Fall in the Rocky Mountains–hiking through the golden larch forest.
I got busy after my recent backpacking trip and didn’t make time for a post, but I can’t not share a couple of photos from my amazing trip. So better late than never.
Our loop through the wilderness was about 20 miles in all, and we had 3 days to do it. The first day we hiked 7 miles and gained about 2,000 feet in elevation. It was an easy, gradual climb, and I was grateful for that. Since I haven’t put on a heavy pack in over 2 years, and my backpack doesn’t fit all that well anyway, I tried to go as light as possible so that I didn’t bruise the ever-living snot out of my shoulders and hip bones. Good intentions. I did manage to go pretty light–35 pounds–but my shoulders and hips were pretty sore at the end of the day. I guess it just makes you appreciate taking off the pack at the end of the day that much more.
Fall colors were upon us, too, at least up high. At first I thought the gold colors I saw as we hiked that first day were quaking aspen (“quakies” in my vernacular). But I thought they looked out of place. Once we got up close, I realized they were western larch, a deciduous conifer. They were beautiful! I wasn’t expecting them, as I usually think of them as occurring further north. Needless to say, I was stoked to see them.
At camp the first night my friend and I poured over the topo map and decided that the following day we’d climb a mountain peak that was near our pass. It was supposed to be an easy 1 mile roundtrip trek without a ton of extra elevation gain, and since we had a relatively short 4 mile hike to camp, it gave us a nice little goal to set for ourselves that second day. Besides, we thought it would be nice to go home and tell our husbands that we bagged a peak just for the hell of it (Hubby was proud). It also felt really nice to dump our packs in the trees and scamper up to the peak free of extra weight. We had some hella crazy switchbacks coming down the pass, and at one point we could see our destination for the day. From our eagle-eye view, we picked out a camp spot in the meadow above the lake, then continued our trek down, down, down out of the wind and back into the forest.
Camp would be in the meadow above the lake in the center of the photo.
We got to camp with enough time to chill out, then go exploring, then pump some water while scanning the scree slopes for a mountain goat or a bighorn sheep (nada). We ate dinner in the meadow and watched a couple of deer come out of the trees to eat their dinner. We hung our food, then watched the stars appear one by one.
The next day we began our easy 8-mile hike back to the trailhead. Since we were hiking down the valley in the forest, the hike wasn’t all that scenic, but we did have some beautiful glances at the stream we followed and we crossed some quaint little marshy tributaries from time to time. The hiking was so pleasant all the way around. I told my friend on the first day that I could feel my soul opening up and releasing all the stress and uncertainty that had been building up for months. Her work has been stressful lately, so this trip was sort of her vision quest for what to do. It was a soul cleansing trip for the both of us. The feeling of absolute peace combined with giddiness I have never been able to find anywhere except in the mountains, on a trail, hiking. It must be the repetitive plod of footsteps, the smell of the forest, and the breeze in my hair that sets the tone for the sense of peace that washes over me. Whatever it is, I must do this more next summer and fall.
We were slightly disappointed that we didn’t see much wildlife on our trip–no bears, elk, mountain lions, sheep, or goats. We saw a grouse the first day, the two deer the second day, and a squirrel the last day. Ironically, when I got back to town that evening, I had to wait for a deer to make her way across the crosswalk before I could continue through the intersection. Ah, that’s life.