Mueller State Park

Have you ever had a plan, got stuck in traffic and then changed everything, direction and all, and found yourself far and removed from the original destination?

This trip was supposed to be in Rocky Mountain National Park. However, due to an accident and a general distaste for traffic, we altered our course and found ourselves at Mueller State Park, 135 miles in the opposite direction! Seems we broke all the rules on this outing, finding ourselves to be quite, shall we say, unorganized and without pep in our step. We were in no hurry to get up and out the door, though determined to hike. We made lackadaisical plans for a sunset hike in Rocky Mountain National Park. Nothing wrong with that. A nice late day hike till the sun would fade behind the ridges and back for a few photos of the late day colors mixing above the high peaks before heading home. Sounds like a plan.

Out the door, determined as we were, more like, hey…whatever happens happens. Well, it was not long before we ate our own words. We normally get up, leave and arrive at the trailhead before first light. Leaving midday is not something we are accustomed to. And yet, here we were 45 minutes later still in town, red light after red light and soon in a long line of cars creating your typical traffic jam…an accident was blocking our way.

We could see the mountains, and yet were sitting motionless in town making no headway. Once again, determined, we altered course. A left, a right, another left and a few more rights…we were headed south needing to go north. Have you ever had a plan, got stuck in traffic and then changed everything, direction and all, and found yourself far and removed from the original destination? Next thing you know, we were altering our plan by making no plan at all…just drive, away from the city. A few hours later, “there’s Pikes Peak, isn’t Mueller State Park around here?” Keep in mind, this scenario should be, “there’s Longs Peak, Rocky Mountain National Park is just around the corner.”

Map in hand, and finally on a trail, we relaxed and began to leave it all behind. Quiet, alone with nature, we walked. Mueller State Park is a sleepy forested area full of wildlife near Pikes Peak, Woodland Park and Colorado Springs. The surprise of the day, we now know where our next fall colors hike will be next year!!! Mueller SP is loaded with aspen meadows. But, until then, shhhh, it is a secret.

After a nice hike and some exploration of a few vantage high points, we had dinner in the woods as the sun began to go down. Back in the truck, we found ourselves taking a lazy drive through the park and then on to a small highway. We watched the sky change and the last light of day sink behind the high peaks and finally the ridge lines leaving only a silhouette of the Colorado Rocky Mountains. A surprise change of events with the same results. Nothing like living in the moment.

Peace,

MAD

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Chicago Lakes – Mt Evans Wilderness

Protective, loving and sweet only begin to describe what one would see when she peered deep into our eyes awaiting the chance to just cuddle. She was what life should be, love.

It is with a heavy heart that we share our latest adventure. To those who have been following us and know, our beloved Billie “Bean” lost her fight with cancer and has left a huge hole in our hearts. Thank you all for your kind words, prayers and warm thoughts.

On a brisk evening back in 2011 the local news stations were forecasting a strong snowstorm for our area, upwards of a foot of snow, temps dropping into the 10s with sustained strong winds. A blizzard if you will. That same evening  a small bundle of joy crawled up inside our hearts and never left.

Balled up on the doorstep was a nervous, shaking and cold Chiweenie. Abandoned to the cold and left to die, she somehow found her way to the home in the neighborhood that would not, could not or ever would say no. Frail, exhausted and afraid we slowly wrapped her up and took her in. Not that she had the energy to run, much less fight. A trip to the local veterinarian to get checked out, see if she had a chip and if anyone was looking for her, and the next thing we knew six years later those eyes still looked at us with love of family, home and safety. She gave as much to us as we did to her.

Two months ago our little baby girl, Billie “Bean” was diagnosed with terminal bladder cancer. It wasn’t enough that someone had abandoned her at a young age, now she would be sucker punched with a devastating health blow. Again, we bundled her up and loved her all the more, keeping her as comfortable as possible. Her fight came to an end the other day, though ours continues, we miss her all the more even now.

Our hike to Chicago Lakes is much like she was to us, full of relaxing surprises around every corner. A beautiful soul enjoying the natural world and the time she was given with us, and the time we were blessed to have been given with her. Protective, loving and sweet only begin to describe what one would see when she peered deep into our eyes awaiting the chance to just cuddle. She was what life should be, love.

Our hike began next to the lazy Echo Lake, adorned with late summer color and migrating water fowl. Birds singing as the sun began to make its way over the ridge, life had once again returned to the Mt Evans Wilderness. A short stroll around the northern corner of the lake, we soon disappeared into the alpine wilderness on our way to the Chicago Lakes nestled beneath Mt Evans. Quiet, peaceful and inviting was the trail on this late summer morning.

The path rocky with expansive views of our distant destination. Across Chicago Creek, we traveled onward to our next way point, the Idaho Springs Reservoir. At first glance one would have thought a light shower was upon us, though not a cloud was seen in the sky. Hundreds, if not more, trout were jumping through the surface of the lake feasting on the morning’s delight. Mosquitoes we hoped! Just passed the reservoir a pleasant surprise awaited. Someone had made a “labyrinth” to the side of the trail inviting all who passed to take time out and enjoy its short path.

labyrinth

Beyond this we began a moderate climb to the upper valley, dense woods gave way to an old burn area, some forty years earlier, that was now in the regeneration process, and doing well we might add. The ground was covered in many various colors of vegetation while aspens and pines pushed their way higher and higher with each new growing season. Life had returned to a once devastated area of the forest.

Another creek crossing, perhaps two, and we soon were greeted with the open expanse of the upper valley and its headwall capped on all sides by Rogers Peak, Mt Warren, Mt Evans, Mt Spalding and Gray Wolf Mountain. The Chicago Lakes are simply a spectacular sight inviting the traveler to relax, sit back and absorb the surroundings. A few clouds, a few stray showers and warm food in our bellies and we were ready to build a small log home right where we sat. Solitude, serenity and peacefulness took over from there. The circle of life resides well in this corner of the Mt Evans Wilderness, a place for one to explore physically, emotionally and spiritually as the sun sets and rises and time itself seems to stand still.

Peace,

MAD

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Eccles Pass

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.

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.

The 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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Mount Audubon

Lack of sleep and a 3,000′ ascent with the wind blowing in your face is not an idealistic adventure. But, in our defense, we’re stubborn. Mt Audubon is still a nemesis to us, always fighting us as we make our way to its summit, yet somehow, the relationship we share with the mountain seems to work. As expected, the mountain fought back.

We were overly eager to get back in the Colorado high country after having taken a week off from hiking. We set the goal of heading to one of our all-time favorite areas, the Indian Peaks Wilderness, to pay a visit to a nemesis of ours, Mt Audubon which sits at 13,223′ above sea level.

The trail is fairly aggressive, up hill all the way and mostly above treeline. Seems every time we attempt this strenuous alpine adventure the mountain always finds a way to fight back! This outing would not be an exception to that rule.

Once again, we had a fight on our hands. Our plan was a three in the morning wake-up call. Somewhere between seven the night before and two the next morning we were able to get about two or three hours of sleep. We’re blaming that on the full moon.

For some unknown reason, we got ourselves up and out the door and were on the trail by 4:30 in the morning. Headlamps on, bear spray in hand and a less than desirable caffeine level we wandered off into the dark woods awaiting the first light of day.

Amazingly, we broke treeline just as the sun came over the horizon. Wow, what a sight. We began to awaken with the dark now giving way to light.

The night before our hike we looked up the weather for the region and summit of Mt Audubon one last time. Mild temperatures, little to no wind and clear skies were in our favor. Anyone who knows mountain weather will feel our pain on what came next. As we approached the cutoff for the trail that lead to the summit, the wind came vigorously down off the peak and hit us smack in the face! Little to no wind? It would stay this way throughout the duration of our hike, well, until we got back down anyway. We’ve grown to understand that Mt Audubon also has a sense of humor.

Still somewhat half asleep we opted to bypass the summit trail and head off into an area we had never explored. Off trail exploration is something of a comedy act with us, we’re always surprised at our findings as much what those findings lead to. We followed the Beaver Creek trail for about a mile and then headed for a ridgeline to get a view down into the valley where Upper and Lower Coney Lakes sit.

It wasn’t long and we found ourselves navigating a snow field, scree and thick alpine scrub brush. And we thought we were alone! Once again we were looking at each other with that awkward stare of, “what now?” We were surrounded by bear scat and had just about wandered into a den when we found ourselves in quick retreat!

The conversation went something like this, “What’s that? Bear scat. It’s everywhere. (twig snaps followed by grunting sounds from bush) Was that you? No. We need to go…now!”

Back on the trail and laughing at ourselves, we did an about-face and made our way back towards Mt Audubon. Little sleep, certainly not enough coffee, and now full of adrenaline, we were deliriously hiking along. “Hey, you know what, the summit really isn’t that far and we’ve dealt with the wind before.” What is far? It was an additional two miles and another 2,000′ to the summit!

Stubborn, determined or just insane, we made our way up. Loose scree and talus fields are no fun when you are half-asleep. The debate is still out on the actual amount of oxygen at 13,000′ and we are still not sure what grumbled at us earlier. Suffice it to say, we had another incredible day in the Colorado high country and can’t wait to go again.

The views (see video below) were amazing to say the least. What followed as we made or way back to the trailhead can only be described as a sad, yet graceful, fall off the mountain. We must have appeared drunk.

Lack of sleep and a 3,000′ ascent with the wind blowing in your face is not an idealistic adventure. Mt Audubon is still a nemesis to us, always fighting us as we make our way to its summit, yet somehow, the relationship we share with the mountain seems to work. As expected, the mountain fought back.

Peace,

MAD

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Lost Lake

Beautifully adorned, Lost Lake is a deep blue wonder surrounded by sub alpine trees that reach high into the sky.

The winter thaw is upon us, the creeks and rivers are running fast, the lakes are filling back up and the wildflowers are blooming like a fireworks display on the 4th of July. On the menu for today, four moose, three deer, a black bear and an amazing landscape! Hiking Lost Lake in Colorado is an adventure close to Denver full of wildlife, wildflowers and waterfalls.

Many people are coming out from their long hibernation, along with the bears, and heading up into the mountains to enjoy the cool mountain air, the incredible explosion of colors and trade in their skis and snowboards for hiking boots and backpacks.

Hiking Lost Lake is an old favorite which never lets us down when it comes to an abundance of wildlife, wildflowers and waterfalls. And once again, we were not disappointed as indeed we were witness to several moose, deer, a black bear and an amazing breathtaking landscape full of the life we’ve come to appreciate that springtime in the Colorado Rocky Mountains provides.

Nature’s air conditioner! Many of our hikes are broken into segments, not necessarily to stop and rest, although in the high country that is not such a bad idea! There are those places along the trail that pull you off the beaten path to explore rare opportunities to experience the wild and untamed landscape. When the snow melt begins in spring and the creeks begin filling, the rapids and waterfalls can be quite dramatic. Here, the Middle Boulder Creek bursts with an incredible volume of fast moving water creating a spectacular sight. The heavy mist fills the air and makes for a great spot to cool down. Exploring such a hidden gem is remarkable, while sitting and soaking up the roar is equally meditative.

As much as you might want to stay here, there is so much more to see when hiking Lost Lake. Though, a quick mental note to return again is always a good idea.

Moving on, the trail deepens into the sub alpine world as you climb higher and deeper into the Indian Peaks Wilderness of Colorado. Snow capped peaks begin to emerge behind the tall pines and the trail resembles more of a creek than a footpath as the ever increasing evidence of snow melt overtakes the landscape. The land is alive and your curiosity begins to spark the imagination of what lies around the bend.

And just as the sun rises in the morning giving way to a vast array of colors in the sky, you turn the bend, rise over the ridge and find yourself witness to an incredible landscape that could only be compared to paradise on earth. Beautifully adorned, Lost Lake is a deep blue wonder surrounded by sub alpine trees that reach high into the sky. The cloudless morning sky is endless, rich and clear and the breeze is ever so slight though crisp and cool. All around, snow capped peaks beg to be summited.

A few backcountry campers, still in awe of their find, begin to emerge from their slumber to fill their lungs with the mountain air while the birds serenade us all with songs of the high country. It wasn’t that long ago we were dumbstruck by a waterfall, yet now that begins to fade as this new encounter has stopped us dead in our tracks. Mouths wide open and our souls leaping with joy, we are now witness to an awesome natural wonder. Yes, let’s build our dream cabin right here and never leave!

After we collected our thoughts and got passed the awe of what hiking Lost Lake has to offer, we began exploring around and above. It is really quite amazing, while you can keep close to the shoreline, equally fun is to climb high above and look back down for a new perspective. Soaking up such a view not only gives you and bigger and much grander understanding of the landscape, but offers views that would otherwise never be seen. Alas, our time here was growing short, though not short on experience. We took one last good look around and chose the long way back out to the main trail.

Peace,

MAD

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