Distance: 23.5 km
Elevation gain: 620 mView mapDownload GPS track
After missing a weekend hike last weekend we were a bit anxious to get out hiking today, but with a discouraging weather forecast and snow accumulating in the mountains we decided to stick to the front ranges. We chose Sentinel Peak as our destination, an easy hike and short ascent with a trailhead at the intersection of highways 532 and 940. Unfortunately a few hunters had set up camp at the start of the trail and footprints in the fresh snow indicated they were hunting right where we wanted to hike. I'm fine with hunting, but figured it best to avoid an area being actively hunted and so turned to plan B: An ascent of nearby Plateau Mountain, a hike that has been on my list for several years and which is also an ecological reserve, meaning we wouldn't meet any hunters there.
Plateau Mountain is a very unique mountain as the 2500 m summit is an enormous plateau several square kilometers in size. I've seen it from many other hikes - some very far away - and the flatness and sheer size of the plateau is impressive. Despite being an ecological preserve it is also an active oil and gas exploration and so a doubly-gated road runs all the way to the top. Occasionally the bottom gate is open and you can drive 4 km to the second gate, but today it was closed and we forced to hike the entire way.
The initial 5 km (and last 5 km too, of course) was a dull plod, but once above treeline the views improved significantly. The summit panorama to the west is very impressive with a huge number of prominent peaks visible. Previous hikes we've done, including Windy Peak Hills
, Pasque Mountain
, Raspberry Ridge
, Coyote Hills
, Junction Hill
, Mount Burke
, and Mist Mountain
were all visible from the plateau. I like summits like this as it's nice to see where I've been from a different perspective.
We also encountered the strangest group of rocky mountain sheep I've ever seen on the summit. We were following the road and they were about 150 m away as we passed, but instead of watching us warily or just ignoring us, several ewes started towards us. We ignored them and continued on, but when we passed them on our return they started towards us again, this time grunting and approaching to within perhaps 25 m as we moved quickly away. They were clearly chasing us from their very large corner of the plateau. Definitely odd behavior for sheep, at least in my experience.
The weather also improved in the early afternoon, briefly clearing for a few hours before clouding over again, just as predicted by the models on SpotWx.com
. While a steady wind kept things chilly, the sun improved our moods and highlighted the scenery nicely. Another great day in the mountains during the best fall weather we've had since we moved here in 2008!