With summer in full swing, it was time to strap on the backpacks. We chose the Mount Massive Wilderness near Leadville, partly for the destination of a high alpine lake, and partly because we haven’t camped in this area yet.
The drive in was a bit hair raising at times. We hadn’t planned on it, but the road to the trailhead put our car through one of it’s biggest tests yet. The machine pulled through with flying colors, even making a couple of people on ATVs pause to watch us climb a particularly treacherous spot.
The hike was only 2.5 miles, but unfortunately we got off to a late start. We didn’t make it to the trail head until almost 5:00. This being our first backpack of the summer, and having a fairly steady climb up the valley, we ran out of daylight to make it to the lake. We set up camp about half a mile down the hill, in a pretty spot tucked into the trees.
Fire bans are in effect across most of the state, so no camp fire on this trip. The weather was chilly after the sun went down, but still pleasant for a high country camp. We had our standard freeze dried dinner, complete with a dessert (cinnamon apple crisp!) and some cheese and crackers. Then settled in for the night.
In the morning, we hiked up to the lower lake, which is set in a gorgeous alpine cirque tucked up against the west side of Mount Massive. We spent some time cooling off in the lake, before heading back to camp for lunch. After that, it was time to pack up and head back down the mountain.
I normally call an end to the backpacking season by early September. This year the weather seemed to nice I decided to try one more night with the aspens starting to change. I chose the Abyss trail on the west side of the Mount Evans wilderness area for it’s easy access and what I hoped would lead to some stunning scenery.
I didn’t have much time to research the area, so I was constantly on the lookout for decent camp sites. I came across one I liked just about 3 miles up the trail and decided to settle in. I ended up wishing I had kept pushing up the trail, as I’m sure the views near treeline would have been fantastic, but as you can see it was a pretty nice location.
Laika and I went on another overnight backpacking trip in the Hunter-Fryingpan wilderness area. Our trip to Collegiate Peaks in July wet my appetite for some astrophotography. I wanted to find a site with a southern view so we could see the core of the Milky Way.
I originally picked Lost Man Lake as our destination. It was about 4 miles north on a trail from Highway 82, just past Independence Pass. The weather was pretty grey and cool most of the hike up, which put a damper on some of the photography, but it helped keep us cool on a relatively strenuous hike.
Lost Man Lake turned out to be settled fairly deeply into a canyon north of a high ridgeline. It was a pretty location, but didn’t have the exposure I was looking for, so we hiked back up and over the saddle to Independence Lake on the south side of the ridge and set up camp for the night.
I learned a lot about trying to photograph the center of our galaxy during this trip. Some of the images came out, though there wasn’t much in the way of foreground to make for interesting pictures. I got up in the middle of the night to see if I could capture a few more shots with the moon illuminating the mountains around me. The landscapes came out fairly interesting, but it definitely wiped out the sky. Plenty of lessons to apply in the future.
We had our last camping trip of the season planned (yes, already – school starts in only two weeks!) to the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness. There is an accessible alpine lake there called Lake Anne, nestled in a cirque beneath a formation of mountains called the Three Apostles. It seemed a great place for a July camp.
Things started to unravel the day before we left. Alex was really enjoying the day camp that he was enrolled in, and Fridays are supposed to be the best day. He was going to miss the next Friday because of Russia Camp, so he and Lara decided to stay home. Evan was up for another father/son trip like last year, but later that evening started getting jealous of what he was going to miss at day camp, so he too decided to stay in town. That left Laika and me to go it alone.
The Collegiate Peaks are one of the more dramatic ranges in Colorado, with several 14,000 foot peaks, and plenty of scenery. The drive in along Clear Creek revealed many excellent car camping sites. We’ll definitely visit this area again. Unfortunately, our MDX wasn’t up for the bulk of the 4WD road leading to the wilderness boundary. That meant our hike would be extended by another mile and a half.
What I failed to account for in my planning was the extreme snowfall we saw in the Rockies this winter, and the fact that the lake was on a north-facing slope, shaded by the three tall peaks along the continental divide. There were many large snow fields blocking the trail, making it very difficult to find the path to the lake. Laika and I eventually made it though, only to find the entire area still covered in snow and ice.
We made our way back down the trail about a half a mile before we came across a nice campsite near a stream with a view of Mount Huron to the north. We decided to set up camp there. I decided to set the alarm for early morning for my first attempt to photograph the Milky Way. In another sign of poor planning, I realized that I had no visibility to the brightest part of the galaxy to the south. I did get some good practice shots though.
So this trip was a series of happy mistakes, but definitely worth the effort. We’ll be back here in the future.