Trip dates: April 27, 2019 and May 04, 2019
Caltopo map here
I wound up going back to Coulson Gulch two weeks in a row. It's definitely become one of my favorite "hidden gems" in the foothills. On the first week's trip I went to take my first picture and realized I'd left the camera battery in the charger at home :(. This was a real shame because I found some of my favorite (and totally unexpected) spectacular views of the year.
Advertisement: I should offer a bit of a warning regarding Coulson Gulch. Every time I've been (5 times so far) sportsman have been in the area target shooting. They are always very near the trailhead, right off a road/trail, in very responsible locations with targets placed in front of a large berm. However, as someone who ALWAYS wanders off the trail this can be disconcerting. In this area, it's best to keep the off-trail portions 2-3 miles from the trailhead. The approximate area with target shooting is marked on the Caltopo map.
Week 1: UN 8547' and North Sheep Mt.
Since I didn't have a functional camera, this trip unfortunately had no pictures, which is a shame because the view of Wild Basin and North Sheep Mt from UN 8547' is incredible. This would be a great place to be at both dawn and sunset. There's a short scramble to get to both UN 8547' and North Sheep Mt. The one for North Sheep Mt was especially fun.
The descent from North Sheep Mt. was really steep and pretty crappy actually. There's probably a better route than what I found. Also the trail on the map that follows St. Vrain Creek was destroyed in the 2013 Boulder Flood. There's an especially tricky part near Cook Mt.
Week 2: Button Rock Mt and UN 8547'
The first target of the day was Button Rock Mt. This turned out to be a bit foolish because my main motivation for going back to Coulson Gulch was to take pictures from UN 8547' at sunset. I was assuming I'd be moving really fast.
At this point I had about 90 minutes till sunset, and I still wanted to get back to UN 8547' to capture the incredible view of North Sheep Mt, and of the sun setting behind the peaks in Wild Basin. If I kept up a 4 mph pace for 6-7 miles it looked like I might make it. The race was on.
Immediately after reaching Higgins Park I headed for a stream that would take me to the ridge. This was steep and off-trail and I slowed down like crazy here. I found a good Elk Trail for a bit but eventually it petered out and I was on my own.
After admitting defeat, I started looking for the head of an intermittent stream on my map to collect water. I'd initially planned on stocking up on water near the base of Button Rock Mt but an Elk decided to have a GI explosion right at the head of the stream so I skipped it,
After finding water, I went on over to UN 8547' anyway and signed the summit register again for shits and giggles. I'm now the first and second person to visit this year.
On the descent I stumbled across something that I'd found the previous week: two elk skeletons (2 spines and 6 legs).
It was strange. The hide was left behind for one of them which I imagine a hunter wouldn't leave. It was also hard to imagine that a hunter would drag an Elk to exactly the same location as previous to clean it. They typically weigh between 500 - 750 lbs. I didn't find either skull. The best I could figure was that this was actually a Mountain Lion kill site. It was hard to imagine a Mountain Lion drag an elk to the same location but then I remembered this video of a Jaguar in the Amazon. The power of big cats is truly incredible.
If someone has a better idea of what was going on here I'd love to hear about it.
I moved on pretty quickly, while looking over my shoulder...
Both weeks, I found ticks on my body after I got home. These are, incredibly, the first ticks I've seen in Colorado. They take a while to actually "bite" so fortunately you have some time (couple hours) to remove them. Definitely seems like a design flaw...