Hike the CT to Rebuild Trails

Hike the Colorado Trail in 2014 and raise money to rebuild trails that were destroyed in the September 2013 flood. Read on to find out how.

In addition to destroying homes and highways, the 2013 flood in Northern Colorado demolished many beloved hiking trails in the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests. Several of these damaged trails are favorites of mine that I have been hiking for 10 years with family, friends, kids, dogs, horses and alone. My kids and I have camped along these trails, and they are very special to us.

My son’s first backpacking trip when he was 7, on the now destroyed North Fork Trail.

Seeing the destruction of these trails first made me cry, then prompted me to action. I contacted Fred Allen at the Arapaho Roosevelt Pawnee Foundation and confirmed that they are currently gathering information about the damage to trails and making plans to reconstruct them. They will need LOTS of volunteers to complete all the work, and those volunteers will need materials, tools, gloves, lunch, and watermelon at the end of the day. I told Fred that I would put together a fundraiser with 100% of donations going to ARPF to ensure that these trails are reconstructed and not forgotten.

Pictures I took 11/22/13 showing three washed out bridges on the North Fork Trail.

So, in July of 2014, I will take on the personal challenge of completing a nearly 500-mile thru-hike of the Colorado Trail from Denver to Durango. I will finance the journey myself, but I will raise money through Crowdrise for ARPF before and during my 4-6 week hike. Here is my fundraising site: Hiking the CT for Trail Reconstruction.

I am now calling all hikers, friends, family, and anyone else who is willing to visit my fundraising site and do one or more of the following:

  1. Sponsor me per mile – a nickel a mile is just $25, a dollar a mile is $500.
  2. Make a dollar donation in any amount you choose.
  3. Join my Crowdrise team! Make the commitment to hike the Colorado Trail or a section of it in the summer of 2014 and raise money for trail reconstruction.

Crowdrise does charge a small fee (3%) to charitable organizations for their online service, but this way donations go straight to ARPF to rebuild trails and not to me. So you can be certain that your money will be used to purchase necessary materials, tools, and volunteer meals to help rebuild these beautiful stream-side trails for us all to enjoy for years to come.

Thank you, and feel free to post a comment if you have a question about this fundraiser.

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The Craziest Backpacking Trip Ever

It started around midnight when we heard of flooding in Elk Meadows on my husband’s fire department radio. A couple of hours later he was out the door to help with sandbagging. By 5:30 am we received a phone call that there would be no school because of flooding in the area. Later that afternoon we drove down to the bridge that connects our dirt road to CO Hwy 43, and this is what we saw.

Retreat BridgeIt was Thursday afternoon, September 12, 2013. We had heard on our emergency crank radio that the river was not expected to crest until late Friday night. We knew at that point that the bridge would be gone in the morning. But we never expected the highway to be gone too.

This is what the bridge and Hwy 43 looked like on Friday morning.

The river was still raging, and there were half a dozen propane tanks jammed among the debris. Several were spewing gas, and the whole area smelled like propane. The highway looked like a monster had taken large bites, until it finally ate the whole road in each direction. There was a new waterfall at the sharp turn we call Devil’s Thumb — where the river now ran over the road and dropped off below where the road was gone.

For the next 24 hours my husband was busy helping other residents, especially the old and those dependent on medications. At home, we transferred food to a smaller refrigerator in the garage, and used a small generator borrowed from the fire department to run it a few hours a day — while also charging batteries for the volunteer fire fighters’ radios.

Saturday morning dawned clear and beautiful. I took the dogs for a walk and everything was quiet and strangely normal. Though the highway was gone, our neighborhood was mostly untouched.

A few hours later, we got word that a helicopter would soon arrive to take out 40 people. This created a bit of a panic as people rushed to pack and get to the landing zone. My parents were visiting us from Florida, and they were ready to get out. So they packed up and we took them to catch a Chinook.

ChinookWhile at the landing zone, we talked to neighbors who had too many pets to get them all out. One of them left a cat behind, and another left two golden retrievers in a kennel. We promised to take care of them as we were planning to stay at that point. they were telling us it would be 2-3 months before the road was repaired, and we had plenty of food stashed away.

Later Saturday night, we had a community meeting at the end of our road. The fire fighter in charge told us that evacuations were now mandatory and that everyone should pack tonight and be at the landing zone by 9 am. He said it would be at least one year before the roads were repaired, and anyone staying behind would receive no assistance.

With this information, we began packing. I couldn’t justify keeping the kids out of school for a full year.

Sunday morning dawned and it was thick with low-hanging clouds. Some people did go to the landing zone, but no Chinooks arrived that day. I was able to hike up a mountain and make a cell phone call to a friend in Estes Park. He told me Estes was damaged, but not as bad as we had heard. The news I got from him gave me hope. I went home and re-packed all of our bags with the intention of going to Estes Park to live rather than going to Florida to stay with my parents.

Monday morning was cloudy, but not as bad as Sunday. I took all of our perishable food to a neighbor’s house where there was a large generator and people who were staying would use it as a storage space. By mid-morning the sky was clearing, the house was as ready as we could get it, and our backpacks were packed.

BackpacksWhen we heard choppers in the area, we headed for the landing zone. There were already a lot of people there. Since my husband is a Glen Haven volunteer fire fighter, he wanted to wait until everyone else was out first. So he told us to wait for the last Chinook. While we were waiting we chatted with neighbors and I shuttled some people from the back of our neighborhood up to the landing zone. We brought with us our two dogs, Buddy and Kota, along with the cat and the two golden retrievers that had been left behind.

While we waited, I found two other residents who were willing to take the two retrievers down to Ft. Collins and hand them over to the Red Cross workers. I gave them the owner’s name, address and phone number. We kept the cat with us, and after several hours of waiting and a few bee stings, there were only eight people and a few pets remaining at the landing zone.

It was our turn to fly.

The ride was a bit bumpy, but the kids and I loved it. My daughter said when we landed that it was too short. The dogs, however, were not fond of the ride at all. I had to pick up Kota to get her on the Chinook. Both of them were terribly antsy on board and had to be constantly held and petted to stay somewhat calm.

When we landed, there was water for the dogs, a vet, a medical tent, snacks, water, and a bus to take us across Ft. Collins to Timberline Church. The dogs liked the bus ride much better than the Chinook flight!

Bus rideAt the church there were warm chicken sandwiches and lots of other food, and my daughter also picked out a new stuffed animal. We contacted a local friend who came to pick us up and let us stay in his home for a few days to re-group. Cleaned up and showered, the kids thought it was all a big adventure.

Kids at Perry'sThe next adventure would be finding transportation, working our way back up to Estes Park, and finding a place to live.

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Sky Pond

Summer is almost over, and we did not fit in much hiking. We did one backpacking trip in the Rawah Wilderness early in the summer, but I forgot to take my camera! It was a short 2-day trip, but long on adventure with lots of melting snow, stream crossings, and a crazy young Labrador that I will probably not take backpacking again for at least two years.

We were planning another backpacking trip for this Labor Day weekend, but I never got my act together, and suddenly the weekend was upon us. So instead, we took a beautiful day hike to Sky Pond, one of the few popular places in Rocky Mountain National Park that I had surprisingly never visited.

We started hiking at the Glacier Gorge trail head and stopped for a snack at Loch Vale.

photoThen we continued up the trail, stopping briefly to snatch this distant shot of the waterfall coming down from Glass Lake — our next destination.

photo2The trickiest part of the hike was the approach to Glass Lake. No, that is not part of the waterfall the kids are scrambling up — that is the actual trail.

Approach to Glass LakeNeedless to say we had to be very careful coming back down this section. My son was able to do it all himself, with just a little bit of coaching. I had to help my daughter a few times, having her step on my knee to get down to the next foot hold. It was tricky with her short legs, but she never got scared or discouraged — and truly did most of it herself.

At Glass Lake we had another snack before hiking the last half mile to Sky Pond.

photo4At Sky Pond, the humidity that had been slowly building all day had formed low clouds that made the pond look a bit mysterious. My son took this great picture of my daughter and I.

Sky PondThen a fellow hiker took this one of all three of us. Thank you!

Sky Pond 2Shortly after leaving Sky Pond and heading back past Glass Lake, we saw a very friendly and very chubby marmot. This guy really wanted my daughter to throw him some food. We don’t feed animals in the wild, but obviously some visitors don’t follow that rule. I literally had to shoo this marmot out of the way so the kids could get by — I think he thought the trail was a toll road! None shall pass!

photo7

Hiking back down the Glacier Gorge trail, we got caught in a bit of a thunderstorm, but it wasn’t too bad. Still, we were glad we were on our way down, and that we had our raincoats. There was even a little bit of hail, but thankfully only a few lightning strikes — and nothing too frightening.

We all finished the 9-mile hike in good spirits, and my daughter asked me, “Can we please do this hike 10 times per year?” “Certainly,” I said!

But we’ll be lucky if we fit it in a couple of times per year.

Glacier Gorge Trail

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Wildfire Hike

Last weekend we took a hike in Rocky Mountain National Park and discovered that a recently burned forest is actually quite beautiful.

Boys at Cub Lake after wildfire

Boys at Cub Lake after wildfire

We did about a 6 1/2 mile loop to Cub Lake and then around to The Pool on the Fern Lake trail, and back to the Cub Lake trail head. At first I was sad about the fire, but the burned trees allowed us to see the lay of the land much better than usual, and I saw a lot of fresh green shoots coming up already. It was really kind of pretty.

Hiking through burn area

Hiking through burn area on Cub Lake Trail

This area burned late last summer. In fact, we were camping nearby in Moraine Park while the fire was burning, and we could see if from our campsite in the distance. The second night we camped, the fire seemed closer. The very next night (after we were gone), rangers evacuated the campground in the middle of the night as the fire exploded with high winds and rushed across the grassy valley toward the campground. Firefighters protected the campground and a nearby museum, but they let the fire burn in the forest because there was a lot of fuel since it had not burned in a very long time. One casualty of the fire was a bridge over Wuh Creek on the Cub Lake Trail, just past the lake itself.

Girls in front of burned bridge over Wuh Creek

Girls in front of burned bridge over Wuh Creek

Perhaps the firefighters protected the trail head because of a bridge there, the trail head sign, and other improvements. Or perhaps the fire simply did not move in that direction. But for whatever reason, the Cub Lake trail head area was not burned. And in the open valley around it, most of the grass has recovered so well that the elk are enjoying the tasty spring growth.

Kids at Cub Lake trail head

Kids at Cub Lake trail head

 

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Utah National Parks Tour

For spring break, the kids and I went to Zion, with short visits to Capitol Reef, Bryce, and Arches National Parks along the way. The weather was colder than I had hoped, but thankfully we only had one day of rain. Here is a short, illustrated trip summary.

The first day was mostly driving. We drove through Capitol Reef National Park, stopping at a few of the easily-accessible park features and eating some homemade ice-cream at the Gifford Homestead. We camped that night in Escalante at the Petrified Forest State Park and had an awesome pizza at the restaurant attached to Escalante Outfitters. I highly recommend this small restaurant with nice outdoor seating.

(Note: Hover over pictures to see a short title, click on them to see them full size.)

The next morning, we drove down to Bryce Canyon (50 miles) and spent the day hiking the Navajo Loop and the Queens Garden Trail. The weather was nice and the scenery spectacular. I had not been to Bryce before, so hiking through the hoodoos was a new experience for us all. The kids absolutely loved it — especially the “garden” of carins including one that looked like a coyote.

We drove back to our campsite in Escalante that night for burgers and dogs on the grill and a pretty sunset by the resevoir. The next morning we packed up and drove to Zion. We made it to the Watchman Campground just in time to check in and set up our tent before the rain let loose. We had sandwiches for lunch in the campground, then put on our rain gear and headed to the Zion Canyon shuttle for short, wet hikes to Weeping Rock and the Riverside Walk. The rain was cold, and it was still raining when we got back to the campgound. So we went into Springdale for dinner and walked around town a bit. The kids really liked the spinning, silver wind art.

Later that night, our friends arrived at Watchman. The rain stopped, and we had a nice campfire. The next morning we cooked a real breakfast and set out to explore the central Zion canyon further. We did the Emerald Pools Trail, had lunch by the big tree at the lodge, and then did the Riverside Walk again. it was a chilly day, but the sun came out in the afternoon.

The next day was a bit warmer, and we headed up to Lava Point, intending to part of the West Rim Trail. But at 8,000 feet, it was still winter up there. We opted to go back down to the canyon and hike the Hidden Canyon Trail, which was beautiful and the kids loved exploring the hanging canyon.

The next day we went to the East side of Zion, through the famous Mt. Carmel tunnel. We drove up a ways to a pull-off where one of the boys wanted to stop and hike up to a set of three spires. It was steep and challenging, but we went slow and stayed together. It was nice to be away from the crowds and on our own path. We found a small arch up high and were able to get to the spires we saw from the road, where we had a snack. We chose a different way down, and had to crab-walk or slide on our bottoms for one very steep section. This turned out to be my daughter’s favorite hike of the whole trip!

On the way back to Watchman Campground, we stopped and hiked the Overlook Trail for a great view of the central Zion canyon. Several families gathered for a fun campfire later that night.

The next morning our friends headed for home and we headed toward Arches National Park. We stopped on the north side of Zion and hiked up Taylor Creek in the Kolob Canyons area. It was a pretty hike, but the kids were really tired from the week so we didn’t go more than four miles and returned to the car to drive to Moab. The Arches campground was full and we had no reservation, so we camped on Kane Creek Rd. at the Kane Springs Campground near a BIG red rock wall. It was sparse, but we had a nice evening and my son did a great job building a fire with just one match!

The next morning we went to Arches and hiked to Delicate Arch. I wanted to hike to the arches in Devil’s Garden too, but he kids were exhausted from the full week, the weather was changing quickly, and the parking lot was full. By the time I drove back to the Arches entrance, the kids were asleep in the back seat, which is how they stayed for much of the six-hour drive home.

It was a great trip. Utah is definitely a stunning part of the country. Even driving through it is interesting because it changes a lot every few miles. If you have never been to Utah, I highly recommend it, but I’ll stick to Colorado for the hottest part of the summer!

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Devil’s Backbone

We haven’t done a lot of hiking this winter, but last month we were able to get out on a particularly nice day and hike Devil’s Backbone from Horsetooth Reservoir to the Hwy 34  trail head in Loveland, CO with some friends. We also did a side trip to the Keyhole, so that made the 9.6 mile hike very close to 10 miles total. Quite a distance for the 6-year-olds, but they are troopers now!

Here are some pictures from the hike for your viewing pleasure:

Devil’s Backbone, February 2013

This winter, I have taken on the task of being a swim coach for our local age group swim team, the Otters. Because if this and the blog I am now writing as a tool to communicate with the swimmers and parents, I probably won’t have time to write a whole lot on this blog.

However, we are going to Zion for spring break soon, so I will definitely post a trip report with pictures when we get back. And we are planning on doing some 14ers this summer, as well as a longer backpacking trip in August. So I will post trip reports for those too. I will leave most of the gear reviews and other types of outdoor blog posts in the strong hands of all the other wonderful outdoor bloggers for a while.

Cheers, and happy spring!

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Indian Brave

Yesterday my son asked me if I believe we come back in another life after we die. I dodged the question, explaining that some people believe it and others don’t. It’s a part of some religions and cultures.

But he didn’t let me off that easy. He asked me again if I believe in reincarnation.

I still didn’t answer directly. I said that it would make sense because we know that our bodies are recycled by the earth to become food for the plants and animals, and even other humans. Over time, parts of us may be redistributed into many different living beings. And since everything else we know of on earth is recycled, it would make sense that our spirit or soul is recycled in some way too.

Then I told him that as a child, I often thought that I was an Indian brave in a previous life. I used to have a dream that I was riding a paint horse, bareback, very fast through the woods. The wind was blowing my hair, and there was a sense of urgency. I was in a hurry.

As I came out of the woods into a clearing and stopped, the “camera” of the dream circled around to face me, and I saw an Indian brave. This brave was not a warrior, but more of a scout, searching for game or watching out for the enemy. But the shocking part was that it was me.

I had this dream many times in my childhood, and even as a young adult. The image is still very clear in my mind. I often wondered if I had the dream because my parents told me there is Cherokee blood way back in my family. Maybe it was just the power of suggestion. But it always seemed like more than that. I identified with the brave so completely. Maybe it was a memory from a past life, I thought.

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This afternoon, as I was stacking firewood and wishing I was out hiking or doing something adventurous, I again thought of that Indian brave. How disappointed he would be to discover what he had become – a standard, middle-class mother of two. How boring. How embarrassing. How would the Indian brave handle being trapped in my life?

He would be angry, I thought. He would be restless. He might even leave my family and strike out on his own.

Or would he? Perhaps he would accept the change and learn to love this life.

This thought immediately brought to mind a song lyric from the Mumford & Sons’ song Hopeless Wanderer, “Hold me fast, hold me fast ‘cause I’m a hopeless wanderer. And I will learn, I will learn to love the skies I’m under.”

But it would be difficult for him, I think, to love the skies I’m under. The tediousness of everyday modern life, cleaning and cooking and making sure the kids do their homework. Stacking firewood and washing windows, and wishing he were out racing his horse through the woods again.

Most of the time, I do love the skies I’m under. I have a beautiful home and a wonderful family. I live in the mountains, and I have many, many blessings.

But there are days when I would chuck it all to be that Indian brave.

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