Disconnecting, unplugging, getting lost, taking a moment…however you want to word it, vacations always give me a chance to reboot. Last summer, our vacation caused me to reboot so much that Dustin and I moved 700 miles to Colorado and completely changed the course of our lives. This year, nothing quite that life changing occurred, but all of us did get a chance to disconnect, yet reconnect.
Dustin and I love Colorado, but sometimes it is a lonely place. Making friends as you get older seems to require a lot of effort. Our closest friends from KC require no effort, and were such a sight for sore eyes when they pulled in the drive two Fridays ago. I’ve been looking forward to their visit for months. This year, they even brought Honey (their dog). I was excited to see her too! The dogs hung out, the four of us caught up, drank some beer and ate pizza. Last Friday night we grilled and stayed up late laughing and chatting. It was like nothing had changed and we were sitting in Missouri. It is nights like these that I miss the most.
Since this was Brooke and Matt’s vacation, we didn’t just sit around Fort Collins. We went and played in the mountains, all the while urging Brooke and Matt to make the same move we did. Sunday, we drove up Poudre Canyon, and found a place to lie our heads at Aspenglen Campground. Nestled next to Joe Wright Creek, the sound of the highway is drowned by the roar of the water. Mosquitoes were held at bay, and the clouds took a night off to reveal a sparkling sky. It was incredible to watch the stars twinkle. It is funny how a starry sky lets you ponder all possibilities.
Monday through Thursday we spent in the Rawah Wilderness, and Friday we spent in RMNP. Believe what you read, mosquitoes in Rawah are horrendous and very thirsty. Brooke, Matt and I had no fewer than 30 bites – that was wearing insect repellent. Mother Nature seems to require a bit of payment for her beautiful places, and if I had to sacrifice a little blood to revel in Rawah’s beauty, I happily obliged.
Monday we got a late start, and didn’t make it all the way to the lakes. We settled into the only dry ground we could find, and made camp for the night. We hoped for no rain since a little stream flowed right by the door of the tent. It wasn’t the most ideal spot, but Brooke and Matt’s lungs needed a break, not to mention Honey was pooped! We stopped one time for a quick break, and Honey girl didn’t want to put back on her dog pack. She was spent. It was interesting to notice the difference in Dustin and I’s lung capacity and tolerance for the altitude compared to last year. We really felt the effects of altitude on our lungs climbing Mt. Sopris, but this time the altitude didn’t seem to bother us as much.
Rain settled in on Tuesday and we spent most of the day under the two sportsman’s tarps. Matt and Dustin actually devised quite a sturdy shelter out of the rain, and it proved most useful for our days in Rawah.
The places to explore in the wilderness are numerous. Just in the small area we inhabited, we could venture to six lakes, and two more lakes were just over the ridge. It was an ideal setting for a base camp while taking day hikes. I could have spent many more days just exploring. Dustin and I took Wednesday morning to poke around and see what we could. We took in two more lakes, one which was still 90% frozen. That particular unnamed lake rested at 11,500 feet. The amount of snow still in the high country was remarkable. Not all of the snow will make it into the drainages this year…
Wildflowers were in full bloom, painting the landscape in vibrant colors of purple, pink, red and yellow. Marmots said hello quite often, bear scat and paw prints littered the ridge, and signs of elk were everywhere where the lush vegetation grew with a fury; the growing season will be quite short this year for plant and animal species alike.
The fishing – well I can say it was worth carrying the extra weight of fishing gear. We spent most of Wednesday afternoon and evening, catching brookie after brookie, even though these lakes were supposed to contain greenbacks. Unfortunately, it looks like the brook trout infiltrated and again outcompeted the greenback. Disappointing from a a native trout restoration perspective, but great fun from a fishing perspective. From Dustin and I’s experience, it seems brookies are much less finicky…and once you catch one, they just seem to keep coming. I like that kind of fishing!
Rawah had its fair share of challenges in store for us; we had three hairy river crossings, several snowfields, and threatening weather. Hikes that normally are day hikes, are much trickier considering the high water and lingering snow. Snow melted rapidly during the day, leading to higher creeks and rivers in the morning – keep that in mind if you plan to travel to Rawah this week.
The hike down always goes faster than the hike up, but I am starting to discover I like the climb rather than the descent. Hiking down the mountain takes a toll on the body – it hurts. Climbing the mountain doesn’t hurt like that! With that said, the trail was rather moderate. The wet conditions made it trickier than normal, but elevation gains are rather well spaced, and we only went through a few switchbacks. Pack animals are allowed, and the trail suffers from that. Deep ruts in the trail caused water to flow in some parts like a creek. Not that I have anything against pack animals, it is just that you can tell the trails where they are allowed. Their footprints make a much bigger footprint than ours…
Friday in RMNP, we traveled from the East side of the park to the West side of the park. The beetle kill on the west side is awful. Grand Lake hardly has a live tree standing. We did see where the park service has treated several areas with insecticide to help stop the beetle. This was Matt’s first time to the park, and I don’t think he was disappointed. We came back to FoCo, grilled and spent the last few hours together enjoying one another’s company. Saturday morning came too soon, and it was hard to watch our friends pull out of the drive. We didn’t want them to leave. I am counting down the days until we can all sit around and shoot the breeze again. Thanks guys for coming to visit!