Friday, September 4, 2009

RMNP Backcountry Trip - Day 1


Day 1 of this 4 day trip started at the Wild Basin Trailhead in the Southeastern section of RMNP, near the towns of Meeker Park and Allenspark. The plan was to hike past Finch Lake to Pear Lake where we would camp for the night.

The crew on this trip consisted of myself, my son Brandon (12, aka Fire Man), a good friend of mine Darren and his son Jamie (11). All of us except Brandon were seasoned backpackers. Darren and Jamie have done numerous trips including treks in New Zealand and Australia. This would be Brandon's first foray into the backcountry, just as his mother did the week before in the Smokies. He was definitely excited as was I.


We ate lunch near the truck in the Wild Basin Trailhead parking lot, where we took the above picture. Lunch was a Subway sandwich, chips and a drink. After loading up on protein and carbs, we shouldered our backpacks and headed out at around 12:30pm.

We made the short .2 mile walk from the Wild Basin Trailhead parking lot to the Finch Lake Trailhead. This would save us about .5 miles and a couple hundred feet of elevation gain. From the Finch Lake Trailhead, it is approximately 6.5 miles to Pear Lake with an elevation gain of over 2,000 feet. A good chunk of that elevation gain is in the beginning and ending sections. Most of the middle is a moderate incline, with some spectacular views.

On the Finch Lake trail up, we would see Long's Peak most of the trip. Below are a couple of the many good shots we got of the RMNP iconic peak. Additionally, the second shot is in the clearing created by the 1978 Ouzel Fire that burned about 1,000 acres in the park.


About 4.5 miles in, we passed Finch Lake. It was a nice spot to stop and take a rest. Below is a shot of Brandon standing near the water. At this point, the afternoon clouds were rolling in and the temperatures dropped about 10-15 degrees from when we left the trailhead. At Finch Lake, you are at about 9800 feet, nearing our top out elevation of near 10,600 feet at Pear Lake. We grabbed some energy bars and continued on towards our first nights camp.



Brandon was doing a fabulous job on his first time to carry 18 pounds on his back. However, we started having some issues with his pack. He had grown so much in the past two years that he had outgrown his pack and it was causing some extreme discomfort on his shoulders near his neck. In hindsight, I should have been a bit more persistent with him on testing it out at home with the full weight. We fought through it and made some adjustments which helped, but he was pretty uncomfortable most of the trip with his pack on.

We arrived at the Pear Lake campsite around 6:00pm, set up camp and started preparing dinner. The temperature had dropped from 75 or so at the trailhead to near 50 degrees at Pear Lake. The Pear Lake campsite is a great site offering a couple of primo tent sites and a terrific dining area that is shielded from the wind by a large boulder. There is a nice flat rock which makes an excellent cooking surface and dining area.

Dinner for tonight was a fantastic Zatarain's Ready-to-eat Jambalaya and Sausage kicked up a few notches with a little Tabasco sauce from Chick-Fil-A. Just the right amount of protein, carbs and spice to keep us warm for the night. The temperatures would drop down to 37 overnight. Perfect backcountry sleeping temperatures.


Above is a great panoramic image of Pear Lake. The campsites are situated behind a strand of trees adjacent to the lake. Behind the lake is Mt. Copeland which provides a dramatic backdrop to the lake and has some great color including pinks, oranges, whites, grey and yellow, particularly at sunrise. I am told that it is possible to get up on top of Mt. Copeland and see all the way to Grand Lake. I'm sure that would be a spectacular view.

If you continue past Pear Lake, I am also told there are some cross-country sites as well as some additional lakes which are chock full of the Greenback Cutthroats which are being rejuvenated in this area.

Overall, the first day was a success and everyone had a tremendous time. Dinner was a hit! As always, thank you Zatarain's.

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