The summer after we started dating, Chap introduced me to a type of landscape I hadn’t yet explored – the Colorado mountains. In the heat of summer in Tulsa, a summer trip to hike is always on the mind. The next winter, I conquered the winter mountains and learned to snow ski. After that trip, we decided my next Colorado adventure should be a 2-night overnight camping trip. I put it on my 30 before 30 list and it was planned a few months later.
I had zero camping gear. No boots, no sleeping gear, no suitable outerwear, no hiking socks, no tent, no backpack and no clue. Just a lot of workout clothes (those came in handy!). Luckily I had a team of two clients supply everything I could have imagined needing, right down to a hatchet. Big backpack, smaller backpack, fleece jacket, rain jacket, water bottles, bear spray, headlamps and the list goes on. Chap was able to supply everything else we would need (tent, blankets, water filter).
I packed everything I could think of. Our not-so-specific plan was to land in Denver, stop at REI so I can get hiking boots and further our plan from there (pick a place to hike and camp). Very much a team of flying by the seats of our pants. We asked one of the REI employees to make a suggestion for the rest of our itinerary. With his help, we decided we would head to hike up a 14er and then drive over to Indian Peaks to camp.
Hiking Mt. Evans
Neither of us had fully hiked a 14er before and we were both up for the challenge. I can’t remember exactly how we decided on Mt. Evans, I think the employee helped us and Chap thought there was some passageway connecting to another peak. It’s all a little fuzzy because of what unfolded after.
If there is any lesson to be learned from the following story, it’s that you should ALWAYS listen to the park rangers. And the second lesson is don’t begin a hike to the summit in the afternoon. We started our hike up Mt. Evans in the early afternoon, after being warned by a friendly park ranger that it wasn’t a good time to be going up, “afternoon storms will be rolling in.” Well it seemed to be clear enough to us (idiots) and I was eager to get moving after hours in the car.
Heading up Mt. Evans
We made it to the spot above and stopped for a picture. This is where we debated continuing on or not. I’m a go-getter and really wanted to make it all the way around the crest so we kept on. It looked clear enough (see the sun behind us?!). As we climbed, we encountered some goats and a few other hikers, two of whom passed us up to continue on. The temperatures dropped so I put on my windbreaker and hood. It started raining, and even hailing a little bit.
Rain and hail
Just after this picture was taken, a little bit of chaos ensued. Chap looked back at me and says (I’m taking his word for it, otherwise it’s the best prank he’s pulled on me ever), “Do you feel that hail on your jacket?”. And yes, there was a little bit of hail but then his eyes got wide because my hair was standing straight up. He threw his hat to the ground because he realized the sound of the “hail” on his hat was actually static electricity in his ears. I still had no idea what was going on and he shouts at me, “Do you have anything metal on you?” and I was like, “I don’t know, a zipper, my phone, the keys what is going on”.
“We gotta get down this mountain as fast as we can.”
So, we started running. We’re not really talking so that we can focus on jumping and stepping down the uneven terrain. I’m ready at any moment to throw anything that I think is metal off my body, including the car key. After about a half mile run down the mountain, we found some cover underneath a rock and I am ready to camp out and call it good. But Chap said we had to go for it or we’d be stuck there for hours. Just a few minutes after we resumed running a giant clap of thunder and flash of lightning struck somewhere behind us and I think for the first time in my life I actually thought I might be killed. I was kind of anticipating the lightning strike on my body as we ran and also thinking about how grateful I was for Fit Camp and running as I ran for my life down that mountain.
We obviously made it down to safety and lived to tell the tale, but learned those two lessons on the way down. The storms stuck around for a while, all along the towns on 70 so we decided to bag the first night of tent camping. I’d had enough of mother nature for the day and wanted a sheltered room to sleep in, and some pizza.
Camping at Indian Peaks
After a semi-restful night at a roadside motel near Granby Lake, we set out for our hiking adventure. Our new plan was to park the car, hike in with our camping gear, stay the night and hike back out in the morning. After filling up with plenty of coffee and delicious breakfast, we visited the ranger station for a map and headed into the trail.
Signing us in
Everything in our packs
The weather was perfect, and I was especially grateful for the sunshine after our eventful storm adventure the day before. All the excitement I wanted today was to see a moose. We walked and walked, talking and talking. My shoes were comfortable and the trail was ever changing. It wasn’t a strenuous hike but a beautiful trail through the trees and sometimes through open valleys with the mountains on both sides of us.
We took our time, stopping at waterfalls for pictures and taking plenty of snack breaks. I don’t think we really had an end point in mind, we were just looking for a soft place to pitch our tent after about 5 miles into the woods.
We set up camp and continued along the trail to Crater Lake. The water was so crisp and clear! Chap got in, but it was way too cold for my tastes (snow melt basically).
By this point in our trip we had run out of pre-packed water and were down to using a filter system. I was a little wary of it but what choice did I have? We stopped along a stream to fill back up, and then returned to our tent for a camp-cooked meal. Chap, ever on the search for the best view, hiked us up past our tent to the top of a little rock formation. It was perfect and beautiful. There aren’t even any pictures because I knew that they wouldn’t do the view justice. We sat up there cooking our freeze dried food and watched the sunset.
It was hard to sleep for a few reasons. The cold. A tiny fear of wildlife. The hard ground. And the freeze dried food wasn’t sitting well in my stomach. Or maybe it was the filtered water. Either way, I was a big fan of this camping adventure, until we woke up the next morning. We’d brought a shit shovel with us, because you’re supposed to cover your tracks and I was so hoping to not have to use it on our 36 hour adventure. But that was not to be the case. Was definitely not a fan of that just as my digestive system was not a fan of the home cooked meal.
After I returned to camp, we packed up and headed on our way out of the park. I love the hiking aspect of camping, so if we can figure out a way to incorporate bathrooms and more comfortable sleeping arrangements in the middle of some long hikes, I’m game forever.
We ended this trip with a gigantic nap before we went to see Eric Church and Maren Morris at the Red Rocks. A big bucket list trip!
Refreshed after a shower and giant nap!
Do you have any good camping stories? Or tips to help me out next time?