|Campsite at the midpoint of Rich Creek and Tumble Loop.|
The trail is called Rich Creek and Tumble Loop, a 12 mile backpack trip, starting at about 10,000 feet elevation with an elevation gain of 2036 feet. Listed as easy to moderate, we found the stream crossings to have relatively high, fast water to cross, which added a layer of difficulty. The rainfall and snow melt this year has been very high. The trailhead is about 17 miles southwest of Fairplay in South Park and is best followed counter-clockwise.
En route to Fairplay, we stopped in Bailey to eat breakfast at the Cutthroat Cafe. The food was really good, the service was great and we both left, full and satisfied.
Arriving at the trailhead, we hoisted our backpacks and crossed the bridge over Rich Creek. From there, the trail goes right and follows Rich Creek through the forest. We came to a dual log stream crossing over the creek to the north side, crossed and turned left to continue through the forest. The campsites here were very nice and we remarked how nice it would be to camp here for multiple days and explore the area.
|Blazes and trail|
|Hill to the north|
|Just below the crossing on Rich Creek|
|The first valley clearing|
|Trail side beaver pond|
|More trees, more trail|
|More open trail|
|Continuing the climb, that's the mountain we are backpacking around|
|More meadow, more stream|
|Turning southwest, note the clouds|
|Stone pile and wildflowers by the trail|
|Leaving the meadow, David up ahead|
|Trail side stump in the trees, birds were everywhere|
Woken by my alarm, I took the stove and food in the rain over to David's tent, where I cooked dinner for the night. After dinner we listened to coyotes howl, then scream, their voices echoing in the mountains. It was hauntingly beautiful.
At one point later in the evening we noticed a Collegiate Range mountain peeking through to the southwest, and believe it was Mount Yale or Turner Peak.
|Across from our campsite to the south|
|View from my tent in the morning|
|"Leave no trace" dry spots where our tents were pitched|
|David does sunscreen|
|That's our first view of the Buffalo Peaks to the south|
|View south into the park|
|Morning trail side sun|
Walking east now, we were following Tumble Creek as it flowed downhill through the meadow valley, mostly walking in full sun.
|Aspen just beginning to change color|
|Colorful stumps near the campsite|
|The beginning of Tumble Creek Trail|
|That's South Park in the distance|
|From shadow to full sun all morning|
|David filtering his water in Tumble Creek|
|The forest opens up|
|Buffalo Peaks Wilderness Area|
|The best bridge all weekend|
|David looking back at the north side of Buffalo Peak|
|Another beaver lodge|
Working our way downhill through the forest, we eventually heard the sound of flowing water below us. That was the sound of Rich Creek, where we parked yesterday morning. Coming out at the bottom of the trail, we crossed Rich Creek on the bridge again and reached the car. The drive home was pleasant, while somewhat jarring to our calmed outdoor senses.
|Up the last mountain for the day|
|Very thin tree cover with the Buffalo Peaks behind it|
|Near the top|
|Various flowers and buds along the trail...|
|More various flowers|
|These guys were everywhere|
|Wild rose, I think|