Saturday, September 19, 2009

RMNP Backcountry Trip - Day 4

Day 4... the final day started out early. Everyone was to be up by 6am so we could break camp, eat breakfast, touch the glacier and be heading down towards the Wild Basin Trailhead by 9am. Again, it was a chilly morning at 10,600 feet, but perfect for backcountry living. It was sad to think that this would be the last morning in the Rockies for a while. I have grown to have a great desire to live in this part of the world. I've only got to convince the family of it. Maybe some day, but for now, I will settle for my occasional trips to the region and savor them when I get 'em.


First things first though. We've got a bit of business to do. We've got a glacier that needs to be touched. We packed everything up and carried it down to the trail junction. One way leading out and one way leading us to Thunder Lake. We dropped our packs at the trail junction and headed over to Thunder Lake. There is a trail between the Ranger cabin and the lake which will take you around the backside of the lake and lead you to the moraine where the glacier sits. On the west side of the lake, I snapped this picture as the sun was coming up. It was a very tranquil morning.

We arrived at the moraine by around 7am. By now, the temperatures were warming up, so we shed a few layers and headed up the short scramble to the glacier. For a Texas boy, touching snow in August is almost unheard of and is quite a thrill. What a fitting end to a great trip. The boys had put in a lot of hard work, and this was a great payoff.

We stayed up on the moraine for about 30-45 minutes, allowing the boys to engage in a snowball fight with Darren. Due to our time crunch, we had to head down. We got back down to the trail junction to filter some water, don our packs and head down the trail towards the Wild Basin trailhead parking lot. As planned, we were on the trail by 9am.

We made great time coming down. We completed the 6+ miles and 2,000 feet of elevation loss in 2.5 hours. We pushed hard to make sure we had enough time to drive into Meeker Park for a quick shower before getting on our planes to head home. After our showers, we headed to Westminster to return our bear canisters to the REI (aka Mecca for us gear heads) and grab some grub at the Rock Bottom Brewery. Mmmmm, burgers and fries! As I typically do after a big trip like this, I way over eat, but man is it good.

Unfortunately, we had flights to catch. We returned our car, said our good byes and headed home. It was a great trip. Everyone got along great, the boys did a fantastic job and we saw some unbelievable scenery. When I'm in the backcountry like this, I always have the sense of accomplishment that I'm seeing things that very few people in this world will ever see. It is a personal struggle. On one side, I wish more people would take the time to do the work to get into the backcountry while on the other side, I feel selfish, wanting to hold on to these places for a few of us.

In summary, I would highly recommend the Wild Basin area. It can get a bit crowded on the weekends, especially near the Wild Basin trailhead, Copeland Falls and even up to Calypso Cascades and Ouzel Falls. The crowds diminish greatly beyond Ouzel Falls. A few fishermen do push on to Ouzel Lake and Thunder Lake, but that's ok. I think when I come back to this area, I want to possibly do some more exploring beyond Pear Lake, possibly up to Mt. Copeland. Additionally, I'd like to make it up to Bluebird Lake and I'd also like to make it up to the Continental Divide, which is a stones throw from Pear Lake and Thunder Lake.

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