Lounging around Lizard Head

June 2020  |  San Juan Mountains, Colorado

Last week I went out on a solo 3-day backpack trip into the Lizard Head Wilderness, which encompasses the San Miguel Range of the San Juan Mountains near Telluride, Colorado. With the below average snowpack this last spring, the alpine summer is slightly ahead of schedule and already by late June the wildflowers are starting to pop out on the high tundra. Although things are greening up in the high country right now despite the drought, we need some monsoon rain to keep things from getting crispy. But for now anyways the mountains are glorious! Here are some highlight scenes from my time up there.

Colorado, Gladstone Peak, Lizard Head Wilderness, Mount Wilson, San Juan Mountains, San Miguel Range, Wilson Peak, wildflowers, photo

Sunlight shines on alpine tundra wildflowers in the San Miguel Range in the San Juan Mountains - June.

Colorado, Gladstone Peak, Lizard Head Wilderness, San Juan Mountains, San Miguel Range, wildflowers, photo

Alpine sunflowers backlit by the sun setting behind Gladstone Peak.

Colorado, Lizard Head Wilderness, San Juan Mountains, San Miguel Range, photo

Purple hued hills high in the San Miguel Range.

Colorado, Lizard Head Peak, Lizard Head Wilderness, San Juan Mountains, San Miguel Range, photo

Looking up at Lizard Head Peak (13,113 ft.) as dark clouds portend afternoon thunderstorms.

Colorado, Lizard Head Peak, Lizard Head Wilderness, San Juan Mountains, San Miguel Range, hammock, photo

Hammock camp below Lizard Head Peak - June.

On this backpack trip I tried something new for me - hammock camping! Yes, after over 20 years of "ground" camping in tents, I'm broadening my camping repertoire and getting into the world of tree hanging!

It's super fun (and a new challenge) to consider a totally new concept for what makes a good camp spot - obviously instead of searching for flat spots for a tent, I'm looking for the perfect two trees to hang between. I'm also excited by the potential for being able to camp in places I couldn't even consider with a tent, such as on hillsides or in aspen forests.

The hammock itself (a Warbonnet Ridgerunner bridge hammock) offers a pretty flat laying position and is very comfortable to lay in; although, for these first two nights I still wasn't able to actually sleep very soundly through the night, as I'm simply not yet used to the sensation. Also it's all a bit fussy to deal with compared to a tent, in large part because I don't yet have all the proper gear (like a good tarp and underquilt) and still haven't dailed in all the little tricks and techniques to optimize the setup and experience.

All in all, though, I'd say my first hammock adventure was a success and I'm excited to keep at it, especially once I have more of the proper gear to make it all work better. It's definitely more challenging than tent camping, but also more fun!

Black Face Mountain, Colorado, Gladstone Peak, Lizard Head Peak, Lizard Head Wilderness, San Juan Mountains, San Miguel Range, photo

Sunrise light on Lizard Head Peak (right, 13,113 ft.) and Gladstone Peak (left, 13,913 ft.).

My two nights in the Lizard Head Wilderness were spent in several valleys in the vicinity of its namesake Lizard Head Peak, a unique and prominent spire reaching a height of 13,113 ft. While most of the San Miguel Range is composed of shale and sandstone deposited in the Cretaceous Seaway which covered most of Colorado between about 110-75 million years ago, the spire of Lizard Head Peak is made up of volcanic breccia and lava flows from about 26 million years ago. All of this was carved by glaciation in the last 5 million years [source].

Black Face Mountain, Colorado, Gladstone Peak, Lizard Head Peak, Lizard Head Wilderness, Mount Wilson, San Juan Mountains, San Miguel Range, Wilson Peak, wildflowers, photo

Morning light on the San Miguel Range near Telluride, Colorado. From left to right are Mount Wilson (14,246 ft.), Gladstone Peak (13,913 ft.), Lizard Head Peak (13,113 ft.) and Wilson Peak (14,017 ft.).