We slept in a bit this morning in an effort to try to catch up on sleep after our early morning yesterday. While we ate our breakfast and swatted mosquitoes both boys said they laid awake last night thinking of good people for Infinite Questions. My old self hardly even remember laying down I fell asleep so quick!
We broke camp and were on our way by 8:42 up a long and gradual incline. Camp 2 was only about 4 miles out and so I had marked another camp spot a couple miles further in case we wanted a longer day today. We discussed it and felt that a longer day today would be very doable and would turn our planned 9 mile day tomorrow into a more reasonable 7 miler. The final decision could be made when we arrived at Porcupine Lakes where camp 2 was but until then we played Infinite Questions using some of the boys’ doozies they thought up the night before.
After awhile, Joe said he had a homework assignment for us. We’d take 5 minutes to think about goals we have for ourselves over the course of the next 12 months. When time was up we’d each present our goals to the rest of the team. This was a really great exercise because not only did it force us to organize our goals but also forced us to share them out loud so we’d have some accountability. The more people you share your goals with, the more motivation there is to achieve them. So in addition to sharing with my backpacking team I will share mine with you here to increase my chance of success.
Spiritual (this is more service related I guess) – Since I am helping launch a church in Erie my goal is to have a healthy sized volunteer worship band in place and a worship leader on staff.
Home – Support Steph in getting some projects around the house done…this means not over-analyzing/over-engineering solutions which she perceives as disliking her ideas
Physical – Get addicted to bike riding again (I haven’t ridden much since last fall) and be able to do 4 sets of 25 push-ups with 2 minute breaks between sets.
Work/Professional – Hone my skills in deep learning and convolutional neural networks so I can market myself as an expert in this growing area. Also I’d like the Bibulizer (ask me about what this is) to be used on a handful of bike races.
As we entered the Holy Cross Wilderness the trail steepened and we started to zero in on trail names for each other. The current proposals were: Wise Acre for Caden, Fartlek or Data for Dacen, Chuckwagon for Joe and Skillet for me. Caden is always being a punny smart aleck. Dacen hikes fast bursts then rests which is a training regimen in the running world invented by a guy named Fartlek (poor guy). Dacen is also all about data: how many minutes we hiked, how many miles it is to the next intersection, how many steps on his Fitbit, what elevation we are at, etc. Joe procured and organized all the food and was also transporting most of it. And I run the stove and pot/skillet.
Before long we had crested a ridge with spectacular views of the Continental Divide and our planned camp site. There were indeed nice camp sites here and Porcupine Lake was quite nice. But it wasn’t even noon yet and we still had plenty of gas in the tank. So we decided to press on a couple more miles to the area around Bear Lake. As we descended the ridge we came across two section hikers going the opposite direction. These ladies were hiking the entirety of section 9 from from the south while their husbands fished before retrieving them at the north end. They lavished praises on the boys for being out on the trail and carrying their own weight. But at 77 years old these ladies deserved all the praise for day hiking 14 miles at high elevation!!
After hiking down the ridge we climbed back up the other side past patches of snow until we neared the top of the ridge and were in the middle of a very steep hillside filled with grass and wildflowers and a smattering of small trees. It was the kind of hillside in the Sound of Music or Heidi. The left side of the trail dropped off steeply giving way to a jaw dropping view of the upper Arkansas River valley below. We shed our packs and ate snacks while taking in the incredible view.
The afternoon clouds started rolling in so we continued on toward Bear Lake as we asked Caden a million yes/no questions trying to figure out a person he had thought of. Just about the time we were going to concede we figured it out: Frosty the Snowman!! Soon after, we arrived at Bear Lake and dumped our packs to search for a good camp site. This time we would find a spot without mosquitoes. Yeah right. This time of year I don’t think that exists. So we settled on a nice area with nice soft and level tent sites, good sitting rocks and still quite close to the creek that was filling the lake.
Lunch was tuna salad on bagels which really hit the spot. Then we set up the tents before going on a little exploration around the lake. The boys and I have done a fair number of backpacking trips to lakes and we’ve made a habit of circumnavigating them so after enjoying the view of the lake from a boulder field we set out on an around-the-lake adventure. We followed a nice trail along the south side of the lake, crossed the outlet on the east side and continued on a nice trail on the north side when the trail finally petered out. We search for the lost trail to no avail. Joe decided to make a go for it bushwhacking and rock hopping his way around the west edge of the lake. But Caden felt we should go up the hill above the marsh and head further west until we hooked up with the CT again. As the 2 boys and I made our way with no trail we were making guesses if Uncle Joe would beat us back to camp or not. Pretty soon we popped out on the CT (a section we had done earlier in the day) and retraced our steps back to camp. Pretty soon we saw Joe’s yellow jacket out in the marsh and we waved to him. He’d found himself on a tiny little peninsula surrounded by water but unable to cross the final little bit to camp. So he backtracked and ended up following our more circuitous route.
Back at camp the boys practice knot tying, Joe helped a couple of lost hikers find the trail and I fired up the stove for dinner. Tonight it was Pizza Ramen which the boys had really enjoyed on our Heart Lake trip last year. The stove had acted up a bit at breakfast and it was even worse this evening. But we patiently waited and eventually had water hot enough to reconstitute the Ramen noodles. Italian seasonings packet, Parmesan cheese, red pepper flakes, pepperoni and sun dried tomatoes add the extra to otherwise ordinary noodles. We had hot drinks and Nilla Wafers for dessert then took an after dinner walk to a small hill above the lake where a slight breeze kept the mosquitoes at bay. All said and done I think we had a little trail mix, pepperoni, sun dried tomatoes, package of Poptarts and a couple cocoa packets left over from the day….not too shabby!
We got ready for bed then all gathered in one tent for a few rounds of Hearts diligently tracking our scores. The grand champion would be decided when we stepped off the end of Section 10. Caden and Joe are in the lead with Dacen and I trailing by quite a bit due, in part, to our failed moon shooting attempts.
Lord, thank you for a wonderful day in your amazing creation. Thank you for our safety and for the company of my big brother and my two sons! Amen.
Have a look at our pictures from the day here.
Continental Divide behind
On top of the world
Near Porcupine Lake
At Bear Lake
Columbines and boulders
Before we lost the trail
At the lake
After dinner chat