Tag Archives: hiking

Feeling at home in Arches National Park

Next up: Arches National Park!

Previous posts:

And so it begins…to Aspen

Bear Necessities

Leaving Aspen…Good Riddance

Moving Along

No Such Thing as a Dead Horse

Day 9 of our trip, according to the itinerary. We finished up looking at Canyonlands National Park and Dead Horse State Park and hit the road back towards Moab. It’s about 30 minutes to Moab, which is right near Arches National Park. We decided to make a quick coffee/gelato stop in Moab first before heading back into the wilderness. We also wanted to check email and things like that. In this day and age, it’s hard to go 3 weeks without responding to people, so at least every couple of days we needed to check in! And honestly, after a few straight days of only talking to each other, it’s nice to look at other stuff Smile We had an “incident” later where we’d asked a restaurant if they had wi-fi and the woman said, somewhat self-righteously, “no, we don’t, you’ll just have to talk to each other.” Haha, right? Except get over yourself, we’d been doing nothing but talking to each other for 3 days, and you work in a deserted tourist area where maybe people need to check in for work or just to let their friends and family know they are still alive. But I digress.

We finished up our gelato at a delightful shop that DID have wi-fi and then drove up to Arches. We needed to stop by the visitor’s center to pick up tickets for a ranger led tour we were doing the following day, and whoa, the center was packed! It was a definite change from Canyonlands and Colorado National Monument. We knew Arches was more popular (I guess the beauty is more obvious and you can see more within 10 feet of your car?) but it was still a bit of culture shock.

We had a reservation at Devil’s Garden campground, which was at the very back of the park, about a 20 mile drive, so our plan was to slowly head there while stopping and seeing what interested us. We had the whole day in the park the following day so we knew we’d get to do most of things we wanted.

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Since blogging about this trip has, more than ever, become entirely ridiculous and overwhelming YET I know that I will want this all down in writing to look back at in the future…I’m going to do a lot of photo sharing!

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Many of the rock formations are named. This was called the Three Gossips.

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We took a short walk to get closer to Balanced Rock. The mountains in the background are spectacular. Another thing that really struck us both was how different Arches looked than Canyonlands and Dead Horse even though they are relatively close to each other. What a crazy planet we live on!

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The advent of digital cameras makes this sort of ridiculousness easier. Louie, holding up Balanced Rock.IMG_5739

Seriously, what is this madness??

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Various arches. After checking into the campground we set up the tent and then went on a hike that left from the end of the campground. Oh, we’d hoped to buy firewood to have a fire since we hadn’t been able to for a few days, but they were out! The camp hosts were really great though and told us we could stop by their site and have a few pieces, so we did that. We also found out the campground had had lots of flash flooding the night before, just like at Dead Horse and we were warned to be aware of where we set up our tent. Apparently this was “monsoon season” and flash floods were somewhat common, though the night before had been much more than usual, and some campsites were washed away. We made sure to stake our tent carefully.

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Every arch had a name, but I am bad with names. I think this was Broken Arch though. We also might have seen Tapestry Arch. The hike was a little hard to figure out at first, because it was lots of cairn following, but we managed! We almost got lost at more than one point, but did I mention that it was a lovely cool day in the desert so we probably wouldn’t have died. Just kidding, we only weren’t sure which turn to take and were never too far off from being correct.IMG_5756

This is the view of our campground. Devil’s Garden Campground is one of the most beautiful National Park Campgrounds that I’ve ever seen. Our site (Site 018) was gorgeous too, even though we had trouble finding a flat spot to set up the tent.

Anyway, we finished the hike and then went to relax at our campsite and make dinner.

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We had a lovely fire and relaxed. At one point a small fox (we found out it was a kit fox) came through our campsite, just like one had at Dead Horse! This time we were sort of ready, and Louie took a short video. It was dark though, and you can’t see much. We made a lot of jokes about how the fox didn’t say anything.

We decided to try to wake up to watch the sunrise. We had an amazing view from the tent, and figured this was the time!

Even though I hadn’t slept great because the tent was more slanted than we’d realized and I kept sliding off the pad (oops) I was happy to be awake to get this picture! We also saw several deer who walked non-chalantly through the campsite. It was a beautiful site, but unfortunately we had to move to a different one for the next night (same campground) so after watching the sunrise and breakfast, it was time to pack up. As usual…

Next up: Fiery Furnace, Delicate Arch and more storms!

Nights camping: 7

Miles hiked (estimate): 37

No Such Thing as a Dead Horse

 

Or is it, the only good horse is a dead horse? I get all those sayings mixed up.

And so it begins…to Aspen

Bear Necessities

Leaving Aspen…Good Riddance

Moving Along

(Previous blog posts about my August 2016 road trip)

Louie and I headed to Moab next. We had three nights booked in the area, unfortunately all at different campsites. The first night was at Dead Horse State Park. (I’d wanted 3 nights at the Devil’s Garden Campground in Arches National Park, but I booked too late. I got two nights there but different campsites…)

We drove via 70 west and then route 128, per a wonderful ranger’s recommendation. Google tells you to take a slightly different route, but we were told this was the scenic route, and that was true! It was a gorgeous drive with lots of stopping for pictures.

Right off the bat, the difference between Utah and Wyoming seemed to be that while there were no restaurants/services for miles in Utah, there were lots of other cars. Maybe because in Utah we were actually within 1-2 hours of various national parks, but Wyoming just seemed so much more desolate once you got off any interstate, except right near the Tetons and Yellowstone. But I digress.

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Our road traveled alongside the Colorado River. The theme of this part of the trip was definitely, stuff the Colorado River has helped make.

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We watched scenes like this for an hour. More, really, when you consider that for the next 7-10 days we’d be in this sort of country.

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Louie has tons of pictures of me on his camera, but he’s not as prompt at uploading them to his computer as I am. Therefore, in approximately a year you can see them!

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We decided to eat lunch in Moab, since we hadn’t been in a town for some time. Well at least since the day before…in any case, what I was really craving was fresh vegetables, so we found a place called Peace Tree Juice Café and I got a tuna wrap with lots of lettuce and cucumbers, and then we split a delicious espresso milkshake. It was HOT in Moab, and eating ice cream or gelato became a daily habit…Louie realized after a few days that eating ice cream was making him have a mid-afternoon crash, but I still maintain it was worth it.

We got some supplies in town and then headed to Dead Horse State Park. Moab is a town of about 8000 located near Arches National Park. Dead Horse and Canyonlands National Park (Islands in the Sky District) are about 30 minutes away and receive way less visitors. We set up our tent at the park in a lovely site (KA03) with a gorgeous view—the picnic table had a cover as well and some cabinets to store things in—not bearproof, but critter proof.

This sign was in the bathroom (single stall with lights and fans and they flushed!) We’d already had a raven or magpie eat part of a sandwich so we knew.

Then we headed to Canyonlands, which took 10-15 minutes tops. We’d hoped to do a hike but the sky looked really ominous, like it was going to storm. We could see that it was storming in the distance, and I for some reason started getting really concerned about flash floods. Really it all boils down to the bear. Once something like that happens, you start worrying about all the other things that you wouldn’t normally worry about!

We drove around and did some short hikes though. Canyonlands is quite desolate, but amazing and beautiful.

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There are a lot of roads that you can take if you have the proper vehicle-high clearance, 4wd-and a permit. The area was used by gas and oil companies for some time before it because a national park, and the roads are from that time. I guess the park service decided to let people use them because some parts of the park are impossible to get to otherwise, unless you want to hike for days and days. The park is divided into several districts, and only two are accessible by regular car: this one called Islands in the Sky and another we didn’t make it to which was about 2-3 hours away called the Needles District. Next time we’ll try to get there as we hear the hiking is phenomenal, but Islands in the Sky was pretty fantastic. IMG_5577IMG_5578IMG_5585

You can definitely see the rain!

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This looked even crazier in person—all those canyons. And it looks small here, but of course it’s really massive.

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Mesa Arch

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We just kept taking pictures! It was gorgeous with the clouds, the rain, and the beginning of sunset. And was gorgeous without those things too.

We walked partway to Grand Upheaval Dome, hiked around Mesa Arch, and took lots of pictures. It was raining lightly off and on and there was lightning and thunder in the distance, but it didn’t seem to do much while we were there. Finally we headed back to camp to make dinner.

When we returned to camp we realized there had been flooding. Luckily our tent was fine, but some water had gotten in the edges and we had a bit of dampness. I realized a huge river of water had washed through the side of our campsite and I just started freaking out that we needed to pack up and move…I pictured us getting washed away over the edge of the canyons during the night and I was just really terrified. Louie went to try to find a camp host to talk to to see if the flooding was normal or very unusual or what we should do but there wasn’t anybody working at the campsite, which worried me more. Finally he helped me to calm down and we decided to stay (because other options weren’t great and we were set up already and the tent hadn’t washed away yet and obviously there had been quite a storm). We made dinner (Indian food and rice from Trader Joe’s) and went to bed. It did storm over night and I was scared at first but was also exhausted so I fell asleep easily enough.

We woke up pretty early and packed up the tent. While packing up a small fox walked RIGHT through our campsite. Neither of us had a camera on us and by the time Louie got back from getting one the fox was gone. I vowed to always keep my phone in my pocket from that point on…

We’d picked out a hike to do in Canyonlands called the Neck Springs Loops that was about 5 miles long. We parked at the trailhead around 8 am and were the only people there. What was really cool was that it seemed we were the first people to hike on the trail that morning. The other great thing was that all the rain had brought cooler temperatures!

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Parts of the trail had definitely seen heavy rain overnight, but we’d chosen a trail that didn’t have a whole bunch of slickrock, according to the description.

I love getting off the beaten path at National Parks and taking hikes, the longer the better as you typically see less people. In this case, we ended up not seeing another person on the whole trail—we did hear people at one point who were likely a mile or more behind us, and we saw LOTS of evidence of various animals, definitely bighorn sheep hoofprints, and some small pawprints of various sizes.

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The views continued to be fantastic. It felt like you could see forever.

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There was a point towards the end that involved a frightening amount of slickrock. We realized we had to basically climb upward, and I had a little trouble…I was struggling to bring my leg up and the thought that pushed me through was “do you walk to backtrack over 4 miles?” I am so glad we did the hike though, because later many of the things we did in Arches were easier in comparison! We had a little trouble at one point following the cairns—we lost them!-but we got back on track. (Cairns are little stacks of rocks to show you which way to go.)

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The end of the trail followed along the road to get back to the parking lot, which wasn’t quite as fun, but the views continued to be amazing.

In any case, like everywhere we’d been (with the possible exception of Aspen) we would have liked to stay longer at Canyonlands, but we needed to move on. We decided to stop at Dead Horse State Park one more time to check out Dead Horse Point.

We were blown away by the views! It was just on the other side of Canyonlands National Park and was amazing in its own way. (We also had a lovely picnic on our way to the point—hummus and pita chips and apples. Vegetarian’s delight!)

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There were several miles of hiking trails around but we had to get to Arches! That’s where I’ll leave you for today…part way through a very wonderful day of gorgeous scenery and excellent hiking.

Nights camping: 6

Miles hiked (estimate): 34

Moving Along

Let’s continue along the road.

(Previous blog posts)

And so it begins…to Aspen

Bear Necessities

Leaving Aspen…Good Riddance

Camping can be a lot of work. It’s all the little things that start to add up. Sure, putting up the tent isn’t really hard, nor is taking it down, but it’s just harder than say, not doing that. Then you add in all the bedding set up, especially the therma-rest mattresses, and making dinner, setting up camp chairs, and then doing all this out of a Corolla where one of the doors is basically taped shut…it can be a pain. Once you are sitting around by a crackling fire, enjoying the outdoors, drinking a delicious Colorado craft beer…it’s definitely worth it. Or when you are sitting there and a small fox walks through your camp…worth it. But other times, gosh, it seems like a lot of work, and for what?

My last post reminded me of all my doubts and uncertainty during that segment of our trip. But anyway, lest you think I am ungrateful, I am not. I am fully grateful for being able to take 3 weeks off with Louie and travel! Sure it’d probably be nicer to be staying in hotels mostly, but since that’s just not in the budget, camping it is. And some of these campgrounds are better than being indoors anyway! (You need to realize, if you are reading this and saying, how can they afford to travel, that gas is really inexpensive now, camping is $18-30 a night, food costs the same as not traveling since we mostly cook, and our National Parks pass is still good from last year when we bought it for $80. So each day of the trip is costing $50-70 for the two of us, as a rough estimate.)

Okay, all that being said. Not sad, as I originally wrote. We woke up and packed up the tent, the bedding, all of that, and got on our way. We drove through Estes Park on the way out of Rocky Mountain National Park and took a quick walk around the lake there. We took the Peak to Peak highway through Nederland as we had done the previous year though this time we continued through Black Hawk and Central City. It was a gorgeous drive! Then we headed west on I-70.

We ate a late lunch in Frisco at a mexican restaurant. I wanted to visit Breckenridge where I’d spent a few summers (at a music festival) but I didn’t want to just pop in for an hour, so we skipped it. I will return. Frisco is nice in its own way, and we had a decent meal. Then we picked up some beer for later at a liquor store. In Colorado you can’t buy regular percent beer at the grocery store, you have to go to a liquor store for that. Looking back, we should have stocked up more but we didn’t realize that all the beer in Utah was going to be watered down. Religious freedom!

The drive across Colorado is a beautiful one. After we passed Glenwood Canyon we were on a new part of the road for us. I’d found a few mentions of Colorado National Monument in my research and decided we should pop through. I made a reservation at Saddlehorn Campground(site 36). We got to the Monument around 5 pm, and started on the east/Grand Junction side (you can enter through Grand Junction or Fruita). The Rim Rock drive goes all the way through the monument and the campground is at the west side.

Right off the bat we took a short hike called the Devil’s Kitchen. The weather looked potentially raining for a bit but it passed. We LOVED the monument right away because it was deserted and so different than anything we had seen!

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After the short hike (1.5 miles round trip) we continued along the Rim Rock Drive. This was a windy road at the top of the canyons, and I was a little terrified at times. We did lots of stopping and looking and taking pictures, and it was great. I think we’d finally left our bad moods behind (well, briefly at least) and were just enjoying being tourists.

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It was about 20 miles along the windy road to get to the campground and we kept stopping. The sun was setting and it was simply beautiful!

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As amazing as the sunset was (pictures naturally don’t do it justice) we wanted to get to the campground before dark, and we just managed it. Our campsite was beautiful and we realized we could set up our tent quite a way from the road and enjoy the solitude and night views! The campground is high up and overlooks the town of fruita and the monument. It was absolutely gorgeous and probably my favorite of all our campgrounds…at least one of them.

And we were delighted that we didn’t need to worry about bears! There were no bear boxes, no signs about bears, and the trash cans weren’t bear proof! We always keep a clean camp, but a bear proof camp is much more challenging.

The next morning we didn’t have too much time, but decided to do a short hike before seeking a shower and heading to Moab, Utah. We ended up at the visitor’s center just as a ranger led hike was getting started so we tagged along.  It was really informative: we learned about the geology of the area and the stratigraphy—it seemed overwhelming at the time, but I’m so glad we went on the walk as the next two weeks were spent learning about similar things and the original ranger talk really helped us understand! Basically all the formations were created by land being pushed up and then eroding away over time.

I did have a little fall towards the end of the hike, after Louie and I had left and were heading back. Luckily it wasn’t near the edge and I only cut the palm of my hand a little bit and skinned my knee.

We found showers at a nearby RV park for $7 each (pricey, but we hadn’t showered since Aspen) and washed up—it felt fantastic! And then we headed to Moab, Utah, for our next stop. The ranger at CNM had recommended a particular scenic route so we headed that way.

I think that’s enough for now. I’ve got a bunch of things to do today but I wanted to write something! I keep feeling like I don’t sound like I enjoyed my trip…I did. I also am grateful for all we got to see and do! It wasn’t a relaxing vacation though, I keep saying that, but I keep thinking about it. I am tired, I’m back to work and I’m tired, and I’m not really sure what that means.

More soon!

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(We want to return to Colorado National Monument and do more hiking! And stay another night at Saddlehorn: it was breathtaking, and we’d love to do more. The bathrooms were very nice and clean, the campground was quiet. We had trouble finding the trash cans but otherwise it was great. Oh, and the rangers were really helpful and friendly, the best we met on the trip.)

Nights camping: 5

Hiking miles (best estimate): 26

Leaving Aspen…Good Riddance

 

I suppose I shouldn’t have a dislike of Aspen, but I do! First off, before even going, so many people said, oh, why go to Aspen? Well, we had our family reasons, but UGH after the bear attack…

And so it begins…to Aspen

Bear Necessities

Read those first!

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So we spent the day of the bear incident cleaning up. At first we’d thought we’d camp another night and then we realized that was crazy…the bear KNEW our car would have food and now it was even less secure. So we managed to crash at Louie’s dad’s place for a night, but frankly, we were cranky and tired and ready to leave.

The next morning we did, after loading up. We had breakfast at the Main Street Bakery, which would have been really nice except I suddenly wasn’t feeling well and ended up sitting outside on a bench for most of the meal. Altitude sickness? Definitely not morning sickness, which was what a woman at the “community table” suggested to me.

Louie and I were headed to Rocky Mountain National Park next. Yes, it was backtracking, but that’s how we did it. Don’t judge. We had a reservation for two nights at Moraine Campground, which was a different campground than we stayed at the previous year. We decided to leave Aspen via Independence Pass which is a pretty fantastic drive!

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Things that are truly awful: the vault toilets at the parking lot for the top of Independence Pass.

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I was starting to feel a bit better, but not great. Louie drove since I am terrified of mountain driving and he loves it. I won’t lie, some of our fun and excitement was gone. We were tired and stressed, we couldn’t use one of the doors of the car, and we were worried that another bear would attack the car. And now we were driving several hours back east to go somewhere that we didn’t even know if we wanted to go.

We’d been to Rocky Mountain National Park the year before and we’d figured why not return for another short visit. We’d really only have one full day there, but it seemed worth it in the planning stages. Naturally everything took longer than I planned (things to remember) but I think we were still happy, deep down Winking smile

We came into the park from the West side. The scenery was absolutely gorgeous. This was on the Trail Ridge Road, in case you are trying to recreate our trip. Oh, and I should mention, before getting to the park, we made a few stops along the way to try to get a new cooler, since the bear ruined ours. The day before we’d looked around Aspen for one, but everything was super expensive. We ended up buying a $4 styrofoam one to tide us over, figuring we’d easily find a cheaper one. That was a mistake. We saw a $350 cooler at Bed, Bath and Beyond…made the $75 cooler at the hardware store in Aspen look like a bargain! We finally found a reasonably priced one at a Target, but it was small. Oh well.

So we came in on the Trail Ridge Road from the West Side, like I started to tell you a minute ago. Most visitors enter the park on the East Side, so this was definitely the less crowded way to do it! The entrance gate was closed when we arrived so we didn’t get to flash our season pass. I guess probably we were supposed to show it somewhere but it was pretty unclear.

I wanted us to immediately get into tourist/photo taking mood, but it was hard. Louie was tired, I was tired, and we were just worried and stressed. We stopped and enjoyed the views (the Trail Ridge Road is the highest paved road in the US, I believe) but mostly we wanted to get to the campsite and possibly just go to sleep.

By 6:00 or so we got to the Moraine Campground. I’d booked us a “walk-in” site, which seemed like a good idea at the time—the description said you would have to walk a bit from your car to the campsite, which I figured gave more privacy and quiet. What we didn’t realized was that it was up a hill, not terribly private, and that there wasn’t a very convenient bear box (metal box bears can’t open for you to store your food.)

On the one hand, we had a great story. On the other hand, we didn’t want to leave any open food or scented items in the car and we were stressed. We managed to organize things and make room in a nearby bearbox, and we set up our tent, and finally relaxed a bit. Our plan was to get up very early and do a hike out of the Bear Lake Trailhead. Bear Lake is a very popular Trailhead, so we wanted to get there by 7 am or so.

So, we got up, had a quick breakfast, and got moving. People tend to get up early in campgrounds and this one was no exception. I’d slept okay, except I could hear a nearby person snoring! The privacy was not great. We were on the top of a little rocky hill, which was cool, but hard to get to the car or the bathroom!

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There was a rainbow shortly after we arrived though, which was very pretty.

Oh, and a raven or magpie ate one of our sandwiches! I’d packed two and put them in baggies on the table…and when we weren’t looking a bird knocked one on the ground and pecked at it! So I had to pack another, but that was okay.

We got to the parking lot at the Trailhead quite early, maybe by 6:45/7 am. It was only 1/3 to 1/2 full, but by the time we were “geared up” and got our boots on the lot was full! There is a shuttle system you can use, but it didn’t seem terribly convenient from our campground so we wanted to drive if possible. And here’s where blogging a month later (almost) makes you forget things! I recall Louie drove in his pajamas to the trailhead to save time, but I don’t remember what time we got up, nor did I make a note of it. Oh well.

I’d selected the “4 lakes loop” for our day hike. It seemed like it covered a good bit of ground that we hadn’t hiked in the past and would be a gorgeous way to spend the day. We weren’t disappointed!

We “warmed up” by walking around Bear Lake first. It was very pretty and the air was nice and cool.

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We had to do a bit of climbing to get to Nymph Lake, but it was very pretty with all the lilies. This part of the hike was pretty crowded with people, but we knew that would be the case. We did all the add on portions of the hike too: Bear, Nymph, Dream, Emerald (had a lovely snack in a private area near Emerald lake and rested for 20 minutes or so—it was nice to avoid people for a bit!), then Lake Haiyaha-the hike up to that lake was absolutely gorgeous with amazing views! After Lake Haiyaha we went to Mills Lake which was my favorite and went to Jewel Lake too, which was a little anticlimatic. We had lunch sitting by Mills Lake and rested for awhile. Louie walked around to an island nearby but I wasn’t up for going off path. After a long rest there we headed back down, past Alberta Falls (we’d been there the year before) and then a long uphill from the Glacier Gorge Trailhead back to Bear Lake and our car, which was still there and not re-attacked by Bears!

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Looking down on Nymph Lake

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I believe this was Dream Lake

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And I believe this was Emerald Lake.

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Hiking towards Lake Haiyaha. Lots of lakes in view!

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Almost missed this amazing view which was just a little ways off the trail.

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Mills Lake…just gorgeous.

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Louie exploring the island—can you see him? We could hear each other talking the whole time. Alpine Lakes are seriously the best. He said there were lots of cobwebs.

Anyway, as much as I’m terrible at describing hikes (or just not in the mood Winking smile/already forgot) it was a great hike! I think it took us about 7 hours with lots of stops, and we had a great time.

We got back to the camp and just relaxed for the rest of the day. One thing we didn’t see much of was WILDLIFE. The previous year we’d seen ton, but we just didn’t see much. (of course we’d had quite a lot of evidence of wildlife, but very few sightings.)

The next morning we got up early to head out. We were heading west to Grand Junction and Colorado National Monument. In the early hours of the morning we woke up to the sound of whooping and howling—we realized it was a bunch of coyotes making a lot of racket!

Anyway, it was a nice but short visit to Rocky Mountain National Park. I think I preferred our campground the year before (Glacier Basin) but it was nice to try something new. The bathrooms were pretty dirty and the dumpsters were overflowing! We had a nice fire each night though, and Colorado is just gorgeous.

This part of the trip was emotionally difficult for me. I felt like the bear had really stolen our excitement and happiness, and we were just worried what else would go wrong. I felt tired already and that I hadn’t planned well enough (it might be true, but still, I should have been enjoying the moment!) and that I was just worried more things would go wrong. 2016 has been one thing going wrong after another…but this was a vacation! No time for complaining, time for fun! (And rolling thermarest mattresses, so much rolling of mattresses.)

Camping days: 4

Hiking miles (best estimate): 22

Bear Necessities

You know how when you’re out in the woods you hear weird noises? We were camping on our second night in Aspen, and I woke up in the middle of the night, or early in the morning, to hearing somebody throwing a bag of ice around. I couldn’t tell if it was in our campsite or not! I lay there quietly, assuming it wasn’t, because that would be super weird. There was a lot of footsteps, but no noises, no talking, and I decided not to wake Louie up because I didn’t want him making noise. I was pretty sure there wasn’t anybody in our site, who would do that? Or we were getting robbed and I didn’t want the person to notice our tent, as there were no footsteps coming near. I heard somebody rattle what sounded like our bear box (that’s a box where you are supposed to keep your food) and then all was quiet, so I went back to sleep. I had a variety of dreams of waking up and finding that somebody had set their tent up next to ours!

We were in bear country. If you camp a lot, you know exactly what I mean. It seems that every campground has different rules. In Yellowstone they made you sign something agreeing—all your food must be kept in your trunk, all your toiletries that were scented also. No food, water, or scented toiletries (i.e. toothpaste, lotion, etc) in the tent with you. You had to wash your dishes in a certain sink, and make sure that all your trash was in special bear proof trashcans.

At the Difficult campground, they gave us our own bear box. And we usually kept a clean camp, put everything away. But there were a few things: one was that there wasn’t anywhere to wash dishes—they just told us to throw our water in the woods. And that the picnic table had a sign saying to put your things in your car.

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Not only the bear box, but the car. The camp host had told us to use the box though…and laughed. But we had gotten “home” late and forgot to cover or move the cooler.

I woke up early, and got out of the tent to go to the toilet. I figured I’d see that everything was fine. But it wasn’t. The first thing I saw was shattered glass, and thought, OH MY GOD we’ve been robbed. And then I realized our car had been attacked by a bear.

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The bear pulled the top of the car door down and removed the lid of the cooler and threw it on the ground. I started freaking out and yelled for Louie to get out of the tent and come see. We were both in total shock for a bit!

After awhile we started cleaning up. I was worried about the glass at first, but it was safety glass which mean it wasn’t as sharp as window glass would be. There was ice and melted water all over the backseat and the clothes. Most of the damage was on the window though, and nothing on the upholstery, thank goodness!

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If you look you can see the dirty pawprint from the bear shaking this box. This is a bear box. If we had put our cooler in it we might not have had the bear attack. I do take the blame for it, but I’ll say this: I had never heard of this sort of thing happening before—I’d heard that bears would rip into soft top cars and tents, but not metal! I’d also add that the sign on the picnic table at the site says put food in the bear box or a locked car, which we did. And I’d also think that putting dishwater wherever you wanted would attract bears! So we were to blame, but there were other factors. And honestly, I think maybe people in tents shouldn’t camp at the Difficult Campground at all, and they should just say that. We found out later that another car was broken into and a “bear proof” cooler was broken into by the bear that night, and a few campers SAW the bear trying to break into their bear box.

(A google search found that a few years ago the problem at the campground was bad and they banned tents, but lifted the ban. I wonder if they told anyone after our attack?)

So here we were, at the beginning of a 3 week road trip, with a messed up car! We panicked for a few minutes, but then decided to try to do something. We had to drive into Aspen to make phone calls (nothing at the campsite available, no phone other than one for local calls which didn’t include 800 calls, and no pay phone) so we did that, carefully, and after checking with the insurance that it was allowed, Louie and I headed to a hardware store to try to fix up the window.

It ended up working really well. Louie managed to bend the metal back up, added plexiglass, and taped the whole thing with a combination of duct tape and gorilla tape. We realized pretty early that the entire door would need to be replaced, so putting tape on it wasn’t a concern.

We spent a few hours at the True Value in downtown Aspen working on it. The employees there were both really helpful and incredibly nosy too Smile Everybody kept coming out to see the car. People said that this kind of thing happened a lot (news to us, and I’ll bet to most of you) and that bears break glass doors, eat out of the trash, break into cars, etc. I ask, what is Aspen doing to help (the answer seems, very little) and I also ask, why don’t more people know about this? Honestly, we didn’t realize how bad the problem was, and we likely wouldn’t have camped. Maybe that’s why they don’t tell people? Or do they just think all towns have major bear problems? I don’t know!

I do know a few things; I won’t be camping there again, and we won’t be underestimating bears again.

We got the window fixed up though, by lunchtime (a waste of a morning, but it could have been worse!) and thankfully I’m dating an engineer who worked in remodeling and construction and knows how to make stuff work really well! And even though we wouldn’t be able to open that door for the rest of the trip, at least we didn’t have to cancel our trip.

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(I couldn’t find a better picture of the car, but you can see the tape here and how well we fixed it up!)

So, that’s our “best” story from the trip. Our car got attacked by a bear. Oh, and he ate the rest of a bag of Trader Joe’s peanut butter pretzels, 2 apples, half a tub of hummus (left the rest), and even a beer. There was a can of beer that had a claw mark and had been drained. (Louie has a picture I know, but I don’t have it right now. I’ll share it later if I can find it from him!).

Sigh. What a day.  But we weren’t hurt, and the upholstery wasn’t hurt, the insurance would cover it (minus the deductible) and the trip would continue!

Days camping: 2 night

Official hiking miles: 13.5

And so it begins…to Aspen

I love traveling. I love planning travel. AND I love writing about travel after the fact, but I’ll admit it’s the most daunting and perhaps the least fun part of it. This past trip was a doozy! How do I write about it? The best way, I suppose, is simply to put my fingers on the keyboard, have my photos at the ready, and GO!

So. We set out on a lovely Wednesday morning towards the end of July. My sister Carrie had been staying with me for a few days (we’d even gone on a float trip with her-it was a raincheck from Memorial Day that needed to be used) and she was staying behind for another day. Timing…but she was able to dog sit for a bit and then my friend April would be doing so afterwards (until she moved to DC, so sad!)

Louie and I planned to drive to Denver in one day. It’s a long drive, but possible. The following day we had reservations at the Difficult Campground in Aspen, so we wanted to get a good chunk of the drive behind us.

I’d been a little stressed out about my trip planning. I’d made a few rash decisions on camping reservations (based on availability and panic) and we were moving around nearly every night! I’d also really wanted to go back to Rocky Mountain NP for a few days, but then it ended up we wanted to be in Aspen for a few days to visit Louie’s dad, and then the timing got mixed up and our itinerary had us backtracking several hours. I have some regrets…but I’ll consider them things to learn from, and honestly, most of it worked out pretty well and we got to see more than we might have otherwise. But there were stressors, and things I was worried about, more so than in previous trips.

We’d tried to organize the trunk in a certain way, in order to facilitate staying organized. Over the next week or so things would solidify into a true plan, but there were some bumps. Here’s the trunk starting out!

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Note: car camping for three weeks out of a Toyota Corolla is a challenge. Plus I’d purchased some of my favorites from Trader Joe’s, since I didn’t think we’d encounter any of those along the way, and it took up a fair amount of room. The backseat had the cooler, various shoes, all the clothes, backpacks, and camp chairs. Here you see the food, dishes, stove, sleeping bags, and the tent and sleeping pads (thermarests) are in there too. There are three bins with different categories: food, food prep, and non food prep.

Anyway! A tradition of driving to Colorado is stopping in Kansas City at Arthur Bryant’s for barbecue. On the one hand, I’ve become mostly a pescatarian. On the other hand, I said mostly.

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I had the burnt end sandwich with beans and it didn’t disappoint. And the pickles! I am such a pickle lover. Why, yes, I’m waxing poetic over the pickles on a barbecue platter.

Anyway, the day went by uneventfully. Missouri goes by quickly, Kansas takes longer.  And then there’s that part of Colorado that really just seems like it should be Kansas.

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The wind farms are always fun to drive by, and we were just pumped up to finally be on vacation and hitting the road. It’s been a hard year, a stressful year, and we keep trying to get away and relax. Spoiler: we didn’t relax on this trip, but we did get away.

We’d hoped to find a cheap hotel in the Denver area but failed. I wanted to have a chill night of oh, let’s just walk into a place that looks good, as one would have on a road trip 30 years ago. But I instead started to panic and ended up spending way too much on a terrible Motel 6 near the airport. Oh, and we had dinner at McDonald’s along the way and got to watch part of the DNC…doesn’t that seem so long ago? McDonald’s has “fish” sandwiches, which are actually pretty terrible, but not too bad for food on the road I guess.

The morning came and with it, a nearby Denny’s. When the calorie counts are listed on the menu you find yourself ordering things like fruit and whole wheat pancakes.

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This guy was both creepy and a little adorable. 60/40? 30/70? Anyway, then we hit the road. Into the mountains of Colorado we went!

On the way to Aspen Louie’s dad recommended we try a hike called the Shrine Pass hike, which is just on this side of Vail. He described it as “easy” so we forgot that 8000-10000 feet of altitude requires some adjustment. I was getting visually a bit blurry after we went through the Eisenhower Tunnel, and was super thirsty and a bit headachy…this should have told me something. In a nutshell, the hike was extremely challenging. I was short of breath and felt terrible! I should tell readers that I spent two summers in Breckenridge at a music festival, and firstly, I love the area: Breckenridge is like heaven, and secondly, altitude is no joke. It can take a few days to adjust, and one at mile high wasn’t enough.

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The baconesque popcorn was really puffy from the altitude!

The hike was probably really beautiful (it was, really) but I was feeling pretty awful and it was too hard. 4.2 miles round trip.

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Okay, sure, Colorado is beautiful.

After the hike we hit the road again towards Aspen. We had a reservation for 3 nights at the Difficult Campground, a few miles from the town of Aspen. Louie’s dad was working there for a bit and he wasn’t sure if he would have room for us to stay with him.

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This raccoon was posing and begging for us, but we know better than to feed wild animals. Well…mostly.

We got to the campsite and had to set up the tent and everything, and then he came to pick us up for dinner.

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We set up the tent towards the back of the site.

It’s hard doing things normally while camping. For instance: our campsite didn’t have flush toilets, only vault toilets and water out of a spigot. So we couldn’t shower or freshen up for a dinner out very well. When you are camping and hiking and only around other people doing the same things, this isn’t a big deal, but when you are hanging out with people who are staying in a real house with running sinks and showers and wearing regular clothes, it’s odd. I had to reconcile myself to the fact that I wasn’t as put together as I would have liked to be, but the dinner sure was delicious.

The next morning we took a hike that left right near the campsite, called the Difficult Trail.

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The description of it, in an old book, said that it was 3 miles one way and that there was a point where the trail wasn’t maintained anyway, but you could pick your way through for awhile. The trail was quite steep at first, but it was really nice, shady and in the woods.

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Lots of boulders and trees and cool stuff to look at. We had a few times where we had to climb over some logs and follow cairns but didn’t think too much of it until the trail ran out entirely, and we realized it seemed we’d gone about 4.5 miles!

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So I think we actually hiked all the way to the end of the UNmaintained part before heading back: I’ll say 9 miles RT. It was nice though, and then we met up with Louie’s dad and wife, and walked around Aspen for a bit. We’d thought about having dinner at the campground due to their work schedule, but ended up having a later dinner at their condo. We didn’t get “home” until nearly 11 pm and were exhausted: that’s very late for camping since the sun tends to wake you up early!

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So that’s enough of the first post here. Our plan for the next day was to wake up early and do another hike. I want to keep track of our hiking mileage too.

Hiking so far: 13.5 miles

Days camping: 2 nights