PIC HEAVY - Subalpine CO meadows, 11 mile two-day, and a near miss of DanaMac
MrsMustardman and I decided to head to Buffalo Peaks Wilderness, in the Pike National Forest for a relaxing two-day backpacking trip. For this trip, we would be covering 11.8 miles in a subalpine loop hike connecting Rich Creek Trail to Rough and Tumbling Creek Trail.
It turns out DanaMac had the exact same idea, and we missed him by less than a mile on several occasions. For the camp out on Saturday night, we camped on the very edge of the meadows where the two trails met. DanaMac was just east of that juncture, and probably less than a mile from us. Later, on Sunday, we ran into two hikers who were resting after one of them had tripped, and they noticed our AARN packs, and said "you guys MUST be with the couple who just passed us". After talking to them a bit, turns out that the couple that just passed them were sporting AARN packs too, and one mentioned that he was the distributor for those packs in North America - yep, our very own DanaMac again, missed by less than ten minutes. We never did end up running into them, but it was cool to know that there were two sets of hammockers using AARN packs on that trail this weekend.
More details and a full trip report in the next post.
The trailhead starts at around 10,000 feet, and after some small amount of climbing in the beginning, levels out to absolutely amazing subalpine meadows. These are very different from most of what I've seen here in Colorado, and the views are simply breathtaking.
At this time of year, there are wildflowers everywhere in the meadows, and you will see many more of them showing up throughout the pictures.
Compared to most places I've hiked in Colorado, there's a very unique, wide open feel to these meadows. It's easy to forget that you're hiking at over 10,000 feet elevation. Of course, having an AARN pack strapped to your back makes it feel even easier, since things are so nicely balanced and comfortable, even with a stupid bulky bear canister lashed to the top.
These meadows we were hiking through surrounded Rich Creek, after which the trail is named, and the area is popular with many user groups - hikers, campers, horseback riders, and fly fishermen. The fishermen come for the many, many trout that live in the pools behind beaver dams.
As we hiked on, we came into more patches of various wildflowers.
Unfortunately, we started to hear thunderstorms in the distance, and they were sort of freaking us out. By this point, we were at just over 11,000 feet - not the most pleasant elevation to be dealing with potential lightning strikes. As it started to drizzle, we picked up the pace and started rushing toward the cover of the trees at the end of the meadows. We found cover in the trees, at 11,500 feet, but weren't crazy about the many dead trees we saw around us. Luckily, the storm blew over fast, and all we saw from it was a few drops, before we got back to clear views of gorgeous meadows.
Not much longer after the storms blew through, we found a great campsite right on the edge of the trees. This site was at around 11,200 feet, and had one of the best views I've ever experienced in a campsite.
After hanging the hammocks, we got right to work practicing the firestarting skills, using some very dry grasses and a firesteel to get started. My Scrap Yard Scrapper 5 split up some other twigs for tinder.
Soon, we had a nice little fire going
And not long after that, we were boiling water in a Guyot stainless steel water bottle, while toasting some pita bread for the fire, to enjoy some Mountain House buffalo chicken wraps. Yum!
We sat around enjoying the fire and the view, until the moon started to rise and it was time for bed. The moonrise was absolutely breathtaking, and with the clear mountain air and no light pollution for miles around, it really lit up the meadows. You know it's a clear night when you can see the milky way even with a nearly full moon!
The next morning, we awoke to a similarly stunning view, and after gazing out of the hammock to see this, I dozed back to sleep for a little more shuteye.
Eventually, hunger got the best of me, and I crawled out of bed to stretch my legs and walk around enjoying the view a bit more before breakfast. Walking out into the meadow a bit, you can really appreciate how great our campsite was.
Legs fully stretched, it was time to sit down in the hammocks and get breakfast ready. While we cooked our dinner in the campfire, for breakfast, we used the Trangia alcohol burner with a Clikstand and titanium pot to boil up some water. We usually hang our Blackbirds with the openings facing toward each other, so we can sit in them and face the middle, for cooking and talking. It's pretty much the best way to relax in the woods.
Around 800 mL of water was enough for some eggs and potatoes - breakfast of champions! We also heated up a bit more water for some hot chocolate.
Still not ready to leave this picture-perfect setting, we lounged around camp for a while, looking at the flowers and the birds
Eventually, we broke camp and started walking out through more fantastic meadows.
Beyond the birds, we didn't see much wildlife, but we saw plenty of signs of them, including lots of deer droppings, and plenty of damaged trees. I'm not sure if this one was a bear, deer, or elk, but there were a lot of trees with this kind of damage around the trails.
After some steep downhill hiking along Rough and Tumbling Creek (it earns its name!), we reached another area of meadows and beaver dams.
In this area, we reached a low of around 9500 feet - the trees and flowers seemed to appreciate the extra oxygen, and there was life everywhere.
Soon it was time to start climbing again, up to around 10300 feet, where the views were excellent, but it was obvious we were getting closer to civilization. We even got some views of fields full of cows, although they are tough to see in the pictures.
Finally, we descended one more time, as we hiked through some really nice stands of well established aspen. These trees were thriving, and made a perfect environment for the last mile or two of hiking before the trailhead.
Not long after that, we returned to the trailhead. Over the course of two days, we climbed from 10,000 feet to within a hundred feet of treeline, narrowly missed a thunderstorm, explored some beautiful meadows, and watched the temperature swing from 85 degrees during the day on Saturday to 35 overnight, and a gorgeous 65 degree day on Sunday. It's hard to imagine a more perfect weekend.
I hope you enjoyed the report as much as we enjoyed the trip - I usually don't go into this much detail on a trip report, but this was a fantastic location. If you're looking for something different in a hike in Colorado, you'd be hard pressed to top this loop in the Buffalo Peaks Wilderness. Highly recommended.
Thanks for posting the Pics...man that looks like it ws a lot of fun...i miss the west....:(
Awesome trip report thanks for sharing and posting the photos.
Great pictures, thank you for posting them.
Yes, somehow we JUST missed each other. I think we camped about an 1/8 of a mile away. (gotta lower my head for this one) we just got our tent set up when the rain started coming down. I love me a good rain storm.
I don't have the great trip report writing skills yet, plus MustardMan already gave a good detail of it. It was a great hike for a beginner like Windy. She has done many day hikes but no hike in, camp, hike out trips. So it was great for her as a newbie. Starting at the Rich Creek Trailhead, we hiked about 4.5 hours or so to where we set up camp. This was with a few small breaks along the way. From camp to the TR, it was about 2.5 or so. So it was nice to hike about 2/3 of it the first day, and 1/3 on the way out. I have to admit, I've gotten out of shape and lazy so it was wearing out my knees. Bedtime was early for me.
No wildlife that we saw, which bums me out. Anything, a deer or a jackalope :) would have been nice. Water was a plenty, and I brought more than necessary. Didn't bring a bear can, but hung our food instead.
Looking at your pics, we were thinking alike on EVERY level. We brought a Mountain House pack for dinner - Mac and Cheese and threw in a pack of hickory smoke tuna. AND - a pack of the Idahoan potatoes, garlic and parm flavored. Great minds think alike I guess.
VERY relaxing weekend for me. Looks like it was for you too.
Will post pics tomorrow.
At just over 11 miles, this trip was more relaxing than some 5 mile dayhikes I've done in Rocky Mountain National Park :lol:
Looking forward to seeing your pictures.
What color was your tent, by the way? It wasn't bright yellow, was it?
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