Colorado Camping and Hiking… and Mosquitos

Darth Husband and I recently took a week-long trip to Colorado.  This wasn’t our first time to Colorado nor will it be our last but it was the first time we hiked and camped there. Back before Darth Husband wasn’t even Darth Boyfriend and just that guy I knew back in high school, I would have never thought I’d be camping and hiking anywhere. It was the camping part mostly since an occasional trail walk was something I had done in the past.

Camping, though? PAH!

Roughing it to me was a hotel without cable since growing up I never had cable and that was a luxury. (Now I’ve had cable, gotten rid of cable, got cable again and finally decided that it isn’t worth it for us. Go AmazonPrime, Hulu+, & Netflix!) The thought of sleeping in a tent and having to use port-a-potties (or pit toilets as I now know them as) was not my idea of a fun weekend. The BFF was a Girl Scout and a camping person but I never joined her with either.

Then Darth Husband came along, and with a group of both of our friends, convinced me to try camping. There was a plan with an escape plan. This worked for me since then I wouldn’t be stuck in the mindset that I might be stuck out somewhere and absolutely hating it. We’d camp in a campground and a fancier one with a pool and a building with real bathrooms and showers. Worst case scenario was that I would absolutely hate it and be done. If that happened, there was a hotel a short drive away.

Then something totally happened out of the blue. I won $500 off a $5 lotto crossword scratch-off and ended up the owner of a brand new tent and misc other camping items. (Not all of the $500 went to camping stuff though.) So now I had a tent to go with my bright bubblegum pink sleeping bag from Target. I was moving up in the camping world without even camping yet.

As you may have already guessed it (especially since I’ve already mentioned Colorado,) I had a great time with friends that weekend. We had some great laughs sitting around the giant bonfire. Having good memories from that first trip made me decide that maybe camping wasn’t so bad after all.

Since that weekend, Darth Husband and I have camped numerous times with the most extreme being in Havasupai in Arizona. (Hiking about 10 miles in the Grand Canyon ended up totally worth it once you ended up in the camping area near gorgeous waterfalls and mountain/rock views.) That trip may have been a long and hot one but it also included pack mules, literal ones, helping us out with our gear.  This Colorado trip was something different yet still more extreme than that first campground: backpacking.

Darth Husband is adventurous but a researcher.  He wasn’t going to jump on a plane and just pick a random place to hike and camp.  There was a lot of searching online and reading this and that about misc places. We decided on part of the Lost Creek Wilderness Trail in Pike National Forest.

LCW sign

From what we found online, the trail was beautiful and on the less challenging side of possible trails.  I have had  issues with heights for as long as I can remember and so had no desire to be scaling anything or walking on small ledges. Maps were ordered, lists were made and gear was packed.

Since I didn’t have a backpacking backpack of my own, I lucked out that my friend Kristen  had one that I could borrow.  This made me happy especially since this gave me a gear related escape plan. If I absolutely hated backpacking and had no interest in doing it again, I didn’t have to return anything to REI and there was no cost to me. She was really awesome and let me borrow her hiking poles as well. I had planned to get poles but wasn’t completely decided on which to get.  The ones she lent me worked really well for me (I can’t imagine not having them) and I do plan to get a set of my own.

This trip was also the first of flying with so much stuff.  Darth Husband and I have gotten to the point of being able to fly out with one bag each for a few days out of town. This is coming from a woman who used to seriously overpack (Sure why not another pair of shoes!) and is a big deal to me. Luckily we were flying Southwest and so the two checked bags each didn’t cost extra. The bag brigade was a bit of a pain in the airport but we got through it all.

Gotta love cases with wheels! Wheeeee….erk… ack, too fast… oh look the case is falling over… again!

First and foremost, Pike National Forest is gorgeous.

LCWmt

It is truly breathtaking as well as breath-taking. I’m talking literally here since Colorado is higher elevation and this part much much much higher elevation than the Chicago area. Higher altitude means less oxygen from a really basic science standpoint and therefore things being a bit harder than back home. (I really wish there was a sarcastic formatting that I could do more than just italicizing.)

While we had initially planned a longer trip, the actual Lost Wilderness Trail trip ended up hiking during two days and camping one night. The initial hike was a mix of downhill and uphill with the end being a majority of uphill.  I was really glad I had a good pair of high hiking boots (ones that laced up all the way past the ankle) and the aforementioned hiking poles. Some places were natural steps created by numerous hikers walking over roots and rocks. Other places were dirt with some loose soil in areas and other were almost all rocks. I made sure I paid extra attention to where I was stepping especially when going downhill. At times I don’t have the best sense of balance and didn’t want to fall. (How I seriously needed to get back to routinely doing yoga came to mind numerous times during this overall trip as well.)

After hours on the trail, we found a place to camp and set up for the night. I deliberately say “for the night” because I knew I’d only be staying one night and had the thought pretty set in my mind. I’d sleep on it but I was pretty sure of it. Feeling prepared in the Midwest and actually being out in the Mountains were two different things. I hadn’t fully figured in the altitude and this really factored into my decision.

I always bring a paperback with me not matter what kind of vacation.  This time it was a book from Stephanie Pearl-McPhee aka The Yarn Harlot.

LCWyarnharlot

We spent one night fully off the digital grid (no cell phones or electronics) in the beautiful wilderness with a giant and ridiculously bright moon above us and the potentially scary wildlife out of sight (We saw one chipmunk en route to camp and while they can be creepy they don’t fall far into the scary scale.) minus the extremely loud and really huge mosquitoes that buzzed around our heads. They clearly didn’t care that we had used bug repellent.

When I woke up, I still had the same mindset as the night before, one night would be it for me. While I enjoyed camping and hiking, this wasn’t a match for me. Darth Husband and I discussed this and we decided to hike back and out of the trail that day.

The hike back was the same trail as we had done the day before yet it was different at the same time. It was the same rock formations, the same crazy steep sections of the trail, and the same creek crossings but in reverse. It was also easier since it was more downhill and therefore easier to stop and pay more attention the beautiful nature around me. The day before there were times I was more focused on the CLACK! CLACK! of my hiking poles grounding myself and the rocks ahead of me I hiked uphill.

LCWbtc

Overall, I’m happy that I gave this trip a try. In the past, I would have been scared to do something like this. True, being with someone who I wholeheartedly trust helps too, but this pushed me out of my comfort zone. (Add no pit toilets to that list as well.) It was that push to try something new, something out of the ordinary, and give it a legitimate try. I could have decided right away that I didn’t like it for whatever reason and gave up but I didn’t.

I don’t regret the trip nor do I regret it being shorter than planned. One thing I’ve learned over the years and even more so now that I am older is there is a point to push myself a little harder (like it an extra few minutes to finish cleaning up the house or a few extra reps in the gym) and when my body needs to stop. This was a time to stop but not completely.

Darth Husband and I decided that since camping was a big part of why we traveled to Colorado in the first place, we’d find a different place to spend another night. After staying overnight in the cute city of Salida, we headed out for a new place and ended up at a campground which was also part of Pike National Forest. This campground was car camping, which was something we had done before, and had pit toilets and a water pump. Compared to the prior campsite, this was fancy but just like the prior campsite, the mosquitoes were there and they didn’t care about bug repellent.

After channeling my inner bug fighting ninja, I gave up making rings of shoe patterns in the dirt and stayed in the tent. The mesh kept the bugs out and since the rain fly was off the sun was still able to come in. The view, even from the tent, was beautiful and a great backdrop to relax. I read (book & mag) and watched the cloud pass overhead. I decompressed and recharged in that tent which was one of my main goals of the overall trip – RELAX!

The night at this campsite also checked something off our trip’s must do list: star pictures. Midwestern suburban stars are nothing compared to those in the mountain’s clear night sky. It was AMAZING and you could even see them twinkle. If I had a real bucket list other than visiting all the states, this would definitely have been on it.

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