Saturday, July 12, 2014

Rawah Wilderness Area hike

Colorado has a lot to offer, so we didn't have to think twice to plan for the 4th of July. HIKING. We decided to scope out the Rawah Wilderness Area about 2 hrs away from Ft. Collins. We were prepared with multiple trail maps, equipment for rain and shine and some happy puppies. 

 At the start of the West Branch Trailhead (parked at West Branch Trail parking lot).

 Getting higher in elevation (start was at about 8600 ft, 11.220 was our highest point at Grassy Pass).

 Beautiful Columbines flowering after all the rain.
 The trail consisted about 75% of the time of NO TRAIL (as in creek instead of trail or the snow was too high to show the trail). It sure was an adventure and our feet were wet for 4 days :-)
 The "usually small creek crossing". First camping spot was just past this beautiful river. Fresh water for the puppies and us.

 Stashing the critter bag. We did read that Black Bears are not uncommon in this area.

 Most of the West Branch Trail was flooded, and once we turned onto the North Fork trail, we encountered lots of fallen trees and damaged bridges. But no worries, we really liked it like that. It was a great adventure!!!
 Checking out how many more switchbacks to Twin Crater Lakes.
 Lots of water this year!!! Waterfalls and streams everywhere!!!

 Unfortunately Twin Crater Lakes would have been a very snowy hike and we wanted to get to Rawah Lake 3, so we skipped the 3 mile detour. We will be back in August and hopefully make it to the beautiful Lakes.
 Where is the trail?
 On our hike up to Grassy Pass.

 Lunch break at 11220 ft. Perfect conditions. No wind and lots of sunshine.
 For me, that meant play time in the snow fields!!!
 Tupperware - snow- tower.

 Continuing the hike to Rawah Lake 3 before the storm comes.
 But first a little fishing. We read most lakes had great fishing, but after this harsh winter, Rawah Lake 3 had absolutely NO fish in it. They did bite at Camp Lake.
 Yep, this is the trail. Thankfully we had contour lines on the map to figure out where the trail should be.
 Rawah Lake 3.
 Off trail from Rawah Lake 3 to Camp Lake. There was absolutely no trail and we even had to help a bunch of hikers who got lost. We decided to go over Sheep Mountain and down the other side. Lots of fallen trees and snow banks, but we managed to find Camp Lake!!!

 Brook Trout in Camp Lake!!!
 Camping in and close to snow was great. The toughest part was finding a dry spot since everything was a little marshy!!!
 Jack's first time giving a fish a kiss. He was not too interested and also had no interest in eating fish skin later that day :-)

 Some more fishing before the last 7 miles back to the car. There were 5 campers with us around the Lake and we wondered how they got there. Turns out that the other part of the loop was a pretty easy 7 mile hike in and we also learned that a ranger had been telling people at the parking lot NOT to do the entire loop due to flooding and snow. Ooops. The North Fork of the Laramie River is usually this nice stream coming out of the bottom of the mountain. It was roaring and very deep. Thankfully we found a "balance beam" and made our way across.

Camp Lake is beautiful and there was fish in the inlet, outlet as well as the lake!!!

 Jack did get tired after 4 days of playing and running in the snow.

We released this little guy. Possibly the smallest fish with the biggest appetite. It bit a fly that was the size of this guys head :-)

Rawah is a great wilderness area. I highly recommend it, even in the snow. The Twin Crater Lake area and South Rawah Peak area with Grassy pass are great and fairly remote. All the peaks can be conquered and I think we might spend 4 days up there in August to explore more.

WARNING: It seemed like ALL maps we compared between ours and other people's, had different mileages and different contour lines. Plan to hike more then the map says!!!