A hidden trail worth hiking
August 25, 2012
I hope you will consider (or reconsider) a trip along the Stirling Wilderness Trail, which is quite a special trail. It would be hard to find a hike through an area more remote. There seldom is another person to be seen, and the Quien Sabe Mine area probably has been visited by only a very limited number of people in the past 120 years! Even at the Storm King cabin, and its forested surroundings, there have been very few visitors since the hippie era of the 1960s and ’70s.
There are several other reasons for hiking this trail. In an area I have labeled “Big Tree Gulch,” you will pass through a group of aspen trees that are about as big and tall as they are known to grow. To the east of the Storm King cabin is a pine forest, which does justice to the idea of the beauty and peace and quiet of wilderness. As you travel back down toward your car, you can stop at the Dick, a one-table picnic area for a snack or lunch in a setting hard to beat!
This is silver-mining country, and it is a region full of ghosts of miners who felled many trees for mining timbers and dug tunnels up to several hundred feet long. If you know your geology and minerals, there are still bits and pieces of silver, lead, zinc and copper to be found on the old dumps. No gold! Bring a small pick to look through the old ore bins.
At the first junction of the trail are remnants of two mining cabins – an area worthy of a look. Another interesting cabin is the 1880s Storm King (split-level) cabin, one which also was likely used again by miners in the 1930s. It certainly was very popular with the hippies and perhaps the most-used year-round cabin in the Little Annie area during those times.
For the hardy, the trip to the Quien Sabe (“Who knows?”) patented claim is worthwhile. There are two short tunnels there, both caved, but you can only marvel at the effort it took to haul tools, cut timbers and mine at this 10,000-foot elevation. Your rewards for getting to the site, and traveling beyond a few hundred feet, are the dramatic views of the Ashcroft valley and of the close-up views of 13,561-foot Mount Hayden.
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There are only two to three miles of trails, but allow two to three hours for the basic, western loop and an extra hour if you have the energy to do the Quien Sabe branch. Admittedly, portions of the trail are steep. Parts of the trail are constructed around game trails or old roads for mules. I hope you do a sample tour and then come back another time for another set of experiences.
Best wishes – Buzz Cooper (born in Aspen almost 81 years ago).
And yes, the trail I built is dedicated to my son, Stirling, who died from a fall during an outing in Utah on Aug. 28, 1999. Contact me at email@example.com for a map and directions.