge from the ground for maximum photosynthetic efficiency. These cacti are mostly found in the lower montane region.
The ball nipple cactus, Pediocactus simpsonii
Another interesting wildflower that I found on my bushwhack was the sandlily, Leucocrinum montanum. Itís related to yucca and agave. Like its cousins, it adds beauty to otherwise harsh surroundings.
The sandlily, Leucocrinum montanum
I passed over a couple of ridges and through a couple of gullies, and eventually found my way to another old mining road. It was fairly steep and kind of faint in places, but it generally led me in the right direction.
Another old mining road
I followed this old mining road for about half a mile. On the other side of the gulch, I could see the remains of the Delbert Claim No. 1 mine. When I reached the top of the ridge, I crossed a nice, well-maintained Forest Service road. The north slopes of Pt. 7,879 started on the other side of the road. I wanted to see the top of this unranked peak, so I started off on another bushwhack.
Faint traces of the old mining road on top of the ridge, just below Pt. 7,879
Point 7,879 was a steep grunt. There was no apparent trail, so I just headed straight up the side of the mountain. The summit was a pretty pleasant place, and would have been a nice spot to pitch a tent. As I started down the south side, I could see the north side of Long Scraggy Peak. I was getting closer, but the correct route was far from obvious.
A subpeak of Long Scraggy Peak viewed from Pt. 7,879
I knew that the correct route was on the west slope, so I headed in that general direction. I found myself on the wrong side of a rocky ridge, and had a fun scramble on the grippy granite. This was a long ridge with many subpeaks, so finding the right route was going to be a challenge. I realized that finding my way to the summit was not a certainty. I could not follow the crest of the ridge, because it was too rough and rocky. I plotted a course high on the west side of the ridge, and headed south. I eventually found a small stone cairn and a faint trail.
Stone cairn on the west side of Long Scraggy Peak
Faint trail on the west side of the mountain
For the most part, the trail was not easy to see. However, it was well marked with small stone cairns and colored surveyorís flagging. I was never farther than about 50 feet from some form of trail marker. The trail passed through some rough terrain.
A rocky portion of the trail
The trail led to a small gully just below the summit. I never would have found this gully without the cairns. The summit was not far beyond the gully.
Gully just below the summit
Finally, I reached the rocky summit block. It was a short Class 2+ scramble to the top. There was some serious exposure on the east and west sides of the summit.
Long Scraggy Peakís summit block
I have no idea why more than one benchmark would be necessary, but there were three of them on the summit.
One of the three benchmarks on the summit
One of the higher subpeaks, Pt. 8,567
Pikes Peak was the most obvious mountain to the south
Pikes Peak seen from Long Scraggy Peak
The Mt. Evans massif loomed large to the northwest
The Mt. Evans massif viewed from Long Scraggy Peakís summit
Long Scraggyís nearest neighbor of any consequence is Raleigh Peak. It can be accessed from the Colorado Trail, and it looks like a fun little scramble.
Finding the summit was only half the battle. I had to get back to the trailhead in one piece, and I wanted to find a more direct route that eliminated some of the bushwhacking. I decided to follow the trail as far as I could, and let my GPS and map guide me from that point. The trail was not very well developed, but at least it had some improvements. The Forest Service apparently used part of the trail for a forest thinning operation.
Gap cut in tree that fell across the trail
I lost about 1,200 feet of elevation before the trail dead-ended at a Forest Service road. I headed north on the road, not really knowing where it would take me.
I followed the road to point a where it crossed an old mining road that led to the long-abandoned Delbert Claim No. 1 Mine.
If you canít see the road in the image above, then you can understand why this bushwhack placed such a great strain on my navigational skills. When the trail grew faint, I relied on various landmarks to keep myself pointed in the right direction. Long Scraggy to the east, Raleigh Peak to the north, and the wooded knoll of the former Top-of-the-World Campground were visible for much of the hike.
The mining road ended at the Delbert Claim Number 1 Mine, and I was back to bushwhacking. I saw a familiar Pegmatite outcropping two ridges over; it was at the top of the gully where I had left the dry creek bed earlier. The navigation was easy enough, but traveling over the undulating landscape was difficult. I found a game trail that led in the right direction; apparently there were open-range cattle in the area, because there were both cowpies and mule deer scat on the trail.
I descended into the dry creek bed and started to work my way back to the east. I had miles to go, and at least 700 feet of elevation to gain. Getting back to the trailhead would not be easy. The creek flowed underground in some places, and over granite slabs in others. There were several scenic waterfalls along the way. I stopped at the bottom of a waterfall and splashed some water on my face to cool off.
Small waterfall flowing over granite slabs
The creek disappeared again a short distance above the falls. I followed the dry creek bed, and eventually found the spot where the creek disappeared. The water trickled over what must have been a very deep sand deposit, and percolated down until it hit solid rock.
Unnamed creek disappearing into the ground
I had been on the alert for snakes all day, because I heard that there were rattlers in the area. I got a little jolt when I saw something slithering in the underbrush, but it turned out to be a harmless bullsnake. This fine-looking specimen was fairly large, about five feet long. The only other wildlife I saw all day was a pair of mule deer.
Bullsnake heading for the high grass
I followed the creek bed back up to the first old mining road, and followed that back to the intersection with the Colorado Trail. At this point, I had to choose whether I wanted to hike an easy Forest Service road or a narrow trail back to the car. I was curious about the trail, so I turned left (south) and headed down the dusty path. Its course paralleled the roadís, but the CO Trail was about 100 yards east of the FS road.
Looking to the south on the Colorado Trail
I had a good view of Long Scraggy Peak from the Colorado Trail. What would this scene have looked like before the Buffalo Creek fire? It was hot and dry, and I was well into my reserve supply of water. I followed the CO Trail until it passed close to the trailhead, and cut across a pasture to get back to the road.
I felt like a person is supposed to feel after a 15-mile hike through rough terrain. Because of the distance and the potential for navigational difficulties, this probably would not be a good hike for a casual or beginner hiker. I found it to be an interesting hike and a good challenge for my skill and fitness levels (moderate on a good day!).