In between planning camping and hiking events, it’s often hard to find time to simply enjoy the outdoors without planing and running an event. When the opportunity to escape for a few days comes my way, I have a hard time saying no. So, in spite of all of the stress that is common leading up to one of our big events in less than a week, I headed out to Nathrop Colorado to enjoy some of that backcountry wilderness that I’m always talking about. We settled on Ptarmigan Lake as it was close (<3 Hours) to Broomfield, and offered a slightly longer option than many trails, clocking it at just under six miles. We decided that, given the extra day from the holiday weekend, we shouldn’t try to rush out and hike the trail in the dark on Friday, and instead planned to hike out Saturday morning for two nights.
Saturday morning’s 5AM alarm hit the head like a drum set. Needless to say, we left slightly later than planned, making our way out of town just before 8AM. A few hours later and we were driving through Buena Vista, mere miles from our trailhead. Once we reached the trail, we lucked out and snagged the only spot left in the lot.
Of all of the packs, Sven’s was definitely the heaviest based on body weight. But, like a champ, he carried his 25+ pounds all the way up the mountain. We arrived at the trailhead around 1030AM and headed out for a steady uphill climb. While we were slightly disheartened by the snow at higher elevations, we were determined to camp after a long hike with ear on our backs. I scouted a half a mile up the trail only to find more snow and a lack of direction for further travel.
We decided to pack it back towards the trailhead in hopes of finding a level space with water that could serve as a campsite for the weekend. Luckily, just a half mile down the trial, we lucked out and found an old abandoned trail that offered the perfect area for a fire. With a rock fire ring and a tent set up, we began cooking and sourcing water from the nearby snow runoff.
After an early meal and a Platypus flask of Jameson Whiskey, we headed to bed for an early night with stomachs full and brains buzzing. Unfortunately, the night wasn’t the best for sleep, and, with some stomach issues and cold temperatures, I was up before 6AM with the sun, building a fire for the camp. Once fire was built, we refiled our water containers and enjoyed a relaxing morning. I wrote a blog on backpacking tips and Jordan took an extra nap to help with the lack of sleep from the night before.
While Jordan was napping, Sven and I took advantage of the spare time and found a small lake near our camp. When we returned, we all headed out to the lake, which has been named “Heart Lake” after its shape. We spent a few hours walking around the lake, soaking our feet in the cold water, and enjoying fat Backwoods blunts of Buddha Tahoe OG.
After a few hours, we headed back to the camp to enjoy some snacks and get ready to make dinner and have a fire for the evening. While we stayed up past moonrise and enjoyed the fun canopy of stars, we were equally as exhausted Saturday after a lack of sleep Friday, and headed to bed relatively early.
Sunday morning brought with it giggles and dog hair. That’s because Sven found a way to wiggle his way into Jordan’s sleeping bag, head first, before wiggling into mine as well. Needless to say, the sun at 730AM was bright enough to coax us out into the daylight and build a morning fire before cooking breakfast. We’ve discovered that tortillas are among the best supplement to backpacking meals out there; after a skillet breakfast and powdered eggs, anything with salsa and bread-like sustenance was more than welcome. As we lazily enjoyed the last of the morning fire and began to pack up, the sun fought for a few last glimpses before we were graced with a mild snow flurry.
We headed out just after noon, making our way to the truck by 130PM. While we felt so secluded during our travels, we realized we were a few hundred yards away from the trail and the path to our vehicle.
As we finished the trail and changed clothes, unpacked bags and loaded up the vehicle, it truly dawned on us how privileged we were to enjoy the snowy glacial lakes in the midst of backpacking trip over the course of memorial day weekend. Rather than BBQs and cheap beers, we were able to hike into unexplored areas, set up camp, and enjoy private, unadulterated views of nature’s true beauty in the middle of the mountains.
Here’s to many more nights spend buzzed and blunted on the side of the mountain rather than the side of a bar. Take advantage of a hike. Go outside. Go do something that challenges your comfort zone. I guarantee that the sense of satisfaction that you feel after doing so will be exponentially better than realizing you spent three days in/at a bar or sitting at home. Go enjoy the natural beauty you’re surrounded by.
Best Part: Not having to deal with a fire ban, finding a heart-shaped lake just a short walk from the campsite.
Worst Part: Lack of camping spots and cold weather.
Trail: Ptarmigan Lake Trail – San Isabel National Forest
Distance from Broomfield: 2 Hours, 45 minutes
Trip time: Three Days
Time of hike: Last weekend of May 2018
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