I awoke in the predawn to hear an odd scrapping sound outside my tent. The bunnies... I put on my headlamp and unzipped the the rainfly to see its eyes reflecting back at me from under the picnic table. It was dragging around a bit of foil I had used to cook the trout in. I couldn't have this thing dragging my garbage into the woods so I staggered out of the tent and shoed it away. It dropped the foil which I then deposited into the trunk of my car.
|The little fuzzy punk with my foil|
I tried to fall back to sleep but it was impossible. The sun crept into the valley and I unzipped the vestibule of my tent and let the rays warm me. It got cold during the nights in Colorado. Low 40s upper 30s.
As daylight increased it was time to prepare the things I was too tired to figure out the night before. I dug around in my car and laid everything out on the picnic table that I would pack. I was nervous about this process because I hadn't done much homework trying to figure out what I would actually need for a 4 - 5 night stay in the backcountry versus what would be possible for me to carry for the distances I would be traveling. (Disclaimer: No one reading this should look to my experience for advice on backpacking!)
After spending a few hours hemming and hawing on pack contents, I tried it on and nearly fell backwards from the weight. It was fairly easy to decide what would be left behind. First off was the Canon 50D DSLR camera. I wish I could had captured some of the sights I would see in the following days with it, but it's heavy as hell. Second was the .22 Rugar pistol my Grampa had lent me. I agree that it wasn't a bad idea to have it for protection, especially being alone. But it was also very heavy. Besides, I'd probably just shoot my eye out.
|Stillwater Reservoir trail head on Saturday|
After a bit of confusion at the trailhead sign, I decided I was heading the right direction and made my way across the dam on the eastern end of the Stillwater Reservoir. The plan for the following days would be roughly based on a blog I found that detailed places to camp and good fishing areas. I am very thankful for this guys writing as it probably kept me out of lots of trouble and from wasting time. I found out however that what he considers a 4 day trip is more of a 6 day trip for me.
|That "notch" in the middle of the horizon is where I needed to go to complete the first part of the first leg of my journey|
|Nameless lake near the beginning of the climb up|
|The trail ahead|
|This is no malarkey.|
|Progress. Looking back at the reservoir on left|
|The cliffs behind me|
|The path ahead|
The first lake, Hooper Lake, came into view on my right as the path started to dip into a valley. I veered off the trail and headed to the shore. I wanted to take another break and set my pack against a log near the lake. There was supposed to be a good cutthroat population in these lakes but it was a bit windy and I couldn't see into the lake. I didn't explore much around the lake due to being very exhausted and sore. I instead laid on my back on some springy grass and soaked in the sun with my hat tipped in front of my eyes.
|Trail continuing down the valley. North Fork of Derby Creek on right.|
Reaching for the GoPro camera on my head, I noticed a sharp pain in my back akin to someone poking around behind my right shoulder blade with a knife. This caused some panic. I was only on my first day in the backcountry. Had I been too cavalier jumping into a creek to wave my stick around after such a long hike? It was painful getting my pack back on and my mood started to suffer.
After many painful steps, I reached the trail junction near the area I had planned to camp for the night. I had to make a couple of creek crossings in order to arrive at an acceptable area far enough away from the trail and hidden in the trees. One of the crossings left my boot soaking wet after I sunk it into the mud, further degrading my mood. At the second crossing I decided to not chance it and removed my boots and socks, carrying my pack in front of me. Frustration and impatience kept me from at least putting on the aqua socks I had in the pack. For this my feet suffered greatly from the sharp stones in the creek. Profanities flew from my mouth and my enthusiasm took another shot. On the bright side, it was a really nice campsite when I finally found one. It had a stone fire ring, though minimal flat space for my tent.
|My first camp was located in that clump of trees just below the lake on the right|
|A bit disenchanted with backpacking in this particular photo|