When I first moved to southwest Colorado in 2006 I had a good 5-10 year stretch when the San Juan Mountains were pretty much a blank canvas for me for planning grand backpack treks and discovering loads of unique scenes to photograph. Nowadays, however, I feel like I've already covered much of these mountains (often numerous times), and in recent years my quest to find unique vantage points tends to take me to ever more obscure nooks and crannies. My latest trip into a remote corner of the Sneffels Range was an example of this sometimes absurd pursuit of the "high hanging fruit" that's left to be discovered.
High Hanging Fruit
My first destination on this 2-night backpack trip was a small pond deep in the forest below Mears Peak, reached via abandoned logging roads and surprisingly large animal trails. While the murky pond did offer a decent reflection of the peak, I must admit that this spot in the thick, dark forest was a particularly creepy place to camp for the night. Seeing a giant pile of bear scat just a few steps from my hammock added to the "ambiance". I had a fitful sleep that night, waking at every little noise in the otherwise quiet forest.
In the morning I followed more animal trails to a very pleasant meadow which would be my base camp for scrambling up to a higher vantage point for sunset (the left point above my hammock in the picture above).
It wasn't in my mind to photograph Mears Peak from up there, but the colorful clouds and moon rising over the peak were irresistible!
My intended perspective of S9 wasn't quite as impressive as I was hoping for and the light wasn't great either, but since I was up there anyways I stuck around after sunset to catch some nice dusk glow light on the peak.
Hiking back down to camp in the dark was uneventful except for the thousands of annoying moths that sprang out of the bushes toward my headlamp (one of which flew right into my eyeball!).
Tired from my exertions and lack of sleep the previous night, I was looking forward to a good night sleep. But right as I settled in to my hammock for the night, the wind whipped up and howled for most of the night. The tarp was getting thrashed in the wind and the incessant flapping kept me awake until well after 3am. This was the worst wind I've experienced while hammock camping and it made me wish for my tent (and earplugs) that night!
All in all this backpack trip was a whole lot of effort and struggle for not a lot of reward, which is sometimes the name of the game when it comes to seeking out these obscure nooks and crannies of the mountains. I guess the high hanging fruit isn't always the sweetest, but climbing the tree was still fun anyways.