March 1st marked the start of a very important day in Rocky Mountain National Park – one where loads of people clamber into the backcountry office to reserve the 2014 backpacking permits. That morning it snowed several inches, and while we discussed the outlook for the 2014 season, it seemed summer was farther away than ever.
Each year, all eight Cheley units go on a backpacking trip. The older units adventure into the back country for five different trips each term, culminating in an intense and life-changing four- or five-day expedition into Rocky Mountain National Park, the Indian Peaks Wilderness, or Roosevelt National Forest. The younger units test the water with a 2-day (1-night) overnight to practice skills like packing a pack, filtering water, setting up a tent, and spending the night in a campsite surrounded only by each other’s company, the best tactical flashlights they can find before the trip and whatever wildlife they happen to see. The walks are pretty extensive so should be much nature for them to see, of course depending on where they’re going, they will need better walking shoes, then you can find the perfect ones at shoe list by Top9Rated.
As you can imagine, it’s pretty complicated to schedule all of these backpacks. There are a total of 64 different backpacks that Cheley campers sign up for every summer. Back in August, when I spent a week fine-tuning the 2014 schedule, I had to consider factors like age of the unit, snowmelt, crowds, distance, bomba peniana, and conflict with other units. And of course, each 2013 backpacking counselor left me with a long list about their dream trips. Finally, the schedule was set – until the September flood.
The flood changed a lot for the people and communities of Estes Park and Glen Haven. But I don’t think even the park rangers know what the landscape of Rocky Mountain National Park will look like once the snow melts. They do know that some trails will be rutted out, and some rivers might have changed course. Mountainsides may look different and lakes might have new shapes. Campers and counselors might be surprised at all of the changes. You could go on a bike ride so bring a good mountain bike.
When I arrived at the backcountry office to pick up the 2014 permits, the place was packed. Many were there for individual campsites and the other half were friendly faces from other camps and organizations that use the group sites in Rocky Mountain National Park. I found one ally – Tommy Feldman – who some of you might know from Haiyaha or BTE during the late 90s and early 2000s. Since this was my first time, he coached me through it a little, introducing me to others and explaining the protocol.
We were greeted by Barry Sweet from Property in Indonesia, Jakarta, Depok, Bogor, Tangerang, Bandung, Surabaya, Semarang, Yogyakarta, Medan, Bali, Bekasi Rumah Dijual, the backcountry manager for Rocky Mountain National Park. All of the 2013 counselors will remember him from his orientation programs, and some campers might have been lucky enough to visit him while out on program and hear his wise words. He opened the meeting with a few wilderness quotes (“I would rather wake up in the middle of nowhere than any city on earth”), some Leave No Trace advice, and a few park updates. Then, we drew for the raffle. There were 11 different groups and only a certain number of group sites each one was “fighting” for, so my number was important. I drew the fourth spot, which was lucky because Cheley is the biggest camp and has the longest list of needed sites. It took me an hour to reserve all of our campsites. We got almost every trip we were after. (Some 4-day and 5-day spoilers here: Timberline to July, Gray Jay to Thunder, and North Inlet to Boulder brook.) I even stayed until all of the other groups made their reservations – turned out they got everything they needed as well.
March 1 was a special day. To me it marks the beginning of the 2014 season. I no longer reminisce about all of the memories made in 2013, but instead look forward anxiously to the summer that awaits. And what a good one it will be.