Once again it has been a long time since I have updated my blog. However, inspired by Evan and my most recent camping adventure, I have decided I should post some of the beautiful scenery and wildlife from our travels last summer.
Since moving back from New Orleans, Evan and I have gotten really into camping, backpacking and hiking and along with that, I have gotten more into nature photography. I will post images from our travels last summer in chronological order. A la aventura.
Our first trip was camping in Rocky Mountain National Park with our good friend Zach and his girlfriend Katrina. We saw moose, bighorn sheep and elk. It was my first time seeing bighorn sheep and moose in the wild ever, as far as I can remember. We saw male, female and baby moose! The elk came right into our campsite.
We car camped and tried out the new equipment we had just gotten from REI, including our new tent and sleeping bags.
Our next adventure was backpacking for the first time ever with our friends Lee and Alli, who came to visit from New Orleans. We hiked Herman Gulch and camped in a beautiful meadow surrounded by mountains on all sides. The Colorado wildflowers were in full bloom, including our state flower, the Columbine. It was a breathtaking, memorable trip and a complete success even though it was all of our first times. We also got to try out all of our new backpacking gear, including our packs, stove and water filter.
Once we reached the summit, we began to set up camp. This included filtering water for cooking and drinking from a clear mountain stream. This was an insanely cool experience. There is something so neat about being able to survive out in the mountains with only what you can carry on your back.
There were Columbine flowers everywhere.
The views were stunning and as the sun began to set, I couldn’t stop snapping photos of all the amazing colors, wildflowers, sun flares and mountain views.
We cooked our dehydrated backpacking food, which actually tasted amazing, and settled in for the night. There was a crazy storm, apparently, but I slept through the whole thing.
We hiked back out the next morning. It was an amazing first backpacking experience and we are so glad we got to share the experience with our good friends Lee and Alli!
Alright, if you are still with me in this long post, our next adventure last summer was Rawah. We went camping with our buddies Jen and Matt. Jen doesn’t love camping, so this was a simple car camping adventure. It was still beautiful, and always nice to be in the mountains with best friends.
Next we took a trip to the Great Sand Dunes, a unique ecosystem that I grew up visiting. Evan had only been once in college and it snowed, so he really hadn’t yet gotten the full experience.
We car camped the first couple nights and lucked out with a front row spot.
We were getting better at making fires and using our camping equipment, as well as more creative with our cooking.
The next day we hiked around the dunes some and went on a hike to a waterfall and saw a lovely deer on the way back. It was a fun hike, but the drive to get there almost killed Evan’s car. We really would benefit from a 4 wheel drive car…
The next day we decided to go backpacking into the dunes. We got a permit and were told to leave toward the end of the day and hike into a bowl, far enough in that we could not see the parking lot. We headed out with a couple other backpacking groups. One couple ridiculously thought they could carry a cooler into the dunes. It was comical to watch. We soon lost sight of all the other hikers. Backpacking into the dunes was a LOT or work. Two steps forward, one step back. The views were amazing and we were hopeful for a beautiful night sky.
Unfortunately, the wind picked up and suddenly we were caught in a sandstorm.
We realized that we didn’t have a way to keep the tent up even if we were able to set it up in the wind. Additionally, the sand was painful. It got in Evan’s eyes. We were both wearing sunglasses and headlamps by the end and at one point we were huddled together in a ball. My bandana also blew off of my head and disappeared into the dunes.
We got further into the dunes then I had ever been before and the view was stunning. It actually looked peaceful, but this photo is misleading.
At this point I was standing in front of Evan and shouting back to him over the wind, asking whether we should turn back or go forward. The sun was setting and we knew we would be hiking out in the dark. Evan took one of my poles and drew a backwards arrow in the sand. We headed back.
The photo above does show a stream of sand between us. We were sad to have failed to stay in the dunes, but perhaps we will go back on a calmer night with a different tent some other time. My bandana blew back to me on our way back and is now my lucky bandana. It got dark during our hike out, but we eventually found our way. We had sand in every imaginable place, so we opted to get a hotel room for the night with a jacuzzi bath. This poor flower was surviving somehow in the wind.
After our failed backpacking attempt in the Great Sand Dunes, we were determined to get another backpacking trip under our belt. We went to Forest Lakes with our friends Zach and Katrina. Zach has really showed us the ropes when it comes to surviving in the wilderness.
We stopped for a break halfway up and set up the hammock, photographed the wildflowers and did a little fishing. We didn’t catch enough for dinner, to say the least.
Once we got to camp, we set up the tents and relaxed. We had a lovely little spot overlooking the lake.
Dinner was satisfying as usual after the long hike. We even treated ourselves with creme brûlée, which was actually really good!
Then we enjoyed the sunset and Zach and Katrina did more fishing before we all turned in for the night.
The next day started out beautiful and we enjoyed the camp for a bit longer.
Once we began the hike out, it started to hail. That is crazy Colorado weather for you. It did make for lovely photos with nice, even light and pretty little raindrops on flowers and leaves.
Our last camping trip of the summer was in Rocky Mountain National Park in Moraine Park. We went with one of my oldest and best friends, Sara, when she was in town from Boston. We could only go for one night, so I didn’t want to go far. I found a campground well rated and amazingly found an available campsite last minute. The ratings for the particular campsite we went to were very high and it just happened to be free for the one night we wanted to go. We liked it so much that I have booked the same site again for September of this year.
The elk were bugling while we were there and we got to see a giant herd of them.
The next day we went on a hike, checking another amazing Rocky Mountain National Park hike off our list.
At the end of the summer (really the beginning of the fall), the crowning jewel of our adventures was hiking our first 14er (14,000 foot mountain), Mt. Bierstadt. It is a thing in Colorado to hike them as Colorado has more of them (58 in total) then any other state. It was hard, but it was worth it. I didn’t take too many photos on the way up, but these two do show the beautiful fall colors coming out.
The last part was a scramble up these rocks.
The views from the top made it all worth it. It was crazy how far we could see. The air was so thin up there at 14,060 feet!
On our way down, we got to enjoy the fall colors more. A beautiful as they were, they were a sign that our summer adventures in Colorado had come to an end.
And as a final treat, we saw mountain goats on our drive out. Now all I need to see is a bear and I’ll have checked all the major Colorado wildlife boxes!
Alas our summer adventures for 2016 had come to an end. It was a wonderful first summer back in Colorado. We kept ourselves busy in the fall and winter with train rides, cabins, snowboarding and snowshoeing. We are trying to take advantage of all Colorado has to offer year-round. Now it is summer, 2017 and the mountains await! We will be adding more international travel to our plans this year, however, with Iceland and Japan. We head out to Iceland on July 13 in celebration of our 5 year anniversary. We are renting a camper van and driving around the whole country. It should be a fantastic adventure. With that, I leave the reader with these words: a la aventura – to the adventure! Get outside and find your own adventure in this beautiful world.