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[cdt-l] Autumnal Tints II- another trip report

 As I have mentioned before, Fall is by far my
favorite time to backpack. Everything about this
season makes me feel so alive. The crisp air, the
turning leaves, the far views. The soul rejoices more
so than any other season. Simply put, I feel alive
during this time of the year.

This weekend was no exception to that feeling. Did an
over nighter in the Indian Peaks. The Indian Peaks are
very beautiful. Being so close to the Denver metro
area, they also tend to be crowded. 
Like the Whites of New Hampshire, these peaks are
known for some superb backpacking. And like the
Whites, the best time to do them are in the Fall. Not
only wonderful views and changing aspens, but also
less people.

The trip I put together was advertised in the group
e-mail as a challenging hike. Wanted something a bit
more challenging than a typical overnighter. The
chosen loop is considered a classic. By non-thru hiker
standards, very challenging as well. Approx 25 miles
R/T. Almost 6k feet elevation gain (including two
passes over the divide and climbing to a saddle on the
side of a 13er). But the loop is absolutely breath
taking. A true Rocky Mtn sampler. Above tree-line,
meadows, snow covered peaks, glacier ponds, pine
forests, groves of apsens. What is not to like?

My nick-name for the trip was "Thru-hiker Boot Camp".
As such it brought out the more "hard core" members of
the group. On board was Mark who instructs Basic
Mountaineering School for the Coloardo Mountain Club,
spent his summers growing up in National Parks (his
Dad was seasonal ranger) and has trekked (and more
often than not climbed) seemingly everywhere; also had
Julie who has trekked world wide and bikes centuries
for fun; her boyfriend (another) Mark who hiked the AT
in '96 and spent 3 mos trekking in Nepal; Mandy who
does not hike much but just came back from her second
6 month solo bike tour - this time of SE Asia; and
I've been know to hike every know and then. :-) 
Joining us for part of the trip was Val who has
climbed in the Candian Rockies, the highest peaks in
Mexico and is just a machine! All in all, you could
say the outdoor experience level was high. Made for a
relaxing hike in the sense that everyone was well
prepared and could take care of themselves. 

The day started off very well. On the way up to the
trail head, noticed how yellow the aspens were. Also
made note of the mountains and how awesome they looked
with a fresh covering of snow.  We hiked up to
Isabelle Lake and enjoyed the view of the sparkling
waters. Continued our climb to Pawnee Pass (12500') on
the Continental Divide. The wind was almost as intense
as the views. And the views were intense indeed. The
western side of the divide is extremely impressive.
The peaks are not rounded like the eastern side, but
are craggy and fierce looking.  Looked to Lake Granby
and the peaks further west. Next year I will be
At this point, Val left us to coninue her own hike for
the day. We waved "adios" and saw
her start her climb up Pawnee Mountain.

Made our way down the many switchbacks to another
sparkling lake: Pawnee Lake. Rested a bit and
continued further down to a trail junction. By this
time we getting lower in elevation and noticed more
and more aspens. Not as colorful on the Eastern side
of the divide, but still nice. 
Started to long climb to Buchanan Pass (approx 14
miles away) and stopped to camp at about
6:30 PM in a nice sheltered spot. As usual, camped
under the stars. Had a well deserved nights

The following day, woke up and was in awe. The sky was
the most intense shade of blue I have seen since the
High Sierras last year. The morning was cold, but we
quickly warmed up as we continued the steady climb to
the distant pass. Before getting to the pass, we
climbed to a large grassy meadow called Fox Park. Wow.
Add the blue sky, some golden aspens, rugged looking
peaks and this wide open meadow and you have a place
that any backpacker will return to when they think of
Continued to climb the many switchbacks to the top of
the pass and again looked in awe at the mountains. The
top of the pass was intense. So windy, I needed my
poles to brace myself. Negotiated a small snowfield on
the eastern side of the pass and the wind died down
quite a bit.  Could see far to the east..beyond the
foothills and to the plains. 

Made our way to the bottom of the pass and below
treeline again. At another meadow had a memorable view
of the snow covered pass we just climbed over with
russet colored bushes in front. A scene that shouted
out: THIS IS COLORADO!!! We then started another climb
of nearly 2000 feet gain to a saddle on the side of
Mt. Audobon. As we popped into treeline again, looked
over my shoulder and saw Longs Peak. Next to Pikes
Peak, this is probably Colorado's most famous "14er". 

Popped back into treeline and made it to the
trailhead. What a wonderful weekend. Felt so alive.
It was a weekend that we read about in some outdoor
magazine. Everything was perfect... Life continues to
be good.

Ended the weekend in the little town of Ned where they
have the Khatmandu restaurant, arguably the best
Nepalese food in the area (owned and operated by
people from Nepal)  and its AYCE buffet. What better
way to end the weekend?  YEp..life is good.

Pics can be seen at:

Mags..who is not doing a thing at all for the rest of
the week...marathon this weekend! :D

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

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