Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Colorado Trail, Day 1

     The purpose of my trip out to Colorado with 2 awesome friends and my husband was to volunteer on our uncle's crew that he leads, through the Colorado Trail Foundation. Our crew was the Hancock Crew, located near the ghost town of Hancock, yup a ghost town.
     We drove the 2 or so hour drive out toward Buena Vista, CO, our last chance to check in with anyone before heading off the grid, as there is zero service in the mountains. We drove past the 14,000'+ peak of Mt. Princeton, part of the collegiate peaks.
     Why in the world are we volunteering with the Colorado Trail Foundation, you ask? Well, our uncle has been volunteering and also leading crews for the past 25+ years, and we were on his crew for my friends and my first time ever. The foundation keeps the trails maintained and builds new trails along the 500 miles that the trails stretches from Denver to Durango. More about the trail and volunteer opportunities can be found on their website: http://www.coloradotrail.org/
     Upon rolling into camp, we had to set up our homes for the week, tents, roll out our beds, sleeping pads and sleeping bags, and we also had to provision our clothing for the week, or at least I did: 1 pair of jammies, which also involved gloves, a hat, thermal tights, a thermal turtleneck, thick socks, and a jacket, because it got down to the upper 30's low 40's at night.
     In also packing light, with plans to re-wear many of my clothes, I also had to ration out which would go first and for how long. I had never camped for this long of a span, but in past experiences, it gets smelly fast, so I wanted to do all I could to reduce that factor.
     We also had a wildlife biologist give us a talk on our first night about how to be safe, both for us and the bears that roam the area. Unfortunately I did not get to see a bear, but her advice was welcome and appreciated, because 12am bathroom runs were not fun, but having our fears eased was helpful-- but part of me really did want to see a bear.
     Anyway, enjoy our first half day in camp...
The mountains off in the distance as we drive toward our destination.
A store decorated with some popular Colorado sights, Columbine flowers, black-billed magpie, and big-horn sheep,
A flower fly gets some delicious nectar from an aster. Flower flies are exactly that, flies! They are not bees but boast similar colors and patterns as they mimic their habits, potentially keeping larger animals who may try to chase or eat them away.
Part of our first day to-do list, setting up camp! Some folks had campers or truck beds to sleep in, but the road up is rough, and we traveled from far, so tents were it for us.
A white-spotted sawyer, a type of long horn beetle, not to be confused with the Asian Long horn, a destructive invasive. These beetles are active as adults from June through August, laying their eggs in spruce trees, which happened to be very abundant in the mountains.
This is the scenery that surrounded our camp.
How fortunate we were to have this experience and wake up to this every morning! We were though camping at an altitude of around 11,000'. This meant we really had to stay hydrated (but not over hydrate), we had to consciously breathe and deeply, to get as much oxygen as we could, we had to make sure we didn't get any of the slightest signs of altitude sickness- dizziness, light headedness, headaches, nausea. The only way to treat altitude sickness is to get down to a lower altitude and seek medical attention if it does not subside.
Clear nights meant amazing moon views. The moon was waxing, making its way to full. That meant a bright moon which made it harder to see stars, and even in the dead of night, it felt like we were sleeping under street lamps! Clear nights also meant cold, without clouds to act as insulators, heat escaped through the very thin atmosphere we were in, making for some seriously cold nights.

Does the 11,000' in altitude allow you to get a closer, better shot of the moon? Maybe! We went to bed at dark every night (between 9-10pm, 10pm would be considered a late night!) and had a fire ban, due to the dryness of the area, and wildfires not too far from us-- so bed time came early, but so did breakfast.