Maroon Bells

August 01, 2016  •  1 Comment

For my last Colorado hike I wanted to do a backcountry trip.  The area around Crested Butte provided endless possibilities.  I learned of a route through the mountains that would take me from Crested Butte to Aspen.  I was unable to find a good paper map, so I decided to wing it.  At 6pm I left Crested Butte and drove up towards Gothic.  The forest was dark and ominous, but beautiful.  I looked back down the valley and saw a rainbow forming above the mountains, the road was too narrow to stop for a photo though.  I arrived at the West Maroon trailhead by 7:30pm and decided to spend the night in the car.  As I read my book, The Dharma Bums, I watched the clouds turn pink in the last rays of sunshine.

I didn’t sleep much at all that night.  It was cold and cramped inside the car.  

By 8am I was on the trail.  The morning light was bursting through an endless field of wildflowers.  They glowed yellow, red, purple, white, and blue.  I soon came to a fork in the trail.  A small wooden side reading "West Maroon Trail" was shaped pointing towards the left, so I went that direction.  I had heard this was a popular trail, so I was surprised to see it so overgrown.  Alarm bells went off that I was going the wrong way, but the sign was pointing in this direction.  I started a steep climb up the hills, surrounded by thousands of wildflowers.  This still didn’t seem right, I should’ve taken that other fork.  After an hour of hiking up the mountain, the trail dead-ended in the tundra.  Perfect...

At least I had the high-ground!  From my perch, I was able to see the valley stretching out below me, and create a good mental map.  I even saw the mountain pass that I would need to hike up.  After about 10 minutes of hiking through the tundra I found another trail.



When I reached the new trail I encountered some hikers.  Thankfully, they had a map.  Eventually I got back to the correct trail and restarted my ascent to West Maroon Pass.  The climb up was intense, very steep and easy to slip.  Finally I reached the summit, only to find dozens of people were relaxing at the top!  Never before have I seen so many people on top of a mountain, it was like Grand Central Station.  After a nice chat with a white water rafting guide, I began the descent to Maroon Bells.

After a long, grueling hike I finally came to Maroon Lake.  It was packed with tourists.  Annoyed, I set out to find a campsite for the night.  I soon found one in a pine forest and setup my hammock.  The flies were terrible, constantly digging into my skin.  Thankfully they couldn’t get me when I was wrapped up in my hammock. 



At 6pm I had a great lasagna dinner and a Clif bar for dessert.  I made sure to pack up my Bear Can away from camp and then headed back to Maroon Lake for sunset.

I watched as the tourists took hundreds of selfies and family photos, when everyone suddenly started yelling.  A bear was walking around on the far side of the lake.  Too bad I didn’t have my telephoto lens. 


The temperature began to drop and I ran back to my hammock to grab my down jacket.  When I arrived at camp, I saw my bear can sitting at the bottom of the hill.  That's not where I left it...  I made some noise to alert any nearby animals, then went over to inspect it.  There were gouges taken out of the bomb-proof plastic and the canister was wet with slobber.  Clearly the bear must have found it.  Thankfully he gave up rather quickly and left before damaging anything else.  I hoped he wouldn’t return later in the night...

I spent the next hour back at out the lake, taking photos.  At dusk, I returned to my sleeping bag to catch some sleep before heading out to photograph the Milky Way.  At midnight my alarm went off.  As I opened my eyes I saw a dark forest canopy swimming in stars.   I crawled out of my warm down sleeping bag and headed to the lake shore.  Surprisingly, 3 other photographers were already there. After talking with them I realized I had already been following the one photographer on Instagram!

We spent a few hours talking while our cameras clicked away.  Since I was doing a Star Trails image, which takes hours, I left my camera on the lake shore.  I figured no one would steal it.  At 2am I headed back to my hammock to get some sleep, knowing I had to be back soon for sunrise. It got very cold.  At 5am I headed back to the lake shore to check on my camera and prepare for sunrise.


With sunrise wrapped up, I now had a very long, arduous hike back over the mountains.  I felt horrible the entire way.  Must have been the combination of dehydration, lack of sleep, lack of food and the strain of the long hike.  I truly thought I would not make it back to the car.  I had to stop at one point and setup my hammock to rest.  At least I didn't have to worry about taking another wrong turn and going miles off course.  I finally made it back to the car around 3PM, barely.  I was happy to have finished the rough hike and ready to move on.  All I could think about now was a big meal, a hot shower, and a warm bed to sleep in.  

The drive back to Crested Butte was stunning in the late afternoon light.  Once I finally got cell reception, I started looking for lodging in town.  I couldn't wait to get a hotel room and shower!  It must have been over a week since I'd last slept in a real bed.  I smelled horrible, was completely exhausted, and I was starving.  Of course, every single hotel and hostel in town was completely booked for the night.  Great...

I had a massive burrito for dinner, at a great little restaurant in Crested Butte.  Then I drove up into the mountains just outside of town, where I knew of a dispersed camping spot.  I still really wanted that shower...  So I crashed through the brush down to the river and washed my face with the cool water.  I guess that was the best I could hope for.  Then I set up my tent and passed out.

The next morning I drove through Kebler Pass, home to one of the largest colonies of Aspen trees in the world.  I would love to come back here in the fall!

My next destination is Grand Teton National Park.


Comments

morgan lee(non-registered)
Met u in Jackson hole .. we took photos at swachbeker landing and sat next to each other in library
3035326180 hope to see u in glacier park
No comments posted.
Loading...

Archive
January February March April May June July August (1) September October (1) November December
January (2) February March April May June July August September October November December