Day 6 of 14
Day 6 was a return to early morning wake ups (one of the harder parts of this project) and the thin air above 14,000 feet (one of the more fun parts of this project). The 4:30am departure to the trailhead was rough, but that’s why coffee exists.
We had about an hour drive to the trailhead for Castle Peak and Conundrum Peak (14ers #3 and #4); with the last few miles being a rough, four-wheel drive road. Eventually, the road got rough enough to start breaking things on our truck. So, we found a place to park and started our hike.
Today’s hike started just like our previous 14er hikes: a bit chilly, beautiful alpenglow, and perfect morning light. As we neared the end of the Jeep road at 12,800 feet we could see our first obstacle—a 500 foot climb up a steep snowfield. We carefully made our way up before finishing the last ~1,000 vertical feet to the summit of Castle Peak.
We’ve been fortunate with weather so far on our 14er hikes. Today was no different. With no clouds in the sky we lingered on the summit for over 30 minutes before deciding to mosey over to Castle Peak’s nearby neighbor. Our trip over to Conundrum Peak began with a steep, loose descent of 500 feet and ended with a slightly less steep 300 foot climb back over 14,000 feet.
Conundrum Peak actually has two summits, which presents quite the Conundrum! While standing on one summit the other one looks higher. When you move to the other summit and look back towards the previous one then it looks higher! Just to be sure, we went to both of them…
After enjoying our pretty-much-mandatory-summit-whiskey and enjoying the beautiful day on the top of Conundrum we finally started our descent. We had two choices for going back down: go up-and-over Castle Peak to retrace our steps or slide straight down a steep snowfield. I’m pretty sure you can guess which route we took.
Turns out, sliding down a huge snowfield on your butt while wearing running shorts is a little chilly. It can also scuff up your butt a little. But, the nearly two hours it saved us on our descent back to the truck was totally worth it.
When we arrived back at the truck we had great views of the waterfall that we could only hear when we began our hike in the dark. The Castle Creek Waterfall (Water Feature #7) was impressive and an obvious choice to highlight in this project.
After filming the waterfall we hopped in the truck and began the 80 mile drive to the town of Gypsum on Interstate 70. Along the way, we spotted some Cattails (Wildflower #6) growing off the highway and found a pullover so we could capture photos and videos.
Obviously, we had our reasons for driving all the way to Gypsum after hiking two 14ers. Those reasons were distilleries! Our first stop was 10th Mountain Whiskey and Spirits (Distillery #8), where we met up with Mandy’s brother and sister-in-law, Jason and Emily. We enjoyed the great whiskies, listened to the bartender/assistant distiller Jeremy share his knowledge, and enjoyed a private tour with a few samplings straight from the barrel.
Our last stop for the day was yet another distillery a short ways down the road. Stoneyard Distilling (Distillery #9) was quite a bit different than any distillery we’d been to, so far. Their spirits are essentially a form of rum, but due to the way laws are written can’t be labeled rum. The spirits are distilled from beet sugar and rum has to be distilled from cane sugar. Who knew?
It seemed that Stoneyard caters more to the drinker who likes flavored spirits because nearly everything they had was flavored or infused with something. These types of spirits typically don’t appeal to us, but we couldn’t deny that their Horchata flavored “rum” was quite delicious. Maybe that’s because we drank countless liters of horchata while we were down in Mexico?
Mandy and Jason awarded the distillery some bonus points for the bartender’s tribute to an uber-classic book with his mixed drink called the “Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster.”
Day #6 was another long one, but our hike up two 14ers seemed a bit easier than the last few hikes. Plus, we got to end the day in a perfect way—enjoying a few distilleries with family!
Here’s to 8 more days exploring Colorful Colorado…
Info & Links for Day 6 Travels:
(click for more info)
Fourteener 3/14: Castle Peak
Fourteener 4/14: Conundrum Peak
Water Feature 7/14: Castle Creek Falls
Wildflower 6/14: Cattail
Distillery 8/14: 10th Mountain Whiskey & Spirits
Distillery 9/14: Stoneyard Distillery
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