Memorial Day Weekend: The Return to Base Camp

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After prepping base camp the previous weekend it seemed as if we had twice as much packed in the back of the Tahoe including the newest addition to our arsenal at base camp, pie irons from Rome Industries (one round & one square). We also ordered the Pudgie Revolution Cookbook, which is loaded with creative ideas for pudgie pies – things we had never thought of, and all delivered in a timely fashion for the holiday weekend. We arrived about 1PM on Friday afternoon and spent a good portion the day unpacking and putting the finishing touch on a few items from the prior weekend including a custom wood sign made by Redwood Signs.

With all the tasks completed we focused on dinner and our first experiment at making pudgie pies. I began by creating a small campfire in the fire pit and patiently waited for enough coals to create 2 warm pockets where our pie irons would sit while Stella was busy prepping the ingredients. Carefully we pressed the crescent roll dough into the pie irons, followed by our ingredients to create a pizza pudgie pie. The fire was ready and the irons were placed above the coals to let the magic begin. After a few turns and checking the progress of the encapsulated delicacy the moment was finally here, was our first attempt a success, heck yeah it was and flipping tasty as well!!!

Saturday started out with a new routine, a brisk walk to the golf course and back before breakfast, in total about 2.8 miles. The trek is mostly up hill and Stella chose to jog a good portion. After the quick jaunt we settled in for the usual savoir fare consisting of our world famous homemade breakfast burritos accompanied with an Americano for myself and a Latte for Stella, paired perfectly with a few donut holes. After relaxing for a spell and spending sometime outside in the warm mountain sun we prepared Aspen for her first swim of the year.

With Aspen in the Tahoe we headed to the Hilltop Kayak Launch on Shadow Mountain Lake. As we pulled into the parking area she knew exactly where we were at, her swimming hole. It is a perfect spot for Aspen to swim because it is not too deep, easily accessible, and has soft sand in the shallow area (as opposed to pebbles or rocks). With Aspen snug in here life vest and I chasing closely behind we headed into the water to retrieve the first ball of the season. Certainly she would be open to spending the entire day in the water if it were up to her, but with spring run off still going strong that translates to about 10 to 15 minutes of time in the water due to the water temperature. It took some effort to coax Aspen out of the water and back into the Tahoe.

Once Aspen was dried off and ears flushed, we settled in for a quick bite to eat before returning to the Hilltop Kayak Launch with the “Big Mango” and embarking on our first paddle of Grand Lake for the year. It wasn’t quite a smooth start as I had laid my iPhone on the back of the kayak forgetting to place it into the pocket of my life jacket before launching the kayak into Shadow Mountain Lake. We headed south from the launch with the intention of paddling around the island prior to entering the channel into Grand Lake. A brief, and for lack of better words, a mild panic attack overcame me, in my hast I was directing Stellla to reverse course and head back to shore. As we were coming about I noticed the fluorescent yellow baffle in the water tight case I carry my iPhone in gleaming brightly in the midday sun, panic attack over, carry on and we paddled our way into Grand Lake.

Paddling in typical fashion we circumnavigate the lake counter clockwise from the entrance of the channel marveling at the breathtaking view of Mt Baldy (officially known as Mt Craig) inside Rocky Mountain National Park. Immediately we notice that construction is nearing the end on an enormous new log home and it is beautiful masterpiece of craftsmanship. From the southeast end of the lake we began our journey back taking notice of any new oddities along the way. The beach area and the marina bustled with weekend holiday revelers enjoying the beautiful day. The paddle around the lake is about 5 miles and the amount of time it take us to complete really depends upon the weather/water conditions, and how much time we spend staring at the beauty around us.

Sunday morning we repeated our start to the day with another trek to the golf course and back, however shortly after our return the first visitor of the year appeared. I was sitting in one of the chairs at the back of the travel trailer and suddenly Stella appeared awestruck and speechless, pointing frantically over my shoulder. Confused, I slowly looked over my shoulder and there was a bull moose feasting away at the willows literally inches from us. We were separated only by a single pane of glass with the moose less than a foot from our vantage point in the confines of our trailer. We are blessed to be able to view these magnificent creatures in there natural habitat every weekend. After feasting on willows the moose moved on and we settled in for our breakfast.

After breakfast we took Aspen for a quick jaunt around the campground in advance of our first foray of the year to the Alpine Center inside Rocky Mountain National Park. I am certain there a plenty of drives across our great nation deserving to be rated one of the best scenic drives in the country but we have to say that this has to be a proverbial top ten drive. We entered Rocky Mountain National Park from the Grand Lake entrance and drive north for about ten miles with the vast Kawuneeche Valley on the west, home of two large elk herds, the headwaters of the Colorado River and the Never Summer Mountain Range looming in the distance. The drive is a steady climb prior to entering several switchbacks that will take us up and over Milner’s Pass & Poudre Lake, at this point we are more than 2 miles above sea level. Further up the road is Medicine Bow Curve with grand views of the Never Summer Range and due north about 30 miles, the Wyoming border. We now have traveled above the tree-line and into the fragile alpine tundra, technically our journey which began in the Kawuneeche Valley or the montane ecosystem, then we traversed through the subapline ecosystem from 9,000 feet to the tree-line around 11,000 feet. Upon rounding Medicine Bow Curve and within a short distance we arrive at our destination, the Alpine Center, which is perched on the left above the Fall River cirque. What a difference  a year makes, at this time last year the cirque was buried in snow, not so this year as this past winter’s snowfall significantly lagged behind the average amounts typically seen in the Colorado moutains. We spent time milling about the Alpine Center Gift Shop before reversing course and heading back to Base Camp.

For the remainder of the afternoon Stella sat outside practicing her guitar. While I headed out to the Colorado River via the Colorado River Trail. I noticed from our walk to the golf course Saturday morning that a significant amount of clear cutting had taken place since we closed up Base Camp last year in October. The intent of “clear cutting” is to remove the mountain pine beetle killed lodgepole pines in an effort to reduce the fire hazard. One benefit of the tree removal is that you now have awesome view of Mt Baldy from the trailhead however on the other hand all I could think of was the mismanagement of the forests prior to the infestation about 20 years ago.

The trail has been rerouted taking you away from the ponds and through the “maze” as I make my way towards the river. I remember back to our first year in the mountains how this was such an enjoyable hike but since the fire mitigation of the forest there is just something missing. Arriving at the river I was actually taken aback by the flow of the Colorado River as it rushed below my feet towards Shadow Mountain Lake, the spring runoff is well underway, only how much longer would it last were my thoughts at the moment. Spending a while gazing about the river I start my hike back to Base Camp and with another go at making pudgie pies.

As for any Memorial Day weekend, it would not be complete without a period of rain! Monday morning had started out overcast, and remained that way until the first bouts of thunder around noon. I ended up getting lucky because I was toying with the idea of going on a hike to LuLu City deep inside Rocky Mountain National Park. But shortly after those first claps of thunder, the rain ensued, with the temperatures falling into the upper 30’s, with a few spits of snow mixed in. We spent the remainder of the day delaying the inevitable return to the city for as long as we could, knowing that we would be back in four short days.

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