Northern Colorado Delights

A trip in the northern Colorado mountains. Ridge walks, alpine lakes, wildflowers and other off-trail delights. northern-colorado-029  After a lovely backpacking trip last weekend with a past partner, I wanted something a bit more challenging, remote, and a little more off the beaten path.

Then I remembered a place I went to a few years ago.

A backpacker’s delight: Alpine lakes, long ridge walks, wildflowers exploding in many colors and more backpackers than day hikers or trail runners. And unlike many places in Colorado’s Front Range, this area had a comparatively low number of people in the said area. It is perhaps my overall favorite place to backpack in Colorado in terms of beauty-to-people-ratio.  I like it so much, I am not going to name it. 🙂 Instead, I’ll just share the journey. The narrative and the photos will be enough to share.

Accompanying me on this trip would be my buddy Mark. Back on a contract, he is like me and trying to squeeze every possible moment out of a weekend backpack. When you are a working grunt, time off is a precious commodity.Last year at this time he was in the Canadian Rockies happily not thinking about designing chips. And me? I push a mouse and click some buttons to pay the bills. I’d rather be outside. So we both have a similar  strategy when working: Try to maximize the outdoor time as much as possible.

With those thoughts in mind, we left on a Friday night, arrived at the trailhead and hiked until 10 PM. A suitable camp was made and we were able to get an early start on the trail. No traffic to deal with; no later than expected starts. Just a cup of joe in the early morning hours and a day that already started in the woods.

With the higher snow back this year, we almost immediately started with a cold morning wake up. A very overflowing stream obscured the trail. And jump started the morning walk!

We continued up the trail and soon entered the last of the trees before the alpine terrain. Soon we left the trail and made our way up to the first of many alpine lakes we would spot in this wilderness area. A talus and scree field was crossed….         ..and a snow field traversed.

up-to-the-ridge
Photo courtesy of Mark T.

An overlook on a spur was enjoyed. The alpine lakes below were incredible. A place perfect for taking in the views. We pushed on to the ridge proper. No trail; just more scree and talus. We made it to the ridge. The views stretched before us. North into Wyoming. South to where we came. The Front Range corridor could not be seen. We went further along the ridge. The terrain become more difficult. The going slower. We soon came to a place that was beyond hiking. It had become technical. A bit much for trail runners and having no rope or protection. We backtracked a little bit and made our way down to a gorgeous lake. We made our way to a trail and made a route parallel to the ridge. The aspen and wildflowers in the woods was a more subtle, but equally beautiful sight. Soon, our exit point from the lower terrain was reached. Camp was made. We would climb up to another lake and then leave the trails behind once more. The ridge would be reached again. The climb was steep. And long. But beautiful.

from-the-lake
Photo courtesy of Mark T.

The saddle was reached. We climbed up to a named peak. We enjoyed the view to where we were. We walked on or along the ridge. A familiar creature of the alpine environments was spotted. The ridge walk continued to inspire as it become more difficult. Some third class scrambling was thrown into the mix. Soon, it was time to leave the alpine terrain behind. The Sunday was slowly slipping away. Time to go back to the trees below. The car. Our jobs. Our wives.  (And burgers and beer..natch!)

The trails in the woods were pleasant with lakes that reminded me of northern New England more so than Colorado.  And the wildflowers continued to impress.

It was nearly 8 PM when the car was reached at the trailhead. Forty-seven hours in the backcountry from the time we left the car on Friday until we reached it on Sunday. About thirty-three miles and 9000′ or so gain. A good chunk of it off-trail.

I’d say we squeezed in a good amount of outdoor time.

Not bad for a weekend stroll…

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