Trip reports are always fun, so here's my version of this weekend's outing :-) Eventually, we'll end up with one on the RMM website, complete with
pictures, but this will serve as a little break from the day to day questions and answers :-)
For me the weekend started right after an Emergency Management Exercise, simulating an anthrax outbreak at the Salt Lake Olympics next
February. Definitely a possibility.
The exercise broke up at 3:30, so I hopped in the mog and headed for Denver. I got to the rendevous spot in Golden just a few minutes late, so it
worked out fine. There were for mogs altogether: Bob Ragain, Fred Reim, Wayne Sheppard, and me, so we started up to Echo Lake as a caravan.
We got up to the Echo Base High Altitude Center about 7:40, so had to wait around for awhile until Dr. Stencel got there to let us in. The main
building has lots of bunks so sleeping accommodation were pretty good. It also has a full kitchen, so we were able to fix our respective dinners.
Dr. Stencel got us up at 7:00 a.m., so we could be ready to head up the mountain by 8:00. His staff were a little late arriving, so we didn't actually
start until close to 8:45. There wasn't any snow to speak of on the highway, so the mogs weren't needed, but it was a fun trip up anyway. It was
handy to have a mog to move that one huge rock that had fallen onto the road.
Once at the top, everyone worked on their respective duties. The computer whiz (Carl) worked on the PC,s and the solar expert (Joe) and
electrician (Peter) worked on the solar/battery power configuration. Since I had previous experience from last year's trip, filling the batteries with
electrolyte was my job. There are 16 six volt batteries, set up in four groups of four, series and parallel, to create a 24V source. Each battery
weighs about 100 lbs. They're charged by the solar panels, and encased in a hollowed out stack of 4'X8'X2" blue Styrofoam sheets, so they don't
freeze. It's all pretty clever, but I guess you'd expect that sort of thing from a group of people that function at the genius level. This setup is the
sole source of electrical power for the observatory, since there's no commercial power on the mountain.
Fred Reim and Wayne Sheppard had the infrared heater elements that sit on top of 25 lb propane bottles, so they were fired up in the lower are of
the observatory to take the chill off. It made for a more comfortable working environment and was definitely nice when it came time for lunch.
Dopey me, I walked off and left my cooler at the base building, so I had to mooch lunch from the others. Fortunately, there was plenty of food, so
it wasn't a problem.
Then Fred and I set out to figure out a problem with one of the retractable windows in the observatory dome. When they were building the
observatory, they needed to have some way to ventilate the dome when it got hot in the summer. Because of the screaming winds on the
mountain, conventional windows, or louvers were out. They ended up using car tops with imbedded sunroofs from a mid 90's model SAAB. I think
there are seven or eight of them. They have an electric motor and worm gear to slide the sunroofs up and down. They're placed vertically. It just
happens the roof of the car has exactly the curvature of the observatory dome, so they fit in quiet nicely. Anyway, we figured out the problem was
a stripped gear in the drive assembly, so I took the bad gear out and they should be able to get a replacement from a SAAB dealer.
When everyone was done, we cleaned the place up, and headed back down the mountain. Dr. Stencel took us to Beau Jo's Pizza in Idaho Springs
for early supper and we consumed several pizzas. There were nine of us altogether, between observatory staff and moggers.
After eating, Bob Ragain, Wayne Sheppard and I headed back up into the mountains above Idaho Springs, to a spot where Wayne owns several
acres at about 10,500 feet. There's no development, but just a short road bulldozed into his property. We found level spots for the three mogs and
set up for the night. With the canvas on, my truck makes a very cozy home. Plenty of room for all my gear, a place for a single mattress, room for
the cook box and stove. The Coleman lantern puts out quite a bit of heat, so it was reasonably cozy inside with the rear tarp installed. Fortunately,
it wasn't real cold, nor was it very windy, at least not until later in the night. I think for winter camping, one of the 25 lb propane heaters would be
more than sufficient. The tarp is leaky enough that there shouldn't be any problem with lack of fresh air. Something to consider for the future.
Wayne has a fire pit built on his property and tons of standing dead aspen, so there's no problem with getting nice dry firewood that burns hot. We
had a nice campfire and finally were falling asleep at about 8:30.
We were up about 7:30 (MDT, after going off daylight savings), fixed breakfast, secured our gear in the backs of the trucks, and headed out for a
day of exploring. The mountain is riddled with old gold mines, and Jeep roads go everywhere. Fortunately, Wayne has done quite a bit of
exploring up there, so he took us to several interesting old mine sites we never would have found on our own, plus kept us from getting hopelessly
We were starting down one road and ran into a group of four Jeeps coming up. Since they didn't have any where to go, we backed up and then
spent some time talking about our various vehicles. The road they were coming up is apparently very narrow and is usually traveled up from the
bottom only. The Jeep guys said they'd like to see the mogs cross an area called the Rock Garden. We're going to have to go back sometime and
see what it's all about.
We decided not to create a problem in case other four wheelers might be coming up, so we elected to continue on with our original plan of going
around Saxon Mountain and on down to Georgetown. It doesn't seem too intimidating until you get a clear view of looking straight down on I-70
from about 4000' feet above it. The road is pretty much carved out of the side of the mountain and has such sharp switchbacks, that they're a bit
tight for the sharp turning 404 to make. Even with my GPS set on the shortest recording distance, the switchbacks overlapped themselves on the
screen. There was one that required one back up, but that was because the downhill side was washed out. Other than that it wasn't difficult. Just
long and bumpy, but the views were spectacular and well worth it. By the time we got to Georgetown, we had only gone 12 miles, but it took us
five hours. That includes time wandering around the mines and visiting with the folks in the Jeeps.
Wayne had to leave when we got to Georgetown, so Bob Ragain and I stayed to have a sandwich at the town park, right across the street from the
house I used to live in when I was a teenager working summers at A-Basin. That's one of the original Colorado ski areas. We hated to leave a very
pleasant day to head back to civilization, but eventually did. Bob and I parted ways at Golden and I headed to my Aunt and Uncle's for a visit and
dinner. I left there about 6:30 and was back home in Wyoming by 9:30. I left everything in the truck, so I have to empty it all out tonight when I get
Trip #8 is already being planned for November 24 - 25. If you'd like to participate in an overnight at 14,000+ feet, along with a chance to look out
into deep space through the highest observatory in the world, you should start getting your truck tuned up and your cold weather gear ready.
1963 404 Hardcab, with Swiss cargo bed (veteran of three Mt. Evans trips)