Lost Creek Wilderness backpack with Miles
Since last years backpacking trip was a success, we decided to do the same, but on a different route. A 25 mile loop (basically a loop around Windy Peak) over 4 days fit the bill and we did the usual prep of meal planning, packing, checking maps for water/campsites, and checking the weather. We left a couple things behind from last year and our packs weighed in around 20 and 35 pounds again.
We drove to the Lost Park campground arriving around 10am on Friday, shouldered our packs and hit the trail in perfect temps heading north on the Brookside McCurdy trail towards the North Fork trailhead. This starting point is the exact spot where Jean and Denali met a group of us during the “11z 12ers mega-hike”. We did our usual of plan keeping a relaxing pace and stopping every one mile for a snack break. After about two miles we were at the North Fork trailhead where Jean, Denali, and I camped many years ago. We turned east onto segment 4 of the Colorado Trail and started gaining a little bit of elevation. Soon there were patches of snow, but it was easy enough to follow footprints and tree strikes. The snow increased and the footprints surprisingly decreased around 10,400ft. We popped out into a small meadow and the trail was gone. Uh oh! Checking the Gaia app, we somehow got about a half mile off trail! So we started bushwhacking uphill, about 0.7 miles and 40 minutes later we were back on track. How the heck did we lose the Colorado Trail?! We saw a few other groups and asked about snow conditions and paid real close attention to where we were going. We were both starting to get whooped from the heavy packs and after 7.7 miles, over 1,000ft of gain, and just over 4 hours we found our planned camp where a good stream crossed the trail. Oddly enough, there was an old rusted truck that was cut up in the stream! We found our tent site, snacked, filtered water, read, and talked about everything under the sun. Mountain House Spaghetti and Meat sauce was on the menu. We passed the time reading and playing cards, I beat Miles at WAR and he made fun of my "noob pillow". It started to rain so we re-hung our food bag with a modified trash bag over it and fell asleep around 9pm.
It was a little chilly, but we both slept great and I woke up around 6:30am while Miles woke up around 7am. We did our usual morning tradition of me getting the food and making drinks and oatmeal. We were in no hurry to get moving and had a relaxing morning packing up camp and hit the trail under perfect temps again, around 9:30am. Now we were starting to see more groups hiking, running, and backpacking. The Colorado Trail was double track almost all the way to the Rolling Creek trailhead and we passed the time by mostly talking about Marvel movies and dogs. Halfway through our days mileage we turned south onto the Rolling Creek trail dipping in and out of drainages with commanding views of The Castle. We asked several hikers about conditions up higher knowing there was likely be snow and stopped to make Ramen for lunch. Miles was started to feel pooped and we started looking for our planned campsite after passing Rolling Creek. We didn’t see a good spot and kept going up the trail, unfortunately it wasn’t until another mile and few hundred feet that we found a spot around 8,600ft which turned out to be the last spot in a long way. We were glad to get our packs off our shoulders and relax for a bit after another 7.7 miles and almost 4 hours hiking. We set up camp and built a small fire before the wind kicked up and the rain started. We read in the tent for a couple of hours and it stopped raining just long enough to cook dinner (Chili Mac night!) and filter more water, then it rained and rained and rained and rained.
I slept horrible due to the bowling ball sized lump and downward slope and got up around 5am looking forward to stretching and coffee. We wanted to hit the trail early today knowing that it would be a tough day, rain was inevitable, and hoping that the snow was still hard from a cold night. It was a cloudy morning so the tent never dried and we packed it up wet. We hit the trail right at 8am and took it slow and steady since we had over 2,000ft to gain. We saw two groups of hikers coming down and they confirmed that it was post-hole city above and the trail was close to impossible to follow. One step at a time! Around 9,800ft the patches of snow started and we kept the GPS out while constantly looking for fresh footprints. That worked well, and slow progress mixed in with plenty of post-holing got us to the 10,600ft saddle after about 2 hours. I told Miles how this is the situation that Nicholls and I typically get into and just say “I think it goes!” We got cell service and sent a text to Jean while talking about the possibility of skipping another night of camp and powering through the hike. We were losing elevation fast but progress was slow as a bruise on Miles ankle was causing him a lot of pain. We stopped a few times to adjust his laces and add padding with moleskin. Another hour later we turned west onto the Wigwam trail and Miles decided that we would push through the mileage to get back to the truck and avoid sitting in a tent for a long cold and wet night. Right on queue the clouds were building and the mist rolled in. We took a long break around 1pm at a stream to pump water, fuel up with our Mtn House lasagna, and put on our pack covers and raincoats. I told him stories about previous long torturous hikes and how soon we would each be in our own worlds just listening to the rain beating against our hoods. We talked about the terms “Welcome to The Suck” and “Make friends with misery and you’ll never be alone!” Plodding through East Lost Park the time and mileage slowly went by. Miles spotted a young moose that we watched for a bit and quietly passed by. We turned north knowing we just had a couple of miles left…. Then the sleet started. We slowed down quite a bit as Miles was pooped and my shoulders were tweeking. Then we reached pure delirium and started singing at the top of our lungs and making up our own words! Good times. Finally I spotted the roof of the campground bathroom! One last uphill and we cut through the campground so happy to see the truck after 6hrs 40mins, 11 miles, and over 2,700ft of gain. It was only 37 degrees and my fingers barely worked well enough to open and start the truck. Such a relief to drop our packs, feel some heat, and crack open a beer and Sprite. Miles handled the long day like an absolute champ.
After warming up and hydrating we had Mountain Burger, showers, and a warm bed on our mind. We picked up a couple of soaked guys who needed a ride to Kenosha Pass to help out their Scout Troop and another hiker who felt sick and couldn’t make it all the way to Kenosha Pass. Then we got to Mountain Burger to devour much deserved food and home to Jean and Willow. The next day we unpacked, dried out gear, and did nothing except watch movies while it was raining outside, glad that we made the decision to push on through.
Two years in a row now makes it a tradition to backpack after school gets out, I cherish every second of it while looking forward to the next one.