Staying in-camp has it’s pros, but getting out of camp during backpacks gives campers a whole new mountain experience. In pursuit of this, backpackers in Haiyaha took off to Michigan Lakes for their third backpack of the term.
After packing together as a group on their basketball court, the van peeled out of camp for the Colorado River Trailhead, an hour and a half drive through beautiful Rocky Mountain National Park. Luckily, I got to join them for part of the hike out. And once I met them at the trailhead, it was clear that every camper was stoked to begin the adventure.
We got to hiking, and Mother Nature did her thing – the sky immediately opened up and began pouring on us. However, that didn’t dampen our spirits. We safely hiked on, chatting and cracking LNT (leave no trace) jokes until lunch. Halfway through the hike in, we stopped at Lulu City for a fun, albeit wet, bulk break. The campers could hardly contain their excitement about hopefully peaking Mount Static and Richthofen the next day. In between bites, they argued about which mountain’s name was ‘cooler.’ At this point, I unfortunately had to split from the group and hike back to the trailhead to avoid still being on trail at dark, since I wasn’t camping overnight. I wished them luck with the weather, and said goodbye.
During the second day, the group woke up bright and early, leaving the comfort of their tents in pursuit of peaks. Thankfully, they were able to peak both mountains, although the day was exhausting. As a reward, campers split a bag of strawberry Sour Patch Kids atop Richthofen.
The mountaineering on the middle day was a highlight which many campers from the group were proud of. “It was definitely a challenge, but heading up Static was the coolest hiking and climbing I’ve ever done.” Said camper Toby S. “It was the best hour I’ve spent at Cheley.”
That night, the group returned to the campsite awash with a glow only possible after peaking “the coolest named mountains in RMNP.” Hungry for dinner, they whipped up some stir fry. One benefit of backpacking is that it ‘unlocks’ new camp meals not served in the dining hall. Camper Lawson R. echoed this: “I love backpacking food… we had granola for breakfast and stir fry for dinner, it was awesome.”
On the drive back to camp, they blasted French Drill –a harder, modern version of gangster rap– all down Trail Ridge road. Boots off and windows down, the group relaxed and reflected on the trip.
I checked in with the group when they returned to camp yesterday, and it was clear the backpack was a major success. The group couldn’t wait to give me a recap, and I was all ears. I was struck by how gracious the bunch was, almost all of them acknowledging what a unique experience backpacking with friends truly is. “The first day had bad weather, but the middle day was beautiful” Said CILT Jean-Louis C. “Thankfully we could peak both mountains.”