Camping and Hiking near Acorn Creek

August 27, 2011 at 1:33 pm

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?

Sitting in a field of wildflowers

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!

The Gore Range

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.

Morning Mountains 1

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.

The trail started to get a bit vague here

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.

Lunch with a view

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!!

Morning views from out campsiteWatching the alpinglow light up the Gore RangeMorning mountain viewsG after breakfast in the trailerHiking up the slopes of Ptarmigan PeakGreat views of the Gore range from this trailSitting in a grassy field in the mountainsClouds build over the Gore rangeWILDFLOWERSA spider web in the morning.G napping as we hike into the wildernessThe trail started to get a bit vague hereBut the views were still amazingBlue skies all aroundTrail, what trail? GAHFunny pine treesViews of mountains in the Ptarmigan Peak WildernessTaking a break for lunchBigger clouds building over the distant mountainsStormy skies?Stormy skies?We turn around before the passMorning skies are gorgeous the next day tooPre-dawnNice views to the northOur camper 1Our camper 2

The Warrior Dash 2011!

August 20, 2011 at 6:52 pm

Last year, Mark signed up for the craziest day of obstacle-coursing, costume-wearing, beer-drinking, warrior-screaming fun that we have had in a long time! I, of course, was pretty darn pregnant at the time, so did not get to participate in the obstacle course or beer drinking, but I had a great time anyway. This year, well, things were very different!

Kate after Warrior Dash

We made our reservations for the race last year, just after the last one finished. One great thing about the Warrior Dash is that they run “heats” all day long. People sign up for a time, and you can run through 3 miles of crazy, scary, fun, painful, messy obstacles anytime during the day. So, Mark picked a race in the morning (11a) when all of his friends were going, and I picked one in the afternoon (3p). This way, we were able to take the baby along with us, and just take turns watching him!

Mark's gang at the start line . Mark and friend jump over fire! . Mark's gang after the race!

The race was held at the Copper Mountain ski area, and the course ran over 3 miles along the base of the mountain. There were about 12 different obstacles on the course that ranged from running through hanging tires, belly crawling through a deep mud pit, climbing up a 30ft “ladder” made of 2×4’s about 4ft apart, and then sliding down a near-verticle wall on the opposite side, and, of course, jumping over fire!

Kate goes into the mud... . Mark comes out of the mud! . Kate jumps over fire!

Even though I was not in very good shape, at all, I finished in a (relatively) decent time of about 53 minutes, and Mark, who still claims he “ran slowly” finished in about 39 minutes, only 2 minutes slower than last year. G did great that day, napping in our friends’ condo in the afternoon, and playing in his PeaPod tent in the evening. Beer was consumed and warrior-screams were shouted.

Another great part of the weekend was our campsite in Dillon. We parked our little trailer right on Dillon reservoir, and enjoyed mountain views, glorious wildflowers, and lovely sunrises all weekend long.

Sunrise over Dillon Reservoir . Wildflowers . Our campsite at Heaton Bay . G hanging out in the camper

After our race, we headed back to the trailer for a nice warm shower, hotdogs over the fire, and the best sleep I’ve had in months.

G asleep in the camper

Camping in the Snowy Range

July 31, 2011 at 8:22 pm

It was the last weekend in July, and Mark and I were trying to figure out what to do to get out of the front range heat and enjoy the mountains. Climbing? Meh, did that last weekend. Camping? Sure, but where? We have about a 2 hour radius of comfort for weekend trips right now, so we consulted our maps and came up with a great option – the Snowies in south-central Wyoming were calling us.

Mirror Lake

We didn’t have any campground reservations, but my maps said there were at least 5 national forest campgrounds on the eastern slope, and I thought we’d find a site easily. I checked the status of the campgrounds online, and the nat forest website said 4 of the 5 were still closed! Uh-oh. I called the national forest office in Laramie, and the woman on the phone assured me that all 5 campgrounds were open, but warned that it was Fronteir Days in Cheyenne, and most campgrounds would be full.

“Isn’t Cheyenne 2 hours away from this area?” I asked, confused.

“Yes, but people are out camping all over. You should consider dispersed camping in the Medicine Bow forest.” She was quite adamant.

“I don’t think driving around the mountains at night with a trailer and a baby looking for random dispersed campsites is such a great idea….” I said. She tended to agree. Maybe we should just stay home?

Mark and I discussed, and made the call to leave at 6p on Friday night. Whatever. With 5 campgrounds in the area, we’d find a campsite, for sure.

Liv Loves Snow

It turns out, the four campgrounds in question were closed. I have no idea why. We looked around for dispersed camping, and nearly toppled the trailer on a steep, dark, rocky mountain road. As a last resort, we checked the final campground late on Friday night, and found a plethora of available campsites! Moral of that story: don’t call the Laramie ranger office! My first instincts were correct, everybody was in Cheyenne for the weekend, emptying out the campgrounds west of Laramie, and leaving us beautiful mountains to hike and enjoy by ourselves.

On Saturday morning, we packed snacks and bottles and headed up Wy130 to hike around the beautiful, high peaks of the Snowy Range. And boy, were they snowy!

The road to Mirror Lake is still snowed in, at the end of July!

Mark and G

10ft of snow still cover the banks of Mirror lake this summer

Dramatic Marmot

A helpful warning sign

We hiked up to Lookout Lake, enjoying clear blue skies, huge drifts of summer snow, thin mountain air, and glimpses of marmots following us. There were still huge chunks of ice floating in some of the lakes, and a 40ft snow drift kept the Mirror Lake recreation area closed to car traffic. Mark’s footing wasn’t all that great on the slippery snow paths, so we headed back to the car after a short, but very beautiful hike.

Mark and G

Mountains and Sky

We picnic’ed at 11,000ft, and caught views of distant peaks from the lookout. We headed back to the trailer for afternoon naps, playing in the creek, and bratwurst on the campfire Saturday night.

RVing in Colorado

July 2, 2011 at 8:06 am

What’s the best way to hop mountain towns throughout Colorado in style? That’s right, RVs.

Nice View

If you’ve been reading our blog this year, you can’t help but hear about our new camper trailer. But, I have not yet mentioned that my parents upgraded their RV to a Tiffen Breeze this spring. For our family vacation, they drove out to meet us in Colorado, and we commenced a 10-day long epic camping trip throughout the state.

Our campsites in Estes park were really nice too

Kevin and Andrew joined us for the first part of our trip. We met for the first night in Golden, and then the next day, we all cruised down to Pagosa Springs, in Southern Colorado. Here, we stored the campers for three nights while living it up in amazingly beautiful suites at The Springs Spa and Resort. It was a great spot to relax, soak in the mineral hot springs, enjoy good food and good family fun. You know you’re on vacation when the baby is swimming with his Grandparents, and Mom and Dad get to explore a new climbing area in the San Juan mountains.

After our too-brief stay at Pagosa Springs, Kevin and Andrew headed back to Chicago, and we merry RV’ers drove north. We spent two nights at an amazing RV campground in Breckenridge. Our little trailer felt under-dressed and out-classed most of the time we were there, but it fit us perfectly. We spent a day exploring Breck, getting in some shopping and tasty Chinese food.

Our tiny trailer in the big RV spot

A field of Columbine

For the last few days, we drove north to Estes Park. We had beautiful campsites just outside of Rocky Mountain national park. Mark and I went for a nice long hike, while G hung out with his Grandparents at the campground. We all got to enjoy shopping in Estes, good BBQ from a local joint, and several gorgeous sunsets over the continental divide.

The Breeze with lovely mountains in Estes Park

G gets to ride around the campground in his stroller

I’d like to take this trip and use it as a spring-board for several future posts. Certainly, you’ll hear more (and see photos) about the climbing and hiking we did. I’m thinking about adding a post about trailer-camping with the baby as well, and maybe a little something about the gear we’ve used to make camping fun and easier on everybody. Would you, dear readers, find these posts interesting or informative? Do you have any other questions about our adventures that you’d like to see covered in more depth? What great summer camping trips have you been on this year?

Wet Camping in Rocky Mountain NP

June 19, 2011 at 7:13 pm

Rain pattering on the roof of the camper. Trickles of water merge into small streams and creeks and run down the streets of the campground. Clouds billowing over high craggy peaks that loom over us. Rivers raging over mountainsides, boulders, trees, and trails.

Our weekend of camping in Rocky Mountain National Park (RoMo) is a wet one.

Ouzel Falls

The rain starts as we drive up the Big Thompson Canyon on Friday night, and it just keeps going throughout the night. Our friends arrived at the campsite a few hours before, and are sitting in the cab of their camper/truck waiting for us as we pull our rig into the site behind them.

We met Kyle and Briana in Thailand a year and a half ago. Mark and I were just starting to try to get pregnant at that time (and more successful than we realized), and they were on the first leg of their year-long around-the-world trip. In the last year, Kyle and Briana have climbed on four continents, bicycled through 50% of the countries in Europe, been caught in riots in Thailand, and toured dozens of climbing areas around the US while living out of their truck.

Kyle plays an awesome banjo
Briana plays mandolin in the rocky mountains

In the last year, Mark and I created a human being, and have managed to keep him alive so far. Its been a good year for all of us.

G really loves listening to the music

Back to this weekend, and we’re camping in our deluxe 18ft trailer, so it doesn’t matter that the rain is pouring down. We convince G to fall asleep, and then sit around the table telling stories and killing a Bota Box of Malbec as the rain continues through the night.

The prettiest campsite in the rockies!

When we wake on Saturday morning, the air is chilly, the wind is howling, and the rocks are very wet. We decide against trying to climb, in favor of a low-altitude hike to see waterfalls during prime snow-melt season. The hike to Ouzel falls is 3 miles long (6 miles round-trip) and follows a VERY full St. Vrain river starting in the Wild Basin area of RoMo.

We stop for a lot of pictures on the way up. G naps on and off. This time, I remembered his hat, sunscreen, diapers, and bottles, but forgot to stick toys on the backpack for him. He gets a little bored after 2.5 miles, so I tie a carabiner to my hood drawstring and hang it from the backpack to entertain him. This works, but not as well as some face time with Dad next to the waterfall.

Taking a break to play by the waterfall
Rocky Mtn Waterfall 1
Briana and Kyle enjoy the low-key afternoon
Taking a break on the way home

In the evening, we pile our dinner fixings together for a huge skillet of squash, sausage and couscous. Kyle and Briana rock out some great bluegrass tunes. G is fascinated by the banjo. My dehydration headache returns, and I crash with G in the trailer before dark. Mark, Kyle and Briana start up a (typically) heated game of Settlers of Katan, as the sun sets over the continental divide. Eventually, it starts to rain again.

Thayers in Colorado, Part 2

July 3, 2010 at 6:10 am

Mark and I were not able to take too much time off of work to spend with my family, so while we were back in Fort Collins during the week, Mom, Dad, Kev and Andrew took off for a few days in Fruita, Colorado. They then drove leisurely southeast towards Wolf Creek Pass. They stopped to camp along high mountain reservoirs, and took the tram to 11,000ft above Monarch Pass.

Steep canyon walls greeted us on this wet morning

Due to a little mix up, we decided not to stay at the campground where we had reservations for the long holiday weekend. Instead, the fam headed west towards Pagosa Springs. We managed to score a great campsite at the base of Wolf Creek Pass (at the Bruce Spruce Ranch) for two nights, and then grabbed the last two rooms at The Springs Resort & Spa in downtown Pagosa Springs.

Ponds at Sunrise

Our two nights at Bruce Spruce were wet and rainy, but absolutely beautiful. I highly recommend this little campground and guest ranch to anybody looking at a stay in the area.

Kevin is riding a horse!

Kevin and Andrew had a great hour long trailride through the mountains. We found some beautiful geodes in a local rockhounding site. We hiked up to a great view of Treasure Falls. And we hung out under the awning at a rainy camp, eating mom’s great dutch-oven meals and enjoying vacation.

Mark at Treasure Falls

On our last morning in the area, we met up with a local guide outfit for a morning of fly fishing lessons. While my Mom and Dad have been fly fishing for years, and I’ve grown up around fly fishermen, I’ve never actually cast a rod myself. Neither has Mark. So this morning, we went out to a local stocked pond and learned the basics of fly fishing.

Everybody practicing their casting

It was pretty entertaining at first. Mark lost a few flies to the grass behind him. Kev and Andrew were both happy to be wearing hats every time the fly bounced off the brim. But we eventually got the hang of it, and even managed to catch a few fish that morning!

I caught my first trout! (at 5 months pregnant)

It was a really nice morning, and a great few days in the mountains.

The whole family had a great morning!

Dylan and Ann’s CDT Send-off

July 1, 2009 at 3:17 pm

Wow, I am way behind on blog posts right now. I suppose it’s a good thing to be doing more stuff this summer than spending time writing about it.

The Sun Peaks Through

Last week, Dylan and Ann started their month long walk across the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) in Wyoming. They left from the boarder of Colorado and Wyoming on the morning of July 1st, and hope to be crossing the boarder of Wyoming and Idaho, about 550 miles of trail later, on the 29th. How crazy and awesome is that?!

Dylan is a great blogger, and will be posting maps and details of their epic hike on his blog. I highly recommend checking it out.

Happy hikers excited to start their adventure!

As the start of their trail was essentially “in my neighborhood,” and I haven’t seen Dylan and Ann in months, I took a few days off of work and drove up to see them off. Mark couldn’t get any extra vacation, so I did this trip on my own, which made it extra adventurous for me. I don’t travel by myself very much, so the three hour trip across empty, wild, Wyoming, and a night of sleeping in a tent by myself, were a novel and welcome experience.

I felt inspired to make some nice photography on this trip, so be sure to check out the gallery page.

Clear Calm Morning

The CDT crosses the boarder of Colorado into Wyoming just south of Encampment, WY, which is a quiet, beautiful, mountainous area that I have never visited. When I arrived on Tuesday afternoon, most of the group had gone out to kayak and swim in Hog Park Reservoir, a beautiful mountain lake just off the boarder. We stayed at Bottle Creek Campground, where we were the only campers.

The area has been hit hard by bark beetles. I’ve never seen a forest so brown with dead trees in my life. Certainly more than half of the trees, across large swaths of the forest, were orange-brown and crispy. It looked a bit like a fall view, until you remember that these are evergreen trees, and your heart sinks.

Southern Wyoming, and a lot of beetle kill

Dylan and Ann and their friend Pete were all ready for their long hike. We hung out Tuesday night, talked logistics and plans, played with cool new ultra-light gear, discussed the trail over the first week and the tasty Thai restaurant in Rawlins, WY. On Wednesday morning, we roused at 6am, and were on the road towards the boarder before 7a. The 30 miles of dirt road to the boarder took about an hour to drive, and the happy, hardcore hikers got on the trail around 8:30a on the morning of July 1st! Bon Voyage, mes amis!

The Snowies

After they walked off into the mountains, I rode back to the campground with Ann’s wonderful parents, talking about tropical meteorology the whole way, and then started on my way home. This time, instead of driving across the wide open plains on I-80, I decided to take WY-130 through the Snowy Range on my way home. This turned out to be a great decision.

Wildflowers in the Snowies

This little road drives right over the crest of the Snowy Range, a beautiful group of mountains just west of Laramie. The road tops out near 11,000ft, it’s not quite as high as Trail Ridge, but it feels very close. I didn’t get much hiking in, as several parking lots were still filled with 10ft drifts of snow, and several trails were lost under huge drifts, still, on the first day of July.

But I drove over the mountains, I enjoyed the views, I made some photographs, and I vowed to come back.

The Diamond reflected in Mirror Lake

Adventures … in Kansas?

June 29, 2008 at 12:56 pm

Not that Kansas isn’t an exciting place. In fact, Mark and I have probably come closer to disaster in this state than in any other. But, after living in Colorado for a few years, it’s easy to become a little elitist about adventures and vacations. After all, don’t most people come to my town on their vacations? Doesn’t it seem like the tourists from the midwest are the ones getting themselves into trouble in the mountains? (Actually, thinking about it, most of the people I read about dying in horrible accidents are Coloradoans).

So, when Mark and I decided to scrub our trip to the Tetons, and cancel our climbing plans up the iconic alpine test-piece that is the Grand Teton, we didn’t say it, but we were a little disappointed. After all, we exist in a world of adventure and excitement, surely a trip to the midwest would be, comparatively, dull.

Headstands at Perry Lake

We left Colorado on Saturday morning with the Prius packed full of camping gear and CSA veggies. We drove east at a leisurely pace, stopping to talk to motorcyclists and having picnics outside of Arby’s. At about 2pm, we were driving along the country side when our last bar on the electronic gas gauge started blinking. The computer screen on the Prius warned us “Refuel now!” Mark and I started discussing where we should stop for gas. After all, our tank has an 11 gallon capacity, and we had gone 450 miles at an average 51 mpg, so we should have only burnt 9 gallons of fuel. A minute later the Check Engine light came on, the computer screen blinked the word “Problem” and the car lost power rapidly.

Mark and I pulled over, and after calling Toyota and panicking for several minutes, we determined we had just run out of gas. In our Prius. Obviously, expensive technology cannot save us from ourselves. Mark had only been able to put in 9 gallons of gas the day before, which had been enough to read “full” on the gauge. And get us 450 miles across Colorado and Kansas before running out.

We were able to drive the last mile to a gas station on battery alone, where we topped off the tank with a full 10.5 gallons, and headed out to find a campsite for the night.

The Prius and the campsite

After our adventure in bad math, we were near our originally planned campsite in Kanopolis. It was early in the evening, so we decided to keep going the next park was outside Manhattan, Kansas, home to KSU, and was hosting a HUGE country music festival on Saturday night. We were stuck in traffic for an hour and never got a site. We finally found ourselves at Lake Perry State park, north of Topeka, at sunset. We got a primitive site on the edge of a huge lake, and had a great night of camping.

Camping in the midwest was full of wonderful surprises. There were lightening bugs everywhere! I had forgotten how wonderful and magical lightening bugs were. We saw huge deer, a skunk, beavers, and HUGE wild turkey’s in the forest around the lake. We slept in the warm, still, night air, not worried about wind or bears for the first time in a long while.

At sunrise, we were woken up at dawn by a giant cricket under our tent. Mark helped me with some yoga shots on the banks of the fantastic lake, and then we packed up and finished our drive to St. Louis.

Mark jumps right in

I suppose it’s only fitting that the adventure and beauty of a place are indirectly proportional to the amount of time you spend there. Mark and I have started to find camping in Rocky Mountain national park tedious and crowded, if you can believe that! But our one quiet night on the banks of a midwestern lake made me remember that there are plenty of beautiful spots east of the Front Range too.

Kate and Mark on vacation!