Backpacking… below mountains… somewhere

June 7, 2009 at 8:31 pm

Hmm, I’ve had a lot of trouble coming up with a title for this trip report. What exactly did we do last weekend? Where were we?

We were definitely backpacking. There were backpacks and hiking and camping involved. But all of the words that I had used to describe our planned trip – “Backpacking in the Comanche Peak Wilderness” or “hiking to Browns Lake” – just don’t really fit the actual outcome. Here, let me explain.

We woke up in a grapenuts commercial!

There are pictures from the weekend in the gallery.

We left Fort Collins a little late on Friday, and after an hour of driving up the Poudre Canyon Mark asked me “So, how do we do the tooth-brushing thing in Bear territory?”

I responded with “Oh no! I forgot the water bottles!”

Yep, we were all ready to hike into the rapidly darkening woods, and had discovered that we were missing: all of the water bottles, Mark’s headlamp, warm hats and gloves, the bear spray and batteries for the GPS. We bought four bottles of Dasani from a camp store further up the canyon, and decided we would just have to live without everything else.

A little creek runnng high

We finally got to the trailhead much later than we were hoping, around 8pm. As we drove along the winding mountain road, we pulled around a corner and nearly ran over a very large moose and her calf. It was one of those startling moments that really gets your blood pumping. Moose are HUGE.

So, here it was, Friday night. Nearly dark. Only one headlamp for the two of us. Four crappy plastic bottles of water. No GPS. No compass. Close encounter with very large wildlife. I was ready to head home at this point, but Mark was too excited to contain. We parked the car and hiked out into the darkness.

A great spot to take in the view

Actually, it wasn’t that dark. There was a full moon. And it wasn’t that cold. We got about a mile into the trail and then walked off into the woods, set up the tent, and enjoyed a night lost in the wilderness.

After all of the mistakes and problems from the first night, the rest of the weekend was surprisingly smooth. We had originally planned to camp Saturday night at Brown’s lake (around 10,500ft), but comments from other hikers dissuaded us. After hearing “It was freezing up there last night!” “The wind never stopped!” and “There was so much snow!” we just decided to try to hike up to the lake, and camp down near the reservoir.

Fall Peak, Comanche Peak, and an unnamed 12'er in this ridge

We stashed the packs at the end of the Brown’s lake trail and climbed up a mile and near 1,000ft of elevation gain into the woods below the lake. Here, the snow was still very deep. We post-holed in up to our hips, loosing entire legs in the freezing piles. The trail was difficult to follow, and, as far as we could tell from just our map, we were still more than half a mile from the lake. Not worth it. We went back down.

An approximate route and waypoints for our weekend

So, we never camped in the Comanche Peak Wilderness. We never saw Brown’s Lake. We really walked up and down 6 miles of trail that runs across the valley floor below the Mummy Range and the northern boundary of Rocky Mountain national park, and that was a great way to spend the weekend.

It certainly wasn’t what I was planning, but I’m not going to complain. We learned about what to make sure we remembered to pack. We learned that walking in the dark doesn’t result in being eaten by wolves. And we learned that we have the most fun when we go with the flow. Relax, re-evaluate, and keep on truckin’.