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[cdt-l] Autumnal Tints - a trip report



...Nature, who is superior to all style and ages, is
now, with pensive face, composing her poem Autumn,
with which no work no will be to be compared.
--Thoreau, A WEEK ON THE CONCORD AND MERIMACK RIVERS

Fall has always been my favorite time to be in the
outdoors. The air is crisp. Nature seems to be clothed
in a multi-color cloak. Browns, greens, whites,
yellows, blues - all the colors seem more
vibrant than a month ago.

The weekend started started off on a reflective note.
It was one year ago that I finished my thru-hike of
the PCT. As I was running Friday
evening, it dawned on me what day it was. Has it
really been a year since I crossed into Canada? So I
was on the trail by the side of Table Mesa, looked
across the field what must have been ten minutes
and was lost in my own thoughts. Thought about how
much I missed the trail, thought about my life as it
is now (rather good), and how I am yearning for next
year when I am on another long walk.

Saturday found me doing trail work in the James Peak
Wilderness. Was volunteering for the Wilderness
Restoration Volunteers. WRV's main focus is more about
restoration of high impact areas than trail building.
The focus of this day was no exception.
The East Portal Trailhead leads to a spider-web of
un-official "use trails".  Most of them are steep and
several eroded, suffering from overuse.  Ealier in
August, WRV (in conjunction with AmeriCorps and
the USFS) actually contructed a nicely graded new
trail in this area to replace the use trails. This
past weekend saw us finishing the process
of closing down these use trails.

The day had an interesting start as it was snowing at
the trailhead. Some debate as wheter to have the trip
or not, but once we had coffee  and bagels in our
system (and the snow coming down even less) decided
to proceede w/ the trip and see what happens with the
weather for the rest of the day.

Hiked in about three miles to the work site and was
impressed with the new trail. A gently switchbacked
trail that is sure to slow down the erosion process.
The process of closing the trail is simple
in excution, but hard work like most trail building.
We piled lots of debris at each end of the old trail
to make it less likely to be walked on. Then built
some check dams made out of logs. Lots of
heavy lifting! These check dams are across the old
trail and will slow down the water and help to
revegetate and start the process of turning
this eroded trail bed into vegitation. The work was
hard, but rewarding. The snow only picked up a few
times. The woods were pretty. A light
coating of snow with the smell of dug up dirt and
turned up logs gave the whole day a most definite Fall
feel. 

After this day of trail work, went to NedMex in the
funky little town of Ned(erland) for some yummy
Mexican food (and a beer on the house).
Good day...

Sunday was a day for hiking. And what a day it was. A
legendary Fall day that all hikers love. Sunny, no
clouds, crisp weather. The mountain peaks
had a light coating of snow that were nicely framed by
the blue sky. The day started off early,  as in
meeting at 6AM in the parking lot!
THis hike was another hiker with some friends from my
outdoor group. Lately, been doing more and more of
these non-listed hikes with
a small group of friends who enjoy long hiking days
with some off trail travel. Knowing that the people on
these trips are up for the challenge makes it easier
to do the hikes. (As an amusing side note..turns out
two of us were dating the same woman...at the same
time! Funny what you learn on these hikes. Makes
for some amusing stories and explains a lot. But that
is another story for another time. :D)

Left Boulder, made our way to Rocky Mtn National Park
(RMNP), took Trail Ridge road (elev 12200') to the
other side of the park. The Western side of the park
has much less people and more remote hikes.
The road took us to Grand Lake. The lake itself is the
largest natural body of water in Colorado. The town of
Grand Lake is a smaller, less congested version of
Estes Park (at the eastern side of the park). 
Unlike Estes, Grand Lake still has some of the feel of
a small mountain town. On the roads leading into Grand
Lake, could see some CDT markings.
More reminders of how close June '04 is when you think
about it. The town of Grand Lake is also a common
re-supply place for CDT hikers.

Dropped a car off at the East Inlet  trailhead of RMNP
and made our way to the Roaring Fork Trailhead in the
Arapaho National Forest.  The trailhead had a rather
nice CDT marker and info board. Took a pic
by the board and started on the trail.

The hike starts in USFS land. We made our way up the
steeply switchbacked trail. The hike in this section
was very pleasant. Reminded me of New Hampshire. Lots
of brooks, tall pine and a shaded trail.  Saw two
hunters on their way down. These were to be the only
two people we would see while hiking.  Continued to
make our way up the trail and to timberline.
Popped out for some stunning views of the western
portion of the Indian Peaks. Again, the snow capped
peaks framed by a cloudless blue sky
is a view that would make any hiker rejoice.

Made our way to the a set of lakes, had lunch and got
ready for the off trail portion of the hike. Pushed up
to the top of the divide at an un-named
pass that marks the boundary between the Indian Peaks
Wilderness and RMNP. At the top of the pass, we again
gazed at the divide. We then descended
into Paradise Park. Below us were many lakes and a
large meadow. Paradise  Park is rather unique to RMNP
in that it is has hardly changed since the
ice age left Colorado. There are no marked trails no
horses or camping are allowed ethier. The only sign of
human use is the rare, very faint, use trail.

The Park was beautiful.  Very atypical scenery for
RMNP. With the meadow, large pines and snow covered,
craggy peaks, it could have been the Cascades
in northern Washington.  We made our way throught the
large meadow and into the woods. In the woods,
off-trail travel began in earnest. This part of
going cross-country took a bit longer to say the
least. 

At 7PM, we made it to the East Inlet trail, had a
quick noshing session to get ready to hike the last
five miles to the car. Our goal of reaching
this trail before dusk was achieved. Started hiking
and as twilight appraoched.  At one rock outcropping
could see outline of the mountains, the fading
sunlight, and the lights of Grand Lake. Around 8PM,
the stars really started to come out.
Could see the Milky Way, a very bright Mars and the
gorgeous sight of the stars being reflected in a trail
side pond.  At one large clearing, Nahum (a research
astronomer with CU) gave a brief, but very interesting
lecture on the night sky. If you go night hiking, an
astronomer is a good person to have along...

Made it back to the car at just past 9PM. Almost 12
hrs of hiking!  (about 20 miles of hiking  with 8
those miles off trail, and 3500' elev
gain!) Between the run Friday, trailwork Saturday and
along hike Sunday, was a bit tired that night. We
shuttled back to the car, and make our way back to
Boulder at almost 1AM! Oh, did I mention I have to get
up at 5:30 AM for work? :-)

So there you have it - a long, busy, wonderful
weekend.  

Pics at:
http://gallery.backcountry.net/Co03?&page=20

Next week, off to the Indian Peaks to backpack!


Mags


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The true harvest of my life is intangible.... a little stardust caught, a portion of the rainbow I have clutched
--Thoreau

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