Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Camping for the 4th

Having the 4th of July on a Wednesday was a bit weird, right?  And then you add in the state-wide fire ban and that makes things a bit more strange. 

I have a personal goal to go camping a bunch this year. We only managed to go once last year, which is fairly sad.  This year I'd like to go 2-3 times and explore new parts of the state.  Initially, we wanted to go up to Red Feather Lakes (west of Ft Collins) but with the fires, we adjusted our plans.  Somehow they got adjusted to being smack in the middle of other fires, but hey, fires are all over the place this year.

We settled on going Wed-Friday to a place called Lost Park Campground, which is off of Hwy 285 on the far side of Kenosha Pass and at the end of a ~20 mile long dirt road.  Elevation is 10,000 feet.  And we were hoping that the dirt road and lack of water/electricity would keep the idiots away.

We slept in a bit and finally got on the road by 11 AM.  A short ~1.5 hour drive and we were at the campground.  Since the Park County fire ban included all fires, including campsites, we decided to head up one of the forest service roads and camp at a dispersed campsite. We picked a road that indicated that 2WD was a bad idea (I have 4WD) and went exploring.  The road was rocky and washed out in places, but not bad enough where I needed the 4WD.  About ~30 minutes up the hill we found a nice campsite in a clearing  This was a good option but we continued up the hill... until I chickened out as the road was narrowing and becoming less a road and more like a trail.  So we turned around (with much consternation on my part... I don't like turning around on narrow roads with steep dropoffs!) and headed back to the campsite:
The campsite had a small meadow and was sheltered from the winds by lots of spruce trees.  We had a teensy creek about 300 yards away and some interesting flowers (which I failed to take pictures of).  We didn't have any great scenic vistas to look at (which is usually a priority for me in a campsite) but the remoteness and wind shelter won out over "something pretty".
the view from our tent.... lots of sky and trees
We got camp set up by 3 PM and then took a nice relaxing nap with absolute silence as our background.  The rest of this day was pretty uneventful, just reading a book, cooking dinner, and packing it in as the sun set and things got cold.  Being able to have a fire would have been nice, but with the $1,000 fine, it simply wasn't worth it.  No smores either.  Dessert consisted of leftover rhubarb cobbler.

Thursday was up at at them at 6:30, courtesy of a friendly woodpecker working in very close proximity to our tent.  Also, it turns out our tent faced due east and by 7 AM the sun hit the tent at full intensity, making things pretty toasty in there.  I made our typical camp breakfast (skillet potatoes, eggs, bacon, french press coffee) and by 10 AM we headed down the road to try our hand at fly fishing.
Lost Park Campground Beaver Pond - looking south
pond looking north
This was a small pond with small fish that were jumping like crazy.  We weren't fishing for world class trout.  We just wanted somewhere to practice casting.  I have no idea what I'm doing, so I put some sort of brown-ish fly on my rod and waded down to start fishing.  Almost immediately, I hear "hey, I got one!" out of Will.
if only I managed to take a picture showing the side of the fish.....
I had one strike and saw a ton of jumps, but got nothing.  By noon the flies were starting to bite us and the fish seemed to be sleeping, so we packed it up for the day.  We went over to the campground for a nice lunch and then we drove around on more forest service roads.  We went on road 134, which goes up and over the hill and ends at a meadow with a stream.  This could be a good spot for group camping.  There was also a trailhead which lead into the Colorado Trail.  We met a mountain biker who said he was biking from Denver to Moab.  He only had a medium-sized backpack.  And he took his water straight from the stream (no filter).  Hmmm.

Not being able to hike was a major bummer, but with this stupid broken heel, hiking was definitely off the list.  I'm not a huge fan of driving around, but that was about all there was to do.  After our little driving tour, we headed back to the campsite for more reading and napping.  Same routine as the night previous, early bed and no fire.

Friday was up again by 6:30 although the woodpecker was nice enough to be quiet.  Zipper has become a pretty good alarm clock, jumping on us at 6:30.  I asked Will if he prefered the woodpecker alarm or the Zipper alarm.  He said Zipper.  Good choice.

Will wanted to head back to Denver early because he failed to tell work he was going camping (WTF Will?).  I managed to talk him into a bit more fishing and then at noon we would head back and check his phone for messages. 

We got the campsite packed up pretty easily.  I think this was the first time we got the tent zipped up on the first try and without wrestling.  After 10 years of owning the tent.  Then we headed back down to the campground pond for more fishing.  I had several more strikes, but no bites.  Will was getting eaten by flies.
I was getting pretty good at landing the fly gently and aiming.  Somehow I ended up getting a blister on the palm of my hand.  Finally around 11 or so, I had enough of getting bit by the flies and we packed it up.  Pretty decent timing as it started to rain within 30 minutes of us leaving.

Overall, I'd say this area is worth coming back to.  It wasn't the most beautiful place, in terms of mountain vistas.  But the valley was very pretty, there was zero pine beetle kill, and the area was pretty remote.  I want to come back when I can hike and see what the trails are like, or maybe bring our mountain bikes along and do some riding.

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