It’s August in Kansas City. 90 degrees and I’m thinking about the elk in winter. Sigh.
(Estes Park, March 2015)
This is a beautiful trail with green meadows and majestic snow-capped mountains. The plan was to hike up and spend 3 days at the hot springs. Our goal for the day was to camp about 1 mile below the springs for the first night. For a very popular trail, the parking lot was only half full and we only saw about 5 other people and they were coming down.
At mile 6 we had to ford the creek which was running very high and fast from snowmelt and recent rains. While the sun was starting to set, we still had time to get to our camp spot before dark. We had a hard time deciding where to cross the creek. We finally settled on a spot that looked the best. We switched to water shoes and rolled up our pants legs. Once we got in the icy water we saw that it was deeper and faster than we anticipated- almost up to our waist. It was a struggle to stand against the current but we got to the bank wet and without anyone falling in.
When we got to our camp spot about a quarter mile later, Trevor discovered the tent poles had fallen from my pack. While he went back to see if they were in the creek, Sarah and I gathered wood to build a fire. The rain soon started so we switched to trying to jerry-rig the tent to get some shelter ready.
We hadn’t been at it long when Trevor came back saying he couldn’t find the poles. Thinking the poles must be on the other side of the creek we decided to go back across, find the poles, and camp. With the rain falling, temperature dropping and near dark we knew we didn’t have much time.
To keep our clothes as dry as possible, we took off our pants and put on water shoes. As Trevor and Sarah stepped in they sank to their chests. The water started pushing Trevor away from the bank so we scrambled out. With the creek rising, we set up camp and got a small fire going to dry out.
The rain stopped for a bit and we ate dinner and stood around the fire drying out our clothes. However, the rain started up again after a couple hours. Knowing the creek would continue to rise we started immediately planning for an early morning exit.
We crawled into our sleeping bags and covered ourselves with the rain fly from the tent. This became wet on the inside from condensation and water leakage. Three people on 2 sleeping pads, a cold rain and covered with a wet rain-fly… worried about the morning creek crossing. Perfect conditions for a sleepless night.
Trevor got up when a splash of water from the rain-fly hit his face. He spent a good amount of time looking for the best crossing while Sarah and I got our gear together. Pack tightened and pants off again (I’ve never been sans-pants camping this much before) we started crossing the still raging, still ice cold stream. First Trevor, then Sarah, then me.
The water was waist deep and moving so fast it was hard to plant a hiking stick up-stream. I was determined to keep stable and keep moving. Bit by bit I inched across.
On the bank I once again realized how cold I was and dried off and got warm. Fastest I’ve ever gotten dressed. We got back on the trail and quickly found the poles where they’d fallen off my pack. Since a) our sleeping bags were wet, b) it was still raining, and c) we’d never be able to build a fire to dry out- we decided to head back down the mountain.
I’m sure we’ll be back.