Rocky Mountain National Park Men of Adventure 2016

It was a great feeling to arrive in Denver after planning this trip for 18months. Thankfully Dave lives in Denver and was crazy enough to agree to go with us on this adventure. To avoid all of the stress and cost of dragging our gear on to the airplane Schaun and I shipped everything to Dave's house ahead of our flight-brilliant I say.

After arriving at the airport we called Dave to pick us up. I'm not sure why but when he arrived he was afraid to stop completely. He slowly pulled along side us, rolled down the windows and yelled "Get In!" So as an act of necessity and a chance to relive our childhood TV memories Schaun and I jumped into Dave's Jeep Dukes of Hazard style. Schaun dove in head first and with his legs still hanging out the window Dave squealed his tires as if he was pulling away from Rosco P. Coletrain. Yes this is a true story. I wish I had a copy of the security footage because it would classic.

After picking up some last minute supplies we ate dinner at Illegal Pete's. For those who don't know Illegal Pete's is a Chipotle like restaurant just with way more flare and a full service bar-yahoo. After a humongous burrito and a few adult beverages we were ready to go and tackle the mountains.

Our trail head was at Bear Lake in Estes Park and I have absolutely no idea who this person is.
Some good looking Dudes!
Day 1 would have us camp at Odessa Lake (#15 on the Map). Mill Creek Basin would be our camp site for Day 2.

We woke up early and excited to get started. After several cups of coffee we were on the road to the RMNP visitor center to pickup our permits and get loaded on the bus like a sardine to our trail head at Bear Lake.

The visitor center's tour bus will take a person right up to Bear Lake itself making it a very popular tourist destination. At the lake the crowd was thick but with our backpacks we stood out like celebrities. Several people stopped to ask us where we were going and how many nights we would be in the woods. Since I love a good story and I didn't want to miss the opportunity to embellish there is a good chance more than 1 person thinks we are still camping right now.

This is when we were stopped by New Jersey Ranger Bob. He stopped us to check our permits, give us a few pointers, and remind us that there are bears in the mountains. Then after giving us the business he took our picture.

Local Rock Stars
Bear Lake
Walking on snow giving the Fonzy!
A little thirsty

We didn't start to feel the effects of the altitude till around 10,000ft. The altitude hit us as if we had just walked into a a wall. But we took our time and added a few more breaks managing to make the hike with no real problems.

Our walk up to Odessa Lake-Amazing. It was like a movie or story book.
Our camp site for day 1. Below is a little video of our walk to and from Odessa.
Awesome View!
With day 1 down its time for our traditional victory cigar.
Odessa Lake was even better than expected.

When planning each days hike we decided to stay around the 6mile mark so as not to feel rushed and to enjoy the sites. After the 1st day we were a little annoyed that we were not hiking a little farther but looking back the shorter distances was the right decision. I'm glad we took shorter trips so we could enjoy our time and the views.

After a warm breakfast we broke camp and headed out for the day.
Fern Falls
Margaret Falls

Day 2 sites would be Fern Lake, Fern & Margaret Falls, Thompson's Pool and the Arch Rocks.

Big Thompson River

Fern Lake was a bit of disappointment when compared to Odessa. 

We took an early lunch break at the Arches. Sadly the Arches had collapsed well before our time. I promise we didn't have anything to do with it.

After lunch we had a straight up climb to Cub Lake and the Mill Creek Areas. A forest fire a ravished the area a few years before but the evidence was everywhere.

Schaun looking down at Cub Lake
Evidence of the fire's destruction
Camp for day 2.

The meadow next to camp was awesome. It just felt like freedom being in the wide open. At sunset we saw 11 deer cross the meadow towards the woods on the far side which was fun to watch. I set my alarm for 4am to take pictures of the stars and the Milky Way. The pictures didn't turnout well as i would have liked but the view was worth it. This was my 1st attempt and any astro-photography and I walked away with 2 lessons. The 1st is "have more patience". The 2nd was "it is freaking cold standing in a wide open meadow at 4am".

Its Coffee Time with the Fonzy!

Day 3 we would hike to the Boulder Brook Campsite. The trail would lead us down out of the mountains and across the Bear Lake road only to go up again to camp. The walk down hill was a nice change of pace but we knew it was just a teaser. Simply put if you go down then you must go back up.

After our short lived downhill hike we started out backup hill. About a 1/4 of mile in Schaun, who was leading, noticed a full grown moose 20 feet to his right. I'm not joking when I say this moose was the size a pickup truck with antlers as wide as a Buick. Schaun began to wave his hands for us to backup as he quickly walked backwards down the hill. When we regrouped we veered way off the trail into the woods to avoid our new friend eventually finding the trail again.

Wild Turkeys

We saw other wild life as well like this family of wild turkeys.

Boulder Brook Campsite

We arrived at Boulder Brook much earlier than we had anticipated. So despite the steep up hill, the run in with the moose, and the blazing heat we made great time.

This night I was much better prepared for my 2nd attempt at astro-photography. I really wanted the iconic picture of a tent with the stars. Again I awoke at 4am and braved the cold capturing the image below. Its not anything to special but I like it a lot.

Day 4 was the hardest hike but I think it was the best day. The plan was to hike downhill again towards Bear Lake completing our loop stopping at Andrew's Glacier if we felt up to it. The hike downhill was easy so when we came to the Andrew's Glacier trailhead it was a no brainier to head back up hill. I mean it's not every day you get to see a real glacier right. This is where a big thank you goes out to Dave. Dave had developed a blister the size of a golf ball and volunteered to stay at the trailhead and watch our packs for us. Schaun and I dropped our packs and headed uphill the 12,450 feet.

Although by now we had acclimated to the altitude the hike up was strenuous. We passed several people who were turning around do to the difficulty. Although one person stopped to chat and he suggested we push up a little farther to Sky Pond because it "was worth it."

The Loch

A water fall on our way up
Andrew's Water Fall. It runs from Sky Pond at the top down to the Loch below
Turn around fool the glacier is behind you!
Schaun calling from top of the world.
Looking out to valley with The Loch below
There is no real trail up to Sky Pond. You have to climb the wet slippery rocks up to the top. Going up was easy. Coming down was a little more of challenge.

After meeting up with Dave we headed out of the park arriving at the car early in the afternoon and right before the trip's 1st rainfall. Soon we were off to enjoy a real meal and a delicious ice cold beer.

A big thank you goes out not only to Schaun and Dave but to our wives for supporting us on this crazy idea.

Now its time to plan the next one!

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