2015 Tyler Summer trip to Colorado Part 1 - Buena Vista

As always, we planned a summer trip, usually 1.5-2 weeks in length, to either the mountains or to the beach. This year, we planned on the mountains. And, for the Tyler clan, you can't beat the mountains out west, so, go west, young man!

A typical Tyler family mountain trip will entail a few things:

  • Some front-country camping
  • Some backpacking
  • Some fly fishing
  • Some staying in a house or cabin
  • A lot of driving
This trip was going to be no exception. The plan was to drive from Grapevine to Buena Vista, CO where we had rented a house for 4 days. Then, go backpacking for 3 days in the Holy Cross Wilderness outside Minturn, CO. Next we had rented a condo for 3 days in Vail, CO.  3 days camping in Rocky Mountain National Park, in Moraine Park Campground. Finally 3 days in Boulder before heading back home. Whirlwind tour of Colorado.

This was our first trip to Buena Vista, or BV to the locals. We had no idea what to expect and we were eager to explore some new parts of Colorado. The house we rented had a spectacular view of the Collegiate Peaks and backed up to a beautiful stream heading towards the Arkansas River. Buena Vista is an outdoorsman's dream town. You have the mountains for hiking, backpacking, mountain biking and (if you're into this thing) OHV. There are a myriad of high alpine lakes chock full of trout and the Arkansas river is one of the top rivers for fly fishing, but also white water rafting.

The view of the Collegiate Peaks from the house

The downtown area of BV is loaded with shops and restaurants and even a nice park or two to relax in. And, of course, plenty of fly shops, which we enjoy hanging out in and getting beta from the local guides. We reciprocate by buying plenty of flies and gear, some that we don't need.

Our first day there, we headed to the Arkansas and tried our luck in the big river. Due to some late winter snow storms and recent heavy rains, the river was running pretty strong. We still managed to pull a few out by picking some deeper pools and hitting some spots behind big boulders. Regardless it was a beautiful day and I saw this beauty sitting by the river.

My beautiful wife enjoying her boys fishing

Dylan showing off his new fly rod

Blake hadn't been converted to a fly fisher yet

Brandon practicing to be a fishing guide

Daddy the fishing guide

The next day, we drove up to St. Elmo, a ghost town not far from BV. We wanted to see if actual ghosts live in the ghost town. SPOILER ALERT: they don't. We walked around the town and looked in some of the old, abandoned homes and shops. If you get the chance and are in the BV area, I recommend the drive up.

The remnants of a town that time passed by

Brandon and Dylan looking for ghosts

Anyone need to go to the bathroom? Must be cold in the winter.

The general store still is operational in town

There is still a functioning general store in St. Elmo where they have a bunch of old stuff for sale, and you can grab a snack and a soda. Behind the general store is a small stream, so there's gotta be fish in it right? The Tyler's had to find out. We drove around some of the old gravel roads, dodging OHV's to find a quiet set of riffles in search of some bends in the poles. We found a nice spot, had a little lunch and caught a few handfuls of small fish. We always have fun, no matter how many or few, no matter how big or small. We just enjoy being together, outdoors, experiencing nature. 

One of the monster brookies Dylan caught

The next day, we drove up to Cottonwood Lake picnic area to spend the day eating and fishing and maybe some more fishing. The weather kind of cooperated. It was a bit drizzly, but we didn't let it bother us too much. Brandon showed off his prowess with the fly rod, despite the weather.

Brandon releasing one of the many fish he caught

Rain or shine, baby!

As the weather deteriorated, we decided to pack it in and call it a night. The next day, we drove up towards Leadville and found a nice lake and some surrounding streams that were supposed to be some good spots for fish. Emerald Lake and Halfmoon Creek looked promising. We first hit the lake. We're fairly certain it was the previous days weather that spooked the fish, because we didn't catch much of anything, except Linda. Linda knelt down and got a Rooster Tail treble hook stuck in her leg. This was a first for me and fortunately, a paramedic was in the area and gave me some pointers for making the removal process as painless as possible, still very painful. With his tips, I managed to quickly extricate the hook from her leg.

Linda's leg and pant legs were a bit beaten up after the removal of the Rooster Tail

We worked the entire perimeter of the lake with no luck, the boys, however, enjoyed the backcountry pizza I made them. I should post a blog soon on my recipe. Lauren enjoyed the Mac-n-cheese.

After a little lunch, we headed over to try the Halfmoon creek. Dylan and Blake were done fishing and decided to simply play in the rocks and sand and creek. Brandon and I went full frontal assault on the creek in search of the elusive trout. Still, no luck. Regardless of our lack of success fishing the area, this is a very quiet, peaceful area with lots of places to have a picnic and enjoy the sounds of a babbling creek with the family.

We arrived back at the house and started packing all the backpacks for our next leg, a 2-night adventure into the Holy Cross Wilderness. It has become an art form of packing 6 backpacks, sharing loads across all of the family members while keeping the loads weighted more towards myself and Brandon, the pack mules. Our packs generally work out to something like this (including food and water):
  • Brandon and Chris - 35 pounds each
  • Linda and Lauren - 25 pounds each
  • Dylan and Blake - 10-15 pounds each
Not bad for a family of 6 for 3 days.

The look on Blake's face says it all, "this is not gonna end well".

This year, it was not meant to be though. We arrived at the trailhead in a rain/sleet storm. Hoping for the best, we shouldered our packs and attempted to hike in. We were hoping for a clearing in the weather as we were getting mixed reports. It was not in the cards. The icing on the cake was when we were about 3/4 of the way to the destination, we came upon a spot that I had seen on the map which I thought might be the deal killer. I knew it was steep, but had hoped that it might be in the trees, somewhat hiding the steepness. Nope, it was a straight drop off and was about a 100 yard section around a curve. We decided with the sleet/snow mix and no end in site, plus the dicy nature of this section, it was best to lick our wounds, live to hike another day, and go find some warm shelter.

By the time we got back to the truck, we were in a deluge. As it turns out, unfortunately, another hiker was struck by lightning and killed a day or two later in the same general area we were going to be in. It is sometimes better to bail than take unnecessary risks or force everyone to be miserable.

Well, as luck would have it, Brandon and I found a little stream near the road on the way out. Guess what, there were fish in it. Tiny ones, but fish all the same. So, we did what everyone would do, right? We stopped for a little fly fishing excursion, in the pouring rain. Everyone else stayed in the truck but Brandon and I muscled through it. We just can't help ourselves.

Like father

Like son

We made a call to our condo in Vail and as luck would have it, it was open for us to come in 3 days early. Yeah! We made a beeline to Vail. I'll pick up there next.


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