On Hiking Alone and Family Bonding

image I should really buy an annual pass to Rocky Mountain National Park. I go so early that the pay station isn’t open yet or I guess “temporarily closed” according to the sign on the window. Unfortunately, I didn’t get up early enough though to make sunrise but I did see the alpenglow driving up to the trailhead.

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This isn’t the first time I have hiked by myself and it won’t be my last. But this time I had a weird feeling. Probably because I spoke to my sister the night before about sunrise hikes. She mentioned she’s always scared a mountain lion will pop out of nowhere. Thanks Charles! Well, that should be a fear for anyone hiking even if they are with a group. It never occurred to me that I would encounter one. I mean, no one “sees” a mountain lion. They’re fricken stealthy animals. Anyway, I didn’t see one luckily but I spooked myself.

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I started the trail to Odessa Lake pretty late probably around 6:30 am so the sun was up. I read the trail was a popular one so it reassured me that there would be a few people hiking in the morning. I ended up behind a group of tourists but they turned at Flattop Mountain. So it was just me. I wasn’t worried until a little ways in. Usually I would catch up to someone or there would be people behind me. Nothing. I got real scared and fortunately there was cell reception so I called my mom haha. After a brief pep talk a couple walked along the path. Hooray! I tagged along with them. They had so much knowledge on RMNP it was quite the educational experience. I nervously asked about wildlife in the park. He noted that he hasn’t heard any news on mountain lion sightings but he did see a bear a couple weeks ago on the same trail we were on. Awesome.

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The trail is very moderate with great views of Flattop Mountain, Notchtop Mountain, Little Matterhorn, Nobtop Mountain and Gabletop Mountian. The clouds were still hovering pretty low so there was a light mist and a brisk wind. I was surprised to find that Odessa Lake is like a little beach. I hadn’t been to a lake in CO (in the mountains) that had sand. It was a nice treat and if it wasn’t threatening to storm I would have stayed longer. Next time I will do Fern lake/Fern falls and make the loop to I think Big Thompson to take the shuttle back to Bear lake parking lot.

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My younger brothers came to visit! It was also my niece’s first birthday. They were here for a week and of course I took them hiking. It was probably the most physical activity they have done all summer. I took them to McCullough Gulch in Breckenridge. It took us a long time to find the trailhead. My sister’s directions were super confusing. It’s the same turnoff for Quandary Peak but you take the McCullough Gulch road all the way down until you see a sign that says “McCullough Gulch trail.” The road is gravel with loads of massive potholes. If you don’t want to risk a flat tire you can park on the side and walk to the trail but it is pretty far away and would add on some miles to the actual hike. This was also a moderate hike even though my younger brothers were dying from altitude. It was a fun short hike up to the lake. Apparently there’s an upper lake with a hidden trail so I will need to check that out.

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It’s About To Get Steep

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It was a real butt burner last weekend. I hiked Herman Gulch trail in Dillon and part of Castle trail at Mount Falcon. Herman Gulch trail does not joke around. The trail head starts off at around 10,400 ft and finishes around 12,000 ft. It’s a super steep hike with a 1,600 ft elevation gain.

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It follows a path into deep forests that make you feel like you’re in the Hunger Games. Be careful if you go in the morning and after a rain storm. It was quite muddy and slippery when I went.

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Gradually, the trail traverses through beautiful meadows filled with Colorado Columbines and Indian Paintbrushes. The views are absolutely breathtaking with wildflower fields and views of the Continental Divide between Pettingell Peak and Hagar Mountain

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The climb to Herman Lake hikes back into the forest for a super steep climb passing treeline. Towards the top is an open tundra landscape that leads you to the lake. I didn’t explore Pettingell Peak or the Divide I’ll save that for the next time I am there.

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I would advise to go early for this hike. I got there around 8 am and the parking lot was pretty full even though it was only me and a couple on the trail. Coming down from the trail there were loads of people hiking.

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Sunday I was thinking of an easy hike because my muscles were pretty sore and I was still exhausted. I headed up to Mount Falcon and took Castle trail which I forgot is actually pretty long. Since I got a late start I turned around about halfway because it was super hot and the switchbacks going down were not going to be easy going up.

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