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Sunday, November 5, 2023

Almost to Flattop Mountain

We didn't get to hike last weekend because of our first snowstorm in the mountains of the year. So this weekend we knew we wanted to get out and hike something. Since Rocky Mountain National Park isn't requiring timed entry permits anymore, that's where we headed. They haven't required timed entry permits for several weeks now, but we also wanted to wait until November to make the most out of buying a new annual pass into the park since ours expired at the end of September. The pass we bought is good through the end of November of 2024, so by buying at the beginning of the month we essentially get 13 months of use out of it.

When deciding what time to get to the trailhead we were trying to balance out making sure Katie got enough sleep and the parking lot not being packed. So I set my alarm for 6:45 but we did not realize that with daylight savings we would end up sleeping in an hour later than we needed to in order to get a good night's rest before our hike. But that was fine since the parking lot was barely half-full by the time we arrived around 9:30. I was surprised the parking lot wasn't full, but the weather was forecasted to be very windy, so maybe that deterred a few people from coming into the park today.

Despite the forecast for wind, we chose a hike that would put us above the treeline by summiting Flattop Mountain. I'm not sure why we thought it would be a good idea to be above the treeline on a windy day, but we have been wanting to do this hike now for quite a while, and we're now only strong enough to be able to do this hike and this seemed like a good opportunity. Once we got above the treeline after about 2 miles of hiking, it was pure wind on our faces as we struggled to get to a small overlook of Tyndall Glacier and Hallet Peak. The wind was so forceful as we hiked into it that it took extra energy to power up the mountain. After eating lunch in a small naturally created rock shelter, we decided we didn't care to summit Flattop Mountain. Given its name, we knew we wouldn't get better views and the true summit is up for debate since the whole area was flat (ish). We were about 1/4-mile from the true summit, but that's good enough for us.

The wind posed a dangerous threat to us, but we were mostly prepared. We didn't have any hand warmers because it's been too early in the season to consider those. But otherwise, we were adequately prepared with several layers, hats, and gloves. Before starting the hike we were thinking of possibly continuing on to Hallet Peak, which would be a really cool peak to summit. It is the tallest mountain in the local area and would provide excellent views of more lakes. Even without summiting to the top of Hallet Peak (or even Flattop Mountain truly), we saw 8 different lakes on the hike: Bear Lake, Bierstadt Lake, Spraug Lake, Mills Lake, Jewel Lake, Dream Lake, Emerald Lake, and Estes Lake. Another lake in the distance to the East might have been either Lake Loveland or Boyd Lake. But either way, it was an astonishingly great hike for seeing all the lakes in the area. Getting to Hallet Peak would have gotten us at least 1 more view of Lake Haiyaha, and possibly a view of Nymph Lake. We'll save summiting Hallet Peak for a different day with nicer weather.

Bear LakeMy Snowwoman WifeBierstadt LakeWild PtarmiganShort TreesThree LakesThe MummyWavy SnowMount IdaLongs PeakEmerald LakeMills Lake and Jewel Lake

Saturday, November 18, 2023

Poudre FLL 2023

Every year I volunteer at the Poudre First Lego League (FLL) regional qualifier as a way to give back to the community that helped set me on the path that made me who I am today. After all, I participated in this event for the first time back in 2001. The tournament wasn't anything different than what I've helped out in the past. There were 64 teams there with 6 playing fields for 6 teams to be competing all at once.

Each year, the game has some kind of theme. This one was named "Master Piece". I can usually deduce what the theme is based on the interviews I get to sit in on with the students, but this year I didn't have a clear idea of what it was. Something about art is all I could discern, but usually the theme is a little less vague than that.

One great thing about this year was that I had a new camera that does a substantially better time with low light than my previous cameras. This is due to the fact that it's a full-frame camera plus technology getting better and better. With my old camera being 8 years old, my new one really packed a punch for photography this year. But since I'm new to this camera, I don't have a lot of lenses for it which made it a little difficult to photograph this event. But my trusted 50mm lens turned out to be great for most of the photos.

Lego DragonGame BoardBlue Man In the FlowerEveryoneOpen CeremonyThe Trophies

Sunday, November 26, 2023

Trap Park

It's been a few weeks since we have gotten to go out and enjoy nature. It's that awkward time of year when it's cold and snowy, but not so snowy that you know for certain if you need snowshoes yet. The day started by driving up the Poudre Canyon and turning before Cameron's Pass onto Long Draw Road. Long Draw Road is seasonally closed during the winter months, so we weren't even sure if it was open. We found out from a sign posted on the gate that it would be closed on December 1st, which meant this was our last opportunity to do this hike for the year. Long Draw Road was a snow-covered dirt road that was a little sketchy, but we only needed to drive 3 miles on it to get to the trailhead.

We started hiking around 11 am with the temperature just below freezing, but with sunny blue skies and practically no wind, the low temperatures weren't a problem at all. It was great. However, by the end of the hike, the temperature was cut in half with the wind blowing and the sun below the nearby peaks. The last couple miles of the hike were quite chilly. But we had our layers so we were uncomfortable but OK with that issue. The main problem we encountered was due to us not bringing our snowshoes since the snow on the ground at the parking lot was only a few inches. For the first mile of the hike, we were correct in our assumption that we didn't need snowshoes, but once we made it to the Northernmost tip of Trap Park there were deeper snowdrifts where snowshoes would have been beneficial. But we were too far from the car at that point so we continued hiking through the fluffy snow that was incredibly hard to hike through. Even though the hike is barely considered moderate for us based on the statistics, the extra effort that each step took trekking through the snow made this hike killer. The best approximation I can make is that each step on this hike took the effort of two steps on a summer hike just based on the resistance of the snow and having to lift our feet higher. So this 6.6 miles and sub-1,000ft elevation gain hike had us feeling similar to a hike that is 10+ miles and 2,000ft elevation gain.

The end of the hike was pretty disappointing because there were no good views at the end of Trap Park. Trap Park itself is a 2-mile long meadow between two mountains that are closed off on the South end where the end of the hike was. Usually when mountains create a bowl it makes for great photos, but the lack of a lake to keep trees out of the immediate foreground meant that the end view wasn't good at all. The best views were between miles 1 and 3 while walking along the Western side of Trap Park. But regardless of the end view, the Trap Park area is gorgeous. I bet in the summer time the area is filled with moose (and other wildlife), wildflowers, and gorgeous sunrises and sunsets. Since it was winter, we got none of these things, except for almost getting a sunset. This would be a fantastic place to do a short backpacking trip.

This hike featured amazing views of Thunder Mountain and Flattop Mountain. Not the same Flattop that we hiked earlier in November, but a different one with a similarly flat top, hence the name... We also got an amazing view of Cameron's Peak and Clark Peak with a few of the Rawaha Mountains in the distance. The mountains looked incredibly stunning with fresh snow on them especially when the sun was getting low on the horizon making them glow. Despite this hike having its technical challenges and terrible views at the end of the trail, this was the best view on the hike. We were treated to an even more spectacular view of those same mountains as we were driving back down Long Draw Road after the hike.

Other than the great views during the hike, one fantastic thing about this hike was that we didn't see a single other person on the trail. This has only happened one other time for us, when we did Trianlge Mountain in 2022. This designation is special to us since one of the reasons that we go out into nature is to get away from other people. I'm surprised with how many remote hikes we've done that we haven't had more people-less hikes, but we've come close a few times this year. Hopefully next year we can get at least another secluded hike all to ourselves.

As of this hike, we've hiked 50 trails this year. Two more and we will be at an average of one hike per week. This is pretty impressive since we often can't get out every weekend. Other than living our typical busy lives that tie us up on some weekends, the weather is also often uncooperative for us in the middle of winter. Getting to 52 hikes in one year is an accomplishment that I've wanted to do for a while, but I have never wanted to push myself for it because I don't particularly appreciate making goals that you can easily get behind which can often make one stop caring about completing the goal altogether. But it would be cool to squeeze in two more hikes this year (which I think we should be able to manage).

Setting SunTowards the RawahsThe Small TrailThunder MountainFlattop MountainSimple ArcsFrozen CreekNear the End of the TrailLow SunBokeh In the Trees

November 2023

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