Abyss Lake Trail

There were three water crossings ahead of us, the creeks were raging with snowmelt and the temperatures the night before had dipped below freezing. The thin log bridges that we would need to traverse were now covered in ice.

Our latest outing was in the Mt Evan’s Wilderness, a wilderness area that encompasses over 74,000 acres, has two mountains at over 14,000′ and an abundance of wildlife and trail options. We chose the Abyss Lake Trail for several reasons, a couple being water and wildlife, but mostly because it is a trail we have never been on. With our continued conditioning for the Colorado Trail, we have been backpacking routes that will challenge us and, like the CT, are unfamiliar, a factor that keeps our mental and physical faculties alert for constant change.

This outing was to be no different. We put all of our gear, food and supplies in our packs for an overnight hike. Our goal was a sub-alpine bowl centered amongst several prominent mountain peaks, two of which towered above 14,000′ in elevation. With the snow melt in full swing we knew water sources would be plentiful and the trail conditions mixed. Spring hiking in Colorado can be challenging with snow, ice, mud and water in constant battle for the trail’s surface. In most cases, one usually encounters all of these on any given path above 10,000′ as you climb higher, sometimes losing the trail or finding it somewhat obscured.

Though wanting to experience a new trail, and wanting that trail to be unfamiliar, we prepared for any and all conditions. Snowshoes and microspikes strapped to the backs of our packs, we made our way from the trailhead up the trail not knowing what we would find. Granted we were aware of what the weather forecast was calling for, we also know it can deviate and bring surprises in mountain terrain. Possible thunderstorms, overnight temperatures in the high twenties to low thirties and daytime temperatures in the sixties, we found the environment to be likely what we will be experiencing on the Colorado Trail this summer.

This outing, and the ones we have been going out on of late, are geared just to this point, preparing for a thru-hike in changing conditions and at altitude. We only have a visual overview and a rather active imagination when it comes to the Colorado Trail. Sure, we know the technicalities, but until one walks the just under five hundred mile trail, there really is no way to know what it truly is like. One could even state, each person’s journey will be completely unique , and rightly so. Alas, the trail is in constant change and provides a different story for each individual every new season.

Our hike on the Abyss Lake Trail, no different. What we planned for is exactly what we got, the unknown and ever changing conditions of a wilderness experience. Perfect training scenario in preparation for the CT. Our hike up was mostly uneventful, and finding our destination came rather easy. Once there we began our tasks of making camp. Tent in place, water filtered and lunch made, we settled in and enjoyed our new alpine surroundings. Evening came and with it a few passing thunderstorms that had us shelter in our tent until they passed. Afterwards a little exploration and back to camp for the night.

It wasn’t until the next morning that our uneventful expedition would change and the wilderness would have a few lessons in store for us. We gathered our belongings, packed our gear and headed out on our trek back to civilization. We thought, well, at the very least we got a decent workout and some more experience with our gear. Simple enough, or so we thought. The first four letters of wilderness are anyone’s clue to their surroundings when in the high country. Expect the unexpected.

There were three water crossings ahead of us, the creeks were raging with snowmelt and the temperatures the night before had dipped below freezing. The thin log bridges that we would need to traverse were now covered in ice. With no way around we contemplated waiting on the heat of the sun, several hours away. We looked up and down stream, no go. The decision was made, we would cross on our hands and knees. Our hands and knees were freezing and slipping on the ice, the spray from the water raging beneath was frigid, and the roar was deafening. The log bridge seemed to grow in length as we inched our way across the ice with full packs on our backs and Mia secure in her front pouch.

One down, two more to go. We can do this, we thought to ourselves. Our new found confidence was quickly put on hold as we came near a bull moose staring at us just off trail. Slowly and gently we moved on as not to startle him any more than we already may have. Sigh of relief followed by another heart pounding moose encounter. This time a female on trail coming straight for us. We all met with our eyes long enough to say “shit” or however a moose might say it! She must have thought, these two and their little chihuahua must be crazy because she no sooner turned and went the other way disappearing into a thick aspen grove as we began breathing again.

With bridge number two now in sight we saw another hiker sitting on the bank waiting for the sun and watched curiously as we did our eloquent ice crawl to the other side. He reluctantly followed in like fashion. Perhaps it was the first bridge or maybe the two moose, but now we were on a mission. After we crossed the last ice laden bridge we were home free, settled in and began a more leisurely hike to the parking lot. Enjoying the last views of swollen white-water creeks, lazy morning meadows, dense mixed forests of pine and aspen, all backdropped by snowcapped peaks, we hated to leave. The Colorado Trail will have so much more!

Peace,

MAD

MAD Hippies Life is on Instagram, Twiiter, Facebook and YouTube

Advertisements

Colorado Trail #3

We were thinking this is just going to be a unique season in the high country, but the more we thought about it, they are all unique. Every season offers up its own particular experience. Every day has its own personal gift for the adventurer.

June 2019, 2 months till the Colorado Trail

Time is speeding up. We now have two months until we begin our journey of hiking the Colorado Trail end to end from Durango back to Denver. It would be a lie to say we are not getting a little anxious. While our gear choices and route planning are all but done, we still continue to iron out the small details, all of which can quickly feel overwhelming if not kept in check. Final menu choices, how we will advance our supplies along the route and where exactly we will stay at those towns we have already chosen for our resupply points are still being thought out. But those are all normal issues that we have known will need to be addressed as we get closer to our departure.

A thru hike of any length will have logistical issues that will need to be considered at some point, and likely will change several times throughout the planning stages. Being fluid is key, while being dogmatic about everything can become exhausting. A happy balance is needed, especially in light of the fact that the traveler of the CT does not change the trail, on the contrary, the trail changes the traveler. Keeping in mind the trail itself is in constant change, the first four letters of WILDerness is a statement to that.

The 2019 hiking season is already abuzz with trail conditions and the impact winter has had. Amongst the most talked about for the Colorado and Continental Divide trails, along the high routes through Colorado, snow depths. If one were paying close attention over the winter and the now spring months, it will quickly become apparent that there are, and will be, a few route finding issues after an above average snowfall season. In the aftermath there have been severe avalanches, known and yet to be known. After the melt off there will likely be surprises on trail that will be uncovered, reroutes or difficult terrain crossings will certainly exist.

Living in Colorado, we have seen and heard about all these reports all too frequently in the last few months while continuing with our plans. We were thinking this is just going to be a unique season in the high country, but the more we thought about it, they are all unique. Every season offers up its own particular experience. Every day has its own personal gift for the adventurer. Accepting these constant changes is just something people have to do. No one sets off to explore and experience the great outdoors in a predictable manner. Predicting that it will be unpredictable is as good as it gets. Training, knowledge and preparation of long-term backpacking in an alpine environment, alongside having the proper gear and clothing is the best we can do.

Preparation has been our motto all along. It is who we are, how we operate. We don’t like surprises, granted we accept they do and will exist. The amount of snow Colorado received over winter was definitely a surprise, but one we calculated as a risk, a risk we built into our plan as we scheduled a late start for our thru-hike early on. What surprises we are unable to account for come in the form of our personal lives. We all have those on any given day, it is called life. We have had our share in that department and will continue to do so, responding to such and their impacts on our lives is the meat of our ability to move forward. As we get closer to our departure to begin our CT adventure, it becomes crucial that all of our ducks are in a row, both technically and personally.

Peace,

MAD

Follow MAD Hippies Life on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube

Why Hike the Colorado Trail

The Colorado Trail is the perfect culmination of all we have been doing to keep ourselves active and will certainly challenge us across the board, a challenge we gladly accept and look forward to completing.

_MG_1447-Edit

People are taken back when we tell them we are backpacking the Colorado Trail as a thru-hike. Once we describe the terrain, altitude, distance and time involved, then the confused facial expressions coupled with the concurrent question of “why?” soon follow. Although, in their defense, the question does beg to be asked, “just why are we doing this?” It is an honest question and certainly deserves and honest answer. While we cannot answer for everyone, we can at the very least attempt to explain ourselves.

The Colorado Trail is nearly 500 miles of rugged terrain. To say the month long trek is enjoyable after considering what is involved might have some questioning our sanity. Big temperature swings and exposure to the elements are a constant battle. Having to carry not only gear and clothing, but food and water, can be quite the burden. The day in, day out, getting up and out of a warm sleeping bag to walk an average of 15 to 20 miles can be a mental fight. Lions, tigers and bears are certainly the least of our worries. So, just what is the draw and why would we put ourselves through such a test of mental and physical endurance?

Years ago we decided to challenge ourselves to hike every week throughout the entire year, regardless of the weather. We encountered rain, snow, mud, extreme winds, hail, lightning, intense sun and temperature swings that would have a thermometer throwing in the towel. However, for every inclement or sweltering weather day we encountered, there were times that would stop us dead in our tracks leaving us speechless at the immense and pristine landscape before us. The Colorado Rocky Mountains have a way of captivating those who explore its vast wilderness areas. But that is only part of our reasoning. Even the worst weather days we found absolute beauty in our surroundings.

The calming effect the Colorado wilderness has on us is indisputable. One can’t help but stare into the face of the age old craggy peaks that have witnessed countless explorers over time and wonder what stories they left behind. Walking through endless fields of wildflowers atop open benches high above treeline is akin to a 4th of July grand finale fireworks display. At the end of each day, finding ourselves camping near a babbling brook deep in the forest of an elongated valley while listening to the sounds of nature serenade us to sleep is music to our ears. All of these things are nothing short of a symphony for our senses, an invitation, if you will, for body, mind and soul to experience tranquility.

Personal endurance challenge? Perhaps. We do like to push ourselves physically as well as mentally. Again, going back to our goal of hiking every week, we want to keep moving and keep ourselves vibrant, healthy and strong to the best of our abilities. Hiking and backpacking is a great avenue to do just that. Complete with good and balanced eating habits we are able to nourish ourselves in all aspects, physically, mentally and spiritually. The Colorado Trail is the perfect culmination of all we have been doing to keep ourselves active and will certainly challenge us across the board, a challenge we gladly accept and look forward to completing.

Are our expectations to have a seamless blue sky day surrounded by Bambi and all his friends of the forest? No. We expect nothing short of all Colorado mountain weather has to offer. We do anticipate clear blue skies, wind, thunderstorms, frost and even snow. We also anticipate that any or all will happen on the same day. Bambi and his friends will be there, along with Bullwinkle and a few others. Mosquitoes and other biting nuisances will be plentiful as will trail challenges like downed trees, snowfields and mud. All of which are just part of what keeps the wilderness wild and untamed. For every difficulty there is also a silver lining, a moment of awe, that negates the hardships of being in a natural environment with nothing but the clothes, err, backpacks on our backs.

Just like the Colorado Trail itself travels up and down, climbing high atop the Continental Divide and down low into fertile valleys, so too will our thru-hike be. Full of highs and lows, physically and emotionally. It is, after all, life, our life, on the Colorado Trail. Experiences and memories, full of grand stories, perhaps embellished at times, to be to shared with generations to come of how two high school sweethearts walked side by side through life and one day set out on the adventure of a lifetime.

Peace,

MAD

Visit MAD Hippies Life on Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook

Colorado Trail #2

“A roll of toilet paper seems to go for a while until it gets near the end and then it goes really fast.”

March 2019, 4 months till the Colorado Trail

Today was the first day, in what seems to have been a very long time, that we did not wake up to frost, ice or snow. It definitely felt warmer, not that that’s saying much, probably 34° or so, but definitely above freezing. That said, bring on spring and warmer temperatures!

With four months to go, we have all but completed our gear list. Our sleep system, shelter, packs, cook system, water system and electronics are all dialed in and ready. We now move on to finalizing our menu, resupply towns, personal items and clothing. Physically we also continue to log miles whenever and wherever possible.

Winter in Colorado has been, well, winter. After several dry years that resulted in a drought, the snow machine has once again been let loose. At this time the Colorado snowpack is well above average with more time for continued accumulation. That said, we have stopped worrying about water sources on trail and have begun considering that many of the high passes will hold their snow well beyond summer.

It has been somewhat challenging to try and mimic trail conditions on any given outing as we continue to log miles with our packs full. The snow just keeps coming leaving many places we might normally use as a “full pack workout” covered in snow and ice. We have been getting creative nonetheless, wearing ice spikes or hiking as early as possible before packed snow begins to get soft with added sunlight. Other days are spent on level surfaces with increased miles, while other, more inclement days, are just spent inside using our own exercise equipment. Spring and early summer will bring better hiking conditions and increased accessibility to trails with more demanding gains and higher altitude.

We are so ready for long, warm days on trail! Watching the calendar certainly isn’t helping matters, though it is somewhat like a silly quote we recently heard, “A roll of toilet paper seems to go for a while until it gets near the end and then it goes really fast.” This will more than likely be the case for us, for now it is a slow wait, but soon time will accelerate and before you know it we will be on the Colorado Trail.

We have gone over the route and have written it out at least a half dozen times, looking at the details of each day, each segment and each resupply point. We have carefully chosen our gear, food and electronics. Sometimes we ask ourselves if we are crazy for doing this, some days we just feel like we are going crazy waiting. We have watched videos, viewed pictures and talked with others who have already made the trek. We have already experienced many of the early segments in previous years and look forward to points beyond. Waiting is hard, but we welcome the time we have left to continue with our planning and dream of the trail before us.

Peace,

MAD

MAD Hippies Life is on YouTube, Instagram, Twitter & Facebook

Colorado Trail #1

“Trail life is full of oohs and awes, but they are also filled with sighs, four letter words and pain”

January 2019, 6 months till the Colorado Trail

Many adventures begin with vision, albeit a personal challenge, a quest for spiritual awakening, a test of physical endurance or just a plain desire to explore uncharted territories never seen before. Adventures allow us to embark on journeys that impact us on so many levels. For us, our desire to hike the Colorado Trail in its entirety is probably more of a mix, encompassing aspects of all of the above. Though desire and vision can have skewed lines, reality usually swoops in and serves up a surprise, delivering, if you will, what you need instead. That said, our first installment of “The Colorado Trail” should be compared to the last. We will see you on the backside!

As we move through the planning and preparation stages of hiking the Colorado Trail, the vision still remains the same, granted how it will unfold seems to be changing the more in tune we become with the details. We know it will be tough, no backpacking trip we have ever taken was easy. Trail life is full of oohs and awes, but they are also filled with sighs, four letter words and pain. To see the remote wilderness firsthand is no easy endeavor, hence the remote part. One would be a fool not to expect challenging conditions full of hardships that must be overcome in order to embrace the reward. Long days on trail, encountering rough terrain, ever-changing weather, endless pounding of your feet, tired legs and the mind games we tend to grapple with as each false summit is reached are all part of backpacking. To glorify such extensive treks without talking about the difficulties would be irresponsible on our part, only setting others less traveled up for failure.

These constant reminders beg the question we have all no doubt asked ourselves at one time or another, “why am I doing this?” The answer comes just as the question itself is asked, “the silence of remote beauty, the stillness of the mind when the modern world is left behind and the imaginative ponderings of what lies beyond the next mountain peak draw us in.” Many will indeed walk to the edge of the world, few will take the leap into the unknown. Fear has a long history of keeping us locked into the comfort of our own personal domains, where curiosity opens the door. Stepping forward through that door is a decision that must be made with a combination of a sound mind and a form of lunacy. Who in their right mind would walk 500 miles, or more, exposed to the elements and trekking across difficult mountainous terrain? Someone crazy enough to do it, yet sane enough to understand the dangers.

Currently, on our kitchen table, across the living room, into the bedroom and basically on any unoccupied flat space available, we have accumulated information, gear and necessary items for our CT adventure. Each has purpose, even multipurpose if we are doing it right. Our gear is as light as we can get it while still remaining comfortable on trail. Our necessities for safety easily fall into the must go category, and go whether we like it or not. Then there is the plethora of information strewn about that we read through that fits perfectly in the backs of our minds filed away as mental notes. If such items were to be physically carried we would need a team of pack mules along for the ride. Food and water are paramount. The science behind how much to take, what we should take and when to eat can be as daunting as the first big climb. Alas, these things are all part of a successful outing into the unknown and untamed Colorado Rocky Mountain wilderness.

Route planning seems pretty straightforward, glancing at the map(s). But, and that is a rather big pause for consideration, just because we can draw a line from here to there doesn’t answer the many questions of how far we will, or need, to travel on any given day. It won’t necessarily tell you which water sources will be available at any given time. And, by and far, no map in the world will tell you the weather! Many of these question can be preplanned, but certainty won’t necessarily come until that moment arrives. Flexibility on trail is another key to a successful outing. The following statement addresses this, spelling out variables that will be addressed on trail. Knowing the situation will arise is planning enough sometimes, being open to various contingencies is a must.

“Day 3, feeling strong, twenty mile water carry, three days worth of food, mostly downhill with one major climb, sixteen miles(?), water and camping through miles 11-16, let’s hope for good weather.”

This is where we really dig in and begin to eat and breathe the CT and its many attributes that bind together our desire and vision. Drawing from varied sources such as past hikers, trusted meteorologists, gear manufacturers, printed and digital materials, we prepare both physically and mentally. We prepare for the known and unknown. We wait patiently for our first steps that will thrust us into an adventure of a lifetime.

Peace,

MAD

Follow MAD Hippies Life on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

 

Wind, Rain and Snow…Oh My

As it were, it wouldn’t be long till we made it around the next bend and faced yet another foe, a bigger, larger than life foe, the weather!

On a recent outing we knew what we were walking into, sort of. The weather forecast was calling for high winds, rain and possible snow later in the day. Not a big deal, Colorado weather can throw everything at you, all at once if need be, just be prepared mentally, gear–wise and give yourself some extra breathing room on the clock. If the weatherman says the storms will hit around 2:00, be done by 12:00. Simple enough.

Off we went. At the trailhead we noticed plenty of lingering snow and ice in the shaded areas above us on the trail. “Did you remember the MicroSpikes?” A short pause and an inner voice comment, “Sh*#! Well, let’s see what we can see and take it easy, maybe it’s not that bad.”

The trail was a mix, at first. Mostly clear with some icy patches in the shade. We enjoyed the southern facing switchbacks as we climbed higher. One thought plagued us though, knowing we would soon reach an area of the tail that navigated up through a notch that rarely sees the light of day. Upon arrival our fears became reality, all ice, an uphill ice rink between us and our destination. Again, the inner voice, “Sh*#!”

We gave it our best shot, funny as we must have looked, slipping and sliding. We’ll say this, uphill on ice beats downhill any day! That said, we abandoned our desire to continue uphill and retreated back the way we came to safer ground. The decision was made to head to another trailhead down the road and in a more exposed area where ice shouldn’t be a problem.

Arriving at our impromptu plan B, we found dry ground and set off to salvage our day on trail. The lack of ice, however, or should we say, the lack of less than desirable trail conditions, were short lived. When ice melts it turns to water, and where water and dirt mingle, mud will be found. The consistency of which would be best compared to, well, if you’ve ever had kids with a bad cold you’d know. Our footing was challenging to day the least, and yes, again with the inner voice, “Sh*#!”

Thankfully a majority of the tail was dry, just the most challenging sections were slippery, slimy and, well, snot laden! We did however make the best of it, getting in some decent miles and enjoying the Colorado outdoors. Embrace the suck, as it is often quoted when trail conditions are difficult. As it were, it wouldn’t be long till we made it around the next bend and faced yet another foe, a bigger, larger than life foe, the weather!

We topped a small ridge only to see an enormous wall of white beneath dark and daunting clouds heading in our direction. Timing is everything, if the weatherman says 2:00… We knew we had to make tracks as it was only a matter of time before mother nature would show her hand. Wind, rain and snow were on the way and this storm meant business.

Halfway along the trail, we upped our pace, made it through another round of mud (“sh*#!) and finally finding or way back to the home stretch. By this time the temperature was plummeting, the winds were relentless and the wall of white was on our tail. It was only a matter of time now, the race was on and Mia, our little hiking chihuahua, seemed to know it all too well. She was setting a brutal pace, taking the lead and galloping, no less, as if she knew exactly how far our vehicle was and how soon she’d have shelter!

Back at the trailhead, we barely got in the truck before the weather caught up to us. The wall of white had now engulfed the foothills and changed a once mild day into near whiteout conditions. This powerful winter storm meant business and was now taking aim on the Denver metropolitan area.

Back at home, our evening rituals complete, we enjoyed an early bedtime for some reading and relaxation. Besides, Mia was ready for bed after her marathon performance back at the trail. Several hours later, what started out as a good night’s sleep came to a screeching halt. The storm was now more of a blizzard – wind howling, snow blowing sideways, sleep ending. All we could do was look out the window and silently utter with our inner voices, “Sh*#!” while little Mia snored endlessly in the background.

Peace,

MAD

MAD Hippies Life is on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

300 Crossings of Three Mile Creek

Three Mile Creek is no eye popping outing, it has few features many would seek when it comes to hiking in the alpine. Though what it does offer is serenity.

There is a simple reason that keeps many people from venturing into the crystallized and icy landscape of Colorado’s high country in winter, cold. Bone chilling temperatures that seemingly pass through one’s body without a greeting or a goodby. The stillness silently encasing the landscape in a wintry cocoon while the swirling winds create majestic and surreal patterns of artwork across the frigid earth. Granted those chilling affects on the roadways and trails can be somewhat tedious, but with planning, proper gear and breaks in the weather, winter can be an amazing opportunity to open your senses to a completely different hiking experience.

In the shadow of several peaks within the Mt Evans Wilderness lies an overlooked trail that doesn’t boast big views, on the contrary, here you will find the peace and quiet of an ever-changing landscape of wildlife, babbling creeks and dense forests. In such fertile places, if one were to just stop and let their senses absorb the surroundings, it becomes clear how much is actually taking place around them. Three Mile Creek is no eye-popping outing, it has few features many would seek when it comes to hiking in the alpine. Though, what it does offer is serenity. The imagination is given much to entertain itself with as the world around is alive and in constant natural change. Foliage following the color spectrum driven by the seasons. Wildlife dancing about in the woods, foraging and maintaining a life seldom witnessed. Three Mile Creek itself flowing effortlessly as the lifeblood of this intimate natural world.

The trail slowly makes its way up a drainage that seemingly, without notice, places the explorer at the base of several respectable peaks ranging from 11,000′ to 13,000′ as well, Mt Evans and Mt Bierstadt, both coming in at over 14,000′. But these features are not what this trail boasts, though an obvious notion to the lack of sunlight in the early morning and late evening hours. There are numerous crossings, back and forth over Three Mile Creek, so much so we dubbed it 300 Crossings of Three Mile Creek. This is a trail of keeping your eyes down and around versus up and in the clouds. There is life happening here. Aspen groves, dense woods, small meadows, wildlife and Three Mile Creek are the stars at this performance. A day hike would certainly make for a good outing, while an overnight trip would bring one closer to a more personal experience with all that is taking place here. The motion of nature never seems to stop, a hint to the hiker of these woods to slow down and witness all that is taking place.

Exploring Three Mile Creek would best be done in fall. The plentiful aspen groves with their amazing gold, red and green colors would make for the perfect leaf peeping opportunity. A few miles in, there are welcoming meadows with ample room for a tent or a blanket to take time to kick back, relax and absorb nature Colorado style. The overnight adventurer would do well to take extra time to head higher and summit one of the mountain tops for a grand lay of the land. A multi-day excursion could only prove exceptional, traveling deeper into the Mt Evans Wilderness and its untamed primeval back country. Whatever your style of hiking, you will find Three Mile Creek an oasis within a region that draws plenty of summer crowds.

Peace,

MAD

MAD Hippies Life is on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook

To Hell and Back – Hell’s Hole Mt Evans Wilderness

For us, Hell’s Hole was far from anything evil. If there is a negative, it is found in the first two miles of the trail and the constant climb. But don’t let that stop you, the aspen groves and dense forest will work wonders on your psyche, whereas the uphill battle will reward you with grand views the higher you climb.

Fall hiking in Colorado is by far one of the best times to explore the high alpine. Cool temperatures, calm weather and thinning summer crowds leave one generally alone on their adventure. The transition of the seasons brings with it much colder mornings and nights, though a bulk of the day will be spent enjoying pleasant sunshine that allows for maximum output on the trail without overheating. This is a great time to take notice of the circle of life. Decaying leaves, branches and downed trees all fading away prepare the soil for fertile conditions and future growth. After the snow begins to melt in the spring the ground will bring forth a new generation.

On our latest adventure we explored the adjacent valley to the Chicago Lakes trail in the Mt Evans Wilderness. Often wondering what the landscape behind Gray Wolf Mountain would be like, we put our imaginations to rest and headed up to Hell’s Hole. The name is intriguing enough to get the mind wandering about with visions of ghouls and goblins so close to Halloween. Needless to say, the only demons we encountered were our own!

Hell’s Hole is certainly not a destination you’d find in any horror movie. Though the deep spruce forests on the way up to timberline might keep one’s peripheral vision on alert, not to mention the Bristlecone Pines and their somewhat ghostly appearance. Once the trail breaks open on the high tundra all fears are left behind at the immensity of your new surroundings. An awe inspiring environment to say the least.

Bring along a lunch, kick back and experience views seldom had. If your are lucky enough, elk and big horn sheep can be seen grazing about. Stay the night and witness a sunset and sunrise from your tent that would leave anyone speechless with utter amazement. There’s just something intriguing about the energy of fall and its impact on the environment, wildlife and humanity… granted we allow ourselves the opportunity to embrace it… where nature and wildlife know it as a constant. Unfortunately, many of us have all but removed ourselves from the wild and untamed wilderness and its impact on us, seen and unseen.

For us, Hell’s Hole was far from anything evil. If there is a negative, it is found in the first two miles of the trail and the constant climb. But don’t let that stop you, the aspen groves and dense forest will work wonders on your psyche, whereas the uphill battle will reward you with grand views the higher you climb. This hike certainly worked its magic on us. If for anything, it worked any negativity out of us, absorbing it, if you will, just like the leaves, branches and downed trees of the forest. For that, we are truly grateful for nature’s affects. Another reason we do what we do.

It is hard to imagine this trail as “less traveled” when read about on hiking reviews. But, as was our experience, we only encountered one individual on the trail apart from a few leaf peepers near the trailhead, plenty of aspen groves! Perhaps the name scares people away. Perhaps the initial ascent. Perhaps because this trail sits in the shadows of several popular peaks, Mt Evans, Mt Bierstadt, Gray Wolf Mountain and even that of Mt Spalding. Perhaps Hell’s Hole is just a semi-well kept secret for those in need of an escape. Suffice it to say, this trail well give you just that, and more, as it works its magic on you too.

Peace,

MAD

You can find MAD Hippies Life on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

Cascade Creek

That night, camped atop a waterfall, we couldn’t help but notice a dramatic sunset about to paint the sky, and we thought to ourselves, “my God, we had already had an adventure.”

Our latest outing took us to Cascade Creek, deep in the heart of the Indian Peaks Wilderness. Along the Cascade Creek Trail there is an abundance of waterfalls, wildflowers, wildlife and wild views! The trail in its entirety has a beginning elevation of about 8,300′ (Monarch Lake) with a gradual climb to 10,300′ (Crater lake) or more if continuing on to higher destinations. We had several options to access the trial, either hike over Buchanan Pass or Pawnee Pass or drive over the Continental Divide via Berthoud Pass (Hwy 40) to the Monarch Lake Trailhead. All certainly appealing, time permitting, we chose the Monarch Lake Trailhead.

Day one was simple, straightforward and relaxing. We threw, more like hoisted, our backpacks on our backs and headed off along the Monarch Lake Trail for the first 1.5 miles. A beautiful path along the lake affording great views all around its banks. It was warm and dry to say the least. The rangers at the entrance shack said it had not rained and had been quite warm. Fortunately for them, we were bringing with us luck for a storm, and boy did it, more on that later. Once to the Buchanan / Cascade & Monarch Lake Loop Trail split, we continued on leaving Monarch Lake and the crowds behind. The trail quickly began to rise, though gently, into a lush forest. A few winding switchbacks later and we came to a roaring stop. The Buchanan Creek was just below us on the trail, a swift and clear running mountain stream. We took advantage of a great water source by taking time to filter some water and grab a snack before moving on. Water would certainly not be an issue on this trail.

Continuing on, the trail gently climbed, a mix of rocky rooted and packed dirt beneath our feet, while the canopy overhead was dense with pine. We were grateful for the shade on such a warm afternoon. Walking through the woods in the Indian Peaks Wilderness often reminds us of trails in Washington State, lush and green with ample water. We even came upon an area where the trail was lined on both sides with fern, something you might see in a Hobbit movie, though we expected to have a chance meeting of a black bear over Gandalf.

Eventually we came upon the Buchanan Pass and Cascade Creek Trail split. We opted for another break here. We moved off the trail to a fallen tree, took our packs off and immediately noticed we were not alone. We were in the company of one friendly deer who apparently thought humans were not to be feared. Suffice it to say, we came in peace. Additionally this great spot presented excellent camping off trail (shhh, we don’t want that to get out). The decision was made, friendly neighbors, great water source, level camping spots, privacy off trail, we were done hiking for the day!

Remember our luck in bringing rain…yep, it came, and quickly. Tent and tarp pitched, we hunkered down under our makeshift shelter next to the creek and made dinner. Sitting on the pine needle covered ground leaning against a log, Mia cuddled up in our laps, Backpacker’s Pantry Lasagna rehydrating and a good thunderstorm over head, we might have appeared a bit tired, but far from miserable, this was about as perfect a campsite as we have ever found. After the rains we filtered water in the stream, hung our bear bags and dove into our tent as, yet again, another round of storms rumbled overhead. Between the stream nearby, the rain hitting the tent and echoing thunder, we were swiftly taken off into a backpacker’s slumber.

Day two we found ourselves somewhat overwhelmed with so many distractions on the trail, there was much to take in. Cascading waterfalls one after the other and big open meadows with million dollar views!!! It was apparent we were not prepared to spend enough time to absorb all that was before us. Here one finds a good lesson in life as the question arises, are we here for the experience or the destination? The destination surely rewards you with the all encompassing excitement of “getting there and seeing it” while the experience allows for a more relaxing approach and sense of embracing all that is encountered despite the distance traveled. That said, we slowed down our pace and made plans to return again. Waterfalls today, we will deal with tomorrow, tomorrow.

We beheld huge wide open spaces revealing the jagged Indian Peaks. We had been showered by the mist of incredible waterfalls. We had passed through forest on a lush aspen and fern-lined path. We had crossed over clear running mountain streams. We had been serenaded to sleep by echoing thunder. That night, camped atop a waterfall, we could not help but notice a dramatic sunset about to paint the sky, and we thought to ourselves, “my God, we have already had an adventure.” Those clouds would bring a quick storm and leave the air chilled till the early morning sun would return and slowly bring warmth back.

Day three had new surprises in store. After coffee and a little breakfast, we hit the trail once again. We were tired, covered in the stench only a backpacker could accept and began a slow decent. The sound of waterfalls filled the air. Slowly but surely we broke free of the forest, into an open meadow full of morning sun, wildflowers and songbirds. It was serene. Without realizing it, we were walking at a snail’s pace. Warmth on our shoulders, peaks all around, we walked on speechless and silent while absorbing the views and sounds of nature. At the next bend of the trail, we slammed on the brakes. A moose and her calf stood on the trail feasting on the reeds that grew throughout the meadow. We knew better than to mess with a mamma moose and her calf. Terrified and excited we backed a little and waited. Perhaps knowing our quandary they gave way and moved off the trail as to open the way before us. Gingerly we walked by, Mamma watching our every step, keeping herself between us and her calf. Her eyes said it all, “I will tolerate you if you keep moving.” So we did, slowly as to not alarm or be a threat. She was a young female, majestic as are all moose. Her calf young and immature, but beautiful nonetheless. We walked for several miles in awe of our encounter.

Our adventure would soon come to an end, but we were reeling with amazement at all we had seen. With an abundance of cascading waterfalls and swift moving streams roaring out of the upper valley, there is no mistaking why this trail is aptly named, Cascade Creek. But don’t stop there. The wildflowers in summer seem to inherit the same energy of the water as they themselves cascade down through the valley in bursts of brilliant colors. Add in moose, deer, black bear, a multitude of other critters and wildlife viewing will also excite the enthusiasts of nature. The backdrop only seems to enhance it all with open meadows and dense forests climbing steadily upwards to craggy mountain peaks and alpine lakes all beckoning to the traveler to come explore further into the high country.

If you are all about the experience, and not solely focused on the destination, this trail will take your imagination far and wide as each bend in the trail seems to have its own unique setting. Anyone seeking a memorable outing in the wilderness of Colorado would do themselves a favor by exploring the Cascade Creek Trail deep in the heart of the Indian Peaks Wilderness.

 

Read the General Overview on My Mountain Town

Peace,

MAD

MAD Hippies Life is on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

Lake Isabelle, A Visit With an Old Friend

Standing here while looking over the edge, the imagination leaps with excitement at the potential adventures.

We have hiked many trails in Colorado of which there have been a wide variety of differing landscapes, all unique to their own region. Each presenting us with beautiful and amazing opportunities for exploration and discovery that fill the imagination. The affects on us have been awe-inspiring, physically and spirituality, prompting us to continue on, seeking out new destinations deeper and deeper into the unknown.

Of the many places we have been so blessed to encounter, one of the most special to us is the Indian Peaks Wilderness. Our draw is no doubt evident for the exceptional beauty of a land filled with clear running streams, towering snow covered peaks, abundant wildlife and lush vegetation. But there’s more here, more than meets the eye, an energy that finds its way deep inside your soul as if it’s a very dear friend welcoming you back to the warmth and security of home.

This is a place we continue to return to throughout the years. A place we feel akin to and protective of. A place of balance and harmony where nature is not just something to see, but something to feel and embrace with your complete being.

Within this fascinating wilderness, not terribly far for even the novice hiker, a high alpine lake awaits, Lake Isabelle. The lake is third in a string of lakes as you follow the trail next to the glacial fed stream that fills them throughout the year.

Standing next to Lake Isabelle’s outlet, one can see a majority of this expansive alpine ecosystem and how it is vital to the circle of life. From the Isabelle Glacier high above, thru the Lake Isabelle basin and down into the valley below, the outlet stream cascades downward on its journey to Long Lake, Brainard Lake and beyond where it finds its way onto the lowlands miles away.

In between each lake, lush forests and meadows are alive and teaming with vegetation and wildlife. A delicate landscape that evolves with the turning of time as each season passes. Winter, spring, summer and fall each have a natural cause and effect. Not surprisingly so, and not in a natural way, so does the presence of humans. Tread carefully, stay the trail and leave no trace so that this mountain environment remains healthy and generations to come will enjoy its unique beauty.

For the more adventurous, Lake Isabelle is not a final destination, but merely a stopping point to an incredible backcountry experience. Continue beyond the lake and explore the Isabelle Glacier and several peaks. There is also a notable, and obvious trail junction heading higher to Pawnee Peak and Pass where you find yourself gazing downward into yet another expanse leading to distant lakes, waterfalls and peaks of the Cascade Creek Trail system. Standing here while looking over the edge, the imagination leaps with excitement at the potential adventures.

Choose your favorite season, fill your backpack accordingly and step into the alpine world of the Indian Peaks Wilderness. A day hike to Lake Isabelle or beyond will certainly not disappoint the explorer of nature.

Peace,

MAD

Follow MAD Hippies Life on Instagram, Twitter & Facebook