Rocky Mountain N.P. Backpacking Trek 1986


July 12th
We met at the church at 8:00 a.m. After shuffling things around in the U-Haul and saying our good-byes we departed at 8:35 a.m. We made our first gas stop around Indianapolis. We continued west and stopped at Ogden, Illinois for lunchmeat sandwiches. John drove on while the rest of us caught a few winks intermittently. We stopped again for gas and then journeyed until we were about 60 miles east of Des Moines. We paused at a rest area here to write thank you notes and feast on hot dogs. From here we drove straight to Anita, Iowa. We gassed up here and stayed the night at Anita Lake State Park. We arrived at the park at 10:15 p.m. (Ohio time) after traveling 672 miles

July 13th
We enjoyed the facilities and setting of Anita State Park. We got up, broke camp, ate cereal and left at 9:30 a.m. to begin a long day of driving. We traveled west and made a short side trip across the Iowa/Nebraska border and back en route again. Soon we crossed into South Dakota. After about 30 miles, we stopped at a nice rest area for some spectacular peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. We made two side trips, one to Nebraska and the other to Minnesota just to say we'd been there. We stopped for gas twice and then went on to Badlands National Park. Due to time, we decided to stay the night here instead of going on to Rushmore. We got to Cedar Pass Campground about 9:00 p.m. (Ohio time). We set up camp and ate some sloppy joes before heading to Wall Drug. We spent a couple of hours shopping there before coming back to camp.

July 14th
We got up shortly after 7:00 a.m. (Mtn. time). We tore down camp, fixed French toast and did the dishes. We left about 9:30 a.m. to begin the Badlands Loop. We finished the loop and then headed west on highway 90. We got to Horse Thief Resort Campground (near Mt. Rushmore) at about 1:15 p.m. We set up camp and ate lunchmeat sandwiches before journeying to see the monument. State flags lined the walk that took us to the view of the monument. And yes, the monument was spectacular. We spent about two hours touring the park and visiting the gift shop. We then went into Keystone for a few groceries and then returned to camp for a hearty meal of chili. We continued on for a short drive through part of Custer State Park. We enjoyed seeing several deer but were disappointed not to eye any bison. We turned back and drove through rain to try to make it for the 9:00 p.m. program at Mt. Rushmore. We didn't make the program, but rushed through the rain in time to see the lighting of the monument. We took a few pictures and then returned to camp for the night.

July 15th
We got up in good time, ate, tore down, camp, and left the Rushmore area at about 10:00 a.m. Heading southwest for the Rockies we stopped for gas and then at a rest area for lunch. We continued southwest and our views became more spectacular as we neared the Rockies. We stopped briefly in Estes Park for a picture, a short visit to the information center and a bite to eat. We went on into the park to Glacier Basin Campground. We set up camp in group site #23 The guys took a walking tour of the campground before turning in for the night.

July 16th
We woke up early after a good night's sleep. The wind shook our tents enough to make slumber impossible. We fixed scrambled eggs and sausage and cleaned up before leaving camp at about 9:45 a.m. On our way to Estes Parks we stopped at the visitor's center and then at the backcountry office to pick up our backpacking permit. We turned the guys loose at 11:00 a.m. and they shopped, ate, and girl-watched until 6:00 p.m. John and Terry killed some time in town as well and then went to the city park and wrote postcards until almost 6:00 p.m. We came back into the park and fixed spaghetti for supper. After a big meal the guys gained enough strength and guts to talk to some Camp Fire Girls from Missouri. John and Terry turned in early and left the guys up to carouse the campground.

July 17th
We woke up shortly after 7:00 a.m. and had a smorgasbord breakfast of hot dogs, spaghetti, peanut butter, jelly, apples, and grapefruit in an effort to clear out the cooler before we hit the trail tomorrow. We left camp a little before 9:00 a.m. to begin our breathtaking drive along Trail Ridge Road. The drive was beautiful and the weather cooperated with just a few sprinkles here and there. We saw ptarmigans, pikes, marmots, and deer along the way. The worst part of the day was when Steve realized he was missing his wallet and we conducted an unsuccessful search. We ate sandwiches and chips part way through the trip. We returned to the campground at about 5:30 p.m. Jeff went straight to the tent and found Steve's wallet. However, he chose not to tell Steve until later on in the evening. We ate a great meal of hamburgers and fries and the headed into Estes Park. We did laundry and then found some nice public showers before returning to camp at about 11:00 p.m. We spent about an hour packing our packs for our first day's hike.

July 18th
We got up at 7:00 a.m., ate breakfast and packed up. We left the campground a little before 9:00 a.m. and headed for the Fern Lake Trail head. Terry took the van and U-Haul back to the Glacier Basin shuttle parking lot and then returned to the trailhead via taxi. We started our hiking trek at about 10:10 a.m. It was a beautiful hike, ascending 1,375 feet to an elevation of 9,530. The hiking was moderate and everyone finished the 3.8 miles in three hours which included a lunch stop and several stops to take pictures and breathe! Upon, entering our campsite we detected a few drops of rain. We quickly set up our tents and got inside just before the clouds cut loose. After the shower passed over, we ventured out to explore Fern Lake and its surrounding beauty. We took several pictures and a few of us stuck our feet in the cold lake water. On the way back to camp, Jeff, Kevin, Steve, and Terry decided to take a "nice little trail to Spruce Lake". However, before we reached our destination, nearby thunder boasted of threatening rain. We decided to continue on, hoping we were close to our goal. Within minutes it began to rain, but we still kept trudging on. Hail began to fall and the rain increased in intensity. With great reluctance, we decided to turn tack without even getting to see the lake. We headed for camp, through trails which were now creeks. After about 15 minutes, we reached camp, drenched and freezing! We went straight for our tents and put on some dry clothes. John and Terry slept for awhile and then got out long enough to eat supper and change their tent's location to a drier spot.  Steve, Jeff, and Kevin never emerged from their tent until the following morning.

July 19th
We woke up at 7:00 a.m., leisurely ate breakfast and broke camp. We spent a considerable amount of time hanging and drying our belongings. John and Terry left camp at 9:15 a.m. with John and Jeff ahead and Kevin and Steve behind. The first two miles of the trail were steep and very challenging. The high elevation made for more difficult hiking so we stopped for several short breathing breaks. Our destination for the day was the shuttle bus at Bear Lake which would take us back to Glacier Basin for the night. The trail wound around Fern Lake and then climbed up to Odessa Lake. We crossed a few boulder fields and many snowfields. The scenery was fabulous! John and Terry met up with John and Jeff periodically but none of us had yet seen Kevin and Steve. After ascending about 2.4 miles, we gradually  leveled off before starting to descend to Bear Lake. Coming down the mountain was much more pleasant and enabled us to enjoy the beauty. We crossed a few snowfields and then descended back into the pine forests. We finally completed the 4.7 mile day in about four hours including stops. At this point Jeff, John (Walsh), John, and Terry were down awaiting the arrival of Kevin and Steve. About 1/2 hour later the lost sheep returned. They had taken the more scenic route since they had lost the trail near Odessa Lake or "Odyssey Lake" as Steve calls it. We all caught the next shuttle back to the Glacier Basin shuttle parking lot and proceeded to camp. We set up camp and enjoyed a leisure afternoon of resting talking, and repacking our backpacks. Our meals are the unforgettable dehydrated gourmets. We rested up and then went into Estes Park, picked up a few postcards, and took an unexpected shower. Wonderful! We went to the post office and sat in the parking lot writing a few postcards before mailing them and returning to camp.

July 20th
We got up with the alarm at 7:04 a.m. We ate breakfast, tore down camp and pulled out at 8:55 a.m. Today we headed for the Glacier Basin shuttle parking lot to park and take the shuttle to the Glacier Gorge Trailhead. This would be the beginning of our day's voyage to Boulderbrook Campground and our three day trek to Long's Peak. We took the 9:30 a.m. shuttle to Glacier Gorge Trailhead. We organized our gear and left the trailhead at 10:10 a.m. The trail was uphill all the way. After 0.6 miles we came to a beautiful waterfall ? Alberta Falls. We had good views of Bear Lake and the shuttle bus road from various points along the trail. By 12:45 p.m., we had climbed 960 feet (elevation 10,200 feet) and covered 3.8 miles. Upon arriving at Boulderbrook Campground, we found we still had to walk a 1/4 mile downhill to our campsite. We set up camp just in time for the afternoon showers. We stayed in our tents while it rained for a couple of hours. Terry, Steve, and Jeff spent some time antagonizing each other over a few card games. While camping at Boulderbrook we met Ralph, a furniture store manager from New York City. We all chowed on our scrumptious backpacking dinners and turned in reasonably early for a good start tomorrow.

July 21st
John and Terry were first up at 6:00 a.m. They packed their gear, woke the guys at 7:00 a.m., and hit the trail at 7:45 a.m. Today we are hiking 4.9 miles up to Boulderfield Campground. John Walsh and Jeff left Boulderbrook next at 8:45 a.m. and Kevin and Steve typically brought up the rear. The trail was difficult, and in a very short time we passed the timberline, but never seemed to reach the "top". The trial offered good views throughout the day. The higher we rose the rockier the trail became. We saw many marmots scrambling in nearby rock fields. John and Terry reached the top of the worst switchbacks and decided to wait for the guys to catch up. John Walsh showed up first, walking with Ralph who was taking a day hike. Jeff arrived shortly thereafter. John and Terry ventured on from this point while John Walsh and Jeff waited to cheer on the "lost sheep". The last 1.7 miles was very rocky trail and the last few hundred yards were across a boulder field. We arrived at the campground (elevation 12,760 feet) at 12:15 p.m. The sites were unique in that they were cleared out spots ringed with a wall of rocks. Each ring would accommodate one tent. We chose three sites as close together as we could and set up camp. In addition to the campsites, there was a solar pit toilet and a stream for water. A 1:15 p.m. rain shower sent us running for our tents. It rained a short while before large hail began to fall. The hail covered the ground and temperatures fell to 35 degrees. By 3:30 p.m., the storm had passed and people were out again. We talked to several hikers who had been to Long's Peak summit or at least attempted the climb. It both sounds and looks difficult. From our sites, we had beautiful views of Long's Peak. We enjoyed watching many brave souls start the scramble up the boulder field to the Keyhole. Terry, Steve, and Jeff enjoyed a few card games before everyone turned in around 9:00 p.m.

July 22nd
The loud winds woke us at about 5:30 a.m. We stayed in until about 5:55 a.m. and then got up to begin the big day! We ate breakfast and packed our day packs. At 6:33 a.m., we started our ascent to the Keyhole. The first mile to the Keyhole consisted of a steep climb through a boulder field. At 7:15 a.m., we reached the Keyhole. Our view to the north revealed that our tents were so far away that they were almost unrecognizable. Our view to the south revealed a beautiful glacier-carved valley. We hesitated for a few moments to gain our strength and courage before journeying along the rocks on the south side, following the "fried eggs" painted on the rocks. Along this side we trampled over rocks, climbed steep hills and finally descended rapidly before starting the toughest section ? the Trough. The journey up the Trough meandered along a snowfield and over rock after rock after rock. When we reached the top of the Trough, we had one final challenging rock scramble that brought us to the Narrows. The Narrows was a slender trail with a rock face on our left and a sheer drop off on our night. We finished the narrows and reached a rock pile where we rested a bit and left our packs here. All we had to conquer now was the Homestretch. The Homestretch was a shorter but steeper rock scramble than the Trough. We continued our slow but steady pace and at 10:15 a.m. we had successfully summitted Long's Peak, elevation 14,256 feet. We celebrated our victory by snapping off as many pictures as ten minutes would allow before starting the treacherous journey back to camp. The trip down was easier, but still challenging. Some of us used our backside to get us most of the way down. At 1:10 p.m. we arrived exhausted at our tents just before the rain began to fall. We all rested some and the eagerly dug into dinner. It sprinkled for a short time in the early evening. We all relaxed and some of us played a few rounds of "Hotel". We again turned in early as we were tired from our four mile trek and also anxious to get an early start tomorrow.

July 23rd
The winds were at their all time worst this morning. They woke us at 4:30 a.m., rattling our tents violently. We finally gave in to their stubbornness and got up before 6:00 a.m. We packed up hurriedly and left Boulderfield Campground at 7:08 a.m. As we descended, the winds grew more and more tolerable. The trail was a steep downhill, but nonetheless, a pleasant change. After traveling for two miles, we made one brief stop for pack adjustments. Our only major stop was for a side trip to Chasm Lake. We left our packs at the trail junction with John Walsh who stayed to rest his knee. The rest of us trudged up the 0.7 mile trail to beautiful Chasm Lake. We went up hill, passed through two snowfields, across a creek and through a peaceful meadow before starting the rock scramble up to the chasm. Appropriately named, the lake was situated in the chasm of Long's Peak and other surrounding mountains. We snapped a few pictures and then headed back to the main trail to complete our descent. We reached the trail and John Walsh was anxiously awaiting our return to continue our hiking trek. We continued down towards Long's Peak Ranger Station, counting the minutes to our finish. After a short walk from the Chasm Lake trailhead, we crossed below the timberline - a reassuring and welcome sight. The trail continued down and was somewhat rocky the whole way. The last mile was steep switchbacks which led to our destination- Long's  Peak Ranger Station. We finished the 7.3 miles for the day at 11:10 a.m. Our total mileage for the six hiking days was 28.5. The park ranger called the taxi service for us and then we hauled our packs and our tired bodies to the end of the road. After an hour of waiting, the taxi arrived at 12:30 p.m. Terry took the cab to the Glacier Basin shuttle parking lot to get the van. She returned to get everybody else at about 1:30 p.m. We were all pleased to have wheels and the comfort of a vehicle again. We drove back to our temporary home, site #23 at Glacier Basin Campground. We set up camp, gathered our dirty laundry, and Steve and Terry cleaned out the U-Haul. We then made a beeline for the shower/laundry facilities in Estes Park. After spending about 2 1/2 hours cleaning ourselves and our clothes, we felt great except for being very thirsty and hungry (for real food). We all went to a T-shirt shop in town and debated for 1/2 hour over what color shirt to get. Finally our hungry and fearless leader settled the dispute by letting everyone pick their own color. Then we spent another 30 minutes waiting to have them all printed with "I climbed Long's Peak". We went to the van and everyone quickly changed to our new shirts. John and Terry saved a big surprise for now. After leaving the mall, we went to the nearby Pizza Hut and devoured two large super Supremes and four pitchers of pop. Now, full and clean we went back to the campground for a good night's rest.

July 24th
Steve's 18th birthday! We were wakened again by the strong wind and got up at 7:00 a.m. We took our time tearing down camp and fixed bacon and eggs. We pulled out of the campground at 9:50 a.m. We went into Estes Park in hopes of finding a station to check over the van. The service stations were booked for the day so we made a quick stop at Sheep Lakes in a last effort to see bighorn. We were unsuccessful in that venture also so we got gas and proceeded south towards Denver. We first went to Golden, at the guys' request, to take the Coors tour. Then we began what turned out to be a long search for a McDonald's. We finally found one in Limon, east of Denver. Because this "free day" ended up being somewhat messed up, John and Terry decided to look into more comfortable lodging for the night. They found a motel in the AAA listing that had a pool and cable TV. Terry called and made reservations with the Burlington, Colorado motel. After eating at McDonald's and letting the Scouts shop in Limon, John announced that we would be staying in a motel. Of course the guys were disappointed that we couldn't set up our tents in the wind and the rain, but some sacrifice must be made. We journeyed towards Burlington and arrived at the Sloan's Hotel at 8:05 p.m. By 8:15 p.m., Terry was in the pool and Steve, Jeff, and John Walsh quickly followed. We enjoyed the heated pool for most of two hours and even John couldn't resist the cool temptation for the last hour. When the pool closed at 10:00 p.m. we changed and walked across the street for a Dairy Queen treat. We all enjoyed the comfort of a real bed, so we turned in by midnight.

July 25th
John and Terry were the first ones up at 7:30 a.m. We all enjoyed the comfort of a real bed and pillow. We took turns showering and then ate cereal prior to leaving the Burlington, Colorado motel at 9:45 a.m. We were on the road for about 15 minutes before we crossed into Kansas where we would spend our day driving. About 5 minutes after crossing the border, John noticed that the battery gauge indicated that it was losing its charge. We stopped at the first service station and found out that the alternator belt was missing. After about a half hour we were on the road again. Fortunately, we got by for only $11.29. Our next stop was lunch at a Kansas rest area. We enjoyed hot dogs, applesauce, chips, and pop. The drive through Kansas was somewhat monotonous but the weather was warm and sunny - no rain! We stopped for gas in Salina and enjoyed a refreshing Mr. Misty. We livened the trip up some by playing various versions of Jeff's pocket trivia games.

July 26th
We're homeward bound! We got up at 7:00 a.m. (Ohio time) and were on the road by 8:20 a.m. Our facilities at Richards Gebauer AFB were nice and very exceptional for $4.00 per person per night. Our first stop was for gas in Granite City, Illinois. After refueling, we pulled over to the side of the lot and ate lunchmeat sandwiches. It was very hot and humid, so we made the meal brief and moved on to be in the air-conditioning. The trip home was pleasantly uneventful. Some of us passed the time by sleeping and all of us (except John) took in a few hands of pocket trivia. We arrived at Happy Corner Church at 7:35 p.m. We quickly put troop things away and personal gear in the van. Then, we made a beeline for U-Haul in hopes of catching them before they closed. We got there and dropped the trailer off, but they were already shut up for the day. We then made one last food stop at McDonald's before going to John and Terry's. We pulled onto Savina at 8:45 p.m. Everyone worked hard at unpacking, washing, and vacuuming the van before heading for  home at 10:00 p.m. The two weeks went unbelievably well and it was with mixed emotions that we said our good-byes.

Special thanks to Secretary Terry Combs for writting this.

Last revised: December 7, 1999


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