Saturday, July 20, 2013

Backpacking in Wild Basin in Rocky Mountain National Park

Despite the rain, Leo loved last year's backpacking trip so much, this year Paul set up a 5 night backpacking trip in Wild Basin in Rocky Mountain National Park. It was 4 miles into Finch Lake where we'd stay one night, then another 2 miles into Pear Lake, where we'd stay 3 nights and then we had 1 night at Finch on the way back, but we came all the way down on the 5th day.

It was a slow slog uphill to Finch Lake. A rocky start to the trip but we made it in and set up camp and found lots of cool critters including these caddis fly larvae. The larvae build cocoon-like protection around their bodies. These happened to use flakes of wood but others use sand or rocks. You can see the larvae sticking their heads out of the cocoons. I'm going to make a whole video of all the cool bugs we found.

I'm going to start calling Leo, the "Bug Whisperer". He has a way with bugs.

Finch was nice but we lost our new silicon collapsible dishes to the animals that night. The next day we hiked up to Pear Lake and set up camp.

A marmot greeted us at camp. So did the mosquitoes. In fact, the mosquitoes rivaled Alaska. We promptly ran out of DEET and a bug bite swelled up my left eyelid, making it hard to see.

Paul wanted to go up to some more lakes but Leo wanted to climb the cliffs around Pear Lake so we ended up on some crazy adventure trying to kill ourselves on the cliffs around Pear Lake. Paul and Leo have a great time watching me trying to rock hop across a lake.

The next day we hiked up to the top Hutcheson Lake. It was peak wildflower season.

And we saw more columbine flowers than we'd ever seen in our entire lives. Bouquets in purple, periwinkle and white.

We kept Leo hiking with fun side activities, like sledding on glaciers on your butt. Or bushwhacking through thickets.

Or stream crossing. This was an easy stream to cross. We don't have pictures of the long, difficult one because we were too busy trying not to fall into the icy waters. Mosquitoes love to bite when you've got both hands on boulders trying to steady yourself on a stream crossing.

Our neighbor had loaned us his fishing pole and explained to us how to fly fish. So we tried it.

On the second cast, we caught a brook trout. We pulled out a frying pan and cooked it. It was delicious! We ended up catching 5 fish over the 2 days of fishing in 3 lakes, but had to throw the 2 cutthroat trout back because they are endangered.

Anyway, we hiked a long way up to the top Hutcheson Lake and decided to turn around and go back home because it was raining and the skies were threatening. We'd heard thunder all day long as well.

The next day we went up past the Hutcheson Lakes to Cony Lake which is just below the Continental Divide. The Divide is the ridge in the back of this picture. Cony Lake is just beyond the cliffs directly behind Debbie's head in this picture. We didn't exactly take the most direct route, which is a nice way of saying we walked around and up and down a lot more than we had to. But there's no trail, so it's hard to know until you are there, which thickets are impassable and which rockfalls are so steep that you wouldn't want your child on them. I do think we found the best route back with lots of cool shortcuts and magic passages that hopefully we won't forget next year!

We had to climb a field of giant boulders to get to Cony. This is looking down the field to the Hutcheson Lakes.

Cony is the highest lake, fed directly by the glacial snowmelt. It was a beautiful lake. We saw 2 black weasels on the glaciers on the left. They were playing and actually climbing up the glacier (just like Leo) and sledding down! There were some terrifying looking spiders up here.

Paul was so impressed that Leo made it up to Cony Lake. We calculated that he hiked some 8-10 miles that day.

It was an awesome trip. But we left a day early. Why? Well, this is how we ate when we weren't eating those 3 trout (and they weren't particularly huge)

Five days of freeze-dried backpacking food and you'd run out screaming out, too. In fact, Leo ran out much of the 6 miles today, with 11-12 pounds on his back, talking about the raw beef dish that he was going to eat when he got to the Ethiopian restaurant in Boulder. 

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Leo's Birthday!

We held a big party for Leo today. He asked for a bug expedition. We couldn't find a suitable organization to host it so we did it ourselves. We outfitted each kid with a bug net, magnifying glass and bug jars. We went on a hike in Eben G Fine Park and put white cloth under bushes and shook the bushes to see what bugs fell out. We caught grasshoppers, butterflies, bees, wasps, flying ants, weevils, pillbugs, all kinds of cool critters. I brought all the identification books along but we never really got to the point where we could sit down long enough to identify them. All the bugs were freed after the hike.

We also ate bugs - mealworms, crickets, chocolate covered ants, chocolate covered worms, all kinds of wacky things from the Butterfly Pavilion. The kids loved it - well most of them.

We got a caterpillar cupcake to finish off the bug theme. Leo is excited here because he immediately recognized the trick candles that I put on the cake.

Leo's second grade teacher, Ms. Koch, came and the kids just jumped on her. They were so happy to see her. Funny how that happens in second grade but not in high school!

All in all, a great party. The kids ended it by jumping into the creek and getting completely soaked. I'm exhausted.

Monday, July 1, 2013


Leo said, "I can't wait to get back to Colorado. I'm afraid I'll get so wet that my skin will start bulging and crustaceans will grow on it."