Rocky Mountain hiatus (1/2)

Post 1 of 2: A few weeks ago I took a backpacking trip in Rocky Mountain National Park with my son, my return to a particular high country campsite after 40 years. Here’s the first half of my notes, edited to seem more insightful.

Creek at dusk.

Timber Creek at dusk. (Click to enlarge.)


We reached Timber Creek Campsite–3 miles from the trailhead in 3 hours–with no signs of altitude sickness. The trail up to the campsite would look exactly like Timber Creek if it were under water.

Flecks of light in the creek–iron pyrite. I wish my 2-year-old grandson Oliver were here so we could pan for gold (son Nick is no fool).

I estimate one-half of the trees on the mountainsides are dead. (Ranger later says they’re the work of four kinds of pine beetles, all native to Colo., which are usually held in check by harsh winters. Within a few years, Rocky Mountain National Park will burn to the ground. Just a heads up, taxpaying nature-lovers.)

Mule deer with red antlers.

Blasé tourist mulie. (Photo by Nick Heckman.)

I’m going to get sunburned! But it sure feels good now.

A mule deer wandered through camp soon after the tent was up and I was changing out of my shorts. He got as close as 15 feet over the course of 15 minutes. His new antlers were bright red and festooned with partially shed velvet, which dreadlocked around his head. After losing interest in us, he moseyed off to rub his unwanted dreads against some bushes.

In bed from 8pm to 9am–slept maybe 9 of the 13 hours while trying to adjust to mummy bag confinement and the cold (mid 30s, I’d say). Thought I heard a bear in the night playing bongos on our food containers, but they were untouched in the morning.

Long Meadow.

Long Meadow. The muddy patches to the right provide animals with salt and other trace minerals.


Climbed to Long Meadow today, a short (1 mile) hike up a steep trail criss-crossed with tree trunks and other guerrilla-like hazards. The meadow was open, golden and still. With more than a mile of grassland in sight, the only wildlife we saw were several gray jays and an eagle.

Bear scat everywhere we hiked. At last, the answer to a long-pondered question: No, he shits on the trail.

Water filtered from Timber Creek is the most refreshing I’ve ever drunk–cold and thin, like January air, with a taste like the essence of hydrogen and oxygen.

Rocky Mountain hiatus, Part 2.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *