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From Sunset to Sunrise

July 24, 2013

I had a big Colorado first this past weekend: my first hut trip.  There are a series of huts spread across the mountains of Colorado, many of them managed by the 10th Mountain Division Hut Association, that can be rented for backcountry ski touring and hiking trips.  Now in my opinion the 10th Mountain Division plays fast and loose with the term “hut,” because this is the structure we pulled up to on Friday evening:

Fowler/Hilliard Hut

With that stonework, the Fowler/Hilliard Hut (named in honor of a man and woman who died in a climbing accident in the 1980s) is nicer than a lot of houses in which I’ve stayed.  It lacks modern amenities like indoor plumbing and electricity (although there are solar-powered lights and propane cook-tops), but I still felt funny calling this beauty a hut.  I’ll give you a full description of the hut trip experience in a subsequent post, but for now I wanted to show you our digs.

We’d driven up about 8 miles of dirt 4-wheel-drive roads above Camp Hale to access the hut, which sat at about 11,000 ft., and arrived just in time to glimpse the last of this spectacular sunset.

Sunset from Fowler Hilliard

We spent the evening getting to know our companions for the weekend (the hut group of 16 consisted of friends, friends of friends and friends of friends of friends, all of whom turned out to be a lot of fun), playing drinking games, making s’mores and laughing our faces off.  I slept horribly that night, but I didn’t mind at all because it made it easy to wake up and cross one more item off my 30 Before 30 list in addition to the hut trip itself – watching the sun rise from the top of a mountain.


To get the best view, I hiked up to the top of a rocky outcropping sticking out above our hut and facing east.

Mountain Sunrise

Now, I must say it was a tiny bit anti-climactic, only because by the time the sun was high enough to crest the mountain across from me, it was pretty darn light out.  So it wasn’t as dramatic as sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean when the morning emerges from darkness, but it was still jaw-droppingly beautiful.

Sunrise over the Gore Range

Watching the soft morning light illuminate the jagged Gore Range was pretty amazing.

Mountaintop Sunrise

I loved welcoming the morning sun all by myself.  I’d initially tried to recruit company, but there didn’t seem to be any takers when I snuck out of the hut at 6 a.m., and as I relaxed on the rocks I must admit that I was a little bit glad.

Sunrise Shadow

It was a wonderfully peaceful way to start the day, and the sheer beauty all around me made any of the minor stresses I’ve been dealing with lately seem insignificant.  The mountains have an amazing way of putting things in perspective for me.

Sunrise Statue

I did feel like I had a little bit of company, however, from the rock formation above that looked so much like a person sitting in a chair to me.


When the sun finally crested the mountaintop, my shadow and I did a little celebration dance.

Sunrise Dance

Sunrise Dance

From there, I hiked around, enjoying the beauty of the morning light all around me.

Hut Sunrise

Mountaintop Sunrise

As I hiked around the rocky outcropping, I came across some really interesting geology.  These rocks made me wish I knew more than to understand that something crazy must have happened here a long, long time ago!

Sunrise Geology

Sunrise Geology

With the sun climbing high overhead, I decided to head back to the hut to see if anyone was awake and quiet my rumbling tummy.  On the way, I passed through these wildflowers that I hadn’t noticed earlier in my haste to catch the sunrise.

Sunrise Wildflowers

I was lucky enough to find one of my hut-mates up, moving and making coffee.  It was only Starbucks VIA, but in this gorgeous setting it might as well have been premium French Roast.

Hut Trip Coffee

While sitting on the front porch quietly chatting, this family of deer walked right by our doorstep and didn’t seem the slightest bit put-off by our presence.

Deer on the Hut trip

Having already spent a couple of hours on my own welcoming the day, I was more than ready to get the fun started with the rest of our crew.

Kicked Back at the Hut

At that point I kicked back on our fantastic porch with a breakfast burrito and the other early risers and waited for the rest of my friends to wake up for high-altitude adventures – stay tuned for more recaps from our amazing hut trip!

13 Comments leave one →
  1. July 24, 2013 10:53 am

    Beautiful sunrise- I’m impressed you got up and got out to it! Sometimes enjoying nature alone has a mysterious calmness to it 🙂

    • July 24, 2013 12:06 pm

      Not gonna lie… I was a little impressed with myself too! It helped that it was hot and stuffy in the hut so I kept waking up on my own – when I could finally see twilight outside I figured I might as well get out of bed and go enjoy it and I’m SO glad I did. Well put – there was definitely a mysterious calmness to being out there alone with just the sun and the mountains, and one big marmot 🙂

  2. July 27, 2013 6:05 am

    This post is what your site is all about! I now have a new reason to visit Colorado! Thanks for the inspiration and info!

    • July 27, 2013 9:10 am

      Thank you so much! And you definitely should plan a visit with a summer hut trip on the agenda. There’s something so magical about waking up high in the mountains surrounded by nothing but stunning views. You’d love it!

  3. Jamie permalink
    July 27, 2013 7:13 am

    This looks like the kind of camping even I would like! 🙂 Love this post! xoxo

  4. July 27, 2013 9:50 pm

    These are just such amazing pictures! My husband is more of a beach person, so most of our sunrise/sunset pics are taken at a beach. I hope we can make it to Colorado in the near feature.

    • July 27, 2013 11:12 pm

      Thank you so much! There’s definitely nothing wrong with the beach (in fact I’d love to go to one soon), but there’s definitely something special about sunrise and sunset in the mountains. I hope you make it out here before too long!


  1. Hut Hut Hike | Peaks and Passports
  2. 30 Before 30 | Peaks and Passports
  3. Machine Gun Ridge Hike and Farewell to the Hut | Peaks and Passports
  4. So, What’s a Hut Trip? | Peaks and Passports
  5. My “Peaks” of 2013 – Year in Review | Peaks and Passports

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