This has been a great hiking week for us. First we hiked the Black Powder Trail in Poudre Canyon, just outside beautiful Fort Collins, Colorado.
Then yesterday Suzanne had lots of work to catch up on, so it was my chance to tackle Flattop Mountain, a “hard” 9 mile round-trip with 3,000 feet of elevation gain, from 9,400 to 12,400 feet. I did the math, and it was a 12% grade; going up was tough, with my pulse rate about the same as when I run hard. At the top it was cold, in the high 40s with a 25 kt wind. I sent this photo from my iPhone, with the caption “Sent from Hooters”. Here’s the reply I got back from Suzanne: If there is a girl in skimpy, tight orange shorts who took that photo, I am never letting you go off by yourself again!
No, it wasn’t a Hooter’s girl, it was another hiker, David from New Orleans. David had hiked from the back side of the mountain (over my shoulder in the photo) and slept out in a valley without a sleeping bag or tent. (He was traveling ultra-light, and said the temps were quite comfortable).
The views from the top of Flattop Mountain were spectacular. There are only a handful of nearby peaks that are higher, and I was blessed with good weather: only two light showers and one minor thunderstorm that hit when I was back in the trees. Going downhill was much easier for some reason… like, “gravity”. It had taken me 2 and a half hours to climb, and only 2 hours to descend, but the stress on ankles and knees was worse on the return.
This trail marker warns of unpredictable weather that can include whiteouts even in summer, and five foot high cairns (piles of rocks) are sited every 50 yards or so to keep you from getting lost and going over a ledge or cliff.
There weren’t any big animals up top, but lots of yellow-bellied marmots (Marmota flaviventris) who often pose briefly for photos. Marmots live to about 15 years of age. When young males finish their winter hibernation, they leave their burrows and look for mates. A robust, healthy male may have as many as four females living in his burrow by the time winter returns. (One wonders if he gets any rest during this period… hey, not for that reason… I was thinking about all the talking that his girlfriends must be doing before they hibernate and he gets some sleep.)
On Thursday, Suzanne was well-rested, while I was pretty bushed from my previous day’s hike. She picked out a “moderate” 6 mile hike with a 1,000 foot elevation gain. She looks pretty chipper in this photo, doesn’t she?
This fly fisherman was casting for trout, and caught and released one while I was watching. (You can’t keep them here in the park.) You will note that he has waders on; the water temp is probably in the 50s.
The lake which was our destination was beautiful, surrounded by mountains and with very few hikers around. Thankfully, everyone respected the serenity and kept their voices to whispers… allowing Her Highness to catch a quick nap. Actually, she’s not sleeping, but gasping for breath. It seems her sensitivity extends to altitude, and the 10,000-foot-plus elevation left My Lovely Bride a bit winded.
The rest may have helped, but she was like a new person after a short meditation alongside this waterfall. Funny how that works.
After we returned home to The Coach, several thunderstorms came through, leaving this lovely double rainbow as a treat. (At first I thought that the Cabernet had gone to my head, but Suzanne assured me that there were, indeed, two rainbows here.)