When we took our little stroll on the AT back in the Shenendoah National Park Caden asked if we’d be able to go backpacking once we were back home in CO. I was tickled pink that he was the one asking me to go backpacking and I thought for sure we’d have plenty of time. But after returning home the days of summer slipped away until the the next thing we knew school was in session and soccer in full swing. However, it turned out that Labor Day weekend was wide open on our schedules and the boys lobbied hard to get a backpacking trip in. AND, they wanted to go for more than 1 night. Its a pretty popular weekend so there were no permits available for Rocky Mountain National Park or the Indian Peaks Wilderness. But, the James Peak Wilderness is also right in our backyard and does not require permits so we put Roger’s Peak Lake in our cross hairs and set off. I should also point out that I tried to get the boys to play hooky on Friday but Caden didn’t want to miss school or soccer….what kind of kids am I raising?!
So Saturday morning we said goodbye to the girls and drove the 90 minutes to the East Portal trail head and hit the trail at 9:45. It was breezy but clear and it made for a really nice hike in. I need to put a lot more weight in the boys’ packs and less in mine to even us out on the trail….they routinely had to wait for me. As we approached the lakes the trail steepened and the thunder started. We located a really nice spot and got the tent up just in time for the rain.
We ate lunch while we waited out the storm then took a short nap. The storm cleared out and we decided to go explore the area a bit. Our site was by an unnamed pond, another 50 yards away was another unnamed little lake and about 100 yards away was Roger’s Peak Lake. This lake is the quintessential CO mountain lake…a crystal clear lake with the Continental Divide as its backdrop…it was perfect. Taking a short walk up a steep slope above treeline you find Heart Lake which is the biggest of the bunch. Again, the lake was picture perfect but we didn’t spend much time there as another storm seemed to be brewing so we headed back to camp stopping to fill our water bottles on the way. It sprinkled on and off but we still had fun and even got in quite a few rounds of Love Letter.
A few weeks earlier Dacen and I made an ultralight backpacking stove out of a cat food can. It is super simple and uses alcohol as fuel. We brought it along to test out. The thing burns super hot but its very unstable and we ended up spilling part of our water but we recovered. I think we’ll need to build a little pot stand for it to make it more usable. Our dinner was interrupted by anther thunderstorm but we went out afterward to check out the lake at dusk and refill water bottles before bed time. The tent is getting a bit small for all 3 of us but we make do and played a couple rounds of Casino and 20 questions before we crashed. Day 1 was AWESOME!!
It rained on and off during the night and poor Dacen had a gusher of a bloody nose during the middle of the night but we got it stopped and he ended up getting a good night sleep. We woke up to clear skies as forecasted, ate our breakfast and set out for our attempt at James Peak. Actually our goal was Roger’s Pass and our stretch goal was James Peak. We stopped to get water and the clear skies quickly filled with super low clouds that engulfed the peak and the pass. But, by the time we finished getting water the sun was peaking through so we decided to go for it. We made the pass in about 45 minutes and found that the weather was socked in on the other side. We waited for awhile to see if the weather would change but it seemed to get more ominous so we decided to bail and maybe try again later. As soon as we got back to our tent the rain started so we took shelter and played a couple games of Coin Age…this is a clever game you can print out for free. The board is the size of a credit card and the pieces are just US coins! The blue sky returned so we ate a quick lunch and decided to make another go for the peak.
Again we made it to the top of the pass in about 45 minutes where we took a short break and a few pictures. The clouds seemed to be building to the west but we decided to make a go for the peak. Its about a 1 mile traverse along the ridge before the peak’s vertical is under foot. It took longer than I expected and the clouds kept building and moving closer. When we got about 500 vertical feet from the summit the weather was just getting too close for my comfort and it was 3:00 so I figured if we were able to summit we’d be getting back to camp about 5:30 or 6:00. That’s not exactly late, but it didn’t give us much margin so we decided to celebrate our high point and turn around.
It was hard….I really wanted to get the boys to the top but as we started back the thunder kicked in and it just seemed too dicey. However, 15 minutes later the weather took a 90 degree turn and headed due north up the valley toward Grand Lake and James Peak was in clear blue sky. Oh well…we definitely had a blast including getting snowed/hailed/sleeted on right as the storm changed directions!! The walk down was really pleasant. We chatted about all sorts of things and enjoyed the awesome views. I kept thinking, “how in the world am I so lucky to be out here in this amazing place right now with my incredible boys who want to be out here too??!!”
Back at camp we finished up a game of the Great Races we had started earlier and also played a few rounds of Love Letter. The boys played at the pond by our tent and I sat and watched them. It was so cool to see them having fun together, bonding and being outdoors…my mouth hurt from grinning so much.
We had pizza ramen for dinner and butterscotch pudding for dessert then filled our water bottles and took in another look at Roger’s Peak Lake as the sun finished lighting James Peak above. We played another couple games of Casino and 20 questions before zonking out cold. Day 2 was AWESOMER!!
Monday morning we woke to nothing but blue sky. We had breakfast and then went up to take in one more long look at Roger’s Peak Lake before we started the trek down the trail. The weather was perfect for hiking and we had lots of fun chatting about backpacking gear and playing 20 questions. We missed the girls and wanted to see them but there was also a part of me that really wanted to just keep going. Maybe some day one or more of my family members will hike the 480 mile Colorado Trail with me.
Adjusting the load
Taking in the view
Resting on a log
Coming down from Heart Lake
Roger's Lake Panorama
Going up the pass
Watching the weather
Summit of the pass
Brothers at high point
The guys at high point
Our high point
Starting down towards Heart Lake
Coming down the pass
The Great Races
Two thumbs up
Guys at Roger's Lake
Break on hike out