This weekend, Tim and I went for an exploration hike in RMNP. We started out on the Flattop Mountain trail to the summit, then left the trails and explored high ridgelines in the backcountry. Tim has been running marathons this summer, so his pace for the hike was MUCH faster than I'm used to. It was kind of refreshing being able to move so fast, but also challenging to keep up (especially) on the uphill.
Hallett from near the summit of Flattop
Flattop mountain has to be the flattest at the top mountain I've ever summited. I'm not really sure where the actual summit was. We grabbed a quick bite and moved along as the wind was strong and chilly. I'll nerd out by naming the peaks we see in the following images.
Notchtop and friends with the Mummy Range in the distance.
Taylor Peak B I believe
Andrews Peak (left of center) and Ptarmigan Peak (right)
And what is a good trip report without the obligatory flower and critter shots:
Overall, the gps said we went about 15 miles/4,000 vert. making this the longest one of the summer for both of us. I'm really starting to enjoy exploring some of the rarely visited areas of one of the most popular national parks. Once we left the Flattop Mountain trail, we didn't see another soul until we returned. Rocky is a lot bigger than it seems and still has a great deal of wilderness for those who are willing to hike a bit farther.
The past few weeks have been very warm and dry throughout the state. A huge fire near Durango had closed the San Juan National Forest. This weekend the mountains received a fair amount of needed moisture, which has helped to calm the fire. We also received a fair amount of moisture this weekend making for a cold, wet trip to the Sangre De Cristo mountains.
James, Lindsey, Cami and I backpacked into South Colony Lakes Basin on Friday afternoon.
I woke early to catch the sunrise on Crestone Needle.
Once we all reached the lower South Colony Lake, James and Lindsey decided to hang a hammock here and relax while Cami and I continued up Humboldt. The cloudy sky held steady until we neared the summit of the peak around 10 AM. Then the wind and clouds came in rapidly and covered us and the peaks in white. This was my second time hiking this 14er and both times have been covered in clouds with no views up high. Rain and hail soon followed and we descended quickly. The temperature went from hot to cold so fast!
From the saddle
Last shot before the clouds covered everything
While up there, I was able to confirm a long debated theory about the existence of an elusive creature called Sasquatch (A.K.A. Bigfoot). On our descent, Molly started barking at a huge apelike creature that came up out of the mist. He waved at us just as I whipped out my camera to take his picture, then ran back down the mountain and disappeared.
Proof of Bigfoot
Back at camp it poured for a few hours. We built a fire to dry out our clothes and make some delicious dinner. We talked about personality types and had a great time with good friends. We all turned in before it was dark. In the middle of the night it started pouring again. We were all awakened by a loud rock-slide on Marble Mountain south of us. It sounded like we might be crushed in our tents, but we survived.
The next morning Lindsey joined me on a hike back up to the lake to catch the sunrise again. The peaks were covered this time, but there was bright color to the east.
On our way out, we realized none of us had ever seen Bishop's Castle that was down in that area. There's an interesting story about this unique attraction if you google it. The castle is quite impressive. Much larger than I thought in real life. James and Lindsey went up in it to explore. Cami and I were tired of stairs.
Mt. Orton is not really a mountain, but a pile of rocks on the ridge of Chiefs Head Peak in the Wild Basin area of Rocky Mountain National Park. It's a worthy goal and still requires about 3,000 ft. of elevation gain and 11 miles round trip from the Sandbeach Lake trail. The views from the top of the surrounding peaks of RMNP are nothing short of spectacular.
Cami and I arrived at the trailhead at 4:00 in the afternoon on a sunny forecast day. We found that the fees have just gone up to get into the national parks, so we were glad we'd already purchased our year pass. The hike to Sandbeach Lake is pretty dull. No views in the trees and a straight trail that doesn't change much except for a couple river crossings. Sandbeach Lake was interesting. It's just as its name suggests, a sandy beach in the middle of the mountains. Where else can you hike in the mountains and then relax on a beach? I would definitely like to come back here sometime just to camp and hang out.
From here, we started bushwhacking west to gain the open ridge. Cami is supper fond of bushwhacking through the mountains. Kidding. She slows down significantly when there is no trail. Add in some post-holing in the snowfields and scrambling up loose rocky sections, and you have a recipe for a time consuming adventure. I was getting impatient and frustrated as we were kind of on a time crunch to make it for sunset. She wasn't too happy with my lack of hiding my impatience. It wasn't pretty, but we finally made it above the trees onto easier terrain.
Cami with Sandbeach Lake below
Once on the ridge the views of Longs Peak, Meeker, and Pagoda are just awesome. It's a unique view of these high peaks. I thought the sunset light would hit the west side of the peaks a bit more, but the sun set a little farther north than I anticipated. Still a great view. From the top, you can see the southern peaks of RMNP and a good portion of the Indian Peaks Wilderness.
Walking back in the dark with Cami was fun. We don't always get to just be together and talk and enjoy ourselves without the kids. Even though our bodies were exhausted from the hike, it was refreshing to be together and rejuvenate.