Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Days 5 & 6: Hanging Lake and the Independence Pass

As I mentioned in the last post, the bartender at Sammy's was very helpful in planning the next leg of my trip.  He told me about a great spot called Hanging Lake, which is right outside of Glenwood Springs, CO.  He highly recommended that I get there early due to large crowds, so I took his word for it, and was up, packed, and in the car headed east by 0500.  The park was about an hour from Rifle, and the drive there was beautiful.  I was the first one in the parking lot, grabbed my walking sticks and headed to the trailhead.  The trail was actually pretty short, maybe a mile and a half to two miles, but it was a tough climb...but totally worth it.  When I got to the top of the trail, I had free reign for 45 minutes to take as many pictures as I could without trying to work around other people.

My attempt to take a picture of myself up there, haha.

This is called Sprouting Rock!

As I started to head back down the trail, the first person was arriving at the lake...perfect timing, because there was a stream of people heading up!  I got back down to my car and hopped in to head to Aspen.  Once I got into the town, I stopped at the local ranger station to ask some questions about camping.  They recommended driving up the Independence Pass and finding a spot along there.  I bought a map from them and hit the road, headed for the Lost Man Trailhead in White River National Park.  This was the only night I didn't have to pay for a camp spot, so that was a bonus!  I just parked at the trailhead and threw my stuff in my pack and hiked in to find a camp spot.  Because I was carrying more stuff than usual, unfortunately I decided not to take my good camera with me.  Luckily, I was able to get some pictures with my phone.
Yes, I'm pretty much an eagle scout now...or the girl version of that...I started my own fire!

The campsite was so peaceful.  It was near the reservoir and only 200 feet from the trail, but I didn't see anyone after 8pm.  When I woke up the next morning, I drove up to Leadville...more on that tomorrow!


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Days 3 & 4: Arches National Park

After a refreshing night of sleep at Mesa Verde, I woke up early to pack up my campsite and drive to Arches National Park.  It was only a few hours to Moab, and the scenery along the way was absolutely gorgeous!  When I arrived at the park, I was disappointed to see a sign saying that the campground was FULL!  However, I decided it would be worth a drive up there just to check it out...luckily I found a spot because someone had cancelled due to the high temps!

After setting up my camp site, I went off to explore.  Unfortunately it is impossible to capture just how amazing the park is...but here are my best attempts!

On a lot of the trails, they use rock cairns to mark the way.

Balanced Rock 

After a long day of exploring, I attended the nightly program at the campground, where a park ranger told us the story of a family who had moved from Pennsylvania to Arches.  It was a lot of fun!  Then it was bedtime.  The next morning, I got up early and packed up and went on a hike through Devil's Garden.  That was my favorite place - the Double O Arch hike was tough, but absolutely gorgeous!  

I definitely want to go back to Arches and spend more time there, but it was time to get on the road.  I pulled out my map and settled on driving a few hours up to Rifle, CO.  It was a small town, but very nice.  I checked into a hotel (was in need of a shower and a place to do laundry) and spoke with the desk clerk about places to hike.  She recommended I check out Rifle Falls State Park, so I got my stuff into my room, through on a hat and some sunscreen and headed back out.  The place was super crowded, but I still loved it.  

That night I had dinner at Sammy's, a local brewery and I spoke with the bartender, an avid hiker, and he recommended that I check out Hanging Lake near Glenwood Springs.  More about that amazing place in the next post!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Four Corners

On my drive to Mesa Verde, I felt compelled to stop at the Four Corners Monument!  Unfortunately, it cost $3 for about a five minute experience, but I felt like I would have missed out on a cool opportunity if I'd just driven right past this place!  How often can you say that you stood in four states at one time?

Since I was by myself, I had to just take a picture of my feet!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Huckaca Goes East

On 1 July 2013, I wished a fond farewell to San Diego/Camp Pendleton and hopped in the car to head east to Fort Leavenworth, KS.  Although I was sad to be leaving, I was also excited for the big adventure ahead of me.  On the first, I pretty much aimed to get as far as Flagstaff, AZ, which turned out to be about an eight hour drive.  Along the way I stopped to take some pictures of a fire that was burning on a mountain off of the highway.

After a very long day in the car, I found a hotel to crash in for the night.  After I got settled, I walked next door to Outback for some dinner, where I met a guy who worked for the State Fire Services department.  We chatted for a while about things to do and he gave me some good recommendations for the next day's trip to Mesa Verde.

July 2 - I woke up early and hit the road to make the five hour journey to Mesa Verde National Park in Southwest Colorado.  This was to be my first night testing out my new tent!  I arrived around 1pm and immediately headed to camp registration.  I secured a tent site and wandered into the campground to establish my campsite.  After that, I headed out to hike the Prater Ridge Trail, a beautiful 8 mile hike around the ridge line.  

It started raining when I finished the hike, so I had to hide in one of the bathrooms for a while to keep my camera from getting destroyed!  After the rain subsided, I was pleased to find that my tent is in fact waterproof and held up just fine.  After a bit of reading, I got lucky and caught this deer wandering through the campground!

Some final shots of the view from the campground.

After a nice hike, I settled down in my tent to read for a while.  After that, I went to the camp store and purchased a delicious microwaveable mac&cheese dinner and some Pinot Noir...classy, right???  More on why I had to eat a microwaveable meal later in the blog...

Overall, it was a great start to my journey east.