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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Rocky Mountain National Park

Some national parks have long waiting lists for camping reservations. When you have to wait a year to sleep next to a tree, something is wrong. ~George Carlin

We just got into Colorado Springs, Colorado after spending a day and a night in Rocky Mountain National Park. The park is beyond description, 14000 foot peaks all around you, covered in 20 feet (yes thats FEET) of snow with hurricane force winds whipping spindrift off the tops and 100 foot Ponderosa Pine forests, rivers, streams, ponds and lakes. The park has all the wildlife....Bighorn Sheep, Elk, Bear, Mountain Lion and Mule Deer, Beaver, Pikas and Chimpmonks. Black and white magpies and bright blue Stellar Jays everywhere! When we first got there we drove up as high as was allowed because most the roads in the highcountry are closed all winter dues to heavy snows. We drove up to Bear Lake and took a short hike but we did not have snowshoes, so going very far was out of the question. The sights were still out of this world and we soon drove back down to lower elevations, made camp and packed some gear to go out on a day hike. In this country even a day hike requires you to bring the 10 Essentials (map, compass, first aid, extra clothes, rain gear, shelter, hat/gloves, sunscreen, food and water). You never know what can happen in remote areas like this and a simple twisted ankle or wrong turn and you could be facing a night or two in the woods. Forget the stuff they show in those fake survival shows, going into the backcountry without proper gear and knowledge is inexcusable. I would not like to have to face a rescue team coming in to retrieve my butt and them seeing that I didnt even have the sense to bring a warm jacket or water! This kind of thing happens all the time and those idiots should have to pay for their own rescue costs! We hiked the Cub Lake trail but did not reach the lake because we started too late and it was tough going, not being acclimated to the 9000 foot elevations. We decided to turn around and make it out of the woods before it got dark. That was a good plan because we did not  know at that time that 50-60 MPH winds would be ripping through our camp that night. When we got back to camp we made a quick dinner and were soon safe and snug in our trusty winter tent and warm down sleeping bags. We had trouble sleeping at first I think due to the elevation as we were sure tired enough after our hike, but the moon was full and it never really got dark. With the moonlight and the deep bright snow you could have walked into the surrounding woods without even a headlamp! Soon the winds starting picking up and the tall Ponderosa pines were soon swaying back and forth about 10-15 feet I would guess and the noise it made in the trees and on our tent made it hard to fall alseep. The winds kept building all night and in the morning we found our camp chairs were not where we left them and the covers for them were never found! Our trusty little REI winter tent is made for this kind of weather and it was rock solid the whole night and had seen this kind of wind before in Guadalupe National park in far west Texas. I felt sorry for anyone else camping that night with a Walmart tent. When we packed up camp and headed down the mountain into Estes Park this morning we noticed a guy in one of those "pop up" trailer tents trying to anchor the whole thing to the ground with a huge rope and some stakes! We stopped at the Visitor's Center on the way out to buy some postcards and a sticker for our cartop box and the lady Ranger told me that the Bear Lake area where we were yesterday recieved 37 inches of fresh snow last night and the winds up there were even worse. RIght now we are in Colorado Springs and just found out that Pikes Peak's summiit that we hoped to go up to tomorrow is closed at 13000 feet due to blowing snow and avalanches. Now we are trying to come up with Plan B.

Toesox looking out to 14000FT Long Peak

Elk in the Moraine Meadow

Toesox at one of the beaver ponds

Camp cook...."Death from Within"

Toesox heading for the Continental Divide

Farkus guarding camp in bear country

Bear Scat and Ponderosa Pine Tea!

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