Here in Evergreen, we’re extremely fortunate and grateful to not have anywhere near the same damage as other parts of the state. Bear Creek and the dam at Evergreen Lake are definitely high and impressive. You can see that Cactus Jack’s is flooded, especially the back deck. When they open again, we’ll be sure to come down for a burger!
I took these pictures 2 days ago, but when I drove by the same place tonight, it was at least as high and getting higher.
Here’s a video of the high water crashing over Evergreen Dam covering the island directly below; and some pictures further down.
Last weekend we went camping down at Wellington Lake outside of Bailey, Colorado for a few days. Just prior to leaving I read through Trail Sherpa’s 89 Tips to Elevate Any Campsite again to get some ideas. If you get a chance to read through it, I highly recommend it.
I’ve spent many years backpacking and hiking and camping as a boy scout, river guide, mountain guide and outward bound instructor, but sometimes camping with the kids means car camping – and doing it well. That’s what this is about.
Here are my 10 things that made our camping trip better.
1. Camping near water. Wellington Lake is a very pretty lake. Although it’s about 12-15 feet low right now, it’s still really pretty. They also allow swimming and it actually wasn’t very cold. There are a couple floating docks and a small floating trampoline. You can also bring your own non-motorized boats.
2. A view from your campsite is a must! They call this the Castle and it was quite an impressive view from our campsite. This part of Colorado is really rocky and scenic. There’s a trail up to it but it wasn’t great for small kids.
3. Find a nice clearing in the trees and set up your most comfortable 8 person tent for the 4 of you. We have this great 8 person North Face tent that fits all 4 of us on air mattresses really nicely. Because the campground allows campfires, the ground and lower parts of the trees have been picked clean of all wood and branches. So there’s very little to do to clear a space.
4. Bring a hammock, not to camp in, but for naps and reading books (don’t forget your pillow).
5. Have a strong knife that you can really use for everything from making kindling to marshmallow roasting sticks.
6. When possible, make a fire.
7. Everything tastes better wrapped in foil and tossed on the coals (Thanks AdventureTykes! More recipes here.)
8. Have a nice hiking destination. This waterfall in this cool grotto was a perfect destination for all of us, including the kids. It’s on the way to the Castle, but was a perfect place to stop and spend a couple hours playing.
9. Duct Tape. Always handy to patch things that hold air like air mattresses when you discover that one had a hole.
10. Enjoy the sunset!
And a bonus. Bring a rope for a clothesline. With kids and water, you know that some of you are gonna get wet.
A couple weeks ago we were in Aspen for a friend’s wedding and I had a spare hour for a hike up Aspen Mountain that I turned into 3. I know that hiking up Aspen Mountain isn’t any real big deal, but it sure was fun. We didn’t know it until we got there, but they had reopened Aspen Mountain for skiing this weekend because the snow was really good up at the top. So, my hike just went up until the snow started. Then I turned around and went back. It was a great day, a great wedding and I look forward to returning to this beautiful valley. A few pictures are below.
We went to the John Denver Memorial Garden, which was beautiful!
Then a hike up the ski area
Then I was playing with Adobe Lightroom again on an image at sunset on Independence Pass. I don’t know it well enough yet to describe exactly what I did to make it look this way, but much like tying knots where “if you don’t know the knot, tie a lot” I tried a lot of things…
Independence Pass Before
Independence Pass After
I’d love to know what you think.
Last weekend we were in Moab for almost a week playing and hiking and boating. For one of our hikes we decided to head out Kane Creek Road to Hunter Canyon. We’d heard it was a nice place to hike and that it recently had water flowing. Today, it wasn’t flowing; it was stagnant and sort of icky which is no good when you have kids that love the water. It was also hot and humid in the canyon. But, the biggest issue we saw was about 60 yards past the register when we heard a really loud buzzing. It got louder and louder as we kept going. Until, we looked up and saw a swarm of MILLIONS of bees pouring up into the sky from an underground nest. We quickly, stopped, turned around and then slowly walked back towards the trailhead. We were done hiking here for the day.
Before I turned around, I shot this picture. It’s not great, but I wasn’t gonna hang around for a masterpiece. You can see all the blurry dots are bees… And the arch in the background.
Click to enlarge and see the bees in Hunter Canyon
We told the BLM and the visitor’s center, but probably they won’t do anything, so, be careful when you head out there. Anyone ever see this out there before?
One cool fall evening 8 or 9 years ago, our mountain rescue team was called to help look for a lost hiker up near mount Evans. As you travel up highway 103 to the Mount Evans turn off, there’s a pull out on the north side of the road for parking and a trail on the left side that goes up to the summit of Chief Mountain. It’s not a very tall mountain as it rises just above tree line, and it’s not a difficult hike, as it starts pretty high to begin with. But, like many peaks that are above tree line, the trail up at the top is difficult to find at times.
There’s one spot in the rocks on the way down where the trail turns left, but if you aren’t watching, then you miss the turn and head straight down another drainage. This is called Metz Creek, or as we also call it, a horrible place to get lost and a PIA place to hike. There aren’t really trails down there and it’s steep, rocky and full of lots of downed trees. Not quite as many as in a spot in the La Salles outside of Moab where another instructor and I hiked for more than an hour exclusively on downed trees and never touched the ground. This was almost worse because it’s lots of ups and downs and climbing over and it’s very slow going.
Echo Lake near Metz Creek and Mount Evans
We started out in several teams covering different parts of the wide, yet deep drainage, calling her name and searching behind every rock and tree and under bushes looking for any sign of her. We spent several hours combing through everything, yet knowing that the POD, or Probability of Detection, was dropping as it got later, darker and colder. Oh, and it started raining.
Eventually, everyone who goes down this drainage ends up at the same place, so it’s also a fairly predictable place to search, and when we search there we all almost always end up down there as well and then get driven back up to our cars. And, as all the teams head down the drainage, we often catch up to each other to walk out together.
After 3 or 4 teams all joined up, we became a big group and as big groups do, we started chatting about the search area and speculating what might have happened and what the search the next day would be like. And I think this loud chatter is what eventually alerted our subject to our presence. Fortunately, someone in the group heard her yelling and told the rest of us to be quiet so we could hear better. Although she was screaming loud enough that I’m sure we all would have heard momentarily.
This was well into my first year on the team and because of that, one of the senior members in our group encouraged everyone to let me and another member take the lead and find her, which I’m glad they did. This remains one of my more meaningful searches and rescues to date.
We followed her screams and yells into the blackness of this rainy, moonless night and eventually my headlamp found her; huddled on a small rock, next to a stream. Having shed her cotton sweatshirt after it got soaked through, she was wearing only running shorts, running shoes and a jogging bra. All were soaked. When I was finally within reach, she practically jumped into my arms and held on tight enough to make sure I wasn’t going anywhere without her.
After reassuring her that we would never leave without her and were there to help her, we all dropped our packs and pulled out our warm stuff to put on her. We loaded her with fleece and a down coat and dry socks and some food and water and helped her warm up for about 20 minutes before giving her a headlamp and starting the walk out. Obviously, we needed to get her moving so she could warm herself up and happily this happened fairly quickly.
By the time we made it down and out to our vehicles, she was plenty warm. She was able to get out of the rest of her wet clothes and then we all piled in the trucks for the ride back around to where we started. After a quick chat with a police officer about her experience and a quick once-over by the ambulance crew, she was ready to head home with her family and friends and a new experience to talk about for a long time.
We’re all very grateful that this ended happily and would love all of them to end this way. Unfortunately, some of them don’t. But in hindsight, it’s easy to see how she got lost and what she could have done differently to protect herself better. Probably, had we not found her she would have been ok, just REALLY cold, as I don’t think it got below freezing that night. But, you never know.
Here’s my take on her experience and what could have been done differently. Remember this when you head out.
1. When this group was heading down from the summit, she separated from them. Presumably, to run down on her own. She missed the trail while the rest of her group found it. Keep your eyes on the trail so you don’t miss it when it’s not obvious.
2. She wore only cotton. It would’ve been easy to exchange her cotton sweatshirt for a fleece one or add a light shell.
3. She didn’t bring anything with her like water, snacks, fleece, flashlight, whistle, fire starter, etc. Of course starting a fire in these conditions would’ve been extremely challenging at best, but it’s certainly possible. Check your 10 essentials.
4. She was stuck at the bottom of the creek, one of the coldest places she could’ve chosen. And even though the creek was small, it still made noise which made it harder for her to hear rescuers calling. The better place to be in this type of situation would have been higher up the hillside. This way, she’s not where the cold air settles. And not at the very top where it’s more windy and cold. Somewhere in the middle where she could settle in and find some shelter of downed trees and branches might have made her a lot more comfortable.
To be fair, though, this is the sort of trail where you think you’ll just go up quickly, have a snack and a look around and then come back down. It’s short and easily doable in a few hours and its not one you think you’d get lost on. But, it’s these types of hikes that people do get lost on or have a hard time on. So, the next time you go out, think about what you don’t think you’ll need so you aren’t left out in the cold in your underwear…
We certainly don’t expect high water flows in the end of December, and it’s certainly the case in Lower Courthouse Wash just north of Moab, UT (this flows into the Colorado River). We had a chance to hike there 2 days ago while spending Christmas in Moab and what a beautiful hike this is! We didn’t go to far because we had the kids and it was getting late and we hadn’t planned along outing, but we will for sure come back to this wash and do the entire lower section of 5.5 miles into the main Arches National Park road, and maybe the upper section too! There wasn’t a lot of water running in the canyon right now, but there was a lot of sitting water. A hiker we passed also said there were some unavoidable waste deep pools further up, so if you do this hike, plan on getting wet. I can’t wait to do it all this spring!
The other highlight of this hike is the amazing rock art to the right of the canyon mouth. From DiscoverMoab.com:
You will see large painted ghost-like illustrations typical of the Barrier Canyon Style Archaic figures on the red-orange surface. The numerous figures include human forms, bighorn sheep, shields, scorpion-like illustrations, possible dogs, a long beaked bird and abstract elements. You can see evidence of painted multi-colored figures superimposed on other pictographs. On the desert varnish surface you will see human and animal like figures as well as abstract forms. This site is on the National Register of Historic Places because of its representation of a Barrier Canyon Style rock art panel.
It’s some of the best rock art I’ve seen in the area with both Pictographs and Petroglyphs in the same place. Here’s just a sample.
This is a really great panel and is easy to get to off of hwy 191 just north of Moab. I enhanced these photos a bit as they are fading. They were also heavily vandalized in 1980 and while the park service did a great job restoring them, they’re not as good as they once were.
How to get there:
Drive north from Moab on Highway 191 and cross the Colorado River Bridge. Go half a mile to a parking area on the right side of the road and park, then walk back across the small bridge that crosses Courthouse Wash on the graveled foot path. At the east end of the bridge, look up at the cliffs to the right of the point of the canyon wall that is facing you. look at the base of the wall where it meets the slope. Then walk uphill to the base of those cliffs and look for a park service sign at the base of the slope below the panel.