Thursday, August 13, 2015

Camping RMNP: Days Two And Three

Day Two or "I thought less elevation would be easier than this."

RMNP Camp 2015-08-04_062
North Inlet Falls early in the morning.
I woke up early on day two and broke camp.  I put on the pack and walked down to the falls and actually took pictures of it before I headed out on the North Inlet trail heading west.

Most of the morning was generally in the down direction which used less energy but, as I said in my last post, the rocks on the trail made it slow going.  I was pleasantly surprised at my energy level as I left camp but that ended up lasting about an hour.  That's when the crash came and energy drained out of me.

I didn't take many pictures this day or the next but I did take a picture of the last large animal I saw during the camp: a moose.  It was not that large.  Either a juvenile or a female.  Not sure of my mooses.

I stumbled down the trail for about 7.3 miles (11.7 km), and 1,000 ft (304 m), before I reached the North Inlet trailhead.  Here I dumped the moldy jerky in the bear-proof trash cans and used the trailhead bathroom facilities.

This is a shared trailhead.  Both the North Inlet trail and the Lower Tonohutu Creek trail start at the same parking lot.  This parking lot would be my last sight of civilization intil I hiked out on day five.  I turned north and headed up the Lower Tonohutu Creek trail which, incidentally, was primarily uphill.  It was only 3.6 miles (5.8 km) and rose only 900 ft (274 m) but it felt like it went on forever.  When I finally saw the sign for the campsite, after just over eight hours of hiking, I was really relieved.  I was also confused.

When I was planning this hike I had located the Paint Brush campsite on several maps ... and none of the locations matched.  To make it worse, the sign said "Paint Brush #1 Camp"  This confused me since I thought there was only one Paint Brush Campsite (there is only one).  I decided I didn't care and turned up the trail.  This is where is got even more confusing.  I came up to what looked like a campsite next to the creek.  The map on the campsite information sheet showed the campsite was on the other side of the creek.  There was a small foot bridge so I crossed it and followed the poorly marked trail for a while but, when it turned uphill, I said hell no and turned around.  I ended up camping at the first location I saw before crossing the creek.  I suspect that this was not the correct campsite location but ... at the time I didn't care.
RMNP Camp 2015-08-04_079
View from my campsite (Paint Brush) out across Big Meadow.
As you can surmise, I was nearly as exhausted as the day before and my attitude was a reflection of that exhaustion.  My mood did improve a bit after I put up my tent, collected and filtered water from the creek, and admired the wonderful scenery.  This campsite was at the southern end of what is known as Big Meadow.  It was gorgeous in the late afternoon sun.

I repeated the same activities as the day before.  Took a nap, made dinner, crawled into my tent, read my book briefly, and then went to sleep really early. I slept well until about midnight when I woke up cold and had to break into my base layers to keep warm.  During the night I would look out from under my tents rain fly and I swore I saw snow and frost on the ground.  When I woke the next morning there was no evidence of snow, frost, or even dew.  I think it was just the moonlight playing tricks on my tired mind.

Total Distance on Day Two: 11.9 Miles (19.1 km)
Total Ascent: 1,951 ft (595 m)
Total Descent: 2,122 ft (647 m)
RMNP Camp Day Two Map
The map of day two.  Doesn't look as bad as it was.

Day Three or "That was a short day?"

I woke up after a weird night's sleep.  Besides thinking there was snow on the ground, I also had multiple dreams where I thought I was suffocating and being smothered.  I woke up several times thrashing around trying to get my breath.

After two very long days, I was ready for a shorter day and day three would be that day.  I woke up a bit later than the day before sleeping in an extra hour.  I broke camp and headed north on the Lower Tonohutu Creek trail.

The trail skirts the west side of the Big Meadow, a narrow strip of wild grasses that runs north and south along the creek.  Along here I passed the remains of an old log cabin.  I wondered just how old it was.  Did it date back to the formation of the park back in September 1915?
Big Meadow Panorama
Big Meadow in the morning.
Like yesterday I felt energetic for about an hour before every last drop of umph went out of me.  I turned east on the Tonahutu Creek trail and the trail started to climb.  For a short day it was slow but, after four and a half hours, I arrived at my next camp, Renegade, just after noon.

The camp was not far from the creek.  I put up my tent, collected and filtered water, and again, did the same thing as I'd done the day before but with a few minor changes.  Since I was at camp much earlier I ended up reading my book more and I took a longer afternoon nap than on days one and two.  I knew I had to rest up since day four would be another hard day.  I considered doing a side hike to a nearby lake but I decided against it, instead I used my collapsable bucket to bring water to the camp where I gave myself a sponge bath that was probably not very effective.

I dressed warmer when I went to bed.  I was a thousand feet higher than the night before so I was ready for the cold night.  While I wasn't happy that I had to carry the extra weight of the cold weather clothing, I was happy to have them when I was snug and warm in my tent.

All in all, I felt better on day three.  The shorter, yet still difficult, hike gave my body time to recover at the end of the day and I felt I had more energy around camp in the late afternoon and evening.  I actually enjoyed this relaxing afternoon.  All the rest eventually would make day four a better day.

Pictures can be found in my Rocky Mountain National Park 2015 Flickr album.

Total Distance on Day Three: 6.1 Miles (9.8 km)
Total Ascent: 1,546 ft (471 m)
Total Descent: 388 ft (118 m)
RMNP Camp Day Three Map
Map of day three.  For reasons unknown I could not extract proper elevation data from my GPS.

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