The Scouting Diaries:
Quartz Ridge

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Crater Lake, South San Juan Wilderness

As many of you know, one of my responsibilities at camp and perks of the job in the off-season is to scout new trips for the program. This can be a challenge as the season following camp is relatively short. We have about 6 - 8 weeks of summer-like weather to get out and do personal trips, take some rest days, debrief the summer, work with a few school groups, shutdown camp for the winter and get out and scout a few trips. It can be difficult to scout new trips within that timeframe. On any given year I am able to scout only a few trips. Scouting doesn’t always equal new trips either. Sometimes we have to re-scout old trips as well if there has been negative feedback - tomorrow, Sean and I will be heading out to re-scout the Parrot, Madden and Star All Day. In addition, sometimes I go out to scout a new trip and have to make the call that the trip is just not a viable option for camp. Scouting does not simply entail doing the trip myself successfully - I have to always have on my mind things like counselor skill levels, camper abilities, how to explain the routes to staff, where the best campsites will be, how long the days might be, will it be a busy and popular place in the summer, will there be lots of snow early in the season…etc. I have to take notes on every little thing I think may confuse a trip leader so that when I cover the itineraries in the summer I can mitigate any potential confusion and increase the chances of a flawless trip. We trust our staff in making the route decisions necessary to lead successful trips, and we train them in map and compass so that they’d feel comfortable doing any trip if all they knew was the starting and ending points and the campsites in between, but it is certainly comforting having those bits of helpful information in the itinerary.

We cannot wait for campers and staff to experience the breathtaking views from this new trip

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Quartz Creek Trailhead - The Adventure Begins!

My most recent scouting adventure and the reason for this post and future posts titled ‘The Scouting Diaries’ was an absolute success. On Wednesday, September 7th I packed my pack and Ranger’s dog pack with all the essentials. Ranger and I got in the truck and headed towards Wolf Creek Pass and turned right on to East Fork Road and headed all the way up to the Quartz Meadow Trailhead. We hit the trail destined for the South San Juan Wilderness area and the upper meadows of Quartz Creek. Getting up to the upper meadows was already showing promise as Ranger and I hiked up through this rock formation that led to some views of waterfalls coming through the rocks. We made it up to the upper meadows in about 3 hours and set up camp for the night.

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Campsite at Crater Lake

The next morning, we woke to continue the adventure. Hiking up and out of the meadow to the top of the ridge and meeting up with the Continental Divide Trail (CDT). We continued along the CDT around Summit Peak and Montezuma Peak until we got a low point between Montezuma Peak and Long Trek Mountain where the route I plotted out would leave the CDT and drop down to Crater Lake. At this point, I had only known of Crater Lake because it was on the map in this area where we have permitted use. Nowadays you would look Crater Lake up on the internet and get an idea of what you were going to see. I still sometimes forget we have resources like Google. This would be the first time I had ever seen Crater Lake. I remember walking down towards the lake through some meadows and over some talus and scree and then getting my first glimpse of the lake and immediately having that feeling of finding something truly special. This lake was absolutely gorgeous! It had the perfect emerald green and blue color and was surrounded by jagged peaks and had two very nice impacted camping sites with great views of the lake. I looked around and quickly realized I was the only person there and that Ranger and I had this entire area all to ourselves. I set up camp quickly and then grabbed my fly rod and went fishing. This trip would be worth it for this lake alone, but that is not all…

Ranger plays in the water upon arrival at Crater Lake

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Sunset along the Continental Divide Trail

The next day Ranger and I awoke and could not leave the lake in all its beauty. I had my morning coffee and went fishing and stayed until about 1:30pm and finally hooked my first trout on the fly rod (I have just recently picked up fly fishing). I was originally planning on leaving around 10am, but I was having way too much fun enjoying having an entire alpine lake to myself to justify not staying a bit longer. We finally left Crater Lake, and hiked out to meet back up with the CDT and hike as far as I could on the CDT. When I was planning this route I was expecting the last couple days of the trip to be pretty standard backpacking, but once I got past Elwood Pass and continued on the CDT the sights continued to impress! This section of the CDT was absolutely beautiful. The trail went through high alpine meadows and skirted steep slopes along the ridgeline with amazing 360 degree views. I eventually got to Silver Pass where the trip leaves the CDT and heads down Silver Creek to East Fork Road. I had planned to head down from the pass to find a campsite that day, but it was getting late so I decided to make camp for the night at the pass.

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The next morning I got an early start to make sure I could effectively scout the last part of the trip. This trail was an old pack trail, and for any of you that have experience in the San Juan National Forest, old pack trails on the USGS maps are not always clearly marked or even there at all. You defintely have to know what you are looking for and that is why I scout trips. This way I can use a lesser defined trail to make trips possible and then be able to clearly explain to staff the route and what they should expect. I was getting a little worried about this section of the trip because the last few days had been so amazing and I didn’t want the status of this final trail to affect the trips potential. I spent a large part of that morning hiking up and down this drainage to get a really good sense of the route so that I could be very specific in writing the itinerary and turn this trip into a reality for the 2017 summer. Though hard to find at times, I was able to find the route to finish the trip successfully. I made it to East Fork Road around 1pm and hiked back up the road to the trailhead where I’d started to get to the truck and head home.

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Crater Lake, South San Juan Wilderness

I am very happy to introduce a new Outpost five day, Quartz Ridge, located in the South San Juan Wilderness area and named after the forest service compartment for which it resides. It was an amazing trip and one I am sure will become one of the favorites among staff and campers. Ranger and I returned home safe and sore, but ready for another adventure.

About Tyler Dixon

Tyler joined the CSC family in the summer of 2008 working as a Head Counselor and then Pathfinding Instructor in 2009. He is currently serving as Camp Director at CSC. In his spare time Tyler enjoys spending time in the beautiful mountains of Colorado, playing or listening to music, and rooting for his hometown team, the St. Louis Cardinals.

Tyler Dixon