Monday, December 7, 2015

Hiking Tanner Peak in Memory of Tanner Brown

I usually don't digress too much from my outdoor pursuits on my blog.  The decision to take this specific hike however came from a personal experience not related to the outdoors.  Before I get to the details of the hike, I will share a little background on why I chose to hike this specific peak.

A couple weeks ago, one of our dogs, Tanner, passed away.  He suffered from seizures, which were somewhat controlled by medication and diet.  However, we never determined the underlying cause of the seizures.  Three years of periodic seizures, medication, and possibly other health issues took a toll on him.  In the month prior to his passing, Tanner's body shutdown and we thought we were going to lose him then.  He made a recovery for a short period of time but his body wasn't strong enough to recover completely.  On Sunday night, November 15th, he became mopey.  Monday, he wouldn't eat and barely drink.  He wasn't keeping any food or water down and barely had enough strength to stand.  His body shut down on Tuesday and by late afternoon he seemed to lose awareness.  Not long after we ate dinner, he passed away by our side as we comforted him.  He was 9 years old and gone way to soon.

Tanner as a puppy
Puppy Tanner with Foxy
Tanner as a young adult
Tanner was one of four dogs in our house.  We love all of our dogs, but Tanner had something a little extra special about him.  Tanner wanted nothing more than to make us happy.  He was eager to please and was the best behaved of the pack.  He definitely had some character.    We had a couple of scares over the years where we thought we were going to lose him due prolonged seizure spells.  Knowing that we had some close calls and nearly losing him, Puma and I seemed to have an different kind of bond with him.

Enjoying the rare sunny day in Maine
Waiting for his tennis ball to be thrown
Tanner with his brother Domino.
These two were very close.
Lounging with Puma
We got Tanner as a puppy.  His full name was Tanner Brown and he would respond to Tanner or Brown as we called him both.  His mom was a pure pit bull and he appeared to have some yellow lab in him as well.  He was a very gentle natured dog.  He had a silly look about him, sort of short and squat.  He would play fetch with his tennis ball for hours until he was exhausted and ready to pass out.  Unlike the other dogs that are occasionally defiant, Tanner was well behaved and at his happiest when he made us happy.  While Tanner wasn't a great hiking dog, he would go on daily walks about a mile long but he would cover three times that distance fetching his tennis ball nonstop on the walk.  Will miss you buddy and it won't be the same without you.

Growing up in Maine, Tanner was used to the snow and cold
Relaxing on his bed
With Tanner's death, I immediately felt compelled to hike a nearby mountain called Tanner Peak as a tribute.  Tanner Peak is a relatively small and inconspicuous mountain by Colorado standards.  But since it shared the name with our dog, it seemed appropriate to climb it.

The peak is in the relatively low Wet Mountains.  The Wet Mountains run parallel to the Sangre de Cristos a short distance and is the first mountain range rising from the plains west of Pueblo, just outside of Canon City.  The range just barely rises above treeline and tops out at 12,346' on Greenhorn Mountain.  Tanner Peak is near the northern end of the range at a lowly 9340' in elevation.

Don't let the lowly elevation of Tanner Peak be misleading.  It is still a respectable hike.  The trailhead, just south of Canon City, starts out around 5900'.  The roundtrip hike on the North Tanner Trail is more than 13 miles.  With numerous ups and downs along the way, the roundtrip hike gains nearly 4000' in elevation. 

My occasional hiking partner Drew has some familiarity hiking in the Wets and wanted to visit Tanner Peak, so we met at the trailhead and hiked together.  We started our hike around 830AM on Tuesday morning, two days before Thanksgiving.

The trailhead is just a few miles from Canon City.  Canon City is a warm spot in Colorado, calling itself "The Climate Capital of Colorado."  It's usually a good 20F warmer in Canon City compared to my house.  Canon City is also 2000' lower in eleveation. So when we started the hike it was fairly comfortable in the mid to upper 40s.  Unlike most higher mountain ranges that have snow at the trailheads by now, no winter attire was needed at the trailhead.

The start of our hike

The trail started out in scrubby terrain.  The vegetation is more high desert than mountain.  Most of
the trees were scrub oaks with plenty of cactus at the start of the hike.  The trail climbs out of the gate and has fairly loose footing.  The North Tanner Trail is also used by ATVs and dirt bikes and it shows at places.  The scenery wasn't too much different than the Arkansas Hills outside of Salida where I frequently mountain bike.  The scrub gave way to pinon and juniper and eventually stands of ponderosa.  The trail passed numerous rock formations along the way.  It didn't take long to get some commanding views of Pikes Peak, which isn't too far north.

one of the numerous gulches along the route
Pikes Peak beyond an outcropping
While the trail generally traveled uphill, there were a few sections where the trail lost modest elevation.  The warmth of the valley was lost as we climbed.  Certain sections along the way funneled the wind making it fairly chilly.

Another of the many outcroppings and cliffs
The trail was fairly gradual much of the way
Reminiscent of the scenery of Salida's Arkansas Hills
Scrub oaks are common
The scenery frequently changed from forest to scrubby growth.  Finally just below the summit we reached the crest of the Wet Mountains and then came the big views.  Just across the Wet Mountain Valley to the west  stand the mighty Sangre de Cristos in all there glory.  From the crest of the Wets you can see much of the Sangres from its northern most peaks near Salida all the way to the Blanca Group.  Once on the crest, it was an easy final climb to the summit of Tanner Peak. We made it to the summit in just over 2.5 hours.  The summit is marked with a large cairn that I joked was the Tanner Brown Memorial.

Doesn't look like much from the crest of the range but that is Tanner's
summit ahead on that rise
Wide shot taking in much of the Sangres
A closer look of the Central  Sangres
The Sangres north of Hayden Pass
Summit shot next to the Tanner Brown Memorial Cairn
The grandstand view of the Sangre de Cristos is what makes the hike to Tanner Peak worth the effort.  Between the two of us we were able to identify many of the summits in the range.  I was easily able to pick out Bushnell Peak and the Twin Sisters, my backyard summit in the northern part of the Sangres.  Beyond the Sangres, a few of the 14ers in the southern Sawatch Range are visible including Shavano, Antero, and Princeton.  Although I'm not positive, I think a rugged rocky canyon visible not too far in the distance below the summit was the Royal Gorge.  To the east the view is endless into the flat plains.  I don't know for sure but on such a clear day, it may be Kansas on the distant horizon.  Not much is identifiable to the east however apart from a few structures around Pueblo and Pueblo Reservoir. 

Another sweeping shot of the Sangres
Toward the southern end of the Sangres
The flat area between the snowy peaks is around Hayden Pass
Sangres from Hayden Pass to Hunts Peak
These are the peaks behind my house.  I live on the downslope
of the Twin Sisters and Bushnell Peak, the peaks on the center right
of the picture
Southern Sawatch Peaks
Despite the warm start to the hike in the lowlands, it was quite windy and chilly on the summit.  We lingered for 10 minutes to take in the views and snap some photos before heading back down.  With gravity helping us out, we made it back to the trailhead in about 2 hours.

Descending from the summit
I like the layers of this picture with the rocks nearby, the Wet
Mountain Valley, then the Sangres
Passing by another rock outcropping
Pikes Peak with Canon City visible in the foreground
Tanner Peak is a nice off season hike.  With its lower elevation and location in the warm Canon City region, the area gets much less snow than most Colorado mountains.  We only encountered a few tiny spots of snow in the shade.  This I'm sure has changed, since there was a decent snowfall just two days after our hike.  Canon City was been in the 50s consistently and clear since then so the lower elevations probably lost a bit of snow already.  Many of the trailheads to the higher mountain ranges are higher than Tanner's summit and much snowier.

I probably wouldn't hike Tanner Peak in the summer.  It seems like Canon City is routinely in the upper 90s and much of the hike is without shade.  It also seems like good habitat for rattlesnakes.  The trail also has plenty of wear from motorized users and there is probably more traffic from the ATVs and dirt bikes in the summer.  We, however, had the trail to ourselves the entire hike.

I will probably visit other peaks in the Wet Mountain Range this winter.  The conditions are not as harsh and there is very little avalanche risk in most of the range.  The views of the Sangres never get old and just for that reason I want to visit the Wets again.

As for Tanner Brown, you will be sadly missed.

Me with a young Tanner

A more recent picture with Tanner