I went camping last week and forgot to write about it...doh!
Mark and I went up near Idaho Springs/Mt. Evans in the Arapahoe National Forest. After driving through Conifer (to pick up camping gear from my dad), over Squaw Pass (the verrrrrry long way, apparently), and past Echo Lake, we made our turn on Forest Road. Then we had to drive 3 miles of bumpy-as-hell dirt road (why didn't the ranger tell me this was borderline 4x4 terrain?) until we finally reached our campground, West Chicago Creek.
Set up camp at about 11:30am, then took a nice hike up Hell's Hole trail. I have no idea why it was called that, bc it was beautiful. Lots of vegetation and creek crossings along the way. After about an hour of hiking we decided to turn back when we saw the clouds rolling in and heard the thunder.
Back at camp, we didn't know what to do with ourselves. What do you do at 1pm in the woods when you've just been hiking? Crack open the 12-pack Breckenridge Brewery Sampler, duh! And sit around the fire pit, of course. And fend off the biting flies (still have a gnarly bite on my calf).
At about 5 we got sick of looking at our camping neighbors (the campsites were rrrrreally close together) and worrying the twin red-headed 12-year-old-ish brothers would inevitably shoot us in the eye with their hastily-aimed slingshots, we decided to venture into Idaho Springs. You can't be away from civilization too long when you're from the city, ya know. We were beginning to feel that there was nothing beyond this campsite :P
Back down the craptastic 4-wheeling trail of a road, and another 10 minutes into the town. We needed more ice, and snacks (Mark forgot to pack them)...
Back to the campsite. 6:30pm. Time to start a fire I presume! And it's a good thing we started so early, bc it took until nearly dark for it to really get going. The camp host sold us green wood >:@
Felt good to sit by the fire, plus, the flies finally went away. We threw our pre-made burritos wrapped in foil onto the grill and sat patiently, enjoying another beer while they heated up. It felt good to be in nature. Away from all things technologically-related. We were alone. Finally. Oh, except for some new neighbors who took the last vacant site in the campground, right next to us. We were sandwiched in between the two groups, and could make out their entire conversations as if they were sitting around our fire. Also, there seemed to be a breeze moving in, and of course, as we were camped downwind from the vaulted toilets, well, you can guess how lovely the smell was, wafting it's way over to us every so often.
I'm making this sound like the worst camping trip ever, but it was actually a lot of fun, despite the aforementioned issues. We ate our deliciously spicy burritos, sipped our beer, and eventually, ran out of firewood and decided to call it a night.
Of course, I didn't sleep a wink (well, maybe a wink, but not more than one). I thought every scratch, scuffle, and scoot out there in the wilderness was a bear. A big black bear coming to eat me and the burrito in my stomach. I woke Mark up at one point, "Is there something out there???" to which Mark hardly mumbled a yes before turning over and drifting back to sleep. At dawn, I think I finally got that wink of sleep in.
The next morning, Mark and I ate breakfast, fended off more flies, and decided we would take a nice long hike up near Mt. Evans. We also decided against spending another night here, so we packed up, and made our exit.
First stop was at Echo Lake, just to check it out and take some pictures. The dragon flies were EVERYWHERE, mating, looking for a mate, and generally flying at my face (as all bugs do). We were obviously in their way, so we took some pics of a cute duck family, then drove up to the trail head.
After chugging a Spicy V8 (for good measure) and stuffing myself with another spicy burrito, we began our ascent. It was 10:30am, and the clouds were already looming, just to give you an idea of the scene. But we decided to press on, figuring we could make the 6-point-something mile round trip hike with plenty of time to spare. Plus, yesterday the clouds blew over without leaving so much as a drop of rain behind.
The hike was gorgeous, though a bit spooky, as it was cloudy and very densely-treed. Our first mile or so was basically all uphill, a good workout for my sore slept-on-the-ground ass. It led us to the highest point of the hike, then we began a descent into a valley. And of course, we ignored the thunder that seemed far enough away.
We made our way along the eerily empty trail, and I daydreamed about the black bear that was probably waiting behind the next bend for us with a fork and a knife, licking his chops. We only saw one other man on the trail the entire day, and he was hauling ass out of the valley, which didn't help soothe my worries. Further and further we went, until we were finally in the very lowest point in the valley. Well, it was amazing, to say the least. To be surrounded by nature and so far away from other people was truly a unique feeling that I haven't experienced many times in my adult life. We crossed a very man-made bridge, and looked up in the sky...
Well, it didn't look promising, and that's putting it lightly. But still, we hadn't reached the lake, and it had to be near. So we continued on...and then the wind picked up, and it was a cool wind. The wind that brings a storm. Time to head back I guess, and sadly, without reaching our intended destination. *sigh
From that point on, it was a race against time, and the clouds, which we couldn't tell were moving exactly the same way we were, and bringing mayhem. Up and out of the valley, going at a pace only nature (or a bear) could push me to. Wind blowing, clouds getting darker, thunder getting louder, then the first sprinkles fell on our arms...Yikes, this does not look good.
Finally, as we were nearing the high point that would mark the beginning of our final descent, the lightning began crashing all around us, and it was clear we might end up like one of the trees we saw along the trail that had been severed by electricity straight through the middle from the ground up. It was time to start focusing on getting to the safety of my car.
By the time we reached the pinnacle of the trail, our exhausted legs were begging us to stop for a quick rest. The lighting was directly above us though, so there was no way in hell we were stopping. In fact, we ran across the clearing, and made it back into the trees just as the rain started pouring down on us. Lighting striking..one-one-thousand, two-one-thousand, 3, 4, 5, and thunder. Oh good, it's still at least 5 miles away, as long as that one-one-thousand rule really works. More lightning, each time seemingly getting closer. Rain pouring down. Things weren't letting up, it was only going to get worse. Lighting...CRASH!!. Yep, time to run.
We ran all the way down the hill. Probably a mile or so down a wet, rocky, stumpy trail. It was madness. I actually feared for my life at that point, which only motivated me to run harder. The lightning was directly above us, and we were freaked. When the hell were we going to get to the bottom of this god-forsaken path of darkness? And then, we were there.
We jumped into the car, and drove down the flooded mountain pass to Idaho Springs, then hopped on I-70, and in less than an hour, we were home. Back in Denver, where the storm had only just begun to blow in. The trip was fun, exhilarating, and downright frightening. But all in all, I'd say it was worth it.