Mt. Thomas was a very unique hike and a little out of the ordinary as far as my peak selections go, but it turned out to be an incredible day. As is frequently the case, I decided to head up to Mt. Thomas as a sort of last minute thing. I usually start by searching for targets on 14ers.com, which is a great resource for information. However, the vast majority of information on the site is centered on 14ers and 13ers. These higher peaks are quite frequently the ones that interest me the most, so it is my first stop when on a search. Users of the website post updates on trail conditions, trip reports with detailed route instructions, and discuss a myriad of other topics on the forum. The forum has a section for mountains lower than 13,000, but the amount of detail can be relatively limited.
So, how did I discover Mt. Thomas? Well, I had recently revisited the Crestones in the Sangre de Cristo Range for the first time in many years. After enjoying a wonderful camping trip with my Dad down there and being reminded of how spectacular the area is; I started thinking about another favorite area of mine, the Elk Range. It was already the middle of October, so I was a little bit concerned about the potential conditions in the Elk Range. It had snowed a little bit around Colorado recently, so I exercised caution. Also, many of the peaks in the Elk Range are a little more mountain than I was up for tackling the next day. Finally, I checked one of my favorite guidebooks for an idea and that was that.
**A few quick notes on Colorado hiking books. There is obviously a wealth of information on the internet, but here is a quick rundown of my favorites. The book I found this hike in is Best Summit Hikes in Colorado by James Dziezynski, which has an awesome selection of hikes; including many hidden gems as well. Highly recommended! As far as 14ers go, Gerry Roach’s Colorado’s Fourteeners (now in its 3rd edition) is a classic! The 2nd edition was the primary source of information my Dad and I used for the majority of our 14er climbs. (My Dad’s extensive knowledge of Colorado mountains was a pretty incredible resource too). I can remember reading and thumbing through the pages on the drive back from many hikes already excited about the next hike! Regarding 13ers, there really isn’t a definitive guide as far as I’m concerned. The closest thing I’m aware of is the now out of print Colorado’s Thirteeners 13,800 to 13,999 Feet by Gerry and Jennifer Roach. I believe this edition was published in 2001 so some of the information on trailheads, roads, etc. may be slightly outdated. However, mountains don’t tend to move around a lot, so it is still a really solid source. I was very lucky to have my Mom find a copy of this rarity for a reasonable price last year! The cheapest copy currently available on Amazon.com is over $100. So, if you find a reasonably priced copy go ahead and grab it. You or your hiking/climbing enthusiast friend will love it. **
As usual, I’ve gone down the tangent rabbit hole a little bit so let’s get back on track. Mt. Thomas is located just past Sylvan Lake State Park outside of Eagle, CO.. I continued past Sylvan Lake and started at the Crooked Creek Pass Trailhead. I drove up a little bit higher and parked underneath the powerlines, but I’m not sure where the official start is (or if there is such a thing as an official start). The first thing that stands out about Mt. Thomas is the badass views you have right off the bat. I enjoyed the hike itself, but navigation is pretty straight forward, so I’m going to focus on the incredible sights mostly!
After making my way across the red sea, I could easily locate Mt. Thomas from the gigantic cairns on top. I went into the day not really knowing what to expect, but Mt. Thomas itself felt like sort of a let down to me. The hike on the way up had been very enjoyable and the views of the Elk Range were spectacular; however, I was looking for a little more challenging hike. Luckily, I had that exact option at my disposal as I continued a ridge run on the trail to a unknown summit. I should rephrase that, it was an unknown summit to me; I was only planning on going to the summit of Mt. Thomas. I later found out that it was Red Table Mountain (12,043′), which is a spot-on name choice as you look at the mountain.
I’m going to deviate from my usual chronological approach to my write-ups at this point to focus on the many amazing sights from Mt. Thomas and Red Table Mountain. The views are truly stunning on this hike and I spent quite a while hanging out on the summit snapping pictures. I should also note that my camera has a 30x zoom, so many of these pictures are taken with a fairly significant level of zoom. That said, I was able to easily pick out many of my favorite mountains without the aid of any zoom. After breaking down the sights we’ll stop by the summit of Mt. Thomas as well.
Pyramid Peak (14,018′):
Maroon Peak (14,163′) & North Maroon Peak (14,019′):
Capitol Peak (14,130′):
Snowmass Mountain (14,092′):
Mt. Sopris (12,953′): Read my climb report here
Pyramid Peak and the Maroon Bells:
Snowmass Mountain and Capitol Peak:
Wow, what a fantastic day! I absolutely loved Red Table Mountain and the weather was perfect, so I could have stayed up there all day. The wind was whipping fiercely on the summit, so I was glad I came prepared. After soaking in my surroundings and a rare summit meditation, I looked across the table and was reminded that I was yet to summit my original target for the day. After having such an incredible day already, Mt. Thomas was just icing on the cake.
And that concludes my picture-intensive report of the day’s hike. Mt. Thomas and Red Table Mountain provided astonishing vantage points to see the Elk Range in all of its glory! I strongly recommend this hike and I plan on revisiting soon. This is one of the highest compliments I can pay a peak since I seldom like to repeat a climb unless it is absolutely amazing; this one was!
Before I leave you for the day, I wanted to fill you in on a few more details. As I was parking my car in the morning, I was instructed by some ranchers that I’d want to move my car as a “herd of several hundred head” would be moving through the pass area. I forgot about this until I started driving back down toward Eagle. I usually hate being stuck in traffic, but after the day I had; I was mostly just amused by the Australian Cattle dogs nipping at the heels of the cows. After a while I was very hungry, so I was relieved when I finally broke through. It was a memorable experience, so no road rage infiltrated my being. It is much more difficult for any degree of road rage to survive when you have fresh mountain air flowing through your windows.
After you’re done with your hike, I highly recommend stopping by Bonfire Brewing in Eagle! They have a quite impressive selection of beers and it has a really fun and relaxed vibe. I sat inside after absorbing so much sun on the day, but they also have a really nice outdoor seating area. Hanging out at Bonfire, I met a really interesting couple that had been RVing around the country for over a year. They were retired and decided it was time for them to explore this fine nation of ours. I admired their courage and free-spirited approach to life; or, to phrase it another way: I was unbelievably jealous. I also met a few of the local regulars and it was the perfect way to relax and further decompress from the stress of my work week.
***Below is a quick note on politics and the first few weeks of Trump’s Presidency. I’d like to keep my site relatively free from politics, so I will always try to provide warnings. Or, I will create a separate politics section which you can avoid if I see fit. I believe what is going on right now is very important, but I want to bring my love of the mountains to the forefront on this site. Unfortunately, politics seem to breed hate and anger; perhaps now more than ever***
On a bit of a somber note, Bonfire debuted a new beer named Trumpkin Deporter while I was there (about a month prior to the U.S. Presidential Election). It was a delicious pumpkin porter and I really enjoyed it and the flight I tried. However, it was still a funny joke at the time and I never really thought that ‘The Donald’ would actually win. I didn’t set out on creating this blog to talk about politics, but I’m writing this a few weeks into the Trump Presidency and I am worried about the future. I saw and heard so many disgusting comments during the course of the election and have seen a similar rhetorical tone continue since Trump has taken office. I’ve been somewhat jaded by the government’s crippling inability to get anything done for a long time, so in the past the results of political elections were never devastating to me. However, this is different!
I won’t go into detail about the litany of issues and terrifying policies and ideas that I’ve already seen. I’ll keep my comments brief, but I’ll just say that I’m disgusted by the emergence of various phobias that I had sincerely hoped were dying in our country. It is disheartening to see so much hate still exists in our country. Xenophobia, homophobia, racism, and Trump’s fear mongering appear to have won the elections, which is repulsive to me. I understand that people voted for a wide variety of reasons, but the I’m simply unwilling to accept the way things appear to be shifting socially. I was thoroughly disgusted with politics in many respects, but Trump’s lack of experience was alarming to me. My last hope was that he would appoint intelligent people to aid in making important decisions. Unfortunately, whatever remote semblance of hope I had further erodes with each passing day.
Just to name a few issues: Trump announced his intention to nominate Rick Perry as Secretary of Energy; a man who didn’t seem aware of what the department even does! I didn’t otherwise have a great opinion of him, but this is really basic shit if you’re going to be in such a position. Then, seeing Betsy DeVos’ complete lack of familiarity with basic principles of education during her confirmation hearing continued to anger me. The threats Trump has already posed to the EPA and National Parks is also a personal afront to me. I’m really just touching the surface here and am not even going into some of the most significant issues. I just can’t handle being that upset right now. It is good to know that I’ll always have the salvation of the mountains, but living in reality is a scary thing right now!
I realize I didn’t provide a well-reasoned argument or summary above, but in part that is because I’m genuinely baffled by what the hell is going on. In this era of “fake news” and “alternative facts”, I simply can’t belief some of this shit is actually happening! I thoroughly enjoyed reliving my day hiking, but I suddenly feel like I need to go on a hike or trail run all over again to get away!