Time to get serious and go west. After hitting up the Backpacker.com forums for some recommendations, we decided to do a 2 part trip starting out backpacking in Rawah National Wilderness (near Ft. Collins) followed by car camping and hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park.
After a wonderful 14 hour drive, we immediately hit the trail in Rawah. We quickly found out that all our time in the gym meant shit at altitude. We departed from the West Branch TH and camped next to the stream where the Rawah and West Branch trails split. It was a decent campsite, but we both felt very run down and went to bed shortly after dinner.
We woke feeling better and continued on an all day uphill slog to Lake #4. The trail was easy, but climbed literally all day.
Our efforts were rewarded when we found a perfect campsite next to trout filled Lake #4 for our second night’s camp.
We enjoyed happy hour, cigars, hot dinner, and an out of this world view.
The wind started howling overnight and hadn’t let up by the time we crawled out of our tent in the morning finding ice frozen to the fly of our tent. Needless to say, it was a chilly morning and we decided to summit a nearby peak and then head for the car. Our original plans were to do a full loop, but pizza, beer and a hot tub sounded so much better than another night in the cold and wind above treeline. So we pumped some water in the cold lake and headed for a nearby summit!
After a night of relaxation at the Fort Collins Hilton, we were off to Rocky Mountain National Park for the second leg of our trip. We set up base camp at Moraine Park Campground, site #C233. It was one of the better sites in this RV-filled campground. We spent a nice day relaxing by camp enjoying the dry heat and view of the mountains we intended to climb in the coming days.
Day 2 we went to the ranger station and got a weather report on Longs Peak. Turned out conditions were less than favorable due to high winds so we opted for a less exposed day hike up Flattop Mountain. The weather held for most of the hike, but when we reached the top, we could see a storm brewing. Upon returning to camp, we decided an evening in a soggy tent didn’t seem like much fun so we headed to town for the BEST barbeque ever at Smokin’ Daves and a night at the Estes Park Holiday Inn.
Our night out in Estes Park was a blast. We started off at Smokin’ Dave’s BBQ hanging at the bar with Dave himself. He served us up the best smoked pulled pork sandwiches we have ever had and great local insight as we ate. Bonus, he always keeps excellent local microbrews on tap! From there we picked up some tall boys and checked into the hotel where we spent the rest of the night playing billiards and swimming in the pool area.
The weather was still garbage at high elevations the next day so we decided to have a low-key day driving up the rustic, one way road to the Alpine Visitor Center in RMNP. After a hearty dinner, we got to bed early because we were set on attempting Longs Peak the following day.
Longs Peak here we come! We broke camp and headed to the trail head before dawn to start the climb for our first 14er.
The hike was unsurprisingly fucking cold and windy. We made it up to the keyhole where 70mph wind gusts and snow squalls forced us down before we froze our butts off. As one last insult to our midwesterness, a gentleman twice our age decided to walk/run down the mountain with us and didn’t even break a sweat as we gasped for breath.
We finished out the trip with a night in Denver visiting a good friend from high school and a pit stop near Omaha with some family. We love it here, and are already planning our next trip!