Hike to Nowhere

Hike to Nowhere, Rocky Mountain National ParkSometimes the best outdoor adventures have no goals, no expeditions to high mountain peaks and pristine alpine lakes. Sometimes the best adventures are found deep in the forest, off trail with only the sound of silence to reward you. Sometimes the best adventures are nothing more than a hike to nowhere.

We took a hike just such as this. With no goal in mind and no destination planned, the rule of the day was, just hike until it feels right. The trail had no real defining features. A well blended forest of alpine fir, lodgepole pine and aspen opening here and there with an occasional glimpse of snow-capped mountain peaks. A gentle rolling creek trickling alongside on our left fed by a high alpine lake in the far distance. Steep slopes rising to the right and dropping to the left, leaving just enough room for the trail and our unknown destination of a hike to nowhere.

We meandered our way up the canyon, stopping here and there, taking a non-aggressive pace and enjoying the quiet of nature.

At some point the trail turned away from the creek and headed uphill. We, on the other hand, did not. Following the creek, off the trail, we made our own way. Our trail to nowhere brought us to a small outcropping overlooking the creek, surrounded by dense woods and the perfect place to call it a day.

Hike to Nowhere, Trail FoodThere we were, all alone, despite the wildlife who possibly hadn’t seen humans for quite some time, if ever. We coexisted well with them and enjoyed each other’s company. For us, time didn’t exist.

While preparing lunch we looked up at a lone aspen tree that sat on the edge of the outcropping and were dumbstruck at our finding. Perfectly carved in its aging trunk, a peace emblem. Indeed, this was the spot we had been looking for. Perfect in so many ways, and yet, perhaps, unimpressive to anyone else.

Sometimes the best outdoor adventures have no goals, no expeditions to high mountain peaks and pristine alpine lakes. Sometimes the best adventures are found deep in the forest, off-trail, with only the sound of silence to reward you. Sometimes the best adventures are nothing more than a hike to nowhere.

Hike to Nowhere, Peace SignBirds singing, a gentle breeze winding its way through the trees and the creek running gently below us, we sat front row to a natural symphony while a flood of memories of our lives together danced through our heads.

Our hike to nowhere had indeed taken us to a very special place.

Peace,

MAD

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Backpacking Eccles Pass

Backpacking Eccles Pass, Eagle's Nest Wilderness, White River National ForestBack at camp, we carried out our duty to do nothing. Breakfast and the inevitable to follow, a walk in the woods with a small shovel. Funny how mundane tasks in the city become something of an art form in the high country. Backpacking Eccles Pass will always remain an experience to remember.

What a beautiful late summer outing, backpacking Eccles Pass. Heading up into the Gore Mountain Range near Frisco, Colorado can be some what of an uphill battle, especially with a full backpack. Though, once out of the gulch the trail levels into picturesque meadows surrounded by mountain peaks. Simply put, the hike up is lush and quiet. Aspen groves give way to mixed pine woods with fresh running streams and a much more laid-back environment versus the hustle and bustle of city life.

Arriving in the high valley, you’ll find open meadows thinning out to rugged peaks and big open skies. Wildflowers abound here, while gentle creeks flow from snowmelt high above bring life giving waters to the valley below. There’s room for everyone and everything here, that is, man, nature and wildlife enjoy the pristine unmaintained landscape of the beautiful Eagle’s Nest Wilderness, just the way it should remain.

We camped just below Eccles Pass, somewhere around 11,500′, out of touch and out of time with nowhere to go, no place to be, relaxing and allowing the natural flow of things to overtake our minds. A room with a view, if you will, positioning our tent to face west at the mountain range, prime for sunset and sunrise and a hopeful moose having dinner among the reeds.

Backpacking Eccles Pass, Marmot Tent, Backpacking TentThe nights were quiet, so much so you could hear a mouse chewing on a pine cone fifty yards away. Shadows danced all around the meadow under an almost full moon. We were alone with only nature as our cohabitant. We would drift in and out of sleep with anticipation of first light and exploring further.

“What was that?”

“A bear”

“What!?”

“A rabid moose”

“What?!!”

“An alligator…”

The next morning we would wander, aimlessly, exploring fields of wildflowers, cool running streams and eventually up to Eccles Pass for the view of a lifetime. From our vantage point the whole landscape disappeared into further untouched lands waiting to be explored. Trails winding in and out and over further mountain passes. If only we had more supplies we could just walk on in any direction letting our imaginations lead the way.

Back at camp, we carried out our duty to do nothing. Breakfast and the inevitable to follow, a walk in the woods with a small shovel. Funny how mundane tasks in the city become something of an art form in the high country. Backpacking Eccles Pass will always remain an experience to remember.

Does a bear sh*t in the woods? I know we do! Finding that “spot” where you need to relieve yourself can be tricky at times. You obviously don’t want an audience, hell, we don’t even want a chipmunk watching, nor do you want someone to find your, well, you just don’t want someone finding “it.” Privacy, secrecy and no mosquitoes coming up behind you is what it’s all about.

“How deep should I make the hole?”

“I don’t know, how full of sh*t are you?”

After breaking camp, we fueled up, loaded up and began our decent back to city life. How we would love to just stay and never go back. Backpacking Eccles Pass, much less anyplace in the Colorado High Country, just seems to sit well with us. We always feel at home and as if the weight of the world and all its frustrations just lift off of us. Perhaps one day we’ll just take that one last look behind us as we disappear into the wilderness for good.

Peace,

MAD

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4th of July Fireworks

As the snow melts away and reveals the high tundra, wildflowers come to life and explode in their own spectacle of colors. Reds, blues, yellows, purples and a multitude of colors splash themselves against the backdrop of snow covered peaks making for quite the scenery only found on postcards. 4th of July fireworks are not only found in the city!

It’s that time of year again. The long winter’s nap has all but faded into a distant memory. Trees and grasses are green again and the wildflowers have bloomed in their vast array of colors. Picnics, barbecues and gatherings surround 4th of July fireworks as summertime is now in full swing.

Why would we disturb natural tranquility for mass explosions and such a spectacle of light over the 4th of July? Patriotism, family fun and good old fashioned America no doubt.

If that’s not necessarily your thing, you are in luck. The back country of the Colorado Rocky Mountains offer up their own holiday cheer with just as much color, and far less commotion. Just as the Wilderness Act of 1964 says, “…outstanding opportunities for solitude…”

As the snow melts away and reveals the high tundra, wildflowers come to life and explode in their own spectacle of colors. Reds, blues, yellows, purples and a multitude of colors splash themselves against the backdrop of snow covered peaks making for quite the scenery only found on postcards. The 4th of July fireworks are not only found in the city!

If the noise and busyness are getting to you while so many are gathered together in the city for the 4th of July fireworks, try heading to the mountains for a calmer, more intimate and serene experience this year. There is no lack of wow factor and you just might find yourself relaxing a bit. A sunrise, early morning hike and a nap in the afternoon by a cool running stream might be just what the doctor ordered!

Our top 3 hiking trails near Denver to see wildflowers:

  1. Lake Isabelle & Isabelle Glacier
  2. Arapaho Glacier & South Arapaho Peak
  3. Heart Lake & Rogers Pass

Peace,

MAD

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When the Earth Sleeps

When the earth sleeps, Backpacking, indian peaks wilderness

When the earth sleeps. In between summer and winter there lies the short and delicate season of fall. Time seems to stand still, the air begins to cool and the colors explode once more before their long winter nap.

On this outing we chose a special place of solace for us, a hidden lake high in the Indian Peaks Wilderness that we have named Lake Shira for our eldest daughter born still, Shira Rose. It is a peaceful lake, surrounded and protected by the outside world just below the Continental Divide.

Our trek took us from deep in the woods, across streams and up high into the sub-alpine terrain of the Colorado Rocky Mountains. Pelted with rain and snow, we forged on knowing full well that fall can bring all four seasons in a day in the high country.

camping, backpacking, indian peaks wilderness, when the earth sleeps

Once at base camp we set up camp. Following our traditions of naming the various places around the perimeter, we easily found our bedroom and pitched our tent. Next on the agenda, a kitchen, bear canister for fridge, we soon had a place for our meal preparations. And yes, a living room came next, surrounded by mountains peaks, Lake Shira and even a view towards the distant plains where we would see the sun rise in the morning. Everything was set, we had a place to call home for a few days. All that was left to do was relax and explore.

The evenings and mornings were quite crisp and the daytime cool. We awoke each day to the sound of coyotes running through the valley below, marmots and pikas chirping in the early morning light and the occasional stellar jay looking for a handout. Indeed, this was a special place.

Backpacking, indian peaks wilderness, when the earth sleeps

Heading home would come too soon, though the hike back down would be full of the sweet smell of fall and blanketed in color as the aspen trees were putting on quite the show. Streams running full of late snow melt, it was as if the earth was cleansing itself before going to bed for the winter.

When the earth sleeps. In between summer and winter there lies the short and delicate season of fall. Time seems to stand still, the air begins to cool and the colors explode once more before their long winter nap.

Peace,

MAD

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Overcoming Personal Challenges

The Loch Rocky Mountain National Park

 The Loch Rocky Mountain National ParkHave you ever been stuck between a rock and a hard place? Our latest adventure had us in just such a place of overcoming personal challenges.

Which way should we go? I don’t know. One is obvious and unfamiliar, the other is obscured but the only way we’ve ever gone. Both are daunting, difficult and quite intimidating.

There we were, only a half mile away from fulfilling a dream of backpacking in a winter setting to The Loch, an amazing gem hidden deep within Rocky Mountain National Park. There was no way we were going to stop now! Only accessible by hiking in, or in our case, snowshoeing. The Loch is a picturesque mountain setting. Complete with a beautiful lake, clear running streams and surrounded on three sides by towering mountains dressed with glaciers and pristine white snow.

It was the first weekend of spring in Colorado and unseasonably warm in the high country, 20s overnight, 50s during the day. We couldn’t pass up the opportunity to pack in and surround ourselves with the raw and untamed wild of the Colorado Rocky Mountains. Backcountry camping can be a bit overwhelming at first, as you are far from services, your vehicle and people. Cut off, you’re on your own.

Camping at The Loch Rocky Mountain National Park

Not only was it the first weekend of spring, indeed there was something else brewing in the air. It was to be the vernal equinox accompanied by a supermoon and solar eclipse. Say what you will, but the energy in the air just seemed to have an intriguing sensation to it. The area we were in, part of Glacier Gorge, is known for extreme winds, and yet the air was still, calm…deafening. We sat in the pitch black of our campsite awe struck at the innumerable stars, twinkling and shooting across the night sky. The silence was intoxicating.

And yet, we stood in between two avenues. We had come so far and were getting excited that our destination was close at hand. Following a familiar route we came to an abrupt stop on the trail. The summer route we knew well was buried deep in snow, obscured and hidden under the winter snowfall. We had never attempted this in the winter and were not familiar with the winter trail that followed The Loch’s outflow stream that usually is running fiercely through the gorge from snow melt in the summer months.

Snowshoeing The Loch Rocky Mountain National Park

Although we saw evidence of other hikers heading that way, we had never taken it and did not exactly know where it led. It could be to The Loch, or it could be to another valley away from our destination putting us even further away. The winter route dubbed Icy Brook is more of a steep icy / snow climb that didn’t sound too inviting to two weary backpackers who were carrying heavy packs and were all too ready to be at their destination. We opted for the summer route instead.

With no visible trace of the trail we relied on our GPS device to lead the way. Granted we were “supposedly” on the trail, we were also knee to hip deep in snow drudging up the side of a mountain. Indeed, a workout! Once we made our way up the steep snowy slope we came to an area we knew well. Just below The Loch now, we resumed our hike in by our own intuition of the lay of the land. Incredible views all around, we left our uncertainty behind us and made the final ascent to The Loch.

Snowshoeing to The Loch Rocky Mountain National Park

We spent some time reacquainting ourselves with our old friend [The Loch], whom we’d only visited in the comfort of summer. A now frozen over lake and deep snow in all directions, finding a suitable campsite might seem difficult. We’d talked about it before even beginning our trek, we wanted a room with a view! After a short while it’s as if the clouds had parted, the birds began to sing and a ray of beautiful golden sunlight came down from the heavens and shown down on an outcropping above the lake that was free of snow and provided 360 degree views of The Loch and all its beauty. We were there.

Snowshoeing Rocky Mountain National Park, Icy Brook

When it was time to leave we begrudgingly packed up our tent, sleeping bags and belongings, stuffing them back in our packs to make our way back to the trailhead and home. But we weren’t done yet. We had spent some time exploring around The Loch during our stay and discovered that the Icy Brook route was indeed the winter trail that would take us back to where we would meet up with what we already were familiar with. It was like looking over a cliff. We met our fears, took it slow and prepared ourselves for the steep descent. Once at the safety of the bottom we just looked at each other and smiled, let’s do it again…but another day! Exhausted, though happy to have made the trek, we were thrilled to have gotten through some learning curves and uncertainty. It was another one for the books that filled us with new found joy of experiencing the wild untamed backcountry of the Rocky Mountains.

To enjoy more photos of this outing and others like it, visit our MAD Hippies Life Rocky Mountain National Park Flickr Album

Peace,

MAD 😀

Breakfast With Bullwinkle

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Brainard Lake, CO

A recent trip to one of out favorite hiking destinations hinted to us that fall was definitely in the air and winter is not that far off. While it’s no real surprise, as we are in the Colorado Rocky Mountain Region, it just seems that it should be early October instead of September. Our advise, stop looking at the calendar and keep your eye on nature. The wildlife is actively foraging, the leaves on the trees are turning, the high peaks are dusted with new snow and the cool morning air just seems to have that “here comes winter” smell.

MADHippiesLife.com
St Vrain Creek

Many people might be thinking about putting away their hiking boots and camping gear now that the seasons are turning, while we just get even more encouraged to hike on. Each season holds its own unique beauty and experience, fall and winter indeed can change the same old hike into a whole new adventure.  We highly recommend year round outdoor expeditions to grasp how nature changes with the seasons and holds secrets that otherwise go unseen in the deep of winter. Now is a great time to educate and equip yourself for cold weather hiking.

Moose at Brainard Lake
Moose at Brainard Lake

We just couldn’t stop thinking [and noticing] on this early morning at Brainard Lake that the seasons are indeed changing. The signs are there and it won’t be long before we strap on the snowshoes, bundle up and hit the trail, albeit buried in deep snow. We hope to see you on the trail, hike on! And yes, the moose are still out and about at Brainard Lake, every morning and evening they’re on the southwest side of the lake enjoying the plentiful vegetation, stop by some time and have breakfast with Bullwinkle…you’ll be glad you did!

Go here to see more pictures of this outing and keep up with all our adventures!

Peace,

MAD

Campground Ethics

REI – TAJ 3

Camping in busy and crowded campgrounds is an activity we’d rather not endure, though there are times when it becomes a necessary alternative. While many are pleasant even in their heavy use seasons, there are some that would be better left to the unethical and inexperienced once a summer weekend campers. Even trails can become overcrowded in peak seasons, leaving those seeking peace and quiet wondering if they should have stayed at home if everyone is now on the trail!

A recent outing we went on to what should have been, or better said, what we hoped would be, a much needed relaxing and uneventful outdoor excursion felt more like a trip to a park in the middle of a city. Let’s just stop and think about this, why do any of us seek to spend time in the outdoors far removed from city life? Quiet? Nature? Hello? Bueller? Needless to say none of those things existed, bummer. In replacement we endured camp gatherings all around that brought with them all their typical inner city entertainment, yeah, they were all plugged in and sharing with the rest of us. If that weren’t enough, the complete and utter disrespect for personal space seemed to be nonexistent. People parking just about any old place they could find to stow their vehicles and walking through other campsites to get where they were going, ultimately the party! Wow, in all our years this one has got to top the list of bad camp ethics.

Is this a blog or a rant? Let’s just call it venting and hopefully it will fall on the right ears, that being the one’s who seem to think the above behavior is appropriate. If it’s a party you want, electronic entertainment or your basic shindig in central park, please, for the love of mankind and his sanity, stay in the city and let those of us who are looking for a serene wilderness experience find it in the unplugged and quiet setting of nature. Just saying 🙂

Peace,

MAD

Moose, Wildflowers and Sunsets to Die For

Sunset Brainard Lake, CO
Sunset Brainard Lake, CO

Our recent “need to get away” adventure took us to Brainard Lake a few hours west of Denver at an altitude of 10,500′ where we would leave the heat of summer behind, sleep under cool evening stars and experience moose, wildflowers and sunsets to die for.

StVrain
Wildflowers along St Vrain Creek

The colors of spring and summer in full swing along the St Vrain Creek. Any trip to this area will be first experienced through the color of the wildflowers that blanket the landscape. From lazy lakes in the valley to energetic streams along the trail to the high mountain passes and peaks still covered in snow, the color is an explosion of the full spectrum raining down on the Brainard Lake and Indian Peaks area. Indeed, Bob Ross [and his happy little trees] would have loved this place 🙂

Bull Moose at Brainard Lake
Bull Moose at Brainard Lake

Just when we thought our adventure couldn’t get any better, we enjoyed a surprise encounter of five incredibly majestic bull moose along the bank of Brainard Lake enjoying the willows as much as we were enjoying not only them, but, as the title of this blog says, Moose, Wildflowers and Sunsets to Die For!

See more pictures of Brainard Lake

Peace,

MAD