Saint Vrain Mountain, Two Places at the Same Time

Two Places at the Same Time

Sain Vrain Mountain Summit, Two Places at the Same TimeThe question begs to be asked, can you be in two places at the same time and still benefit from both? Absolutely! However, you need to know where such a place exists and then be able to get there.

Anyone who has a love for the outdoors in Colorado will tell you, the Indian Peaks Wilderness and Rocky Mountain National Park are two of the most iconic places to set out on an adventure in the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. But, can you be in two places at the same time?

Both sharing a border, much less the jaw-dropping landscape they have each come to be known by, it is no wonder that at one time Enos Mills proposed both wilderness areas were on the table to be known as Rocky Mountain National Park. Suffice it to say, local mining interests put a hold on those plans and eventually the Indian Peaks, thankfully, were protected under their own wilderness boundaries.

Call them what you will, Rocky Mountain National Park, Indian Peaks Wilderness, Roosevelt, Arapaho or Routt National Forests. The fact remains for anyone who has ever explored within their boundaries, this is a land of immense imagination filled with wildlife, clear running streams, dense forests and high alpine peaks where snow can linger all year long.

The question begs to be asked, can you be in two places at the same time and still benefit from both? Absolutely! However, you need to know where such a place exists and then be able to get there.

Rocky Mountain National Park, Two Places at the Same TimeNestled in a high meadow, perhaps overlooked for the popularity of Estes Park and neighboring Rocky Mountain National Park, sits the little known mountain “village” of Allenspark in the shadow of a well kept secret.

While many will make the trek to RMNP and the Brainard Lake Recreation Area, few will find their way to the small trailhead for Mount Saint Vrain nestled deep in the woods behind the small town of Allenspark, Colorado. There you will find a small parking area with no real distinguishing attributes for the dense forests. One must begin a rather unforgiving and relentless climb from here, climbing up and above the timberline on a quiet, though demanding, hike.

Once above it all, the answer to the question, can you be in two places at one time, becomes quite obvious. Absolutely. But, be prepared to pick your jaw up from off the ground. While one can see amazing beauty in both Rocky Mountain National Park and the Indian Peaks Wilderness, the old saying, “can you see the forest for the trees” applies. It’s one thing to be among these iconic wilderness areas, while it is a whole different experience to see them both in their grand expanse, first hand and at the same time.

The trail to Mount Saint Vrain might be strenuous, but the reward far outweighs the effort as you climb above the dense forests and find yourself standing in an alpine saddle surrounded by, perhaps, one of the most incredible views one could dream of. But don’t stop there, exploring further in this area will only spark the imagination further, deepening one’s appreciation for the great outdoors, the Colorado Rocky Mountains and an alpine environment seldom experienced.

Being in two places at the same time is not always something we want to do, but in cases such as this, you will not want to leave.

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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Blown Away

Blown away. At first by the views, then by the wind, we were nonetheless blown away by the incredible journey to the high peaks above.

The Indian Peaks Wilderness in Colorado have long been a favorite of ours. Thick, dense forests teeming with wildlife, abundant clear running streams fed by snow all give way to high summits as you cross into the high alpine wilderness in a world far above the forest floor. There is no doubt in our minds, this area hold a special power and energy.

On this outing we would head for the 4th of July Trailhead behind the lazy town of Eldora tucked gently away beneath our goal, South Arapaho Peak {13,397′] and Glacier.

blown away, south arapaho peak and glacier

The trail swiftly moves upward through dense woods, across several streams, a waterfall and soon above the treeline. A well-deserved break on a high shelf where remnants of days gone by litter the land with old mining equipment. After some exploring and a well needed break, it’s back on the trail and more climbing.

And the wind…oh the wind…blowing ferociously down from the high mountain pass daring would be hikers [that’s us] to continue on their path to the summit if they dare. Blow as it did, moving back and forth on the trail like drunk sailors, we pushed on, fighting harder and harder as we went in the face of it all as our destination neared and the goal would be soon at hand.

South Arapaho Peak [as well North Arapaho Peak] sit high above the Boulder watershed holding ransom the snow and ice of winter within the Arapaho Glacier, only slowly releasing it as an offering to the populace below. Once upon the shoulder of South Arapaho Peak, the land that drops below your feet into the Boulder watershed is an alien landscape of jagged peaks and relentless boulder, scree and snow. Known as the ‘forbidden fruits” climbers and mountaineers alike can only sit at the edge and enjoy the view as this place is off limits to any and all.

blown away, south arapaho peak and glacier

Alas, for the thrill seeker, the journey between South and North Arapaho peaks should be enough for any adrenaline junky. The passage from one to the other is not for the faint of heart!

Blown away. At first by the views, then by the wind, we were nonetheless blown away by the incredible journey to the high peaks above.

Peace,

MAD

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When the earth sleeps, Backpacking, indian peaks wilderness

When the Earth Sleeps

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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Miller Harrell, Debbie Harrell, MAD Hippies Life, Indian Peaks Wilderness, Colorado, Rocky Mountains, Lost Lake

Hiking Lost Lake

Hiking Lost Lake, Colorado, Wildflowers, Rocky Mountains, MAD Hippies Life, Hessie TrailheadWelcome to springtime in the Colorado Rocky Mountains!

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.

Hiking Lost Lake, Middle Boulder Creek, Waterfall, Indian Peaks Wilderness, Hessie Trailhead, Lost Lake, MAD HIppies LifeNature’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.

Indian Peaks Wilderness, Hiking Lost Lake, Hessie Trailhead, Colorado, Rocky Mountains, MAD HIppies LifeAnd 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!

Indian Peaks Wilderness, Hiking, Backpacking, Hiking Lost Lake, Colorado, Rocky Mountains, MAD Hippies Life, Hessie TrailheadAfter 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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Lake Isabelle Early Spring Hike

Winter Indian Peaks Wilderness Colorado

This is indeed why we hike, why we seek the solace of the high country and why we love sharing our experiences that others might be inspired to step out of their comfort zone and see it with their own eyes. Lake Isabelle is just such a place to step outside of everyday life and into the wild unknown.

Lake Isabelle hidden from the outside world lies just to the south of Rocky Mountain National Park in the Indian Peaks Wilderness. And while many do seek an alpine experience here during the summer months, few will make the trek through the deep snow of the winter season which can linger well into June.

Winter Lake Isabelle Indian Peaks Wilderness Colorado

At just under 11,000′ in elevation, Lake Isabelle sits protected from the hustle and bustle of the modern world, surrounded by three spectacular peaks, Navajo (13,409′), Apache (13,441′) and Shoshoni (12,967′) and fed by the Isabelle Glacier (12,000′) via the St Vrain Creek.

While getting here is not like climbing Mt Everest, the altitude is something to respect if you’re not used to its effects. Patience is the key as you climb steadily along the trail past vast mountain views, clear running streams, lush forests and the ever present Indian Peaks which stand guard over the area.

Our latest outing was nothing less than amazing. The traditional summer trail is not passable in winter and early spring, as it is buried deep under a blanket of winter snow.

One must take precautions by understanding the lay of the land and be quite familiar with route finding and topographical maps. While the use of a GPS device can be helpful, if the batteries ever fail, you’d be on your own. Add to this technical aspect of finding your way there and back, and knowledge of unpredictable weather in the high country is a major plus to a great experience in the Colorado high country.

Lake Isabelle Winter Hike Indian Peaks Wilderness Colorado

Our route took us away from the summer trail and across Long Lake’s northern shore. Long Lake is itself a beautiful destination, and fed also by the St Vrain Creek as it cascades down the mountain out of Lake Isabelle’s eastern outlet.

Following Long Lake to the this drainage point out of Lake Isabelle was indeed our route. The final ascent up the drainage is demanding, as it is typically a beautiful waterfall in the summer, though in winter resembles more of a narrow ski run, steep and well covered in pristine snow. Once we made the ridge, the peaks around the lake began to appear and our excitement grew.

Getting here can be a challenge in the winter, but the reward is overwhelming. Being in the presence of such a place is breathtaking. Pictures can do no justice, neither can our words, it just simply is an exhilarating alpine experience that has to be seen and explored to understand.

From this vantage point, if your able to turn away from the lake, you can see the entire route from which you came and be able to put it all into perspective.

St Vrain Creek Winter lake Isabelle Indian Peaks Wilderness Colorado

From the Isabelle Glacier, Lake Isabelle, the St Vrain Creek, down through the valley and into Long Lake, this is indeed why we hike, why we seek the solace of the high country and why we love sharing our experiences that others might be inspired to step out of their comfort zone and see it with their own eyes.

Being in the wild untamed wilderness has a way of reminding us of how beautiful the natural world is.

To see more photos of the Indian Peaks Wilderness visit the MAD Hippies Flickr page. We hope to see you on the trail 😀

Peace,

MAD

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Two Places at the Same Time

Ever feel like you need to be in two places at the same time? Is it even remotely possible? This is not to say that we’re supposing time travel is possible in a Star Trek – beam me up Scottie type of thing [granted that would be nice at times]. Perhaps it’s just a metaphor we use when we find ourselves in one of life’s moments requiring to much of us. But why is it always a negative approach? Here’s a spin on the statements like this one that we often make when enduring such challenges. Oftentimes it seems we focus too much on the ugly side of the issue, focusing as it were on the unfavorable consequences and outcomes versus the possibilities of positive impact, even if difficulties still must be overcome in the process. Consider the statement “no pain, no gain.”

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[Trail to Mt Audubon, Indian Peaks Wilderness]

Hiking in the high country is a great way to provoke the mind and soul on such matters! Well, that and getting to see amazing views and making friends with the occasional marmot or chipmunk. But seriously, making a 2,500′ – 3,000′ ascent and summiting a mountain can try an individual not only physically, but mentally as well. It’s one thing to tackle 10,000′ but beyond that, there is a place that any hiker will tell you along the ascent above tree line the body begins to revolt and let you know it’s not happy with the current rigors its being put through, each person is different [thank G-d] and has their own breaking point. Ours just happens to be someplace between 12,000 and 12,500, attributable to raising teenagers one might say.

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[Alpine shelf just below Mt Audubon]

Our goals are often in front of us, seemingly always and relentlessly in front of us, as if running in the same race but keeping out in front egging us on to keep going with somewhat of a devilish grin you might wonder. But we keep on keeping on, what else are you going to do, quitting leaves you nowhere, continuing at least gives us hope. then it hits you, you’re being pulled in all directions, everyone and everything wants a piece of you and two hands, a few hours and what little sanity you have left aren’t cutting it [meltdown!]. The goal remains…

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[Alpine shelf just below Mt Audubon]

So here you sit, beaten to the core, spouting whatever “French” that comes to mind and regressing back to your childhood days of temper tantrums, or some silent version of it anyway. Standing in two places at one time [yes, it is possible] wondering which way is easier to go. Climbing a mountain is much like this if you’re not mentally prepared. You’ll definitely get to a point of exhaustion, a mental brick wall if you will. Close to the goal, yet the mind playing tricks on your determination. Here’s the twist. You stand in two places [mentally], albeit the same place [physically]. Who wins in your inner battle of whits? That’s up to you! Negativity creeps in and sells you a bill of goods like the devil on your shoulder. Does anyone pay attention to the angel on their other should though? This side of the situation speaks positives, you can go on and will be thankful you did. Looking back, looking forward, standing [or sitting] you know a move is coming.

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[Final few feet before the summit of Mt Audubon]

Thank G-d you got over the pity party, we normally do, eventually, at some point, before we’re dead…Alas, the goal is in sight. Hard work, our goals, might walk ahead of us egging us on, but in the end the payoff is so much better than if it all would have been simple and quick. Those methods leave us lazy and incompetent, whereas hard work and time build character, muscles [physically and mentally] and ready for more. It’s fine to be in two places at the same time. We get to take mental inventory, gather our thoughts and make better decisions. Sure we act goofy, downright insane at times, but that’s being human, that’s being normal, we all do it…generally with the curtains drawn and the TV turned up loud. In the end, it’s all good.

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[View from the summit of Mt Audubon 13,223′]

Ah, the summit, you made it. It was a long haul, there were some tense moments, but your here! Pat yourself on the back, take a long and well deserved break, and enjoy the incredible view. Look north, south, east and west…it’s so vast, it’s so beautiful. Then it hits you, there are many mountains, hills and an ever expanding horizon in all directions. This is indeed your life. You’ve been there and done that. Many of what you see you have been through, some you have yet to conquer. Does it look daunting, promising or just plain old mesmerizing? Stepping back and seeing life for what it is, instead of what it not [the man made simulations we stress over] on top of the world is a great place to start, you can do this, will do this and will again find yourself on another summit taking a break, wiping the sweat from your brow and enjoying another battle won. Just remember though, there are those days we don’t make it to the top, we need to stop, step back and return another day to try again. Hike on, peacefully 🙂

Go here to view more photos of our hike and ascent to Mt Audubon