Wednesday morning rolled around, and it was time for the Groves to pack up and go. I took the opportunity to organize my own gear so that Thursday morning my teardown could be as quick as possible. We had some breakfast and they set about tearing down their tent. I organized mine, and tore the food bin with the melted spot (from the exhaust) apart, throwing the remaining food in my Sam's Club refrigerator bag. I cut the bin up with my survival knife to fit it in the trash bin, gathered all my other trash, but everything away I wouldn't be using that night or the next morning, and I walked down to the ranger station to see if there was a possibilty of changing sites right away to get away from the foul-mouthed giggly pot smokers.
It was too early, and I decided then and there that I just wouldn't come back to the campsite until 10:00pm that night and slip my earphones in and I could deal with one more night of them.
While they packed the truck, I re-organized my car.
I had a couple of wooden flutes I'd brought along to give the kids to remember the trip by. I gave them to them and we had our goodbye hugs and they were off before I knew it.
It was a nice day, so I decided to head for Chasm Lake.
It was supposedly only a 4.5 mile hike one way, and I didn't have time to see it when I climbed Longs in '07. You get a full view of the Diamond Face, the lake .... sounded like a cool thing to see.
I got my water and food together, went in to town for more block ice, called Vicki to let her know where I'd be, and headed down CO 7 toward the Longs Peak Trailhead.
It was more crowded at 10:00 in the morning than it was at 2:30 am a few years ago. Anyone who was serious about climbing Longs that day had gotten there long before I did today. But I was headed only about halfway up. So I had to park about 1/4 mile down the road from the parking lot and hike up the road to the lot and to the trailhead.
I ran into a couple from Insbrook, Austria at the trailhead. They were going to Chasm Lake as well. I told them they'd probably beat me there, but perhaps I'd see them there. I strapped my daypack on and started up the trail.
I had forgotten how relentless the Longs Peak trail is -- almost from the very beginning. To get to the top you gain 5,000 feet in about 8 miles. And a bit over half of that is on the way up to the split in the trail at Mt. Lady Washington where you go left to Chasm Lake or right around that mountain to the boulder field.
The lake itself is just under 12,000 feet, but you get up to about 12,000 feet before heading down a long, shallow trail toward it and then scrambling over another 150, 200 feet over a lip of rock at the end.
As with the last time I climbed, people were passing me right and left. Ok, mostly left ;-) But I knew this time about how far it was before you broke the tree line, and I pushed myself harder than last time. I thought to myself that it was a good thing I did this in the dark before, because if I'd seen the relentless slope of the trail through the woods I might have been more discouraged.
Nah, it wouldn't have stopped me on that day.
A ranger lady was coming down the trail on my way up. I gave her the "head bob" and waved and went by without a word. Talked to a few people who had peaked and were on their way down, and a few people who didn't. One guy told me he got to the homestretch and said "no way". I told him I understood ... when I was there I looked up it -- but I was prepared for the psychological shock by reading stories of other people who had climbed it. I told him it's not as bad as it looks, but it is pretty daunting. It helped me to know that 1) thousands of people have done it, and 2) I could see people ahead of me, doing it when I was there. He also said it was pretty windy.
It was a bit windy. But I wouldn't be anywhere that dangerous today.
I began to break the tree line after a couple of hours of hiking, which of course reminded me of why I was doing this in the first place. Forest is pretty, but I love the high country above the tree line and that's what I was after today. The tall trees couldn't disappear soon enough. I wandered the switchbacks through the tundra meadow, having breif conversations with people as I made my way and took as few rest breaks as I could, opting for hiking v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y for a few minutes rather than stopping when I got tired. One foot in front of the other, as the song goes.
The fork in the trail seemed to get farther and farther away as I hiked, as more ground revealed itself between me and it. Besides, I thought the lake would be just over the ridge and down a hundred feet or so.
I finally topped the ridge right near the fork in the trail, and talked to a fellow there who just loved Chasm Lake. He was waiting on the rest of his party. Since it was mostly a welcome downhill from there, I didn't linger long and pushed on. He passed me again with a part of his party a little later.
The valley on that side of the ridge was lush, green, and beautiful with a mountain stream running through it. Near the head of the valley up by the "lip" where the lake was (still not visible) there were two beautiful waterfalls. It was something out of a fantasy novel, really. I of course took some pictures as I went along.
I had brought the Pentax because I knew I'd want it when I reached Chasm Lake and perhaps a few places before. I had all my camera gear in my fanny pack, which I caribinered to my frameless daypack.
This was not the best idea for comfort. It was too much weight for the daypack, and the waist belt wasn't taking the brunt of the extra weight -- my shoulders were. And they were sore. It was making the hike unpleasant. But I tried to ignore it and continued on. I started designing a frame for the pack to mitigate this problem in the future -- in my head as I went along.
I ran across a big patch of Columbine near .... Columbine Falls ... and took a shot of those. I caught up with the guy who loved this hike so. A bunch of his party was still more than half a mile up the trail and not budging. He really wanted them to come down to see this place, which he believed was the prettiest place in the park. It was difficult to argue with the man. He just might be right. But he said his younger son was worried about catching a plane that afternoon. Poor planning on his part did not constitute an emergency on this man's part, he said. He pointed to the rock wall (not really a wall) I'd have to scramble over to get to the lake. I splashed on on the trail that crossed the shallow stream, and right over the head of the second waterfall, and had spectacular views of the valley. But before I knew it I was at the Big Lip.
A group of about a dozen tweens with some adults were coming down from the lake. Apparently they had swum in its icy waters, too (I'm sure MUCH colder than the Big Thompson down in Moraine Park.) Another man was hiking down with a baby in a baby backpack with a sunshade on top. That's love, man.
My camera suddenly didn't feel so bad.
On top of that I ran into the couple from Insbrook coming back down. They recognized me. And after a few minutes I topped the lip and was looking at the Diamond Face and Chasm Lake. There were maybe 6 or 8 other people there. A few of them had come down from Longs via the Loft Route. Others were just sitting on the rocks enjoying the view.
There was a lady there, maybe late 50's in a yellow top and black biking shorts who said this would be her last trip here. She loved this spot and had always wanted to come back, but it had been over 20 years and this hike was a bit tough for her. She lives in Nederland ... one of those cool mountain towns I'd love to live in. She'd moved there in her early 20's from Florida. She wanted her picture taken there, which I took for her, and she took a couple of me with my camera, and we said our farewells. I hung out and ate the food I'd promised myself. It was about 2:30 pm. It had taken every bit of 4 hours to get here.
Like the man in the valley had said, Chasm Lake was a bit of a letdown, scenery wise after the beauty of that valley, but this was the destination and it had a stark beauty all its own. Besides, you got to inspect the Diamond Face pretty well sitting there on the big boulders this side of the lake. There was a patch of ice or two left over from winter in the shade on the rocks, but it was mainly rock.
After a couple of self portraits and a look at the sky ... which was beginning to show signs of orthographic storm building, I headed out, over the lip, across the stream, and back toward the fork in the trail on the ridge.
Of course a long shallow slope down on the way in becomes a long shallow slope up on the way out, but it wasn't bad, and it's literally all downhill from the fork.
I passed several people, including the lady I'd met at the lake. We kept leap-frogging each other, hiking together for a while, then I'd move on, and she'd catch up later. I ran into an older gentleman that I spent a lot of time talking to on the way down. I stopped to rest on a boulder in a stream by a bridge just below the tree line. The lady caught up with me. I continued and caught up with the older gentleman. At some point she passed us, and we caught up to her with another guy who looked a bit worse for wear, and she was asking if anybody had any water to spare. I had like 4 ounces left in my hydration bladder. I told him if we could get to a stream I could filter him all the water he needed, but another European couple (German or Austrian or Swiss ... that area) had an extra bottle they handed him.
I ran into a very worried lady toward the end of the trail asking if I'd seen a wheezing woman in a yellow top and black shorts. I said yes, I'd seen her, but she wasn't wheezing and that she was fine and probably less than 10 minutes behind me. It was more like 4. The lady was relieved to see her.
Got back to the trailhead, signed out, found my car, and headed in to Estes Park.
I decided I needed a shower, and went to Dad's Laundry and Showers. Then I decided I needed clean socks, so I did some laundry as well. Called Vicki while I did laundry. Went into Estes Park. Had an Elk Burger at Grubsteak at my "old" table (a table for two in the window that they lead lone vacationers like me to). And as it got dark I headed back to camp.
I got there, and the wind was kicking up. I noticed some of the extra tiedowns I'd added to the criss-crossing tent poles had pulled out, and as I got into the tent I realized something wasn't right. And rain started to fall.
Rain? I dont' remember rain in the forecast. Not for the evening anyway! But the sides of my tent were bulging inward much more than they should've been. I figured out why. One of the corner stakes had been pulled out (probably by wind) as well. I set about re-securing the corners and my extra tent-pole stays as the wind really started whipping and the rain started to get serious just as I finished and I slipped into the tent, undressed, popped my headphones on, and watched the tent flap in the wind but hold steady for a few minutes, and passed out cold.