Monday, August 2, 2010

Comanche Peak (and then some)

I explored some uncharted territory for me this weekend. I have run several times in some of the southeastern parts of the Comanche Peaks Wilderness (i.e. Signal Mountain). This time, however, I made the longer drive up to Pingree Park where the options are endless in this vast wilderness. Taking off from the Emmaline Lake/Mummy Pass trailhead, my plan was to complete a loop that would take me around Comanche Peak (with the option of summiting if all went well) and back to the Beaver Creek trailhead just a couple miles up the road from my starting point. Somewhere around 20 to 25 miles expected. It turned out to be a beautiful route with a lot of runnable trail, much of it above treeline. I took the Mummy Pass trail over Mummy Pass and then down to the Mirror Lake trail. The only long stretch of required hiking came on the climb up Mirror Lake trail to Comanche Peak (about 2000 feet in 2 miles). I did make the scramble off trail to summit the peak and was rewarded with great views overlooking Emmaline Lake and across to Fall Mountain.
Looking down on Emmaline Lake from the top of Comanche Peak.

The view of the Mummy Range extending to the Southwest.

While it is fun to explore new trail, there is always the added element of route finding and much of these trails above treeline were hard to follow. There was also very little signage to even tell you what trail you were on. I highly suggest having a good map with you. I made it back to the Mirror Lake trail, now with great views down to Mirror Lake, and decided to hook up with the Hourglass trail as my return route.

Overlooking Mirror Lake.

Coming down the Hourglass trail, now below treeline, I eventually reached a backcountry campsite with several faint trails that all faded to no trail at all. After several attempts to backtrack to the actual trail (I should have backtracked further) I decided to go cross-country through the forest in the direction of Comanche Reservoir. This was a big mistake. I did come out right to the middle of the reservoir, but only after a very long struggle through the obstacle course of fallen trees. The worst of it was trying to get around the reservoir (no walkable shoreline). Well I finally made it back to a trail (Beaver Creek trail) and completed the loop, expending a lot more time and energy than originally planned. About 24 miles for this loop, but I would highly recommend sticking to the trails if possible.

GPS data (including crazy route finding paths and off-trail adventure)

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