It’s 9am, and my pants are drenched from mid-thigh down. I’m trudging through a field of grass and wildflowers that are higher than my waist, and soaking wet. There’s a trail down there somewhere, but mostly I follow Mark, who has G (sound asleep) in the backpack and doesn’t seem to be bothered at all by the moisture or lack of trail or 60 degree slope of the hill.
How did I get here?
The answer to this question isn’t as simple as our usual “Hey, let’s go camping!” reason for getting out. This story starts with Mark’s friend from work, John, who is a bow hunter. It’s opening weekend for Elk via archery in Colorado, and Mark suggests that we follow John up to his hunting grounds. John will hike into the backcountry, with his wife and gear, and if he bags an elk, he’ll … do something (details are sketchy here) … to alert Mark. Then on Sunday, Mark will hike in to the kill site, and pack out as much meat as he can. For our trouble, we can have a little elk for our freezer.
Sounds like a pretty good plan!
We drive up to the Acorn Creek trailhead, about 11 miles north of Silverthorn, Colorado, on Friday night with the baby and trailer. John and his wife have their truck and camper-top parked in the lot, and Mark pulls our camper up next to them. It’s pitch dark and raining buckets outside, but G and I hang out with John and his wife in their (very nice) camper for a while and chat about the upcoming hunt. Eventually, we crawl into bed and sleep to tinking of rain on the roof of the camper.
On Saturday, John knocks on the door to let us know he’s hiking out at about 5a. G is trying to wake up, and Mark and I are trying to get him back to sleep. I don’t think we succeeded.
We all have breakfast, and pack our own gear up slowly through the morning. Eventually, we set out to explore the trail that we are parked at the trailhead of. The Acorn Creek Trail is, supposedly, four miles of lightly-used and slightly inclined hiking up the slopes of Ptarmigan Peak. After about a mile and a half, we enter the Ptarmigan Peak Wilderness Area, and at 4 miles, we intersect the Ute Peak trail at an 11,000ft+ saddle in the ridge line.
It turns out “lightly-used” means that we have the whole trail to ourselves during the day. It also means that the trail is barely (just barely) more than a bushwack in most places for the first 2 miles. And with all of the rain the previous night, these overgrown fields are sopping, sopping wet.
We keep an eye out for Elk as we hike, but aside from some tracks, we see little evidence of them. The trail is steeper than it looked on the map, and I’m having less fun than I’d hoped. We stop for lunch at an amazingly beautiful spot, and then hike another half mile or more to see how far we can get in the afternoon. The answer is “to that big rock, where we turn around.” Wish we hadn’t forgotten our GPS. At about 12:30, a cloud rolls over the ridge in front of us. It’s dark, wispy gray, and rumbles threatingly. We turn around and head for home.
The hike down take half the time of the hike up, and the rest of our afternoon is spent lounging around the trailer. I try to take a nap. G pops the door open once and tumbles out. Mark makes friends with some of the homeowners who live next to the parking lot. And we don’t hear from John until late Saturday night. He leaves a garbled message on Mark’s phone, and we get the gist – no Elk shot today.
Oh well, at least we got to enjoy a day in the mountains. We had amazing views, an adventurous hike, and a quiet evening (after G fell asleep, of course). I can’t think of a better way to spend a weekend!
Has anybody else had unexpected adventures this summer? Share your stories of bushwacking goodness in the comments!!