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.
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.