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Monday, July 4, 2022

Montgomery Pass

We tried to go camping this weekend but were thwarted twice. Both Katie and I had a 3-day weekend with the 4th of July on a Monday this year so it was a great opportunity to get out and camp. Trying to take advantage of the 3-day weekend, we booked a small yurt outside of Georgetown to do some glamping. We haven't done too much hiking in the I-70 corridor, so we thought this would be a good home base to get out and explore the area. This would have been our first time going glamping, but due to too many guests prior to our arrival lighting illegal campfires, the fire marshal shut down their Airbnb operation a week before our stay.

We got a refund for the Airbnb and started planning where we would go camp instead. We really wanted to camp in that same area, but since we live in Fort Collins, it would take us longer to get to that area than people coming from Denver, and we didn't want to risk getting to that area and having no place to camp, particularly since it was a holiday weekend. So we planned on going the opposite direction and looked in Routt National Park on the Wyoming side. This was still a 3-hour drive but isn't very close to any major cities. We made our plans and started getting excited when Thor (one of our 3 cats) started getting sick...

Thor finally started feeling better on Saturday morning, but because of everything going on with him, we decided to just stay in town so we could keep an eye out to make sure his recovery continued. He finally started acting like a normal cat again by Monday, but his condition wasn't worth risking being out of cell reception camping all weekend and the pet sitter needing to contact us.

With our camping plans canceled, again, we knew we still needed to get out of the house to hike at least once. Monday was looking to be the best day for hiking from a weather perspective, so we waited all weekend before getting out into nature to enjoy the last bit of our 3 day weekend. We picked Montgomery Pass because we wanted to get away from other people to try and stay in the camping spirit. We drove 2 hours up to Cameron's Pass and started our hike from the Zimmerman Lake Parking lot. The hike started out a little strange. Everything was wet and damp. Colorado hiking, no matter where you are, is usually pretty dry, but this area of the mountains get a lot of afternoon thunderstorms and a lot of snowmelt. Now that it's July, things in the foothills are starting to die and turn brown, but on the Montgomery Pass trail, everything was so green. So green that it felt like we were hiking on the East Coast again with all the moisture.

After hiking through the dense wet forest, there was a little opening that gave us a preview of the views that we were going to see at the summit. That preview was a stunning opening in the trees, although the view was incredibly misleading. Once we hiked another quarter-mile and got above the tree line we were treated to gorgeous rolling mountain peaks covered in grass and millions of wildflowers. There were so many flowers that we struggled to take steps without trampling on them. The trail split with trails going in both directions to the tops of nearby peaks, down their saddles, to other peaks, down the saddles, and so on for as far as we could see. We choose to go to the South because the first mountain from the split in that direction was taller and less distance. As we climbed up the views kept getting better and better until we found a nice spot to sit and eat our lunch. Considering the trail was exposed, the wind wasn't too terrible, and we ate our lunch just off the top of the last peak that we visited.

We hiked back down and started unpacking when someone else in the parking lot started screaming about a moose. This got our attention and sure enough, despite this guy yelling at the top of his lungs about them, there was a small herd of moose just inside the trees from the parking lot. There were five in total, just eating the greenery and ignoring all the humans. We spent a little bit of time watching them but kept our distance.

We will definitely be coming back to this area to do more hiking, and might even try this same hike but try and make it to more of the mountain peaks. Even without visiting more peaks, this was a challenging hike being around 1,400 feet of elevation gain in just 5 miles. So we might need to get into better shape if we want to visit some of the other peaks next time. Even though it was challenging, it only took us 3 hours to complete.

Joe Wright ReservoirNokhu CragsThree MountainsClark PeakSteepOld-Man-of-the-MountainEmbossedFadedDark CloudsUp and OverTease of a ViewJacobGlobeflowerCup FungusBurnedBurnedOrange Jelly FungusFlowingSelfit at the TopMooseStaring Me Down

Sunday, July 17, 2022

Pushed to Our Limits

We set out to do a pretty moderate hike for our level: a 5 miles, 1,200-foot elevation gain hike to Diamond Lake. We made it to our destination but decided to keep hiking to the upper Diamond Lake based on a recommendation from some other hikers at the (lower) Diamond Lake. They told us that it was worth at least hiking up to see the wildflowers halfway to the next lake, so we continued on the hike. What was planned to be an extra mile to see the flowers turned into us hiking all the way to the Upper Diamond Lake which nearly doubled the mileage and elevation gain from the (lower) Diamond Lake.

Our day started out like any other hiking day - waking up somewhat early and heading to the trailhead. We left by 8:30 and started on the 2-hour trip to the 4th of July Trailhead just outside of Eldora. We had no idea to expect the road to be closed at Nederland Highschool, and we were told the parking lot was full. However, we were told we could wait in line for parking spots that become available as hikers left. Thinking that there would be a wave of early-morning hikers finishing up around now, we decided to get in line. It was around 10 am, and we waited about a half-hour for the 5 cars in front of us to be allowed up to the trailhead before we were allowed to drive up as well. We got to the trailhead much later than we expected - around 11:30 - but I can't complain since we got a parking spot. Overall, that was one of the best parking experiences I've ever had when parking at an incredibly busy trailhead.

It's not often that our hikes take up the entire day. We typically have some time in the evening to do some chores or relax a little bit. And because of this, we had many other plans for our afternoon and evening other than just this hike, but since this hike was a 2 hours drive each way (plus waiting for a parking spot) and hiking for nearly 6 hours, this took up the entire day with us not getting home until 7:30.

So far, I've only complained about this hike. Obviously, if this hike wasn't that great we wouldn't have continued on from the first lake. The weather was a little warm in the 70s but overall that's pretty acceptable for a hike in mid-July. Besides seeing 4 alpine lakes on this hike, we also saw quite a variety of wildflowers flourishing everywhere. It's not really wildflower season anymore so it was nice to see this many wildflowers on a hike. In addition, we saw many cascades and waterfalls much larger than anything we've ever seen in Colorado before. There aren't many waterfalls in Colorado, so to have gotten to see so many - including hiking across one - made this hike pretty special. Additionally, the hike wasn't all that bust considering that we had to wait for parking. We same a few other groups of people from the trailhead to the first lake, but then we saw almost no one beyond that. This is important to how much we like a hike because we hike to get away from people. So this hike checked all of our boxes and then some. There are other hikes in this area that we definitely want to come back and do, but there's a pretty large barrier with the parking situation that we might wait a little bit before attempting another in this area.

Because of how difficult this hike felt, I decided to pull some statistics about our hiking, as well as, my all-time statistics. Comparing this hike to other hikes, I found the following:

  • Katie and I have only done 2 other hikes with more elevation gain than this one (Gray Rock: 2,421ft and Crosier Mountain: 2,162ft).
  • This is the second longest mileage that Katie and I have ever done during a single hike, only second by a mere 100 feet (0.02mi) to Button Rock Mountain.
  • This is the longest time we've spent hiking before.

I'm not quite sure that this being our longest hike is a good thing. That mostly shows that we were slower today than some of the other similar distance and elevation gain hikes. But even If I look at my all-time records, this hike still fairs pretty well as one of the hardest hikes I've ever done:

  • 12th for elevation gain.
  • 4th for distance.
  • 2nd for time.

Although apparently, I've done quite a few more hikes with lots more elevation gain in my life than this one. But it's still impressive based on distance and time.

Waterfall From Diamond LakeDestinationCascadesFlowing WaterMeadow of WildflowersElephant HeadDiamond LakeLunch ViewWater RunoffWest End Of the LakeWildflowers Part 2Looking BackSecond LakeNearly ThereSnowyUpper Diamond LakeMount JasperGreen MountainsideSnow TunnelFirst Cascades

July 2022

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