Thursday, July 3, 2008

Vacation Day Four

Yep, I'm at it again. After the extreme outpouring of affection for my posts (or realizing that reading them is a great time-killer when bored... whatever), I've decided to keep it up and finish the vacation. We're over the hump now, anyway. On to day four!

Day Four: RMNP Wild Basin Loop Trail

It turns out that the high altitude caused quite a few surprises besides labored breathing and purple lips. Eye drop bottles squirt solution into the air after opening, champagne corks burst from bottles like lethal weapons and apparently, high altitudes make me a very light sleeper.

Hence, I woke up naturally before sunrise for the first time... well, probably for the first time ever.

After grabbing some blankets (it got pretty chilly overnight), I dragged Andy out of bed and onto the big rock to watch the sun rise.

After conquering all .8 miles of the trail we did the day before, we naturally decided to move on to some much bigger hiking recommended by Debbie (aka The Crazy Cabin Lady, the owner of the cabin).

Thus, we began our 8 mile trek around the Wild Basin area of the park, beginning with the trail to Copeland Falls.

I discovered my new favorite tree, the aspen, on this vacation, too.

I loved the way the leaves spun in the wind, making the whole tree wink and sparkle. They were everywhere and I tried to think of how I could dig one up and get it home on the plane. I failed to find a legal, plausible way to make this happen, so next year I'll be attempting an aspen grove in the garden.

Our next major scenic spot was Calypso Cascades.

The waterfalls were great, but also a good excuse to stop and breathe. The first hour of hiking was always hard, but once our bodies realized the lack of oxygen wasn't temporary, they'd adjust and we'd be fine. Still, it's hard not to feel wimpy when we'd have to step off the trail to let a group of seniors with fanny packs breeze by.

After Calypso Cascades, the trail took us through an area that had been destroyed by a forest fire in 1973.

(I'm pretty sure that's the right year, and too lazy to confirm, but rest assured, I am POSITIVE the fire took place at some point in the 70's. See how informative these posts can be?)

It was beautiful to see the dead, charred trees with so much green springing up around them.

Because there were no tall trees, we had some pretty incredible views from the trail.

This was nothing compared to what awaited us, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

We stopped at Ouzel Falls and had our packed lunch of sandwiches, granola bars and apples on a fallen log just outside the waterfall's misty reach. We would get an occasional, refreshing spray when the wind blew in our direction.

We still had quite a ways to go and were getting a little low on water, so Chad broke out his trusty water filter and replenished our supply.

Um, here's where I confess that I didn't completely trust this filter. Not that I didn't trust Chad, but I had just read that water from RMNP streams should preferably be boiled due to the possible contamination by the microscopic organism Giardiasis. It was still early in the vacation, and I didn't want to spend my last four days confined to a bathroom.

I failed to share my concern with Jenny, who took the first giant swig of the Giardia water.

Then Jenn died.

Well, not really. It seems my fears were completely baseless and Jenn actually finished the hike better hydrated than me (who only pretended to take a sip of the water while nodding and smiling about how cold and refreshing it was).

By this time, we were leaving the more populated area and striking out on the Finch Lake trail which was labeled "Difficult" by my trail guide book.

The trail was a little tight and steep at points, but once we came out on the side of the mountain, the views were some of the best we'd seen.

You can see a little of the trail over Andy's shoulder.

This was my favorite hike of the whole trip. The amazing view was more than 180 degrees and I felt like we might be swallowed up by the mountains and valleys.

I felt so tiny standing on that small trail with all this surrounding me.

See? Even Chad looks small against that backdrop, and that's not an easy thing to accomplish.

After taking 50 or so more photos, we started back down the trail to complete our loop of the Wild Basin.

I'm happy to report everyone made it down safely, but when we were walking back to the car, we saw that a little Honda CRX or some other small car had actually flipped on the dirt road leading to the trailhead. Everyone was stuck. No one could get in or out while waiting for a tow truck to remove the car that had seemingly done the impossible (how do you flip a car on a 10 mph, one lane, twisty dirt road?).

We chatted with the older ladies who had blown by us on the trail and felt better about ourselves when they seemed impressed that we'd done the whole loop rather than just to Ouzel falls and back.

Eventually the road cleared and we headed home, stopping first at an overlook that was also recommended by our crazy cabin lady.

Back home, it was nap time for me and Jenn while the boys started dinner.

That's Jenny the Human Burrito in the hammock.

We did wake up in time to contribute and make some Velveeta shells and cheese to round out our gourmet dinner of grilled steaks and bagged salad. (Why get another bowl dirty when you don't have a dishwasher?)

Admire the shells and cheese pot sitting directly on the table. (Dishes were not something we wanted to spend our vacation doing.)

After dinner I somehow convinced the group to do another small hike up to a chapel on the mountainside by our cabin.

About halfway up, I think Andy wanted to punch me in the gut for even suggesting a steep hike after a big steak dinner and plenty of beer to go along with it.

Once we got to the top, though. I think we were all happy we'd done it.

If it hadn't been so cloudy, we would have been able to see the sunset.

The chapel was open so we got to explore inside. The view was definitely inspirational.

You can's see our cabin, but I've drawn in a pretty accurate, artistic depiction of where it might appear if the trees weren't obscuring the view.

And just because I like this picture.

And this one.

See? We were all still smiling at day's end.

After so much hiking, high altitude or no, I slept great that night (the glasses of wine might have had a little something to do with it as well).

The next day we saw water everywhere! Waterfalls, lakes, snow... and rain. Le sigh. We knew it would happen at some point. Do we melt? Get struck by lightning? Does Jenny's giardia finally rear it's ugly head? Who knows what crazy things will happen!


Casey said...

Looks like it was a blast. Where were you--Colorado?

Kristin said...

Yep, but Rocky Mountain National Park more specifically.

It was amazing, and I can't wait to go back!