Once I had finished reading the book, “Ranger Confidential: Living, Working, and Dying in the National Parks,” my thoughts immediately turned to hiking. It was too late in the day to complete a ten-mile plus hike, but I had wanted a trek with a bit of distance. However, when had driven to the North Inlet Trailhead, I was disappointed to have found the parking lot full. Thus, I had decided to try out an exploratory hike up the Baker Gulch Trail.
The trail starts inside Rocky Mountain National Park at the Bowen/Baker Trailhead, approximately 6.5 miles north of the Kawuneeche Visitors Center. A shared trail before it diverges about a third of a mile in and slight right on the trail, I began my journey. After a short distance I crossed into the Never Summer Wilderness. My crossing witnessed by a doe and her two fawn. The trail winds gradually through old growth Conifer and Aspen, which run parallel to Baker Gulch. On the trek, I had discovered several small meadows, and stopped briefly as Mineral Point came into view. I paused for a moment to take in the solitude truly of being one alone with nature.
At 2.4 miles from the trailhead, I had climbed to an elevation of 9500’ and a great stopping point to view a small cascading waterfall located below the trail. I ventured down the steep embankment to get up close and personal with the gulch. It was here that I imagined the crush of water pouring through this narrow portion of the gulch during the spring run off, impressive to say the least. As I retraced my steps, I climbed back up to the trail, which would be just shy of the half-way point to Parika Lake. The continued trek to Parika Lake would be a bit tougher, 2000′ in elevation gain is what would stand between me and lake, as it sits at an elevation of 11,360′. Alas, this is as far as I would hike today, nonetheless I look forward to making my way to the lake prior to the onset of winter.
I made way back down the gulch and reentered Rocky Mountain National Park, I looked north into the Kawuneeche Valley, and admired the priceless view of the Never Summer Range on the horizon.