After looking over a map, I discovered a couple of possible alternative routes. A little research confirmed an alternative route from the east that avoided majority of the jeep trails. The route I chose started from the Browns Creek trailhead between Salida and Buena Vista. I arrived at the trailhead in the dark. After eating a quick breakfast, I began my hike about 625AM. There was just enough light that I didn't need my headlamp.
From the trailhead, I started at an elevation around 8900 feet. Almost immediately there were views of alpine summits. After a little more than a mile I reached the Colorado Trail. I followed the Colorado Trail for only a 1/4 mile before turning onto the Little Browns Creek Trail.
The views start early
Start of the Little Browns Creek Trail
Another early view along the lower reaches of the trail
Easy hiking in the forest
A short rocky stretch of trail
Interesting rock along the trail
Small waterfall on Little Browns Creek
After leaving the trees the trail broke out into a nice alpine meadow. 13er Mt. White dominated the view along the meadow. After several days of rain earlier in the week, Little Browns Creek flowed strongly through the meadow for late Septmember. Part of the way through the meadow the trail eventually crossed the creek.
Rocky lower slopes of Mt. White
Emerging from the trees
Little Browns Creek tumbling through the alpine meadow
Looking up the alpine meadow
Looking toward Tabeguache
View over the alpine meadow
The short stretch of jeep road
The last half mile of climbing follows the summit ridge. The ridge is fairly rugged and the most technical part of the hike although it is no more than class 2 difficulty. There is a trail to follow most of the way. The narrowest part of the ridge ended before climbing more steeply. As the climb became steeper the trail became less distinct. There were several faint paths along the last stretch to the summit. Generally, if you just follow the path of least resistance going up, you'll reach the summit. About 10AM ,after hiking 7 or so miles, I reached the summit of Mt Antero at 14269 feet. I had the summit to myself.
Fall color from the summit ridge
Looking down Antero's north ridge
Tabeguache and Shavano
Looking over Mt. White
Sangre de Cristo Range
East ridge of Antero
Even though the summit of Antero is the highest elevation of this hike, it was not the high point of my trip. As I neared the end of the summit ridge on my descent, my attention was focused on the terrain as I traversed over the rocky terrain. So when I heard movement ahead, I was somewhat startled. I looked toward the noise and saw a handful of mountain goats climbing up the side of the mountain. When the goats first saw me, most of them retreated down the mountain a short distance while a couple climbed higher away from me. I stopped and watched them for several minutes and took pictures. I wasn't moving much and the goats seemed to lose their fear. They began walking towards me. As I sat, many more goats continued to come into sight. The goats continued toward me, walking on either side as if I was in their way. Eventually they surrounded me as they passed by me. Some of the goats were no more than 15 feet away from me as they walked by. By the time the all the goats came into sight, I counted 21 in the herd. Among the herd, I saw numerous kids born this year and at least one large buck. After taking numerous photos and observing the herd for a fairly long time, a couple people that rode up the jeep trail came close and the herd started to wander away. A few from the herd, higher on the slope, lingered a little longer.
First sighting of goats
Goats running away
Buck and doe
Buck deciding if I'm a threat
Goats hanging out while I watch them
Goats coming toward me
Goat carefully walking toward me
A pair of kids
I have seen a lot of wildlife over the years on hikes and bike rides. I had never seen a mountain goat before this however. Mountain goats were high on my wishlist of wildlife sightings. I couldn't have asked for a better sighting of mountain goats. Not only did I see one, I saw 21, and at close range. They all had their full winter coats and looked impressive. Those that know me personally, know I raise goats, and seeing wild goats in their natural environment was quite a treat for me.
More goats climbing toward me
Another pair of goats
The main herd passing by me
More goats passing by me
Goats heading to more rugged terrain
The rest of the hike went quickly. After leaving the jeep trail, the route is never steep and the trail is mellow most of the way back down the Little Browns Creek Trail. The trail seemed a little trickier to follow on the way down more so than it did on the hike up. I never lost the trail but I had to pay close attention a few spots, especially when the trail turned. The sun was higher in the sky and the yellow aspen leaves really popped against the bright blue sky. I reached the trailhead just after 1 PM. Despite hiking 14 miles and gaining 5350 vertical feet, the trip took just over 6.5 hours. Occasionally I will jog some of the easier sections of hikes, but I did not on this trip and still made quick time. I was surprised at how quickly I finished this trip, especially with my time watching the goats.
The view heading back down the meadow
Fall color along the trail
Mountain goat buck
Tabeguache and Shavano from summit ridge
Looking up the meadow over Little Browns Creek
It has been a while since I took a self portrait.
Tomcat on Antero with Mt. Princeton in background