Retracing Old Footsteps.

Welcome back everyone! I must apologize for not being able to post new blogs on our site for the past 2 weeks. The reason why is because my family and I embarked on a 2-week road trip that turned out to be the trip of a lifetime and it would have been silly to blog while trying to experience our amazing trip. The truth is, I can’t multitask. I consider myself a lucky man as I have a beautiful family and I live in a remarkable place that is nowhere close to my roots. My life has many unbelievable stories and some of those stories may seem a bit of an exaggeration to some people, but all are true. One of those stories is how I came to be here in the United States. I want to thank my dad, brothers, neighbors and friends for all of the actions and support during my adoption process when I was 11 years old but most importantly I want to thank my mom. I am the man I am today because of her. My mom re-shaped my future, language, and even my education in fact! My mom re-shaped my whole life. It’s hard to believe that 2 years have passed since her departure. My love for adventure was born because of my mom. I honestly can’t tell you how many times a year my family camped (way too many). I grew up with that sense of care for the wilderness and there was an instant connection between the back-country and I. When I was young (possibly 13 years old), my parents took my younger brother and I on a road trip that would permanently be ingrained in my memory. Many years and hundreds of camping get-together’s later, I now had the opportunity to re-create and re-trace the same trip and footsteps that I once took with my family as a young boy but now I got to do it with a family of my own.

Our trip took close to a year to plan since most of the locations that we intended to go to needed a minimum of 6 months in advance to obtain reservations or permits. I had to work with available national park dates to book our camping trips and even entered a lottery system for permits. We were fortunate enough to obtain every campsite and permit intended for our trip, all we needed was to pull the trigger and make it happen. The hardest part was to prep for 2 weeks of camping with all the necessary equipment and also to plan adequate meals for the trip with the rest of our party. Logistically, I can honestly say, we nailed it and everyone involved in this trip made it even more special. This trip meant the world to me for numerous reasons, some of those reasons were that we would kick off our camping trip on my mom’s 2-year anniversary of her passing, also I was re-creating the trip that I did with my parent’s when I was a young boy and last because I was doing this trip with my family and some of my closest friends. Abby and I began prepping everything 2 weeks prior to our trip, we noticed that the weather was going to be crazy in all of the locations that we intended to go so packing extra gear seemed like a waste of space in our car and also unnecessary weight but we decided to take our gear just in case we did ended up needing it (we used all of our gear). Now… Since our trip took 2 weeks to complete I am going to breakdown the blog into numerous posts per campsite or location throughout this week instead of having one massive blog. The main reason is because by the time I complete writing the blog, it is going to be just as long as The Lord of the Rings trilogy and I clearly don’t want you (the reader) to lose interest. That being said, please stay tuned throughout the week as Abby and I will be releasing a blog daily this whole week.

Our first stop was Colorado and our timing was more than perfect. Since Abby and I grew up in Colorado we felt like we had a lot to do in 1 day, (exhausting day). I had the chance to visit my dad and my little Eyra tagged along for the ride while Abby had the opportunity to visit her family and also join her high school classmates for her 10-year high school reunion. Abby and I were exhausted since we arrived to Colorado at 2:30am on Saturday, June 3rd and only had a few hours of sleep before we began our day, after all we did drive 10 straight hours from Iowa to Colorado on Friday afternoon on June 2nd. Abby had a blast and I got the chance to catch up with my dad while Eyra terrorized my parent’s house. That day was not enough for all of the activities that Abby and I had planned but we made the best of it. The following day, my brother (Edgar), my sister in Law (Karla) and nephew (Christopher) met us at my in-law’s house since we planned on eating breakfast there before we kicked off our 2-week adventure. Camp Dick was the place that I choose to kick off this trip since that was my mom’s favorite location and we sure enjoyed 2 glorious days there. The weather was perfect, no mosquitoes, the nights were peaceful, the wildlife was abundant, the night sky was clear and the stars were bright and let’s not forget about the great company and the delicious food.

When we arrived to Camp Dick, we arrived a little bit earlier than originally intended since our reserved campsite was still being occupied, that being said we decided to do a short hike that turned out to be more of a 3 1/2-hour hike since we took our sweet time and enjoyed the scenery. Camp Dick usually opens the week of Memorial Day but due to late snowstorms some campgrounds and trails were pushed back an additional week from opening for safe measure. As we parked 50 yards away from the Middle St. Vrain Trail, we began to noticed a lot of downed trees. I have been to Camp Dick numerous times and I have never seen the trail this badly damaged.

As we continued on the trail, some of my favorite spots were a bit unrecognizable and also challenging to get to. Sections of the trail were wet and muddy and the downed trees were more of an obstacle but we were just happy to be there that we really didn’t care about the conditions that the trail was in and we made it work. I am sure many people had the same thoughts as we kept running into groups of people that had the same idea, besides don’t expect to camp or hike without getting dirty. When we see a trail in those conditions, that is an invitation for us to go and play hard.

Once we reached the 2-mile mark, we arrived to a beautiful waterfall that was completely over flowing. I could not believe how high the water levels were, but I suppose I shouldn’t have been very surprised since the trail still had a few areas of packed snow and slush. Since the water levels were high, the waterfall looked even more impressive but also uninviting. The waterfall is a perfect location to relax and have a quick breather, to gulp some water and have a snack. Why is it so perfect, you ask? The reason is the location. That area is perfectly flat. At that moment Eyra wanted to get out of her Osprey pack (of course) and yes I was super nervous the whole time because, like any other kid, Eyra was curious to see the waterfall and yeah… I wasn’t going to allow that without supervision since that is asking for trouble. Fortunately, Eyra found a downed tree and began balancing on it and boy was I glad because that waterfall was for sure raging. Seconds later we noticed a group of girls (late 20’s) that were also after the amazing view of the waterfall and the picture frenzy began. This is what I don’t understand, my brother’s GPS didn’t have much signal, in fact no signal at all. Camp Dick is notorious for blocking any electronic device from functioning, besides… We were in the mountains; it is expected for any electronics to not function. Well, I was proven wrong. All of these chicks were busting out the duck lips, Throwing the peace sign, posting pictures on Facebook and Instagram and saying “YOLO” who says that? I haven’t heard that since 2012. How the hell did they get reception? Curiosity killed the cat and I had to ask. Turns out that they weren’t even aware of their cell reception. Their phones just worked. Not even on edge, I mean 3 full bars on 4g? WTF?? I will stop being a hater, I was just jealous. Seconds later I heard a scream and a grunt, as I turned to see where it came from I noticed Christopher (my nephew) holding his right shoulder and he began to scream again, we were all confused to what was happening in front of our eyes. As he lets go of his shoulder I noticed something fell to the ground. It was a bumblebee that stung him twice. I was surprised because Christopher took it like a champ and all the girls thought he was the bees knees! Haha, get it?? No but seriously, all the chicks surrounded Christopher and told him how brave he was and of course documented every detail as if they were going to sell the story to the New York Times.

Christopher grabbed a piece of snow from the ground and began icing the stings. I mean seriously, this kid is one tough dude. If that happened to me, I would have made those girls call the Flight for Life helicopter to come rescue me. As we began to descend, the trail began to change. More mud, more slush and more people, but the weather was surprisingly nice, perhaps high 70’s. I should have asked the girls what the weather was like on their phones.

After an interesting and fulfilling hike, it was time for us to set up camp and begin cooking our first meal, Abby and I made broccoli and cheese soup in bread bowls and boy did that hit the spot. Just like that, the beginning of an eating frenzy had commenced and would continue for the 2 weeks to come. You would have thought that by hiking for 3+ hours we would be tired and ready for a nap but on the contrary, we went down by the creek and only listened to what nature had to offer; the humming of the humming birds, the relaxing watery sounds of the creek, the wind caressing the trees, Eyra throwing pine cones into the river and more. Being there made me forget about all of my responsibilities. I didn’t think about work (not even for 1 second), I didn’t think about mowing the lawn, I didn’t even think about using my phone and that’s what camping is all about. Camping in my opinion is the perfect cure for the soul and it’s the one time where you reconnect with your inner person or your inner self. You are no longer an employee, supervisor, client, etc. While camping I believe in myself and what I can do, whether is trusting myself to hike, trek, cook, start a fire, read a map, read the stars, recognize certain plants, spot animals and be aware of my surroundings and knowing my limits and that goes with the other outdoor activities that we do as a family.

I want to show and teach my daughter what my parents did in my case. My parents showed me parks, countries, places, museums that I never even knew existed and gave me aspirations and goals in life but they also got me addicted to that darn REI store. I guess as far as addictions go, that one is the least of my concerns. One of the things I noticed during our stay in Camp Dick was the drastic temperature change, During the day we had a nice mid 70’s day but during the night we dropped to 38 degrees. Since the temperatures dropped quickly mostly around 5:00pm, we decided to start the fire early and sacrifice a marshmallow to the fire God’s before our actual s’more ritual. Well…we don’t really have a ritual, we just make our marshmallows golden brown and eat s’mores until our heart’s content. Our first night at Camp Dick, the sky was so clear that satellites were really easy to spot, we counted 9 with a 5-minute period.

The following day, Monday June 5th. We decided to up our game and went straight to Brainard Lake Recreation Area which was maybe a 10-minute drive from our location. We were all amazed to see the park’s main entrance closed and only 1 trail was open that required snow shoes or YakTrax (shoe spikes). Fortunately for us we had the YakTrax and winter gear. According to the park ranger the trail was covered by 6 feet of snow but the weather was surprisingly warm. The nice weather was our sign and we committed to the hike. We prepped up, grabbed our snacks, water, jackets, backpacks and more and we set out for Sourdough Trail that would eventually lead us to Brainard Lake. The hike was beautiful and we hiked for a while but unfortunately due to the instability of the snow, we did not reach our destination. I slipped and fell with Eyra but thankfully I fell on my knees and no one got hurt, that was an indication that we should turn back before the weather got warmer and the snow began to melt even more.

The trail began to get harder on our way back. Two hours later we were back into the safety of my brother’s truck as a storm was beginning to brew towards the west. The wind was beginning to pick up and the nice weather was changing rapidly that it seemed to get cold instantly. As we finished the trail and began eating more snacks by the truck, the park rangers asked us for an update on the trail since we were the only crazies to have done it that day. The park rangers had been getting asked for updates on the trail conditions by the many more people that were waiting by the trailhead. I couldn’t believe how many people we saw with flip flops or Teva sandals! Even the park rangers lightly laughed at the visitors, telling them that the trail contained 6 feet of snow and slush. Some visitors were in denial and attempted to hike only to return minutes later. I don’t see why we would lie about the conditions of the trail. Maybe they didn’t like the comment about lack of preparedness.

On our way back to Camp Dick we encountered our first wild animal, I am glad my brother was paying attention to the road because we came close to a white tail deer and that was the beginning of more amazing wildlife in the days to come or hours. As we got back to Camp Dick, we attempted to nap since the hike sure drained our energy (and it was drizzling) but since Eyra slept a good portion of the hike on my back, she was wired that whole afternoon. As I was falling asleep, an unexpected visitor came to spend the afternoon with us. My dad showed up to spend time with us but to also celebrate my mom’s passing anniversary on that day. That afternoon was really special as both my dad and I hiked to my mom’s favorite location within the Middle St. Vrain trail (waterfall) and we stood there for quite some time just looking into the horizon. I know my mom was watching us in some way or form. What happened next made me feel extremely lucky and I wish I had taken a picture but there was literally no time and making a wrong move could have jeopardized our safety.

As my dad and I were heading back to camp I noticed a large animal ahead of us but couldn’t quite figure out what it was. The Middle St. Vrain trail is also a horse trail so I initially figured that’s what it was until we got close enough to distinguish the creature. It was a massive male moose! He saw us and we saw him; there was a 30 second Mexican standoff (neither of us moved while maintaining eye contact). The only good thing going for us that afternoon was the cover of the nearby trees and since there were downed trees, we figured the moose would not fit through tight spots and would not charge…nope!!! This huge sucker charged! Luckily, just as we thought, the moose would not fit in between the trees and that’s how we managed to get away. Once we got back to camp I think Abby, Karla and Edgar thought we were kidding at first when we mentioned what had happened to us but I guess they saw our scared faces that they believed us. I just want to throw this out there… I am glad I have a tent above my car to avoid most wildlife. But even in this case for a moose, my tent is still not tall enough.

Abby made an amazing dish of tortellini soup with garlic bread and I am positive that Abby, Karla, Edgar and Christopher were tired of hearing our moose encounter story! It was awesome. Talk about an adrenaline rush! I am just glad we had trees for cover and that Eyra was not with me. My dad left an hour later after having dinner and we welcomed the night by eating more s’mores and relaxing by the fire. We made sure to enjoy that night since I don’t know when we will be back to Camp Dick. The following morning Edgar made us an amazing breakfast, we packed and were ready to head to our next destination by 8:00am. But before officially heading out, we fueled up and bought ice for our coolers in Nederland which is a small town 12 miles away from Camp Dick.

I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect location to start our trip, our spirits were lifted and our hearts were craving more adventure and that’s what we set out to find. Please stay tuned as we will be posting a blog about our Saddlehorn Campground experience in Grand Junction soon.

Sneak peak photo of Saddlehorn campground.

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To be continued…

 

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