Postcards from the Wilderness: Lost Creek 1

Congress passed and President Lyndon Johnson signed the Wilderness Act on September 3, 1964. In the nearly 40 years since, Americans have learned to enjoy the great outdoors without significant intrusion from modern society and technology.

Machines are not allowed, even by U.S. Forest Service field employees who perform minimal trail maintenance. No motor vehicles are allowed, and neither are mountain bikes. Horses are allowed, as well as hikers. Hunting and other uses which were permitted prior to passing of the Wilderness Act, including grazing cattle are permitted, and there are some private holdings inside various wilderness areas which are grandfathered in, as far as their continued use.

The act created the National Wilderness Preservation System. The initial wilderness areas comprised 9.1 million acres of national forest wilderness areas in the United. The current area designated by the NWPS as wilderness totals 757 areas encompassing 109.5 million acres of federally owned land in 44 states and Puerto Rico, or 5 percent of the land in the United States.

Lost Creek Wilderness, named for the creek which disappears and reappears several times, as it seemingly merges into a rocky mountain side, and then re-emerges somewhere downstream, began as a scenic area, before being included in the new Wilderness Act. Lost Creek Wilderness is 119,790 acres of fantastic rock formations, diverse forests, wild flower showcases, trout streams, and water features.

The Hayman Fire in 2002 destroyed 138,114 acres of forest, affecting a small part of Lost Creek Wilderness.
Lost Creek joins Goose Creek, which in turn joins the South Platte River and contributes to Denver’s water supply at Cheesman Reservoir.

One of the finest backpacking trips is the “Goose Creek Loop,” which picks up west of Cheesman Reservoir at the trailhead. It is about 20 miles, and with backpacking gear is pretty manageable during three days.
Getting an early start on the first day, and choosing to progress through the loop in either direction will allow you to find water and fantastic scenery. The total vertical climb (and loss since it is a loop) is 5,585 feet. That’s a lot of climbing, more than a mile up and back down again, during the course of your 20 mile hike. Here’s a map and description: http://www.oriconline.org/what_to_do/trails_and_trips/backpacking_trips/q-goose_creek_loop.pdf

One of the highlights of this hike is McCurdy Park, with great mountain peaks, rock formations and wildlife. Moose frequent this spot. Camping there can be challenging since you have to hike a little to find water, but it’s there. Also a challenge is finding firewood, so cooking on a stove is recommended. Waking up in the morning with the sun illuminating the rock formations and the sky is a treat not to be missed. During the evening there are probably a million stars in the darkest sky.

More to come!

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