After finishing our usual breakfast; burrito smothered in hatch green chili sauce, a blueberry muffin and some form of an espresso concoction we finally set off into Rocky Mountain National Park. Stella and I have been talking about this hike for the past year, we thought about it last fall but knowing the final destination would be lacking it’s natural source of the winter runoff we opted to wait until the spring conditions were optimal. After the obligatory hello to the gate attendant and about two miles into the park you come across the Green Mountain Trail Head located in the Kawuneeche Valley. Securing our parking space and gathering our packs we were about to jump onto the trail but frustrations set in before even stepping one foot forward. Personally, I like to track our hikes via an app, the pros and cons of being in a remote environment are never more apparent when you would like the app to work but it would not cooperate this day, nonetheless we were off. Technically speaking Stella and I would rate this hike as a moderate trek that is an out and back just shy of 11 miles with a elevation gain of roughly 2000 feet. The most difficult portion of the hike is really the first 2 miles where you quickly gain about 600ft of elevation on a well maintained trail but needing to scramble about a slew of fallen trees yet to be cleared. Quickly and very shortly into our hike, we noticed we were in for unexpected company, the notorious and pesky mosquito. In one of those ahh ha moments noting if you fail to bring your bug repellant you will certainly not forget on your next adventure. After the steady incline we connect to the Tonahutu Trail and the gateway to Granite Falls. The Tonahutu Trail is one of the longer trails inside Rocky Mountain National Park just over 13 miles in length starting at the Kawuneeche Visitor Center to the South and terminating at Flattop Mountain to the East with several spurs along the way. The Green Mountain Trail intersects at the southern end of Big Meadows, we continue our trek towards the North end of the meadow as we were constantly peeking across the treeless openings for a random moose or herd of elk grazing in the vast expanse, there would be no such sightings today. At this point we keep right on the Tonahutu Trail as the Onahu Creek Trail spurs to the North. Continuing Northeast we stumble upon remnants of the Big Meadows Fire, started by a lightning strike on June 10th, 2013 as the trail winds through a portion of the burnt out forest. Somewhat of an eerily sight, all that remains are the blackened trunks of the beetle kill pines that once stood mightily at the North end of the meadow. New vegetation has taken a foothold but there are little signs of new pine rising from the ashes. We continue our trek further east slowly coming closer to our destination, you can hear the thundering roar of the falls ahead and after one last climb we have made our journey’s end, Granite Falls. Scuttling down the path we settle into view the falls from a giant rock below. It is near impossible to describe the deafening roar as the water cascades over the rocky outcrop falling about 20 or so feet into a chute as it continues its unabated path down the Tonahutu Creek into Grand Lake or the cooling sensation of the mist hitting your face after an arduous climb. You just gaze towards the falls looking at every path the water is taking as is it winds its way down, Stella describes it as the left half being terribly angry and the right half happy. Not mater how you look at its raw beauty the falls are just plain amazing and well worth the hike, you would short change yourself if you stopped at Big Meadows, which many people did upon Stella’s inquiry.
Returning from our hike we settled in for light lunch and bit of rest before turning our attention to Aspen who waited patiently back at Base Camp. Jumping into her harness we gathered her water ball and off to Shadow Mountain Lake we went where Aspen would spend Saturday afternoon doing what a golden retriever does best retrieve her water ball. Given the choice Aspen would spend the entire day swimming back and forth if allowed. Once it has been determined for her benefit that she has had enough playtime in the water we devise our plan to bring her ashore. Back at Base Camp and turning our attention towards our evening meal we unseal the chicken that has been marinating for the past day or so waiting to be placed gently on the charcoal grill to sear in the flavor. A barbecue chicken is not complete without the classic homemade potato salad Stella carefully crafted prior to our departure. Taking days to prepare and minutes to finish with our stomachs full of goodness we attempted to complete a game of Scrabble before heading off to bed.
Sunday would be a day of respite. After taking Aspen for a quick morning swim again on the shores of Shadow Mountain Lake I would turn my attention to something that I really had not done since leaving for college, fish. Now this is not say I haven’t been fishing since then, typically my brothers and I will meet up in Florida at our parents to fish out in the Gulf of Mexico but that was once a year. I toiled away for an hour or so casting and reeling in the two different spinners at the end of my line without success, I will leave the story of the one that got away for another day, Upon my return Stella had suggested we head back early to see Wonder Woman. So we quickly packed up and off to the city. See you next week, additional photos from the weekend are under the photos tab at the top of the page.