Backpacking in West Elk

Summer’s here, and it’s time to break out the backpacking gear! While this is still a bit early for our taste, the short summer school break forced our hands and pushed us into an early backpacking trip. We decided to venture back to a place Lara and I had visited years ago, the Mill-Castle trail in the West Elk wilderness.

It’s relatively low, at about 9200 feet, and also fairly flat, which makes it a good starter hike. The wet winter had a couple of side effects. First was that we were greeted by a swarm of mosquitoes the moment we stepped out of the car. Luckily, some quick doses of bug juice took care of that.

We headed down the trail, but before we were able to reach the formal wilderness boundary, we were stymied. The river was running extremely high and fast based on the rapid snow melt. I had a hard enough time crossing it myself. There was no way the boys were going to make it.

So, we settled into a campsite just across the meadow from that point. It was a pretty spot, full of dandelions, aspens, and some great rock formations. We built a fire and roasted marshmallows just in time. The rain started around 9:00, chasing us into our tent for the evening. Still, we enjoyed our trip very much, and are looking forward to coming back in the fall some time for all of those golden aspen trees!

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