Published: August 3rd 2010
August 3rd 2010
It is difficult to explain to those who have never seen, the beauty, wilderness, and vastness of the Rocky Mountains. Ten years ago Daddy took us to Rocky Mountain National Park for the first time. We backpacked into the back country of RMNP, carrying everything we would need for the next several days in our aluminum frame backpacks. We ended our trip by climbing Flattop Mountain. We were 17, 15, and 12 years old. We had never done anything like it, but Daddy never doubted we would be able to. We were in love.
Ten years later, our family has grown by a few. Joined by Nick and Wes, we all set out for Colorado ready for 8 days of camping, cooking, hiking, and reveling in the majesty of the Rocky Mountains.
As we drove into the park, everything was shrouded in a thick fog and wet drizzle. Although we knew they were there looming, the mountains were completely invisible. Our old friends, who had for years greeted us, stood silent and hidden.
Wes and Abbey had driven out a day ahead of us, so when we arrived at our campsite in Moraine Park Campground, camp was already set
up! This was a treat as anyone who has ever camped knows that the most tedious part of camping is setting up and taking down camp. The rain stopped and the sun peeked out just long enough for our inaugural hike. We have a little tradition that we "try out our boots" on a short trail that we like near the campground. We are always so excited to be there that we can hardly wait to tie up our boots and hike to those old rocks. Whenever I climb on these rocks I think of all the times before that we have climbed up on these rocks. I imagine my hand and boot prints from every year that we have been coming here.
That night Abbey and Wes treated us all to an amazing dinner of pizza pudgie pies and chocolate banana marshmallow pudgie pies for dessert :)
We all slept snugly in Daddy's huge tent (the tent has closets, that's how huge it is). On our first night, it rained most of the night. Everyone was thrilled to wake up to the sun the next morning and steam rising off of everything as clothes, tents, trees, and earth
dried. We are always up early when we camp, but never scrimp on breakfast. Scrambled eggs with sausage, peppers, and hot coffee were ready as we stumbled one by one out of the tent. Our first hike was to Lake Odessa. We camped at this lake ten years ago on our backpacking trip. We all remembered this site particularly well because it was the site where "the Mountain Man" lived. Ten years ago when we camped at Odessa we found several strange items in and around the campsite: a bag of tobacco, a pipe, a hat and a half empty bottle of whiskey. If you have never hiked in an area like RMNP, you must understand that it is rather rare to see objects left by humans. It is a common understanding among campers and hikers that we "Leave No Trace", so to see so many man-made items in the middle of the woods was quite unusual. Naturally we made up a whole story about how a rogue hiker gone mad (The Mountain Man) had made his home at this campsite and that he was probably watching from a nearby boulder field, waiting for us to leave. This year, as
we approached the site, recounting all the details of the Mountain Man, we came across a hat and some water bottles. Evidence that the Mountain Man lives on!
Day two was quite possibly everyone's favorite hike. Since we had two cars at the campsite, we decided to do a one-way hike, starting on the tundra up on Trail Ridge Road, and hiking down to Beaver Meadow and back to our campsite. The Ute Trail is well above the tree line and cuts across the alpine tundra. At first glance the tundra appears to be bald and barren, but if you look closely it is filled with a diversity of flora and fauna. As an adaptation to the extreme conditions and short growing seasons, all the plants and flowers of the tundra have evolved to be tiny. Miniature "pin-cushions" of moss, tiny phlox and alpine sunflowers are everywhere. It is important to stay on the trail, as everything is extremely delicate and fragile on the tundra. Our hike included a visit from two large elk who could not have cared less about us. They grazed peacefully as we passed on tip toe. We also had some of the most
spectacular vistas from up there. As the hike gradually declined into a rather sharp decline, everyone's knees were complaining from the constant downhill pounding. This part of the hike was a little less enjoyable, but the first part made it worth while. We stayed up for a while after dinner that night to watch the stars come out. Although I always feel exhausted from hiking, I am suddenly wide awake when those Rocky Mountain stars fill the sky. * * *
On day three we decided to hike to Yipsilon Lake. This was a hike that none of us had done before. The hike was challenging but beautiful and took as past a small lake called Chipmunk Lake. When we hike to a lake, getting there is always the best part. The weather was beautiful and we were able to spend a few hours enjoying a lunch of GORP (Good Ol Raisins and Peanuts), relaxing, napping, and exploring. There was a waterfall near the lake, where we climbed a little way up but decided to save our energy for the hike back. Note: There is an excellent napping tree at Yipsilon shaped like a recliner which I have named
"The Lazy Boy".
The Yipsilon hike marked the end of the trip for Abbey and Wes who headed home Sunday morning. They had plans to visit some of Colorado's best brewerys on the way home. This also marked the beginning of our backpacking trip! After saying our goodbye's to Abbey & Wes, we set about preparing to go out on trail. This was quite a process... First we had to drive into Estes Park to rent "Bear Canisters". Backpackers are no longer allowed to hang "Bear Bags" in trees, and must store all food, garbage, toiletries (smellables as we call them) in heavy duty plastic barrels that are thought to be bear proof. This strategy is meant to protect bears, as it prevents them from getting into hikers' food and being labeled as "nuisances". Once a bear is considered a problematic critter, it is usually killed. It's sad because this cycle is mostly due to careless hikers and campers who bait and feed bears, or simply don't take the time to store their smellables in a safe place. Bears can recognize a cooler in the back seat of a car and since they have learned that cooler=food, they will
break into the car and have a splendid picnic. I wonder how long until they learn that plastic bear canister=food...
We took about an hour packing and organizing our packs with everything we would need to survive for the next four days. Clothes, rain gear, sleeping bags, tents, water filtration pump, water bottles, maps, first aid kit, food, stove, and cookware all went into one of four backpacks. With all our supplies packed, and each backpack weighing about 40 pounds, we hit the trail....
To Be Continued...
There are more photos below