20210713 Rocky Mountain Rainbows

This year Mama Bear and I decided to join the Woodlands Hiking Club for a trip to Woodland Park, Colorado. We dayhiked for a week with the whole club, then a few of the backpackers took off for a taste of the Colorado Trail. I was asked if I’d mind letting another backpacker ride up with me. I was … skeptical. But, Delores arrived on time at 5am for the ride, and by 7am we were fast friends. Turns out, Delores and I went to high school “together” – she was a senior my freshman year, and was my cousin’s Big Sister on the drill team. Small world, huh?

Mama Bear’s AC was out, which wasn’t a problem in Colorado but we elected to get a motel instead of staying at Oasis in Amarillo. Nothing much to say there.

The club was divided between two RV parks in Woodland Park. We were in Bristlecone Lodge & RV Park and some others were in Diamond RV, right down the road. Delores had a cabin right next to Mama Bear, which provided extra parking near my site and allowed us to host Kari and Oscar’s backpacking tents, as well as providing a gathering spot at Bristlecone. At Diamond, we hung out at the Dykes’ site and were treated to Cheryl’s always scrumptious cooking. Of course, once Dennis brings out the homemade wine I forget about pictures, so no photos from Diamond.

Hanging with Mama Bear. Oscar & Kari’s tents in the back.

First day out our fearless leader led us on an unexpectedly long hike around Rampart Reservoir. Pretty, but rather repetitive for the whole 10 mile circumference. There were what we considered pretty awesome wildflowers at the time, but we hadn’t yet seen the Colorado Trail wildflowers! I’m not accustomed to 10 mile hikes in the heat. I finished the hike with Kari, Dennis and Renee and I think we were one of the last groups to finish.

Day Two found us at the top of The Crags. We saw our first bristlecone pines and bagged some beautiful views from the top. The scree was slippery and as I was checking up on Delores from a fall I went down right beside her. My wounded pride hurt more than my skinned knee!

Day Three we hiked Raspberry Mountain. That evening at Diamond RV we enjoyed Irish Coffee, apparently a hiking club tradition.

Day Four was the Platte River Trail.

Then it was off to the Colorado Trail. There were numerous glitches and screwups in transportation to the trail, and once on trail, it became plain that we were two separate groups: the speed demons, who were interested in logging as many miles as they could, as fast as they could; and the slowpokes who were interested in smelling flowers and poking the pretty bugs. That’s all the commentary I’m going to include on that.

But, OH!!! The beauty we got!! I’ve hiked a great deal in the Rockies in my life, and short of the Tetons and Yellowstone I’m not sure I’ve seen much better. As an adult I’ve rarely had to hike in the rain, but as a kid we did it All. The. Time. When it started to rain on us high on the trail, at first I was disappointed. But the smell of rain in the mountains is a sprirtual experience, and I was instantly thrown back to my childhood. I found myself face up to the rain, laughing and crying at the same time. My raingear, which has languished unused in my pack on every trip for the last 6 years, performed admirably, as did my little tent.

After hiking in the rain for awhile, we elected to set camp early and we waited out the rain, each of us alone in our tents. Just before sunset the rain cleared and we were awestruck by a magnificent rainbow stretching from horizon to horizon across the eastern sky, with a glorious sunset to the west. It doesn’t get any better than this!

I love to hike and shoot photos in the early morning light, so rather than hang around while everyone got caffeinated and fed, the next morning I packed up and took off on my own. That was an excellent decision! I got wildflowers dappled with raindrops and the morning sun twinkling on the dew in the meadows. It had been a very people-y trip so far and I reveled in joyful solitude. It was a HARD hike up and over Kenosha Pass but it was worth every agonizing step.

Coming down from Kenosha I passed the best grove of bristlecones so far, brilliant in the late morning light, and the oldest grove of aspens I’ve ever seen. Unfortunately, by the time I picked up my jaw I’d gone through the whole grove and never took a single picture. I took some in another grove further down the mountain, but nothing could compare to the ones I missed.

Lucky for me, Delores and Kari were willing to jump off the trail with me. We left the rest of the group to their high-mileage days and took off on our own. We ate fabulous pizza in Woodland Park, toured the Florissant Fossil Beds, visited Mueller State Park, Garden of the Gods (which would have been more fun if I hadn’t realized halfway there I was still wearing my flipflops), shopped in Manitou Springs and rode the Pike’s Peak Cog Train.

On our last day we hiked Anna Maria Falls, where I proved my ineptitude for selfies. Note the sequence of 3 photos up above. First try, I didn’t have the timer set. Second try, I went ass over teacup behind the log trying to get there in time as my oh-so-concerned friends laugh their butts off. You can just see the top of my head behind the log. Third try, success!

It was three, three, three trips in one! We had a hiking trip, a backpacking trip, and a tourist trip all in the space of two weeks. And my hiker posse is born! What fun!