Thursday, August 30, 2007

Monday Morning, Rise and Shine

Monday, Aug 20

We brought oatmeal and dried apples, and this was the first morning we had it. We fired up my alcohol stove and I cooked up the oatmeal while Mark made coffee in his camp percolator over the fire.

There's something I forgot about camping out here. If you're not really here to camp-camp, if your camping really has more to do with saving money and being right out there in it the minute you get up so you can rush out and start seeing things -- cooking.... not so much. It's not the cooking that's the problem, it's the cleanup. There are strict regulations (and for good reason) in RMNP about food waste. There's pretty much no washing dishes at the campsite unless you carry the water there, wash, then carry the water to the grey-water sink in the bathrooms and dispose of it. Combine that with the challenges of bathing with a washcloth in cold water in front of a sink, and it's going to take you a while to get out there and start seeing the morning sights - especially if you plan on hiking, and especially if you plan on hiking up high. And you want good light for pictures. Almost every afternoon you can expect clouds to roll in at the very least, and a shower or thunderstorm to threaten you.

Better to bring granola bars and protien bars for breakfast. Coffee or tea for something hot. Its easy enough to clean up a coffee pot. Then go get cleaned up and get out there.

Mark had brought pastrami and wheat bread, which we'd had for lunch and dinner on Saturday ... and for lunch again on Sunday. It was good, and a good thing to do. Fast fixing, fast eating, fast cleanup. We're not really out here to eat. We're eating to be out here.

The oatmeal was good though, and we got out about.... oh... 9:00, 9:30-ish, and headed for the popular lake area... Bear Lake, Dream Lake, Nymph Lake, Hiyaha ... Mills Lake. I'd been to Mills Lake, so I decided we'd start at Bear and work our way up to Hiyaha.

We took some photos of Bear Lake, us in front of it, and we took other peoples pictures for them as is customary. As we left Bear Lake, Mark mentioned some rubbing on the inside of his army boots. He had the two pair of socks on and all. I suggested he put some moleskin over it, but he said he'd tough it out to Nymph Lake. It's not that far, not much more than half a mile. Nymph Lake has a lot of water lillies on it... it's lush and pretty. We left there for Dream Lake, which was crowded, and then headed for Hiyaha.

The views of Hallets and Longs Peaks were ever changing, and the higher up we got the farther up Glacier Gorge we could see. It was a beautiful afternoon with blue skies and very few fair weather clouds. I think a front had come through the night before or early that morning. There would be no showers and thunderstorms today. Each lake seemed closer to Hallets.

On the way up, we ran across a waterfall. It was a small one, about 12 feet, and I walked right up to it. Once there I could see a path up the waterfall by climbing some medium-sized boulders. So I climbed up the waterfall on the right-hand side. When I got to the top, Mark went to snap a picture, and I tottered a bit as I straddled two rocks. I caught my balance and a cheer went up from a few people who had gathered at the stream's edge below. Geez, I didn't realize I had an audience.

At one point, Mark stopped, saying he had to quit. Blisters had developed on his heel. We were about a half mile from Hiyaha. He said he'd head back down to Dream Lake and wait for me there. It wouldn't be long. I headed on up to Hiyaha.

On the way I met a couple coming back, and the man told me that when you get there, the trail just ends in a bunch of boulders and you wonder where the lake is. About 5 minutes later, the story matched up with one Mahtaj had told me about it a few years ago. I had forgotten. She took the Bear Lake bus up there in the rain, and she was the only one leaving down the trail from the bus. Everyone thought she was nuts. Anyway, when she made it up to Hiyaha, she saw the same boulders and climbed over them. She made her way around the lake, but the whole thing was surrounded by these same boulders. They were huge and slippery and she couldn't find the trailhead for about 40 minutes. It was cold, too.

I got there, and I could see what she meant, only it was a much nicer day for me.

I got some trail mix out and ate it, and talked with a few people. There was a pretty lady sitting on a boulder by the lake eating a sandwich, hair blowing in the wind. An older couple came up and we exchanged playing photographer down by the lake. And there was this great windswept pine tree I'd love to shoot some morning when fewer people are there so I can get the angle I want... but I'll put what I got here in this post anyway.

I headed back down to Dream Lake where I found Mark entertaining a chipmunk that a couple of ladies about 30 yards away had been feeding. He was used to being fed. You're not supposed to feed them. It's actually illegal. He was very fat, and came right up and sat on Mark's leg, begging. As we sat and chatted and enjoyed the view, I reached in my bag for my camera. In the process, I spilled some of my trail mix. The ziplock was open, and it came out of my bag and about a cup of it spilled out onto the rock, and into nooks and crannies that made it difficult to clean up. The chipmunk was on it in a flash, grabbing a peanut or a cashew as I scrambled to pick it up. I was just eating it right off the rock as I picked it up, as fast as I could. Hey, it's a clean mountain rock, right?

Seemingly out of nowhere, another, bigger, fatter chipmunk with fuller cheeks chased ours off. This one really didn't need to be eating any of this. Well, he didn't get much. Then he left and the other came back. I was just about finished cleaning it up.

Well, yeah, we did get a picture. I mean. Come on. I really wasn't feeding it on purpose. And I wasn't about to try to take it away from him. About that point he'd change from soft, cute little cuddly thing to fang-baring, clawing Defender Of The Food.

We packed up and hiked back down to Bear Lake and then the parking lot. From there we drove to the Longs Peak ranger station to make sure I could find the trailhead in the dark and to double-check the forecast. Tuesday still looked best. That meant... tonight. The ranger did note that a woman had been rescued there that morning after falling 200 feet from the false keyhole (off route). She had spent the night up there with some broken bones. The we drove into Estes Park and tooled in to town. Mark wanted to see the Stanley Hotel, where "The Shining" was filmed (he likes those horror movies) and stopped for a Mark photo op in front of it. Then we went looking for boots for Mark that wouldn't blister his heels. There are no department stores in Estes Park, but the information center people gave us a lead on a couple of shoe stores. Mark found a decent pair of hiking high-top sneakers built for hiking for about $30. Perfect.

Went to the grocery store, bought a couple of 6 packs, and went to the grubsteak for Elkburgers and beer. They apparently have some work exchange program with Russia and the Ukraine, as that's where all the waitresses seemed to be from. There must be some deal with the whole town of Estes Park, as we found them everywhere. They were young and pretty and had endearing accents.

Started a little fire, roasted some marshmallows. Got the instruments out for a bit and played quietly by the fire.

Set my alarm for 1:00 am. Went to bed. At first, I got extremely chilled for some reason. It was a little cooler tonight, but I think it was my body adjusting from the warmth of the fire to suddenly sliding into a cold sleeping bag. I mean, I was shaking. Hard. I put my fleece jacket on and got back in. That seemed to do the trick after about 5 minutes.

And fortunately, I again slept like a rock.

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