Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Wild Basin

Saturday Evening + Sunday, June 12

went into Estes Park after checking out the YMCA and went to a few touristy shops. One of the first things I noticed was a reastaurant called "Molly B's" -- which was of interest because Vicki's favorite doll when she was growing up was named "Molly B." So naturally I took a picture of it ;-)

Downtown was pretty touristy, but not garish -- Idaho Springs on a little bigger scale. I looked at a few things, but it appears I'm done with "stuff"... I didn't want any "stuff". I wasn't here for "stuff", I was here to be out in the great wide open. Darkness was falling about 9:00-9:30, and quiet hours in the National Park camp site started at 10:00. I was pretty much just killing time. I got back to the camp site around 9:00 and went to bed. Tonight it would get cold, but not as cold as the previous night. I was comfortable (well, heatwise, anyway). A rain shower or two passed through -- the light, quick type.

There was a lot of condensation in my tent the next morning. With me sleeping catty-corner in the tent, the wall of the tent curved down within a foot of my face, and my breath went straight up to it. I wiped it all down. Went down and washed in the campsite bathroom, made breakfast on the ion stove, and tried to get organized. It was mostly cloudy. By the time I had it all together it had started to rain. I decided to drive to the Visitors Center to decide what I wanted to do on a rainy day.

I went to the backcountry office first, still thinking MAYBE I'd do some backcountry camping, but not being able to decide where to go, significant snow in the high country, the rain, and my general lack of organization were ganging up on that idea. But I got some useful information for future trips, and went back to the Visitors' Center.

Forecast was for rain pretty much all day. The rangers suggested I go to Wild Basin. It wouldn't be crowded, and there were some pretty waterfalls on the way up to Ouzle Falls. Cool. A chance to drive down hwy 7 through Meeker Park. Pretty drive, I'd been there in 2001.

Checked out the Longs Peak campground on the way down. Frankly, it's a place to camp before heading up the Longs Peak trail -- it's pretty enough, but it's not far of the highway and doesn't, except for two or three sites, have much of a view unless you're really in it for the trees. But if you're going to do that why not go backcountry and get away from neighbors?

Also went by Camp St. Malo's church which captivated Vicki and me back in '01, a Catholic church built from stone on top of stone, with a retreat and with Mt. Meeker as a backdrop.

And then I got to the trailhead. Got all my stuff together, pulled my hat down against the rain, and struck out. Talked to an older female ranger for a while on the first leg of the trip, but lost her of course in all the picture taking. The river was well charged with snowmelt and rain, and the falls were pretty. This was going to be a good hike for a rainy day.

I finally decided my slicker wasn't going to keep the rain out and put my poncho on (and then my hat over the hood -- the very picture of style I'm sure). The poncho showed its cheapnes by ripping itself on a branch the minute I had it on. But it was just the edge, so I stayed dry.

I lost my monopod, which had been doubling as a walking stick. I think it may have been tucked under my arm while I was shooting a waterfall from a large boulder. I heard it clatter, and I had a pretty good idea what had just happened. I looked down in the water and there it was, bobbing up and down in the water going around the boulder toward the shore. I thought "great, it's going to float to shore and I can just go fetch it"... but by the time I got to where it should have been it had filled with water and sunk. I couldn't see it, and I wasn't about to go in after it. Dang thing was $30..... but risking life and limb for $30 somehow doesn't seem worth it. I let it go.

I saw I was going to be hiking past Calypso Cascades, and I thought I had reached them at a large bridge. I was taking a few pictures there, and saw this guy packing the CUTEST little red-haired baby in a little covered baby backpack.

On the other side of the bridge there was a large boulder and I decided to take a shot of myself there. While I was trying that three hikers came upon me, and the leader of the gang offered to take it for me, and I let him... took some pictures of them as well. They introduced themselves as Paul, Nate, and Bethany. Paul is an architect in Denver. Nate (I think) is his cousin. Well one of them is, and he's either married to or otherwise seriously involved with Bethany. They were all nice people. Bethany was very sweet with a killer smile. They hiked the rest of the way with me (or I with them) to Ouzle falls, and we had a good time joking about mistaking things for features they weren't and generally had plenty to talk about.

We ended up at Ouzle Falls, about a 50' fall which Mahtaj had been to in December a couple of years ago when it was completely frozen... We were near 10,000 feet, and the rain had changed to snow, sleet, and slush -- often alternating, and sometimes coming down all at once. We took the requisite pictures. It started sleeting pretty hard and we headed back down... more because it was time than the sleet. The sleet, I somehow knew, would be brief and once we got down 500 feet or so it was back to rain, then it started to clear up.

I split with them to take one last look for the monopod, but I had passed the spot where I lost it and I caught up to them at the parking lot. Paul and I exchanged email addresses so we could swap pictures and maybe stories.

A bit later I looked up at this SUV, and saw this woman pull a ballcap of and shake her hair out a little -- one of those movements that'll catch a guy's eye. I thought "man, who's that?! She's pretty". She looked up and smiled and waved at me and I was immediately embarrassed. It was Bethany.

Stopped and took some pictures of Meeker and Camp St. Malo against the clearing sky and falling sun on the way back, and I made note of some public showers near Meeker Park. When I got to Estes Park I decided to do some laundry... I had worn the heck out of the microfiber shirts and thought I'd like to wear them again without smelling bad. So I spent an hour there doing laundry. Called to talk to Vicki, but she was at the Blue Man Group show. I took a long shot of the famous Stanley Hotel from just outside the laundromat. Went back to camp, made dinner, got in the tent and called Mark and chatted with him a while.

The wind was kicking up, and my tent was bouncing and flapping. I knew they were strong winds -- I found out later that at Estes Park (about 1,000 feet lower) the winds were 26 to 30mph gusting to 48. I believe it. My tent bounced up and down all night, but stayed together. I didn't sleep much, but frankly I was kind of excited by the conditions. It was pretty cool. And no condensation in the morning! The tent had been very well ventilated.

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