We had another nice weather weekend, so we decided to drive up along the Georgia Pass road in search of a dispersed camp site. We needed our off-road ability again, as all of the sites near the road were taken by 2:00 on Friday. Luckily, we were up to the challenge!
We found a nice site down a steep path leading to French Creek, about a mile off of the road. It was secluded, and had just enough views of the surrounding mountains. Unfortunately a fire ban had been put in place so we were not able to observe most of the car camping traditions (no s’mores), but we still had a great weekend.
On Saturday we hiked up the trail towards French Pass. About 3 miles in, Evan declared that he was going no further. Try as we might to coax him along, he simply wasn’t budging. So we called it a day and hiked back to the trailhead. All in all, it was a nice location that is easy to reach from the Denver metro. I’m sure we’ll try this one again.
With a warm three day weekend ahead of us, it was finally time to head out into the mountains for a camping weekend. I hiked up the Clear Creek Four-Wheel Drive road to the Lake Anne trail last summer. Along the way I saw a lot of potential car camping sites within the national forest, if we only had a vehicle that could handle the trail. With our new car, we finally had the opportunity.
It is still May, so the fear of potentially sub-freezing nights drove us to limit the stay to one night. Still, the prospect of getting out of town and spending a couple of days in the mountains seemed worth the effort.
When we bought our car, a lot of people asked why we wanted the air suspension and off-road package. After all, who would be crazy enough to take an SUV like this “off road”. We’re certainly far from extreme off-roaders, but a road like this is precisely the reason we wanted the extra capability. The video below is a sample of what the 4 miles up and down looked like.
We were not the only family looking to get away during the COVID constraints. The forest was busy – as busy as I’ve ever seen. But, thanks to the ability to get past where the typical family truckster could venture, we ended up at a reasonably secluded spot with fantastic views.
We camped in a meadow near the edge of Clear Creek. Not much for tree cover, but it provided excellent visibility to what we hoped would be some fine star gazing. The Milky Way core becomes visible late at night, with the rim of the galaxy almost 90 degrees overhead in the late spring months of the northern hemisphere. We set an alarm for a 3am wake-up call, and the entire family jumped at the opportunity. I’m not a skilled astrophotographer, but hopefully the picture below conveys the incredible view.
On Saturday we hiked part of the Mt. Huron trail. The family was split on whether to attempt to summit the 14,000 peak. By the time we broke treeline, our decision was made for us. We say the storm clouds rolling in, and heard the thunder rumbling through the valley below. Time for a quick descent back to camp.
This wasn’t exactly the most extreme mountain adventure, but I think it bodes well for the summer of 2020. We’re looking forward to several more excursions before the snow flies again!
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.
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!