With two days between my return from WILD Harry Gates and my departure for WILD Lake City, there was a lot to do. Clean up, supply assessment, supply restock, grocery shopping, food prep and repack. All the work is more than worth it though. The second long weekend in a row up in the Colorado high country with a bunch of badass women…how did I get so lucky?
On Wednesday, my mom (Mama Ryn) and I made our way down to Lake City through some incredible country paralleling the Black Canyon (PS… go there sometime!). We hit Lake City and met up with our tribe additions at Chillin’ Café in downtown Lake City for a bite to eat before heading out to camp. There were 7 of us this time. Kate, Thea and Cristy from the Denver area. Jennifer and Katie from West Virginia and St. Louis. And of course, Mama Ryn and myself.
Now is where the laughter begins for the entire weekend…
One thing about these adventures, they are always so different. From organization to implementation. The campgrounds here take no reservations, but, a few weeks back Marcus (my WILD man) and I drove through to scope it all out and the camp host, Joan, kindly gave me her personal number to call a couple days before the event and she would put a chair at the site we wanted. We drove up the road a bit to Williams Creek Campground (Move Mountains memories still running rampant for me) and found the chair with a rock sitting in it at campsite #2.
As we were setting up our tents and getting camp ready, Joan apparently stopped by and chatted with Mama Ryn. She asked if Marcus was going to be with us. Mom replied that he wouldn’t as it’s an all-girls trip. Joan’s reply, “He’s so handsome. I thought about him after.” What the what? Buhahaha. From then on out, I feel like we laughed pretty much non-stop (when the girls weren’t gasping for air at high elevation).
Wednesday consisted of setting up camp, getting to know each other, acclimating a bit more and looking at the peak from our camp chairs that we would be summiting the next day.
Thursday morning, we got moving around 7:30 and as I was collecting all of my gear for the hike, I was surprised by my life-long friend, Jackie, who mentioned she was going to try and join us for a day. Long story short about her, she’s the baddest badass of them all. She’s been hiking the PCT since April but had a fall a few weeks ago that left her knee banged up. Forced to come back home to CO to get it checked out, she found out she has a partial ACL tear, but her doctor gave her the go-ahead to continue her journey north. Before heading back to the PCT, she graced us with her presence and trail stories for a day up the Camp Trail. (If you want to follow Jackie’s journey, do so at www.jackiehikesthePCT.com).
The Camp Trail is a 10-ish mile hike up to 12,000+ ft. elevation. A beautiful trail winding up the face of the mountain full of vast aspen groves, dense pine forests and massive bolder fields. As we crested the top of the mountain, the trees opening into a green meadow speckled with wild flowers. The significance of this trail was that it meets at the top where the Colorado Trail and the Continental Divide trail become one for a stretch. For me, this was a moment of truth, I WILL someday hike both of these through trails. Jackie had the same reaction and I’m hoping the other women felt the power of this magical place in the world. We sat in the meadow, eating our lunch, looking onto the snow-capped peaked on the other side of the valley and feeling lucky to be alive.
After a dip in the COLD run-off creek, refueling with good food and tons of snacks (Thea brought a huge “snack box” from her vending machine business… everything from jerky to starburst to Fritos), we all were in bed by 8:30 (before sundown) to recover for the next day
Same morning routine… wake up, drink coffee, eat breakfast, pack lunches and on the trail. Today we hit a trail I had never been on. IT WAS STEEP… THE WHOLE TIME! Williams Creek Trail started just out of camp and although the distance and total elevation gain was shorter than the day before, the pitch was much greater. This trail was on the other side of the valley from Camp Trail and although the same area, the trail looked completely different. More grassy meadows, more water, Ponderosa pines instead of Douglas Fir, less aspens… but just as magnificent.
When I was a little girl, my parents would coax me up the hill with Reece’s pieces and always say “it’s just around the next bend”. That’s what kept me going. As the women were…hmmm…let’s say “noticing” the increased incline today, I played that game with them. Not the candy, but the “I’m 99% sure it’s right at this next crest”. I had NO idea… but they kept trekking and we got to a perfect spot in the trees looking through to Grass Mountain. Lunches, snack and… drinks. Those girls each carried a can of choice up the hill to enjoy at the top. Pepsi and beer cheers to celebrate their WILDness.
Winding down the trail we passed a couple that said they saw a mama bear and two cubs. Wahoo… I was so hoping I could share the rush of seeing bear in the wild with these women. But… something I’ve come to learn is that we likely won’t see much wildlife on these trips… because… well women are talkative. Which is a good thing for safety, but no sightings happened all weekend (except deer in the campground and chipmunks on the trail… oh and mosquitos!).
Same evening routine… creek bath, food and snacks, stretch sesh, campfire, endless laughter and bed before dark.
Our final day in Lake City took me back to when I was 8 years old. We hiked Crystal Lake Trail which I had done at a family reunion. Another trail, in the same area, that looked COMPLETLEY different than the others. The beginning of the trail was mosquito heaven… we were getting eaten alive. I think we went through 2 bottles of bug spray. Instead of holding bear spray in my hand, I walked with bug spray ready to fire. But, once we got away from the water (about 1 mile in), it opened up to switch backs through meadows of INSANE wild flowers, thick aspen groves, bolder fields, pine forests and had some of the prettiest views of the whole trip. By this day, legs and bodies were tired, so a more gradual climb was needed. Again, pulling out the “just around the corner” tactics… we finally crested a hill with Crystal Lake in view. The mosquitos were abundant at the lake, but a hail storm blew in just in time to sit down for a nice lunch, putting the mosquitoes to rest. It truly was perfect.
On the way down the hill, as we dropped in elevation, a thunderstorm was moving in and the moisture in the air thickened… again mosquitos came in for the kill. But as we were frantically waving our sticks and arms in the air for protection, the rain began pouring down for the last ½ mile giving us relief from the mosquitos once again. Mother Nature always has a way of making things work.
In true WILD women fashion… we wrapped up the weekend at a bar in town with some celebratory drinks and tapas before our last night’s sleep under the stars in the magical San Juan National Forest.
At 9,000-12,000ft, about 30 miles, 8,000 ft. elevation gain and drop in 3 days…. I was impressed as hell by these ladies. Climbing mountains at high elevations like it was their J.O.B. Not one complaint, not one bad attitude. Just a lot of laughter, grit and good times. The friendships made and memories shared are what make these trips what they are. Women who come together from different walks of life, with different intentions or reasons for being there and all leave as friends and tribe sisters…. Truly priceless.