Lake Helene

Chris was in town visiting from San Diego for the weekend. Hoping for better luck at Rocky Mountain National Park this time, we filled our Camelbaks, loaded up the Battle Wagon™ and cruised up to Estes Park to hike to Lake Helene.

We arrived at the park-and-ride lot around 8:15a and ran to the crowded shuttle bus that took us up the hill to Bear Lake. Once properly sunscreened, we took to the trail. It seemed like we had chosen a less-popular route; the crowds quickly diminished as we ascended into the pines.

The trail was a steady grade upwards, but not steep enough to require frequent water stops. I brought my REI trekking poles (thanks, dividend!) to try out and found them to be pretty helpful on the hills. It was a beautiful, clear summer day and we took our time, arriving at the cutoff trail to Lake Helene in short order. After taking a rest, a few bites of meat bar, and snapping some photos, we made the descent back to Bear Lake.

When we got back to one of the earlier splits in the trail, we took inventory and decided we felt good enough to walk the 3 miles back to the parking lot. We don’t need a shuttle! The trail was mostly downhill and passed by Lake Bierstadt, where we stopped to finish our snacks and rest. The clouds were starting to roll in and it was getting warmer, but the breeze was refreshing and the view was spectacular.

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We continued on down the trail, which progressively became steeper. Rains earlier in the season had exposed many small rocks in the trail, which, combined with the current dryness and grade, frequently challenged our footing. After a mile of this, we both agreed we should have taken the shuttle back from Lake Bierstadt. We trudged on and made it back to the car around 12:30p, totaling 9.9 miles of hiking for the day. Not too bad!

IMG_5041On our way back to Denver, we stopped at the Pearl Street Mall in Boulder for a delicious lunch at Oak and to visit one of two Mont Bell stores in the U.S. Once closer to town, we stopped again for a tasting flight of sour beers at Crooked Stave and to stock up on odd beers and Boxcar coffee at the other stalls housed in The Source. A pleasant end to a relaxing day in the mountains.

Camping in Leadville

Preparing for rainThis weekend I went camping at the Printer Boy Campground in Leadville, CO for the second year in a row. After work on Thursday, I drove to Breckenridge to stay at Crowd Favorite’s vacation house overnight. My goal was to avoid the Friday crowds heading to the mountains on I-70. In the morning I worked from the house for half a day before going grocery shopping, meeting up with Keith for lunch in Frisco, and finishing the drive to the campground.

Keith and I arrived around 2:00p and, expecting it to rain, quickly found a suitable tent site on high ground. After we moved our gear inside and set up, we were able to relax as the rest of the campers arrived throughout the afternoon. We all met up around the campfire for a taco dinner, libations, and laughs.


My side of the tent

My side of the tent

Keith's side of the tent

Keith’s side of the tent


In the morning I had planned to attempt hiking Mt. Sherman, a nearby 14er. Because the weather was so inconsistent and on the cool side, I opted not to go. Also, I didn’t get much sleep on Friday night and a 6:30a departure was not welcome. It turns out some other campers did attempt the hike and reported it having very poor visibility, so I’m glad I didn’t go.

Throughout the day, the weather was alternating between sunny and cloudy/cold, raining most of the day. I gathered some campers for a drive around the lake and we stopped at a few overlooks to take pictures. There were a few trailheads along the road, so I’ll have to do some research for next year. Upon returning to camp, I spent the rest of the day napping, finishing my book, and practicing bass guitar while it rained. It was a minimally productive day.

Dinner on Saturday was chicken and potatoes paired with Breckenridge Vanilla Porter beer. We played Cards Against Humanity and sat around the campfire before everyone called it a night.

Reservoir selfieIn the morning I quickly packed up and left before breakfast was ready. I wanted to investigate a trail I saw on the way in at the Clinton Gulch Dam Reservoir. At 11,000′ elevation, it was still pretty cold, so I pulled into the parking lot, took some pictures, surveyed the area, and was back on the road in order to avoid the inevitable crowds returning to Denver.

Clinton Gulch Dam Reservoir

Kayaking Lake Dillon and Visiting Mount Evans

PaddleJohn, Keith, Shon and I hit the road early on Saturday and headed into the mountains. Destination: Frisco! At the Frisco Bay Marina on Lake Dillon, we caught up with recent Frisco transplants from Chicago, Kim and Julie, (who I met through my cousin, Lauren, at the Seattle ski trip earlier in the year) to rent kayaks. We grabbed our paddles, strapped on our life jackets and launched into the reservoir.

It was a beautiful summer day and we enjoyed the clear skies, comfortable temps, and light breeze (though thankfully no microbursts) as we paddled east along the north shore. The boat rentals were for three hours, so after 90 minutes we had to swing back around. We explored the coves and islands, thoroughly enjoying the tranquility of the lake and the surrounding mountains.

Eventually we got back to the docks, changed into dry clothes and met back up across the street at Backcountry Brewery. We shared laughs and stories over brews and lunch before parting ways with Kim and Julie to begin the drive back to Denver. Despite the ominous clouds rolling in while driving on I-70, we exited at Idaho Springs to make a detour up the Mount Evans Scenic Byway.

IMG_1163The last few times I had attempted this drive, the road past Echo Lake had been closed, so I was determined to conquer my first 14er. Upon entering the park, we were greeted almost immediately by spectacular views of the surrounding valleys. We quickly surpassed the tree-line as we began to climb into the clouds. How dangerous the road could be in inclement weather was readily apparent – we don’t need no stinking guard rails! I’m really glad I wasn’t driving because I would have been paralyzed with fear around more than a few bends in the crumbling, narrow road. Hat tip to Shon for keeping all four wheels grounded and driving slow for the duration.

Shon befriends a sheep

Shon befriends a sheep

Slowly the sky began to clear as the truck tackled the switchbacks. After an hour of breathtaking views and terrifying road conditions, we reached the summit parking lot at 14,130 feet above sea level. I had forgotten what it was like to be winded from just a few stairs – Mount Evans is almost three times higher than Denver! Shon, John and I took our time climbing up the last few hundred feet to the actual summit. Totally worth the lightheadedness!

A few selfies later, we headed back to the cars and began our decent, running into a few mountain goat and sheep herds. It was still light out, so the four of us took a short hike to Summit Lake to take in the sights. For not having a Xanax handy, I did surprisingly well keeping it together getting down the mountain (my side of the truck was cliff-adjacent).

We returned to I-70 and continued our drive back to Denver, capping off what everyone agreed was a pretty great day.

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Motorcycling to Rocky Mountain National Park

10455421_10100930737830965_439682038303121876_nOn Friday, July 4th, I rented a 2013 Harley Fatboy from Eagle Riders, just in time to ride home through the monsoon. Thankfully, I found refuge in a bank’s covered drive-through ATM, where I hoped my setback wasn’t going to set the tone for the rental.

I put out a call for riders, but I don’t know a lot of people who ride a motorcycle, so on Saturday morning I geared up and met Clark on his 2001 Honda Valkyrie along Rt 36. The two of us continued north, past Boulder, and enjoyed the countryside along the foothills. We stopped in Lyons to re-fuel and carried on, slowly gaining altitude as we made our way along the river towards Estes Park.

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Since it was a holiday weekend we expected a lot traffic. As soon as we got to town, we had a line to contend with. Thankfully, most people were turning into the main street, but we knew to take Rt 34 to avoid the crowds. We had a sandwich made in Safeway, picked up a few snacks and drinks, and headed towards Rocky Mountain National Park’s north entrance on Fall River Road.

From there, we began our climb up into the sky along Trail Ridge Road. Even though there were an unusually high number of vehicles in the park, traffic progressed nicely. We forwent the Many Parks Curve overlook, which is typically where they close the road in winter months, in favor of stopping at the Rainbow Curve overlook. After snapping a few photos, we kept climbing and eventually got above treeline.

rmnp-moto-070514-7Hunger started to kick in, so rather than stop at the already-packed pull-outs, we rode to the Alpine Visitors Center and tore into our sandwiches and chips on a bench overlooking the remnants of snow and the beginnings of the Fall River. Unfortunately, some ugly clouds began to roll in from the northwest and, since we were fairly exposed on a motorcycle above treeline, we opted to depart shortly after lunch.

If you’re not familiar with Trail Ridge Road, it’s constructed in a way to impact the least amount of land, which means it’s been carved into some very steep hills. In many places, there are no guardrails where I would have been much more comfortable having them. Because of this, it can be difficult to enjoy the amazing scenery while concentrating on the road. Add in the mechanics of riding a motorcycle and an ever-increasing tailwind, and you can imagine that we didn’t take our time getting below treeline again.

It was getting late in the day and I had to return the motorcycle before they closed that day, so we stopped one final time to put on some rain gear, took more photos, and made our way back to Denver. Thankfully the rain mostly held off – I was not comfortable riding around corners on the dirt roads where last year’s flooding occurred along Rt 36.

Shortly after passing through Boulder, Clark took his exit and I raced downtown, re-fueling before turning in the bike at 4:46 – 14 minutes to spare! It was a fun trip to the mountains, despite the weather and not having enough time to hike to Cub Lake again. Next time I’ll convince more people to join in.