North Colony Lakes Adventure

This weekend’s backpacking trip was to North Colony Lakes. This was the trip we tried to do a month ago, but couldn’t get there due to a road closure. Anyway, it was quite the adventure. All of the zig-zagging in and out of the drainages on the Rainbow trail resulted in 3 miles instead of the two which I estimated to get to the North Colony trailhead. There was also a lot more up and down compared to the previous trips to Macey Lakes. North Colony Lakes is in the drainage to the immediate south of Macey Lakes. We did the 3 miles in 1.5 hours, which is pretty typical now for that kind of trail.

We started on the North Colony trail and hiked for 20 minutes or so before we hit our first quad-burning switchback. Unlike some previous trails this one was steep, then flat, then steep, then flat, etc. We hiked for a couple of more miles and then found that the trail was getting difficult to follow. Lot’s of downed timber and the trail was over-grown with flowers, weeds, willows, and trees. Then we approached some cliffs/shelves. Looking up, we were thinking . . . okay, how do we get up these? We milled around in the thick willows and found ways to scramble up one and then the next. By now, I’m exhausted, we’re at 11,000 feet, and my 54 pound pack is getting really heavy. Luke gets a second wind and is dragging everyone along, determined to camp by the lake this time. Finally, after climbing two or three more shelves we make it to 11,700 feet and we camp several hundred yards from the lake. I’m way past exhaustion and have a splitting headache. No doubt suffering from cerebral edemia, I take some asprin and allergy medicine. We get the tents set up and have dinner started by 7:30PM. The total hiking time was around 6 hours. This is by far the longest most intense trip we’ve done backpacking. And, we’ve never camped above 10,600 feet, either. The scenery was phenominal! Colony Baldy is to our immediate north at 13,000+ feet, the craggy Crestone peak is to our west and Humbolt Peak is to our immediate south, both being over 14,000 feet.

On Saturday, we fished the lower lake and had a great time, though many of the fish were pretty small. One was a keeper at 12 inches or so, but I released him anyway. Joshua had a monster on the line and I saw the fish as he tried to pull it out of the water and then the line broke and he lost it. What a bummer. Later that day we hiked to the upper lake where the fishing was also very good. But something freaked me out at this upper lake. Joshua lost some fishing tackle about 30 feet from the shore. So, I put on my water shoes and was making my way around the edge of the lake so I wouldn’t get right into the deep part right away. I stepped over a little finger of dry land and back into the water. Took another step and went from ankle deep water to right up to my hip and still sinking! The ground just disappeared from under me and I yelled and grabbed for the branches on the shore. It was like quick-sand or something. My feet were kicking and I pulled myself out. Phew!!!! I got back up to the shore and only walked on the rocks in the lake, retreived the tackle and then we headed back to camp with our four fish.

We cooked the four cutthroat trout wrapped in foil in our campfire. Mighty tasty. The wind kicked up around midnight and the gusts were so strong I thought that they might break the tent poles. Sunday morning, Joshua and his friend John hiked up Colony Baldy and signed the mountaineering log, while Luke, Paul and I fished again. But this time, the fish weren’t biting. The boys came back down excited about their accomplishment and the awesome views and we packed up camp and headed down.

The trip down was nearly as difficult as the hike up. With no trail to follow we bush-wacked our way to cliffs only to backtrack to a safe place to get down. At one point we were hiking through tall weeds/flowers and Paul fell and smacked his elbow on a boulder the size of a truck. He couldn’t get up, so Joshua helped him (remember we’ve all got our backpacks on). Anyway, he’s holding his arm and I’m getting concerned that he broke it. But, it turns out that it was just the elbow and you know how much that can hurt. We put a bandage on it later. About ten minutes after that we were in 8 foot willows and moving through a hidden stream and I slipped on a rock and fell into the water. I had my walking stick in my right hand and smashed my hand into a rock as I tried to catch myself. I fully expected to see my hand gushing blood as I struggled to get to my feet. It wasn’t, but my middle and pinky fingers were alread black/purple under the nails.

The rest of the trip was pretty uneventful, though it was a long and dry trip back to the truck. As is now expected, we stopped for dinner at Sonic in Canon City on the way back home. Today, I grunt a little every time I stand up after sitting for too long. What a weekend!

Whitewater Rafting

On July 3rd we went whitewater rafting in the Arkansas River. Again we started out in Canon City, which is about an hour southwest of Colorado Springs. We rode about 20 miles or so in the bus and put in around 2PM or so. Fortunately, it was overcast and we even got a little rain which was pretty neat. It was warm enough to not need wetsuits. The photo shows all five of us in the the yellow helmets, with the guide, Ozzie, in the back. (I put a copy of it in the photo album area, Outdoor Life, which should allow you to see a larger version of it.) From left to right are me, Lisa, Paul, Joshua and Luke. Believe it or not, none of us knew they were taking the picture, except the guide, so you can see we had a blast. At a couple of calm stretches in the river, the guide let us jump out into the river and swim for a bit. Even though the water was only 60 degrees or so, it seemed mildly warm due to the clouds. Near the end of the trip, the guide asked if anyone was feeling a little gutsy, and Luke volunteered. He was told to sit on the front tip of the boat facing forward holding on like he was riding a bull. We hit a “hole” and the water came crashing over the front thowing him way back into the middle. We all had a good laugh and of course, he loved it too.

It was a good time to go because the water was running around 8oo CFS. When it is high during the peak melt-off it can be around 6,000 CFS and can be difficult for the younger kids. We’ll have to consider rafting the Royal Gorge next time. What fun!

Royal Gorge Bridge

On July 2nd we decided we’d go down to the Royal Gorge Bridge attraction which is just west of Canon City. Haven’t been there since 1990 or so. Anyway, it’s the world’s highest suspension bridge, meaning it is something like 1,100 feet above the Arkansas River. It started out okay . . . we walked across it looking over the side in the gusty wind. The bridge goes up and down giving the same feeling as being on a boat when the cars squeeze by. The boys did a tomahawk throw and then we headed over to the Aerial Tram. We waiting in line for a while, but then a storm moved in and they shut it down due to lightning. So we walked back across and got in line for the incline which takes you down the 1,00 feet to the bottom along the river. After 30 minutes, lightning hit a transformer only 100 feet from us and the whole place went dark. The poor folks already at the botom were stuck there for a while. Apparently, they had a back-up generatorand got the people back to the top safely, but they weren’t allowing anyone back down so I found the manager and insisted on a partial refund, which he reluctantly did. Better luck next time, I guess.