Our Adventures in May

I promised to post more photos of Benjamin sitting. He’s getting very good at it; he can reach his arms out in front to play with a toy without losing his balance, and he can recover if he starts to tip to the side. We’re very proud of him!

May 6

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May 9

May 11

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On Mother’s Day, we went to church, got interviewed about cloth diapers (see some footage from the interview here), and had a band concert. Jan and Elaina (from church) came to watch the kids, who were terrific. Phoebe obviously found the music…soporific.

Sleeping through our band concert.
Sleeping through our band concert.

Phoebe was proud of this configuration!

Phoebe plays with her magnaforms.
Phoebe plays with her magnaforms.

May 14

Wearing an old onesie of Daddy's.
Wearing an old onesie of Daddy’s.
Reading the spider book.
Reading the spider book.

May 16: Phoebe and Dave did some chalk drawing.

Check out Daddy's great caterpillar drawing!
Check out Daddy’s great caterpillar drawing!
And now Caterpillar is upside down!
And now Caterpillar is upside down!

May 18 we planned to go camping, but Benjamin got sent home from school that week with asthma/viral symptoms. Dave and Phoebe camped out in the backyard on Friday night instead. On Saturday morning, Benjamin got his first look at the inside of our tent.

Benjamin's first time in the tent.
Benjamin’s first time in the tent.
Surprised to be here!
Surprised to be here!

We had hoped to camp with the Wilensky/Berzanskis family (my friend Andrew from work, his wife Maggie, and their two kids), but the girls had a great time at the Wow! museum instead

Going to the grocery store.
Going to the grocery store.
Tilley and Phoebe play dress-up.
Tilley and Phoebe play dress-up.

May 19

Baking homemade pizza.
Baking homemade pizza.

May 20: More sitting.

Sitting with snake.
Sitting with snake.

Dave and I are playing summer softball on the Mount Calvary co-ed team. (Dave is also playing for the men’s team.) When we got to the game on May 22, it was lightning and pouring rain, but it stopped in time for us to win the game! Here the kids are sitting in the car with me while Dave checks on the weather.

Waiting for the rain to stop.
Waiting for the rain to stop.

On May 23, Phoebe was riding her Strider bike around the deck when she decided that Caterpillar wanted her to pull him in the wagon. She cleverly attached it to her bike all by herself! (It wasn’t quite as easy to ride afterward, though.)

Creative thought in action.
Creative thought in action.

On May 25, we finally got to go camping! We drove out to Angel of Shavano campground near Salida and found a nice site. Here Benjamin waits to be taken out of the car.

He's getting good at manipulating Sophie, who's a wonderful teething toy.
He’s getting good at manipulating Sophie, who’s a wonderful teething toy.
Yum, Sophie.
Yum, Sophie.

We spent most of the afternoon at camp before driving into Salida to pick up some wood and s’mores materials.

Benjamin, sit here while I get something out of your bag.
Benjamin, sit here while I get something out of your bag.
Silly!
Silly!
Sitting around camp in the Bumbo.
Sitting around camp in the Bumbo.

On Sunday, we had a nice morning in camp. In the afternoon, we drove into town again to watch some boaters and listen to bluegrass in the park. When we got there, we discovered a bouncy castle! You can imagine who was SUPER EXCITED about that.

Benjamin is trying hard to eat my sandwich.
Benjamin is trying hard to eat my sandwich.
Extra, extra; read all about it!
Extra, extra; read all about it!
A chilly camping evening.
A chilly camping evening.
Going on a pre-bedtime walk with Dad.
Going on a pre-bedtime walk with Dad.

Phoebe got the idea that she should make some mud in her bucket, but the water pump wasn’t working, so Dave took her to the creek. Here’s an interview about the mud. The loud sound in the background is Benjamin’s Albuterol nebulizer; he still had to take medicine, so we found a handy way to bring it along. (We plugged it into the power source for Dave’s telescope.)

On Memorial Day, we cleaned up camp and headed home to cook Indian food and finish our long weekend together. It was a lovely camping trip!

Our very good helper.
Our very good helper.
Helping Mommy pack up the sleeping bags and pads.
Helping Mommy pack up the sleeping bags and pads.

Lost Creek Backpacking, Take II

Poor Taco, you can see the greenish coolant that burst forth from the old radiator. Alas the sealant didn't hold, so Taco needed yet another tow. Henry would have been excited to see the truck; unfortunately, he wasn't there.
Poor Taco; you can see the greenish coolant that burst forth from the old radiator. Alas, the sealant didn't hold, so Taco needed yet another tow. Henry would have been excited to see the truck; unfortunately, he wasn't there.

As you no doubt recall from Jess’s recent post, Phoebe’s uncle Matt and aunt Erin were out for a visit. We had a wonderful time introducing her to them, and thought a short trip over the holiday weekend would be a great way to introduce Phoebe to backpacking. Since we’d had a great time backpacking in the Lost Creek Wilderness last summer (technically Phoebe’s first backpacking adventure), we thought we’d return. We were also looking for something relatively close to home. Unfortunately for Taco, the Lost Creek wasn’t quite close enough. Just after turning onto highway 285 outside Golden, the temperature gauge began to climb. By the time we managed to get the car off the road, steam was billowing from the hood, and the tell-tale signs of a coolant leak were staining the engine compartment a lovely iridescent green color. Luckily we were traveling with two cars in order to facilitate a shuttle route option, so we coalesced into Erin’s Honda and called Matt’s savior (AAA) for a tow. The tow truck arrived pretty quickly, and dropped the car off right in our driveway. After the short diversion, the trip was on.

This time we were headed to the wilderness’s namesake trail (Goose Creek, AKA Lost Creek, Trail). We somehow missed the dirt access road and ended up blowing right through Deckers, CO. It wasn’t until we saw signs for Douglas County that we realized we were pointed in the wrong direction. At least it wasn’t Lincoln, Nebraska, like in Dumb and Dumber. A little route correction, and we were back on our way.

Jess and Phoeb happy to finally get out of the car and on with the hiking.
Jess and Phoebe happy to finally get out of the car and on with the hiking.

When we arrived at the trailhead, there were already several cars present, and one large group was just about ready to set out onto the trail. I’d seen from the Internet that it was a popular trail, so I wasn’t totally surprised; however, it was still early on Friday afternoon. We all piled out of the car, stretched, and answered nature’s call before pulling on our backpacks and adjusting the straps. We even gave Phoebe a fresh clean diaper, but that was mostly for our benefit! I think it was about 3:30 by the time we left the trailhead. Jess was carrying Phoebe in the Baby Bjorn along with my light backpack stuffed with some clothes and all of Phoebe’s accouterments. I had the great big Gregory Denali stuffed with two sleeping bags, the tent, the water filter, a small gas lantern, two days worth of food, some dishes, and all of my clothes. I also had two sleeping pads strapped onto the sides. All together it wasn’t too bad, and the Gregory really carries monster loads pretty well—often better than the wearer!

After filling out the free self-serve permit at the registration we were off on our real adventure. The first part of the trail passes through a section of the wilderness that burned back in the Hayman Wildfire of 2002. There were charred, black tree trunks everywhere and a few lovely wild flowers growing up in the scorched forest. From the images I’ve seen, we were likely a couple of weeks too late to see the flowers at their peak. After just about a half mile, we crossed Goose Creek on a little metal bridge and left the burn remnants behind us.

Here's Matt with his massive traing weight, er, tripod. He'd look like this most of weekend.
Here's Matt with his massive training weight, er, tripod. He'd look like this most of the weekend.

The trail was nearly flat as it continued to follow the creek for about a mile or so before climbing up and out of the valley. As we gained elevation, the views really opened up. The landscape is pretty interesting with little domes and spires all around us. Much of the rock was reminiscent of Vedauvoo in Wyoming. At several occasions I’d wished we’d brought some climbing gear, or at least a crash pad and some rock shoes. There seems to be enough bouldering potential to keep a small army busy for months.

Since we no longer had the shuttle hike option, we were now set on the out-n-back route. There was a loop alternative, but we’d pre-determined that the 18 mile loop was too much for two days of backpacking with a baby. After all, this was supposed to be a fun trip, not a death march! Based on that reality, our itinerary was to hike as far as we wanted with the plan of visiting the “shafthouse” and cabin remnants from the 1891-1913 attempt to dam Lost Creek by the Antero and Lost Park Reservoir Company. I spent a few minutes trying to dig up some additional background on the abandoned reservoir project, but there is scant info on the web. All I can tell for sure is that they attempted to pump concrete into one of the sumps where Lost Creek disappeared into a pile of large boulders near the convergence of Goose Creek and Refrigerator Gulch. It seems to have been a relatively large operation with at least 3 good sized cabins housing the employees. But the would-be dam never held water, and the site was eventually abandoned. Good for us, but bad for the Lost Park Reservoir bond holders.

This is the elevation profile for the entire 18-mile loop. The "shafthouse" site is at marker 3.
This is the elevation profile for the entire 18-mile loop. The turn-off for the "shafthouse" site is around marker 002. The remaining markers represent various trail junctions and alternative routes.

Along the Goose Creek Trail we passed dozens of well used campsites. Most, being either too close to the trail or the creek, or in some cases both, weren’t technically legal sites; nevertheless, they were very well worn, and additional damage seemed unlikely. Regardless, we found a spectacular, and legal, site a little more than 3 miles into the hike. It wasn’t hard to find, as a small, but well worn little trail led back to some level tent spots adjacent a lovely fire ring of found rocks with pre-arranged log seating. We could have gone a bit further, but it was literally irresistible.

We set up camp for the night and set about preparing some dinner. Jess and I split a tasty curry courtesy of Matt and Erin. After rigging up the most ineffective bear bag I’ve ever seen (Note: the bag proved

Baby, cloth diaper, wet wipe, waterproof food back, and exhausted dad, it must eb a backpacking trip.
Baby, cloth diaper, wet wipe, waterproof food bag, and exhausted dad; it must be bedtime on a backpacking trip.

adequately effective but likely just because there were no critters in the general vicinity), Matt and I headed down to the creek with the filter and all of our bottles in hand to fetch more water for the coming day. The dry stream bed we followed to the creek turned out to be a bit of a bushwhack, but we made it in about 10 minutes anyway. Matt did his best Ansel Adams imitation while I pumped a few liters of water. Somehow I ended up with the worse job! We even saw a small trout swimming alongside the filter inlet. I’d guess it was around 5 inches. Matt tried to get a photo with his new waterproof camera, but he kept getting nice shots of a submerged log instead. There was a fish there, honest!

Our tent and home for the night. As you can see I have the Nikon with me for easy photo-snapping convenience. This image was courtsey of Matt and Erin and the new waterproof compact. That's right, collectively we packed 4 cameras into the woods. Do you think we're ready for Go Lite sponsorship?
Our tent and home for the night. As you can see, I have the Nikon with me for easy photo-snapping convenience. This image was courtesy of Matt and Erin and the new waterproof compact. That's right, collectively we packed 4 cameras into the woods. Do you think we're ready for GoLite sponsorship?

For the return trip, we just wandered in the direction of camp. Despite being uphill with a big load of water, it was much faster and easier without the bushwhacking. As we approached camp, we discovered that Jess and Erin had a nice little fire going. We sat by the fire and threw back the beer (Sunshine Wheat in backpacker-friendly aluminum cans) I’d schlepped all day until the terribly late hour of 8:30 (or thereabouts). It was starting to look like rain and was nearly Phoebe’s bed time, so we packed everything up, thoroughly doused the fire, and shuffled off to our tents. I retold Phoebe the story of Goldilocks and the three bears, but neither Jess nor I could remember how it ends.

Not long after getting snugly into our sleeping bags, the rain started. It lasted until about 1:00 in the morning, but the ground was almost completely dry in the morning. Phoebe woke up a couple of times in the night for a little snack, which worked out well because Jess didn’t need to pump the following morning. Good work, little girl!

The following morning we cooked up some instant oatmeal and stuffed our essentials into our day packs. Without carrying all of the gear for the family, I was able to carry Phoebe in the Baby Bjorn. We tried her facing out, and she seemed to do pretty well. We experienced nothing like the circulation issues we encountered the last time we went hiking. The trip to the cabins was pretty quick. Despite having been abandoned almost a century ago, they’re in pretty good shape. One has a magnificent stone chimney in almost perfect-looking condition. You can see the remnants of a few steel bed springs (badly rusted, of course), some woodburning cooking stoves, and various other odds and ends. The roofs no longer appear leak tight, and the doors and windows are just openings, but it doesn’t appear that it would take too much to make them cozy again.

Erin looks right at hhome coming out the door of the smaller cabin. It even has some lovely landscaping.
Erin looks right at home coming out the door of the smaller cabin. It even has some lovely landscaping.

We spent quite a while taking pictures and wandering around the cabins before marshaling for the final 1/4 mile hike to the “shafthouse.” In reality, the only real remnant is a big rusted winch that they must have used to pull boulders and rock out of the would-be-damn site. It’s interesting, because it appears to have been water powered. You can see where the fittings for the water delivery should have been attached. There’s also a single section of an old penstock system or water pipe. It’s unclear where the water to drive the winch must have come from, but I’m guessing most of the residual material was hauled out years ago for salvage.

A short distance farther upstream, you encounter a rickety old metal ladder leading down some boulders that could probably be safely downclimbed. We didn’t proceed, but next time, I’ll plan on continuing and trying to reach the sump. Maybe it’s the caver in me, but I think it’s neat to watch whole streams disappear underground.

After taking a ridiculous number of photos, we packed up and headed back to our campsite to collect the rest of our gear. By the time we returned, everything was nicely dry, so we packed up and prepared to hike back to Erin’s car. There was one Sunshine Wheat left, so I polished it off (hey, it’s hydration and energy). Don’t worry; we packed out all of our trash and recyclables. The return hike went by pretty quickly. There was a short uphill section back to the high point followed by a couple of miles of flat to downhill hiking. We stopped back by the bridge over Goose Creek to dip our toes into the cold water. Phoebe dipped her toes as well, but much like her bedtime story, found it to be too cold!

An artsy shot of the rusty machinery left where the shafthouse once stood. It's artsy because you can't really see what it loos like.
An artsy shot of the rusty machinery left where the shafthouse once stood. It's artsy because you can't really see what it looks like.

A few more minutes of hiking (and several more pictures) and we were back at the car. By this point (now Saturday) the parking lot was literally in overflow mode with cars parked all along the dirt road just before the parking lot. There was even a driver patiently waiting on us as we were packing up for our parking spot. Despite all of the foot traffic, the wilderness was generally pretty clean, and after leaving the trail behind, we saw and heard no one from our cozy campsite. I know we took too many pictures, because I had around 2 GB of stuff on the Nikon when I returned, and Jess had another 100+ photos on the little Casio. We exchanged pictures with Matt and it required emptying the USB memory stick and refilling to copy over all of the photos. I guess that means it was a fun trip and one we’d highly recommend (if you’re in Colorado, of course).

Bring out the GIMP!

That’s right, I like GIMP—the GNU Image Manipulation Program, that is. It’s basically Photoshop® without the cost. Actually, the fine developers working on GIMP wouldn’t really like that description, but now you know what it does. Of course, like most pieces of advanced software, there is a somewhat steep learning curve, but with a little patience and a tiny bit of skill you can get some remarkable results.

For my last post on backpacking in the Lost Creek Wilderness I included an elevation profile for the trip. I made the profile by tracking out the route in TOPO. We have a rather old version of the software covering a smallish portion of the central Colorado mountains, but it covers the region we were in. Generally speaking, it’s pretty easy to draw out the map. You just follow the route with the mouse. In this case, I had to recreate some of the trail. I guess our electronic maps are a bit out-of-date. Nevertheless, with the topo map next to me, it was pretty easy to draw in the trail segments that were missing. Once done, you can automatically draw the elevation profile for the route and calculate the actual distances. It’s pretty neat software, because it uses digital raster graphics for the maps. This means that there are actual elevations encoded into the maps for each pixel. By taking the rise and fall into account, you get the actual overland distances traveled and not the 2-D projection as you’d get if simply measuring the route with a string or route tool. This really only matters for very hilly routes, as most don’t make that much of a difference.

The original elevation profile from TOPO. Pretty hard to read, and worst of ala, backwards!
The original elevation profile from TOPO. Pretty hard to read and, worst of all, backwards!

For some reason, after drawing the entire route, the elevation profile was backwards! I couldn’t figure out why it kept drawing from the end of the route to the beginning, but nothing seemed to make a difference. I exported the profile as a jpeg, but it was hard to read with the horrible blue background. Clearly this needed to be cleaned up before I could add it to Gribblog! Well, GIMP to the rescue.

After opening the jpg in GIMP, I first flooded the blue background with white to get a better looking profile. With the black border along the top of the profile separating the background from the profile, the software was able to recognize the background area without any trouble, so only a few pixels needed to be manually updated.

Next, I removed the blurry CAMP label above the marker indicating where we spent the night (relative to the profile). With a clean looking profile, I carefully selected the actual route, leaving all of the mileage and border in place, and cut the profile from the image. I created a new layer the same size as the original image and pasted the profile into the new layer. Now with the mileage, borders, and background separated from the profile, I flipped the profile horizontally within the new layer while leaving all of the surrounding info as it was.

The elevation profile for our trip. Notice how steep the last hill is—especially the downhill side!
The GIMPed elevation profile—now much easier to read and running the right direction! especially the downhill side!

Finally, I added a new label for the camp using a much larger font size and exported the image as a portable network graphic. I ‘m sure a more talented graphic artist could do an even nicer job, but I’m pretty happy with the results. If you need to occasionally edit some images (or even if you are a talented graphic artist) check out GIMP; I think you’ll find it very useful, and I know the price is right. You can find a version for just about any operating system under the sun.

Backpacking the Lost Creek Wilderness

Last weekend, Jess I and set off for a little backpacking adventure in Colorado’s Lost Creek Wilderness. I’m a terrible backpacking trip planner, as I never seem to know where we should go. The day before the trip, we were out at the bookstore and REI pouring over a serious stack of guide books. Of course, most are hiking guides and detail fun-sounding yet relatively short trips. We didn’t want to head up to Rocky Mountain National Park, because we’d have to pay both entry fee and permit fee. It’s much nicer in the winter when the crowds are gone, you can self-register for free, and avoid entry fees by getting up before the gatekeepers!

Jess at the Lost Creek Wilderness boundary
Jess at the Lost Creek Wilderness boundary

Finally we settled on a nearby stretch of the Colorado Trail. For those of you unfamiliar with it, the CT is a pretty long trail. While shorter than the big 3 US trails (AT, CDT, and PCT), it stretches from Denver, East of the Rockies, to Durango in the middle of the beautiful San Juan Mountains. In total, it’s almost 500 miles long, and makes neither a straight nor low-elevation trek from Denver to Durango. Most of the trail is open to mountain biking, and in my opinion, the CT makes for some of the finest mountain biking in the country (I’d say world here, but I’ve not yet ridden the Alps or Canadian Rockies, so I don’t want to go overboard).

For this trip, we selected one of the few sections not open to mountain biking. This made sense, as backpack and horseback riding are the only ways to explore wilderness (with a capital W) areas. While we’d wanted to leave Friday evening after work, our last-minute planning forced us instead to opt for a Saturday morning start. That would mean just a single night of camping. With such a short trip, I was looking for any way I could possibly make use of my considerably smaller Osprey pack. Not only is the Osprey much smaller than my monster Gregory, it’s probably several pounds lighter as well. It was never meant to be an expedition pack, but for short trips, it carries a moderate load surprisingly well.

We ended up splitting the gear with Jess taking the relatively light but bulky tent. I grabbed the denser stakes and pole (just 1 for our unusual looking Marmot Area 51 tent) as well as the camp kitchen. We both took along rain jackets as the forecast called for a moderate chance of thunderstorms on both Saturday and Sunday. I think Jess’s pack was still a bit heavier, though, as she tends to bring too many changes of clothing. All I had with me was a pair of long pants, a heavy shirt for the evenings, and the aforementioned Gore-Tex. We both schlepped pack covers too, as an added insurance against serious rain.

Because we weren’t planning a long hike, we slept in a bit on Saturday morning. It’s only about a 90 minute drive to the trailhead outside Baily, CO, from our house, and we wanted to grab some cheap and delicious breakfast from Santiago’s before leaving Lafayette. We also grabbed a cup of coffee from the local shop, and Jess watered the garden while I checked e-mail. We were on the road by about 10:00, and we left the trailhead at about 12:30, just after I repacked my little backpack for the 3rd time. I guess everything fit okay, if you don’t take exception to me strapping the sleeping bag and pad to the outside of the pack!

The "New Boot Tour"—blisters and bruises await!
The "New Boot Tour"—blisters and bruises await!

Neither of us had been backpacking all year, so it was nice to finally get out away from all of the roads for a while. We also had an ulterior motive. Both of us had new boots! Jess got hers at an REI garage sale. They were a pair of used Asolo boots for $25.00 that were a miraculously good fit. There’s a wee bit of damage along the one cuff, but otherwise they’re in excellent shape. My new pair are Kayland’s (same brand as my old boots) that were the last pair of old stock at the outdoors store in Leadville. I’d actually been looking to try these boots on for about a year, but there are relatively few stores stocking these Czech boots. Maybe they don’t fit everyone as well as they fit me?

About 30 minutes into the day’s hiking, we crossed into the Lost Creek Wilderness. Our original plan was to just go out and back along the CT as far as we felt like going; however, as I was glancing at the map in the car, I noticed what seemed like a doable loop route. I must say, I really like loops far more than out and back hikes. You get to see something new the whole time! Since I hadn’t measured out the loop option ahead of time, I grabbed some 2.5 mm spectra from the glove box and quickly traced the route. It’s a rough measurement, but I figured it was about 24 miles. It also appeared from the map that the best camping sites would be right about the halfway point in what appeared to be a lovely meadow with a stream running through its length.

The section of the Colorado Trail that crosses the Lost Creek Wilderness from around the Wellington Lake Road heading west is actually rather boring. I hadn’t realized this during the research, but it’s obvious that we spent most of the first day hiking along what once was a spectacular road through the mountains. This road was obviously a victim of the Wilderness Act and was in such good shape (aside from the occasional sapling) as to still be generally passable by a little car like Taco. Of course, it did make for easy travel for the opening several miles of gradual uphill hiking.

By about 3:30 we had encountered all of about 7 people. We were just about to turn off from the abandoned road and onto a real footpath that would switchback to the day’s high point before descending to the little meadow where we hoped to camp. We’d passed 3 bow hunters out for the day and a family of four that appeared to be backpacking. They were filtering water by the only stream we’d crossed.

Another hour later, we were making steady downhill progress towards a trail junction that would take us through the meadow. You could see the meadow coming into view through the trees off to the left, and I had to fight back the temptation to bushwhack a shortcut. Jess, on the other hand, had no such temptation. She was starting to get pretty tired, and my feet were beginning to hurt a bit. Perhaps I should have opted for a thicker hiking sock!

Still heading down, we popped out of the trees with a wonderful view of the meadow just as we came across a pair of backpackers enjoying dinner in front of their tent. They were practically camped on the trail, but I must admit that there weren’t a plethora of good camping areas along the route. We chatted briefly and indicated that we were trying to make a loop of the section we’d both just hiked with a couple of additional trails. They were continuing on in the same direction the next morning. I didn’t envy their spot, but I was ready to stop for the night.

Our camp and the Marmot Area 51 tent (wierd looking, huh?) high up at the edge of the meadow.
Our camp and the Marmot Area 51 tent (weird looking, huh?) high up at the edge of the meadow.

In order to cross the creek and intersect with the next trail, we had to head quite a ways farther west than had appeared to be the case on the map. Nevertheless, we eventually made the intersection, crossed the creek, and started back up the meadow on the opposite side of the forest. After about an hour of easy hiking, we’d covered about 2.5–3 miles and were now straight across the meadow and around 500 yards from the backpackers we’d passed earlier. Another 45 minutes of hiking, and we’d come to what seemed like a reasonable stopping point for the day. I’d hoped to get a little farther, but it was nice to set up camp with some daylight left, and it made cooking diner much easier.

We scouted out a nice flat spot for the tent just where the meadow met the forest and high enough above the creek as to feel safe from any possible flash flood. I finished putting up the tent while Jess headed up to a nice rocky outcrop to start boiling water for dinner. We dined on a lovely spaghetti with meat sauce we inherited from Pete and Kelli (bought pre-Celiac Disease diagnosis) and some instant garlic mashed potatoes. If we’d not hiked some 9 miles, it’d have been a disgusting amount of food, but as it was, we had no trouble shoveling it all into our tummies. After dinner, we hiked down to the stream to refill our water bladders with the filter I’d schlepped for just this purpose.

While we were eating, it started to rain lightly. We both donned our jackets, but it was relatively dry under the edge of the forest canopy. Our tent, on the other hand, did get pretty wet. Unfortunately, it would remain just as wet the rest of the trip. One peculiarity of the Marmot Area 51 is its phenomenal size to weight ratio. It’s only around 6 pounds with the pole and stakes, but being a single wall tent without waterproof/breathable fabric, it performs poorly in high humidity (think rain). It’s totally waterproof, but it gets very clammy and stuffy. Occasionally you’d think it would be better to be out in the rain. I spent the night sleeping poorly. I was either way too hot and sweaty in the sleeping bag or too cold and damp outside the bag, and the inside walls were soaked from all of our sweat condensing on the cool fabric. There were sounds of distant lightning all night, and the morning couldn’t come soon enough!

Jess checking to see if things have finished drying out.
Jess checking to see if things have finished drying out.

The next morning, we boiled some water for instant oatmeal with craisins and tried to dry our all of our gear. I laid everything on some rocks as the tall grasses of the meadow were still wet from the previous evening’s storm. By the time breakfast was done, we had everything pretty dry except for the tent. Luckily, we wouldn’t need it again, so Jess stuffed it into the bottom of her pack after we shook off as much of the water as possible. Within about 10 minutes, we were back on the trail and making progress back towards the car.

The little connector trail we were on was skirting the west side of the wilderness. By about 9:30 in the morning, we came to a little forest service campground that we had to cross to connect with the Wigwam trail. Many of the campers weren’t yet up, but those that were tended to be in the middle of cooking some yummy smelling breakfasts. I was especially jealous of the coffee and bacon I could clearly smell wafting from their sites.

Wow, what a beautiful mountain meadow we're hiking through.
Wow, what a beautiful mountain meadow we're hiking through.

The Wigwam trail is nearly pan flat for miles as it traverses what is actually a massive meadow in the midst of the Lost Creek Wilderness. There are cool granite rock outcroppings all over the meadow—many of which would offer some fun little climbs for the intrepid climber. Early in the hike, we started encountering all sorts of backpackers. Most were close to the trailhead in the little campground, but a whole group of what appeared to be scouts were much farther into the heart of the meadow. By around 11:30 we stopped for a little lunch on the far edge of the meadow. According to the map, we had to climb up a series of switchbacks to a saddle between this meadow and another meadow on the far side of the saddle. Our route would then turn north along the Rolling Creek Trail and ultimately reconnect with the CT near where we’d left Taco the previous day.

The switchbacks were relatively easy, and the trail continued past some beautiful little beaver ponds. We passed a few fishermen, but didn’t inquire as to the the quality of the fishing (sorry Greg and Emily). Nevertheless, if it matched the quality of the scenery, it would be far above average! We paused again for a little snack at the next trail junction. According to the map, it was a modest 850 feet or so of elevation gain followed by a downhill race to the finish.

We're almost there, I promise.
We're almost there, I promise.

At the time, I was blinded by the modest overall elevation gain, and totally missed the rate of ascent/descent. Jess thought I did a great job of navigating throughout the trip, but I shouldn’t have botched this assessment. The next four miles were absolutely brutal. I think the downhill was even worse than the climb! Having hiked this section of the Rolling Creek Trail, I can’t help but wonder what possessed a person to blaze a trail over this particular shoulder. Sure, it wasn’t very high in elevation, but the trail is very steep in spots and barely has room for any switchbacks to lessen the climb. It pretty much marches straight up a creek and over the shoulder to meet up with Wigwam trail.

Of course, the scenery was still quite gorgeous, and I might not have been as negative on the trail had I been less tired. We were already around 8 miles into the day’s hike when the uphill portion began. My feet were killing me. All of the harsh landings working our way down from the high point were really adding up. I didn’t feel any blisters coming on, but instead felt like I had bruised the entire balls of both feet!

We made it!
We made it!

Eventually, just as the map indicated, the rate of descent mellowed, and the remainder of the return hike was pretty mellow. Just after crossing back out of the Wilderness, we again spotted some mountain bike tracks. We saw these telltale signs of riders just about everywhere outside of the wilderness. Unfortunately for Jess, a blister she’d been sensing burst around a half mile from the car. We stopped again to get a short rest, then marched on to our finish. In total it was a little more than 23 miles of hiking with around 9 miles on the first day and about 14 miles on the second. Most of day two was easy, except for the hill in the middle, and even that might have been far easier if we’d encountered it earlier. I’m not sure I’d recommend the section of the CT nor the Rolling Creek Trail, but the Wigwam Trail was quite nice. Perhaps we’ll work a different loop variation using the trail with some of the more southern alternatives. According to various Internet sites, there are over 140 miles of trail within the Lost Creek Wilderness, so we’ve got quite a few left to explore.

The elevation profile for our trip. Notice how steep the last hill is—especially the downhill side!
The elevation profile for our trip. Notice how steep the last hill is—especially the downhill side!