Monday, November 28, 2011

Rawah Wilderness

 Poudre River canyon.

The Rawah Wilderness is a couple hours west of Fort Collins.  Most of the drive over there is up the gorgeous Poudre Canyon. I had never been there before, but can't wait to go back.  I think the river canyons are quickly becoming my favorite part of Colorado. Unfortunately, the Poudre wasn't why we were there. We were on our way to the Medicine Bow Trail which we hoped would be a two night camping trip.
 The Rawah Wilderness.

 Meandering through the aspen trees.

Our first day, we got in pretty late in the afternoon after watching Sammy tear it up in the Discathon event at the Overall Disc World Championships. I believe he ended up finishing 2nd. Second in the world. Not many people get to say that.  For our late start, KLS and I were just hoping to get a couples hours in from the trail head.  It was a nice meander through the woods with a few mosquitoes.  Before the light faded, we found a great campsite with a nice view of a meadow. As we were setting up, the mosquitoes went from pesky to marauding.  Hundreds, thousands, and millions of mosquitoes.  I have never seen so many mosquitoes in my life.  There were so many biting us that even Sabah got sick of it.  She started sprinting just to get them off of her. Even with that, so many fed on Sabah that her mouth swelled up for two days. YIKES!  We settled into bed to get away from them pretty quick.

 Our first campsite in the Rawah wilderness.

 If you've hiked with Sabah, you know her brilliant pounce!

The next morning, our mosquito friends were still ready to break bread and skin with us. We hoped the day would go well. It was cold, but the sky was clear. It warmed up quickly as the day wore on and we climbed in elevation.  We started entering meadows, going back to the woods, and then back to the meadows.  Unfortunately, we lost the trail in one of these woods. After searching for 30 minutes, we still could not find the trail. If there were not so many mosquitoes, we might have searched longer.  However, our patience wore out and we opted to go back and take another trail that would be an out and back instead of a loop. As we got ready to turn back, my body decided it was not going to wait to use the bathroom. I wandered off into the woods, pretending that I could get away from the mosquitoes, and happened to find the trail!

Sabah's ears looking like they do in this photo is why I ended up adopting her (Thanks, Viv!)

 Colorado wildflowers. The oranges ones are Indian paintbrushes. I can't remember what the purples ones are.

 Sabah taking a break by the wildflowers.

We continued to climb in elevation and the trail continued in and out of meadows. There was still snow in large parts of the woods which hid the trail from us. It was frustrating. One time, we couldn't find it so we just used the topography map to get us where we were going.  It was great to use the map and end up finding a cairn to let us know we had refound the way.  Relieved, we continued onward. However, the trail didn't seem right. We seemed to be going the wrong direction. As it turned out, we missed our the short cut turn while we were using the topo map to get us back to the trail. We had not decided if we were going the long or short route yet, but we had hoped to have the choice.

 Non-existent markers or markers like this on the ground are part of the reason we lost the trail

Our hike went mountain top meadow to mountain top meadow.

 Sabah does whatever it is that Sabah does.

 KLS strikes a pose.

 The beauty of the Rawah wilderness.

The new trail followed a ridge and then dropped into a valley heading southeast. We lost the trail AGAIN. OK, at this point, you need to ask if we were inept. We might be. KLS has only done a few hiking trips, but I can't remember the last time I got lost on a overnight trip. This last time, we lost it because of melted snow. We were going cairn to cairn without any problems when suddenly they disappeared.  Our best guess is that they were underwater. In August, there was still snow melting into the basin from our big winter.  That snow led to lakes and creeks that were not on the map.  After spending the better part of an hour going in circles around the last cairn we found, we sat down to fight the mosquitoes and make a choice. Do we head back and look for the trail turn we missed?  Do we just go all the way back the way we came?  Do we keep looking?  Sabah decided on her own option of just sprinting as fast as she could away from us for about a half mile. She had a mental freak out about the mosquitoes. Man, they were so bad. For those of you who have been to New Zealand, they were worse than the sand flies.

 A mountain in the Rawah wilderness.

 The snow in the basin that indirectly helped us lose our trail.

The trail we wanted would go 2-3 miles southeast and then turned to the north.  It was late afternoon and we had time so we opted to keep looking in a different way.  The sun was clearly in the west and we could use it to guide us east in hopes of finding the north-south trail. If we missed it, there was a road two miles beyond it.  We signed up for a pretty big slog. The first part was downhill over fallen trees. Then, we had to cross a marshy area that soaked our shoes. The soaking was frustrating, but probably good for when we had to cross the rushing creek that was moving fast enough we crossed one at a time and kept Sabah on leash. Then, more marsh and finally going back up the hill across more fallen trees.  At some point, we were using the topo map to narrow in on where we were and thought we were close. About a quarter mile later, we reached the top of a hill and KLS spotted rocks that clearly marked the trail we were looking for.  We were elated.

 A huge fungi. I wish we had put a foot beside it to show you just how big it is.

It was still late afternoon and we had been through a lot. We just wanted to find a good campsite and some water.  When we finally got to a stream, we filled a couple bottles but not all of them. The map showed another stream in just another mile. That next stream never came.  The stream we had crossed was a seasonal one, probably draining the lakes that also weren't on our map.  When we didn't cross that next stream after a couple hours, I didn't want to risk grabbing one of the campsites we saw with no water nearby and almost none in our bottles.  I was running out of mental steam, but KLS picked up the slack.  After 2-3 hours, we finally found that next stream (which was the first one on the map). It was dusk. We filled up all of our bottles and started looking for campsites. We were having trouble finding one.

This is one of the last few cairns we found to mark the trail. Sabah was doing her best to help, but we just couldn't find anymore even though they had been close enough that you can see two in this photograph.  Perhaps the best part of this photograph is that it is the last one I took. After this, the trip got a little more serious and I wasn't thinking about taking photos but getting us where we needed to be safely.

As our eyes adjusted to darkness, we kept moving and talked about just walking out that night. The mosquitoes had not let up and we had had enough mental challenges to wear us out.  We didn't commit either way, but kept it in mind.  Shortly after, we found the second stream. At this point, we were 1-2 miles from the car and it was dark.  With a little help from Sabah, we were able to keep moving forward.  We still weren't finding any campsites, so we kept walking.  Finally, when we were about two hundred yards from the car, Sabah ran off. She realized we were back at the car and went to lay beside it. She was done. We were done. 

We hopped in the car and drove to Fort Collins. We considered camping along the Poudre that I liked so much on the way up, but we were terrified that its water might bring the mosquitoes which had been tormenting us.  I know it is running water so there should not be too many, but we were so done with them that we refused to risk it. We just went all the way into town where EVERY single hotel and motel (the cheapest and most expensive) were booked. Why?  Cheyenne Frontier Days was happening in Cheyenne, WY. You might think it odd that another state's event would effect Colorado, but Cheyenne is a small city. They don't have the infrastructure for all the people that come so it spills over into Fort Collins, over an hour away.  We slept in the car. 

Overall, we can both say this trip turned out well even though it was less of an adventure and more of an ordeal.  Some of our ordeal was caused by bad choices. Some of it was caused by bad luck.  However, that did not matter. We kept our cool.  Neither one of us lost it and the trip brought us together instead of dividing us.  This trip definitely made sure that KLS passes Meg's camping test.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Lost Creek Wilderness Loop (July 4th, 2011)

This one is for William Tinus.

The Lost Creek Wilderness is located about 2 hours southwest of Denver. When Jay came to visit in 2006, we did an overnight hike in the area, but my friend Charley said we had not reached the best part. I put it on my list to get back to.

Lost Creek Wilderness sign

This past July 4th, I finally made it back.  The plan was to take KLS out on her first multi night backpacking trip.  We weren't sure if we were going to do the bigger or smaller loop. We were going to decide on the way depending on how we were feeling.

Hayman fire damage on the way to the Lost Creek Wilderness

On the way there, you drive through the area that was destroyed during the Hayman fire, Colorado's largest wildfire. It is terrible how the forest can be destroyed so quickly, but amazing to see its charred remains scattered among the first shrubs growing back.

Pine(?) tree branch and cone.

We started hiking from the Goose Creek trail head around 8am and opted to go clockwise around the loop and I highly recommend anyone else do the same because of the descent on McCurdy Park Trail toward Goose Creek Trail on the northwest part of the loop from the T-intersection with McCurdy Trail.  I know we descended for almost an hour and I can't imagine how long it would take to get up. It probably isn't as bad as I think, but when I go back, I'm going counterclockwise again.

Up to the top of our loop.

Anyway, at 10am, we hit the junction of the Lake Park Trail with Hankins Pass. We switched onto Lake Park and we had my first major bout with mosquitoes in Colorado. I've certainly found a few before, but only a couple, not enough to require bug repellent.  The melt water from the big winter had given them a lot of extra water to reproduce in. In this part, we finally left the aspens and started climbing up to a dryer area without any mosquitoes. By noon, we reached the high point of the hike around 11758'.  (Future reference, there is a great dry camping spot here IF you pack in enough water.). Take the time to explore here.

Descending into the best part of our Lost Creek loop (on the north part of the McCurdy Park Trail).

You take the high road, she'll swim the low.

At 2pm, we hit the crossroads to decide if we were going to take the long or short way. I can't remember the reasons, but probably to be safe since it was the first outing of the season, we went with the short route.  Future note: there was a little bit of water just before the intersection and that was the last water we saw for 3-4 hours.  After the crossroads, we started a LONG, LONG descent. It rained, but luckily we stayed pretty dry in the woods.  Once you clear the woods, you begin the BEST part of this hike. 

Sabah is not happy about her photo shoot!

It was neat to have seen this pyramid rock almost an hour earlier from a view point and then descend to it.
More great rock formations. Granite?

I don't think anything but being there can convey the best part of this hike. Around 5pm, we crossed our first creek since the last trail intersection and it would make a great campsite.  I hope to make it back there one day.  It was early though, so we kept going. Around 6pm, we finally pulled into our campsite for the night. We were at one of the spots where Lost Creek rises back above ground. It is a stunning spot, that I managed to not take a single great photo of. You basically walk down a slope coming from either side to the creek and it opens up around the water surrounded by a few great rock formations. The only bad part about this campsite was trying to find a good tree to hang your food bag from.

The Lost Creek campsite, I think.

Sabah looking for something at our Lost Creek campsite.

Aspen trees.

The next morning, we got moving again through the beautiful terrain.  I think we were moving by 7am. In this area, you start to pass through some dense woods. I think a number of them were aspen trees.  We turned right on the Goose Creek trail at 8:30am and continued to be amazed the scenery.  At 10am, we took a side trip. The one hour detour took us to an old mine, abandoned buildings, and a dense set of rock formations. I'm not sure, but it seemed like you could only walk in the way we did (trail or not) and was very isolated.  If you were willing to dry camp, I think it would a great spot. The walk to the creek might be a mile. The main trail has a number of great campsites, but it is also more crowded. The closer we got to the car, the more people we saw.  We saw enough people and decided that we decided to just head out that day. We were back at the car by 1pm and on our way home.

Abandoned building on out side trip.

I had wanted to go camping for two nights, but near the end my head just wasn't in it. It is has always been a weird mental state for me. I love being out in the woods, but when I am close to car, I am always excited to get back home. With so many people around and 26 miles under our belt, I was very happy to get home and take a nap.

Columbine flower.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Grass is Always Greener

This is just a quick post to share what someone emailed me recently that they had found. This passage resonated with me because I experienced some of these thoughts while traveling and tried to write about in on here a few times. Thanks for sharing, Nancy.

"I pulled On The Road off the shelf and found myself reading it between classes, and at that time in my life it was exactly what I craved, exactly what I needed to hear. I thought, “That’s the way, that’s the ideal life, that’s great. You get in a car and you drive and you see your friends and you end up in a city for a night and you go out drinking and you catch up and you share these really intense experiences. And then you’re on the road and you’re doing it again.” The romance of the road, particularly from Kerouac’s work, encapsulated how I wanted to live. I found a way to do it by being a musician, which is what I always wanted to be. The traveling and the being on tour and being away from home set a precedent for me where I thought, “Oh yeah, this is how it works.”

But then in reading Big Sur, it’s the end of the road. You end up with a series of failed relationships and you end up being an alcoholic and in your late 30s, and not having any kind of real grip on the lives of the people around you. That’s the potential other end of the spectrum when you’re never tied to anybody or anything. I run the risk of losing touch with the people in my life that mean the most to me because I have made the decision to live like this."

-Ben Gibbard (of Death Cab for Cutie) in Paste magazine (10 April 2008).

Friday, September 02, 2011

The Pup, part 2

Sabah burrito.

Watching for rabbits at KLS' house.

Cooling off in Moab.

Checking out the local wildlife in Boulder.

Friday, July 08, 2011

The Pup

Looking out the window for rabbits at KLS' place.

Cooling off in a water run off drain along the Boulder Creek about three miles out of Boulder.

Sabah's new ride.

Probably about to pounce on something . . .

The leftovers after scoop/drinking some water in the Boulder Creek.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Moab, UT

Sunrise on the flatirons in Boulder, CO. This was the view on Sabah and mine morning walk everyday . . .

Unless there was fresh snow on the flatirons in Boulder, CO

This is really a post to just share some photos. The first couple are from when I was living in Boulder. The next set are from Moab. I have been there as a hiker, but never as a mountain biker. It is a mountain biking mecca. Before I went, I had heard a lot about two trails: Slickrock and Porcupine Rim.

Moab sunset from our first campsite.

Sabah is basking in the morning light.

A view from Slickrock trail.

The Slickrock trail is basically petrified sand dunes.

Sabah tries to cool off after chasing a rabbit for a half mile.

The first ride we did was Slickrock. It is basically petrified sand dunes. There is no dust to spin out on. There aren't very many technical rocky sections. If you struggle or have to get off the bike, it will be because you are going up some huge hills. I loved this ride. It was a 10-12 mile lollipop. It ended up taking quite a while. Sabah decided to tucker herself out early by sprinting after a bunny for a half a mile. Then, on the way back we were battling the wind. Note for later: The trail surface is basically sandpaper on dog's feet. Sabah didn't know it, but she should have been really happy to have her doggy shoes.

The other trail that we did was Porcupine Rim. The top part of the trail is why I think this trail is famous. You are 5-10 feet from a ledge that drops hundreds of feet straight down. Also, the view is incredible. After the top part, it was fire road and a lot of fun, dusty single track. Ignoring the view, I thought it was pretty similar to a lot of Colorado rides. At the end of the ride, you descend back to the road. However, the view is amazing as you get you closer and closer to the Colorado River. Great stuff. Fun pictures.

The view from Porcupine Ridge trail.

A view of the Colorado River from Porcupine Rim trail.

A technical section on Porcupine Rim.