Homer's Travels: Camping RMNP: Days Four And Five

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Camping RMNP: Days Four And Five

Day Four or "Goodbye to an old friend"

Day four would be my second hardest day based on elevation and distance but, looking back, it didn't feel as hard as day one and two so I think I'd finally gotten acclimated to the altitude.  Having a half day of rest and camping overnight at over ten thousand feet also helped a bit.

I got up a little later today than the day before.  This would be a trend during my five days of camping - each day I would sleep in a little later.  I broke camp and headed up the Tonohutu Creek trail toward Flattop Mountain.  Since I started at ten thousand feet, the climb up to the top was a thousand feet less than on day one but, despite being acclimated, I stopped to rest at least fourteen times on the way to the top.  The views were beautiful as the sun rose over the mountains.

Ponds and Lakes viewed on the way to Flattop Mountain.
At the top the wind was whipping.  I'd removed my hat and attached it to my pack before I reached the peak.  I wasn't bothered too much by the wind as it was mostly a tailwind and it helped blow me up the trail.  I stopped and sat down in the most sheltered place I could find.  I'd tried to call the Wife the past few days at camp but there was never any service.  I tried again from the top of Flattop Mountain and finally got through and let her know I was still alive.

Beautiful hiking weather near the top of Flattop Mountain.
The way down was easier but not easy.  I only rested five times on the way down.  At the bottom I turned to the northeast and headed towards my camp.  This part of the trail went back up climbing about six hundred feet.

The wind had died down a bit so I put my hat back on.  Somewhere along this two miles section my hat came off.  It either blew off or fell off when I sat down to rest.  Either way, I didn't notice it since I was wearing my Buff under it and the Buff gave the sensation of wearing a hat.  I didn't notice it was gone until I reached camp.  I did go back along the trail for a bit when I went to fill my water bottles in a nearby pond but I didn't see it.  I was a bummed.

Fatigue plays weird tricks on you when you are on the trail.  I lost count of the times when I saw a rock, log, stump, or tree and thought I saw a building, tent, or, once, a trailside shrine with a buddha statue that turned into rocks, logs, stumps, or trees when you got closer. On day four this shifted to people.  A guy asked if I was lost.  I was just checking my map so I said no and ask if he was lost.  He said he couldn't be lost because he had no destination.  Weird.  He was a bit rough around the edges and, to top it off,  he had a gob of snot hanging from his left nostril.  The more I saw him in front of me the more paranoid that I would find him at my campsite.  No reason to believe this.  My site was a solo camp and he did not have camping gear.  I just figured he was one of those "I don't need no stinking permit" types who would just camp where he wanted to and mooch off other people.  I didn't want him to mooch off me.  I'm pretty sure I was wrong about the guy.  But all sorts of weird thoughts go through my head when I'm exhausted.

The campsite was a nice one.  It was the only solo campsite with a privy.  While I was happy to have my own toilet there seemed to be something missing.  Didn't stop me from using it though.

My evening routine was the same as the last three nights.  I was tired after the eight and a half hours of hiking and once again, after eating, I crawled into my tent, read, and passed out.

Total Distance on Day Four: 9.4 Miles (15.1 km)
Total Ascent: 2,744 ft (836 m)
Total Descent: 2,634 ft (803 m)
Map of Day Four.

Day Five or "Enough, I'm taking the short way home"

I'd thought about day five for awhile as I struggled and stumbled along the trails the past few days.  Day five was going to be an 8.8 mile (14.2 km) circuitous route that passed by Odessa, Fern, Cub, and Bierstadt lakes before arriving at the park & ride where I'd left the car.  It would be mostly downhill.  Knowing now how hard down could be at RMNP, I pulled out the map and found a shorter route to the car.  I would only see one lake, Bierstadt lake, before I got to the car.

Morning reflections on a pond.
I woke up a bit later than normal, thus continuing the trend, and wondered "What is that smell?"  I soon realized it was me.  It took me four full days before I noticed my body odor.  It was time to head home.  I broke camp and headed back down the trail.  I looked for my hat the whole way but it was not to be found.  I followed the signs to Bierstadt Lake and followed the mostly downhill trail. I stopped briefly at the lake and admired it.  I started to wonder if skipping the other three lakes was a smart idea.  After the lake, the trail took a dive and dropped rather rapidly, and steeply, until I arrived at the park & ride.

On the shores of Bierstadt Lake.
I unloaded my stuff into my car and drove to the Bear Lake trailhead.  I asked the rangers there if anyone had turned in a hat.  Sadly it was no but they told me all backcountry lost and found was sent to the backcountry office.  I stopped there on the way out of the park.  No joy their either.

Since I shortened my hike today I was really early.  Too early to check into my hotel.  I stopped at a subway and had lunch (I ate in the car in case my stench turner off other customers).  I got the first of two ice creams of the day and went to the hotel to see if I could check in early.  My room wasn't ready but they were nice enough to expedite the cleaning and I got in fairly early.

A shower never felt so good even the one in my cheap, in need of renovation, hotel.  I cleaned off the grime and laid around most of the afternoon but at 3;00PM I couldn't stand it any longer and drove downtown and found a restaurant.  I had a really early open-face roast beef dinner (I nearly licked my plate clean), had some real ice cream for dessert (dulce de leche and chocolate like on Sunday), and shopped around for a couple magnets that I still needed.

I returned to my hotel and spent the night proving to myself that they hotel cable really didn't have CNN.  It took me four or five hours to convince myself of this.  I finally gave up and went to sleep in my comfy enough bed.

My camping trip was over, it was a mixture of good and bad.  It's alright though as I enjoyed the good and learned lessons from the bad.  I will talk about that in a later post.  I would have to say, despite my exhaustion, and the many evil thoughts I had while staggering down the trail after a long day, my first multi-day camping trip was a success.

All my pictures can be seen in my 2015-08 Rocky Mountain National Park Camp Google Photos album.

Total Distance on Day Five: 5.4 Miles (8.7 km)
Total Ascent: 509 ft (155 m)
Total Descent: 2,524 ft (769 m)
Map of Day Five.  My shortened route out.

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