So my 8 day wilderness elk hunting archery trip is in the books. All in all it was a pretty rough trip. Most of you have probably seen on the news all the flooding and rain that has been rocking Colorado as of late. I wish I could say that I missed it, but alas, nothing could be further from the truth.
Now let me apologize, I'd normally have more pictures to go along with the TR, but my camera didn't work out so well in all the rain.
We ended up getting a late start on Friday (I didn't get off work as early as I was supposed to) and got to the trail head about 8 pm. From there we had a 1.5 mile trek straight up (about 1,200 vertical feet) the mountain to our camp site for the night. It was brutal. By the time we had dinner, hung the bear bags, and pitched the hammocks, it was midnight before we got to sleep. This was my first time using my WBRR and HG Cuben tarp (more to follow on those items). We were so pumped about the hunt, the lack of sleep and steep terrain didn't bother us at all!
First Night's camp with WBRR, and Eno single.
We woke up with the sun the next morning, did a little like hiking/scouting for elk, and decided to pack up camp and continue on about another 3 miles down into the Anthracite valley. This place was BEAUTIFUL!
We hunted Saturday evening through Thursday night. We got rained on every day after Saturday. It was pretty rough. I spent A LOT more time than I had planned by the fire trying to dry out my gear (more to follow). We hunted hard and covered a lot of terrain without much success.
To top it all off, an outfitter showed up on Monday with 6 hunters on horseback and camped about a third of a mile from us. We were pissed! We'd wake up super early (think 3 or 4 am), hike in a couple miles, and a whole bunch of vertical feet, get totally soaked from either rain or water logged vegetation, only to have a couple horses show up with hunters in tow just after daylight. It was EXTREMELY FRUSTRATING. After all, the reason we picked such a remote location and killed ourselves on the hike in, was to get away from people. It didn't work.
We also met 3 hunters from Pennsylvania. They had been hunting the area for the last 4 years with great success. They said that the outfitter started using the area last year and had totally ruined the location. They would not be returning again.
We were supposed to hunt through Saturday. However, Thursday night we got hammered with the biggest storm of the week. I was sitting on the side of a mountain glassing about 15 mule deer while trying to locate some elk. I got up to move to the other side of the ridge and check out what was South of my spot. That's when I saw the giant wall of water moving through the valley. It looked like a combination of "The Perfect Storm" and Stephen King's "The Fog". Then reality set in. I was 3/4 of a mile from camp and probably 1,000 feet up. It was going to take me close to an hour to get off this **** mountain. So I started down as quickly as I could. I knew it was going to be rough because there were places I had to use both hands to climb my way up on the ascent. I was virtually ice skating down the mountain it was so slippery. I didn't make it down before the rain set in and I was 100% soaked when I got back to camp. However, what I didn't know was that the rain storm that soaked me was just the opening act to the main event.
About 15 minutes after arriving back at camp and changing into some dry(ish) clothes. The bottom absolutely fell out. Now I'm originally from Florida. "Gully washers" and "Toad Stranglers" are pretty common there. In Colorado, not so much. This state is not built to absorb a lot of water. The storm that blew through could rival any southern "Turd floater" I'd ever been in; Noah's ark style rain, Jim Cantore like wind, and Wrath of the Titans' thunder and lightning. No thanks.
That was the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back. Our morale was already dangerously low because of the non-stop rain, ridiculous horseback hunters and few elk sightings. We both decided that, in the words of Blues Traveler, "The Mountains win again" and we were ready to call it quits. After a restless night filled with thunder, lightning and continual rain, we packed up camp a day early and made the long trek back to the truck.
To say that I was dissappointed would be quite the understatement. However, there's always a silver lining. The WBRR and Cuben Tarp are two fantastic pieces of gear. I can't thank those guys enough for getting me the gear is such a short time frame. That said, here's my little gear review for the trip.
Warbonnet RidgeRunner - Absolutely amazing. I slept like a baby in this thing. I've slept well in gathered end hammocks before, but nothing like the RR. That thing is nice! And the Saddlebags!! Holy crap they are useful. I left the poles at home and used my Mountainsmith trekking poles as the spreader bars. It worked like a champ. The RR will definitely be my go to sling for anything other than simple overnighters.
Hammock Gear Cuben Tarp with Doors - Wow. LOVE IT. I'll be taking this with me on every trip. Light, durable, and well made. I definitely put Cuben Fiber's waterproof claim to the test on this trip and it passed with flying colors. Do yourself a favor and buy cuben.
JRB Greylock 20 degree UQ - Perfect. I was nice and toasty warm every single night. What a great quilt. And for me being a little fella at 5'7" the 3/4 length is perfect. The sit pad goes in the double layer of the RR and kept me nice and cozy. For me, this is the PERFECT combo of weight, function and warmth.
Stoic 15 degree sleeping bag - I love this bag! I picked it up for 40% off on backcountry.com. I think I paid under $200 for it. It is perfect. I'll be using it for a long time.
Keen Gypsum Mids - TOTAL FAIL. These were supposedlely waterproof boots. I put probably 20 miles of light-moderate use on these boots to get them broken in. They did fine with water during several outings. However, they did not stand up to the abuse of the Raggeds Wilderness. My feet were really wet for a lot of the trip. I actually boxed them up 3 days after I got home, wrote a fairly direct letter to Keen, and shipped them back. I'm hoping they make it right, but who knows. This single item almost ruined my trip.
Frog Toggs Rain Gear - NOPE. They are good for light-moderate use, but they ended up getting shredded by the mountain. I'll be investing in some serious rain gear for my next trip. If anyone has any suggestions on heavy duty rain gear, please let me know.
DIY Alcohol Stove - So-So. I've used these exclusively on my last 3-4 outings and have been very happy with the performance. However, on a trip of this length, I found myself jealous every night of my buddies cannister stove. I think for anything over a few nights, I'll be taking the cannister stove just for convenience and ease of use. What do you guys use? MSR? Jet Boil?
Pack-it-Gourmet food - DELICIOUS! Dinner was the highlight of my day. I had the beef stew, puttanesca, chicken and dumplings, tortilla soup, Italian polenta w/ sausage, breakfast smoothies, banana pudding and cheese cake. Every single meal was delectable. The next time I go out, I'll be buying more PIG food.
LL Bean Hunter's Carryall - Pretty Good. This pack isn't a fantastic load hauler or an outstanding daypack, but it's adequate at both. I needed something that could haul in an 8 day camp (45 lbs including food and water), pull double duty as a daypack for hunting, and then function well enough as a meat hauler if we were successful. Unfortunately I didn't get to test it with a full load of meat (about 100 lbs), but it functioned well enough as a camp hauler and day pack. It's not really designed for a singular purpose which meant it wasn't really GREAT at anything, but it was adequate for everything. A decent trade off for me. I'll definitely use it again because it's so versatile.
All in all, it wasn't the best adventure I've ever been on. However, it sure beats being at work! We got to see some elk and some breathtaking country. I can't wait to do it again next year!