Larkspur B-17 Trip to Hill 8487 (Sunday July 15, 2001)
Prelude: Michael Minovich had contacted me by email indicated that he knew where this airplane is as well as two others. His enthusiasm for wreckchasing was obvious and he was very helpful in describing how to get to this wreck. I studied the topo map on Topozone.com (couldn't buy the USGS quad locally) and thought I knew how the day would turn out. Oops!
Report/Narrative: (Coordinates are in UTM for easy plotting to the USGS quad if I ever get my hands on one)
0530- Leaving home to go pick up Thomas Gallegos at his apartment across town. Thomas has gone on many airplane hunts with me and has grown a bit in the 6 years we've been doing adventures. Unfortunately, this morning he was running a bit behind.
0625- At I-25 and Co 392 (Windsor exit) to pickup Matt Trinidad, a 23 year old co-worker who is interested in airplane hunting. As we headed south Matt paged thru my copy of Troy Turner's book COLORADO'S LOST SQUADRON. And we discussed various bits of WWII history. Thomas sacked out in teh back seat.
0930- Finally at trailhead. After driving down I-25 to Happy Canyon Rd then up US 85 to Sedalia then west on Co67 and then south down the washboarded Rampart Range road, we parked the jeep and geared up for the walk. I was only off by perhaps 85 yards from the GPS coords I'd picked off the map for the parking spot. ( 13 S 0400719, 4336231) As we were stirring around to get ready, my altimeter watch fell off my wrist. The band separated from the case. Have to do without today. (Hence less frequent time reporting and all altitudes are by GPS )
We started walking north by compass. After perhaps 200 yds we started seeing new surveyors ribbon wrapped around trees marking 'gates' between trees for a dirt biking trail. The trail was going the same way we were so we warily used it and kept an eye out for divergence. It continued a long way to my first pre-planned checkpoint where I'd planned we'd turn NE at L1 ( 13S 0499800, 4337200). My new heading would have us descending a hill a bit so we stayed with the motorcycle trail a bit further north and found that it turned NE on a finger of ridge, still going about where I'd planned for us to go.
Along this trail we were overtaken by 3 motorcyclists. We stepped off the trail to give them room to pass then we continued on. The trail was a pretty good route running down the sub-ridge then finally doing a terribly erosive S turn to drop to the moist meadow where it crossed the seepage and went north up the drainage.
Toward the head of the drainage it looked like a nice meadow and stand of aspens. I was just thinking that there ought to be a cabin here when - there was!
|Matt & Thomas in front of cabin|
The motorcyclists had stopped for a break and we talked a bit. They knew nothing of a B-17 to the north but mentioned that they'd stumbled across the L-19 wreck several miles south. (I didn't inquire about it) I took a picture (13 S 0500776, 4337811)and we followed yet another motorcycle trail northward up the drainage to the ridge top where we found an outstanding view from a rock (13S 0501000,4338138).
We then headed for my programmed coordinates aiming to find the head of Starr Creek (13S 0501000, 4338750)so we could drop into the drainage and follow it to the wreck.
At the coordinates we descended a bit into the ravine and travelled perhaps 200' before realizing the ravine was narrow, brush choked, filled with big rocks and would generally be a terrible way to travel.
So we climbed back out and headed for the top of Hill 8487 (13S 0500823, 4339700) The instructions said NE of 8487. We could find it from there right?
|View from Hill 8487|
1100: At 8487 with wonderful views from atop big rock outcrops. After about 15 minutes of rest we saddled up and headed out on 060 to go "northeast." The hill was very, very steep. Boot-sliding in the gravel steep. With ground cover of short scrub-oak and the occasional yucca plant. We dropped perhaps 500' and got to a terrible section where it was ledgy and bushy all at the same time. I persevered to get down to the creek here and found it absolutely horrid. It was man-high brush thickets and rocks as big as cars. No good. Can't move in that.
I climbed back up perhaps 50' to rejoin Thomas and Matt. I pulled out the GPS and it indicated we were 090 from 8487. We needed to move somewhat N. So Matt did a pathfinding routine of taking us north along the hillside along ledges and trying to find a passable way north. We went a ways, then decided we were on the NE side and were standing on a dry ridge finger. So, we descended along the finger. It was alarming how steeply we were going down and it was doubly alarming at how incredibly far below us the creek bed had become. Down, down, down with aching knees trying not to slip again.
About 300' from the bottom we had a decision time. Matt's feet were "angry", I was annoyed, and Thomas was his usual mellow self. But we weren't having fun. I proposed that if we didn't get to the creekbed then we really hadn't searched yet. We'd try to travel along the creek again and go no later than 1500.
So we continued down and found - brush choked, rockfilled gully. Again. We crashed along for perhaps 200 yards then came up against a terrible thicket that we really couldn't bust thru without taking too much damage on our bare shins (we were wearing shorts). So, we stopped to pump some water with my filter and then angled back uphill. I checked with the GPS somewhat above the creekbed and saw altitude readout of 6950'. We had 1500' to climb!
We did. Slowly. Endlessly. I started slowing down terribly badly as it seemed that I'd take about 4 steps then be borderline nauseous. About 1000' up my left thigh started hinting that it was going to cramp. And my right hamstring was going to join my left thigh in rebellion. But we continued on. Up thru the scrub oak, up thru some boulders choked with scrub oak, angling up under the occasional tree enjoying a bit of shade, onward, upward.
As it rounded over somewhat it was time for a break. I dropped my pack, Matt climbed on top of a rock and Thomas just laid down on the pine needles. I dug into my pack for some more food and my dry socks. Changing socks sure felt good! The others were travelling super light - Thomas didn't even have raingear or a 3rd quart of water (he forgot). Matt didn't have spare socks. (They'll learn :-) We ate, we drank, we moaned a bit.
1530- And then we saddled up for the final 100' to the summit and then blissful ridgetop travel. It was about .8 miles to the rock overlook where we would join the motorcycle trail. It went slowly because my body wasn't happy. I was not in any pain but it seemed that just walking slowly was an effort of a magnitude to bring out a hard-work sweat. But we were moving and uninjured so it was a matter of persistence. My companions were hurting too. I guess that's good because adding the age of the two of them yields my age! My survival , not to mention getting back up the hill, was a big accomplishment.
It was a slow painful walk back to the car. We made it at 1730 using GPS to decide where to diverge from the motorcycle trail.
The boys passed out in the car even on the washboard of the 20 miles of Rampart Range road. We hit I-25 then exited at Arapahoe Rd for a Wendy's meal.
I dropped Thomas off at his apartment in West Ft. Collins around 2130 and went home myself.
For some strange reason, my young friends were still glad they went. And I'm satisfied that they didn't have to carry me back to the car!
Michael and I need to do some more talking and I think that if I have a choice, I'll ask for him to take me to the site. If the real location is anything like what we went thru - it's pretty safe from scavengers coming in from public land!
Points we were on as stored in GPS (for later plotting when I can get a Larkspur UGSG quad)- 13S
Last Modified: 1/1/2008