Hi fellow adventurers and outdoor enthusiasts. My name is Dave, and this is the story of my very first backpacking trip and backcountry adventure in the beautiful state of Colorado! And, it all began with a good friend and coworker of mine, Larry, who is the man behind the scenes of the outdoor adventure blog: basecampgrandlake.com At work one day, Larry had asked me if I would be interested in doing a backpacking trip to Lake Verna, located in Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP), on October 19, 2019. I enthusiastically said, “yes,” and my anticipation for the upcoming trip grew with each passing day. It was really exciting getting my backpack ready with all the key essentials that one would need for a trip out in the backcountry.
Larry obtained the wilderness permit that was needed for overnight camping, and we both familiarized ourselves with the camping rules, and what to expect while in the backcountry. Since Larry and I live in Colorado, and are active in the outdoors, we are acclimated to high altitudes, so the acute mountain sickness that one could incur, was not a bother to us. Additionally, we made sure to pack plenty of water and food, as well as a bear canister, which was required. Larry had a first aid kit, utility knife, light, and other backcountry essentials. We also packed a variety of clothing so we would be prepared for rain or a snowstorm; wind chill can accelerate the lowering of body temperature, resulting in hypothermia. Remember, you assume complete responsibility for your own safety!
The night before our trip, I hadn’t slept a wink because of the anticipating of how amazing our backpacking adventure was going to be! Early Saturday morning, we loaded our gear into Larry’s Tahoe, and drove to Grand Lake. Once there, we made a quick pitstop at the Kawuneeche Visitor Center, just outside of the entrance to RMNP, to pick up the wilderness permit. With that in hand, we headed to the East Inlet Trail to begin our adventure. We loaded up our gear, and headed into the wilderness!
The first stop on the hike was Adam Falls, which wasn’t fully gushing like it had been earlier in the season, but the beauty it had revealed was still awesome. And, we even saw fresh mountain lion tracks! The way to our final destination (Lake Verna) revealed the landscape and colors of something one would find in a National Geographic Magazine. Lone Pine Lake, which is about eight miles in, was tranquil, and there we allowed ourselves a much needed break. At that point, we had gained about sixteen hundred feet in elevation.
After seven hours of hiking, twists and turns, we had finally made it to our destination: Lake Verna. It was amazing how beautiful the scenery was, but we were both exhausted from the long hike. The sun had already begun to set, so with what energy we had remaining, we set up the tent and unpacked our gear. Larry fueled up the Jetboil stove, and I got the dry food out and ready to cook; we didn’t end up eating our dinner until nightfall. I then put the food and trash in the required bear canister (we rented from REI), and placed it about two hundred feet from our camping spot. After dinner, we both put on a fresh set of thermal underwear and clean thermal socks, and headed into the tent for bed.
That night, it had snowed, coupled with twenty mile an hour winds blasting through the camp. But morning had come, indicating that we had made it through the night. When we stepped out of the tent, we had awoken to a winter wonderland. We had both looked at each other, and realized that we had a long hike to get back to the trailhead, and with not so great weather conditions. We quickly packed up everything, and took off for the hike back down the mountain. Even with all the snow, the serenity that I had felt was amazing, and the views that my eyes witnessed were incredible.
After a grueling five and a half hour journey down the mountainside, we had finally made it back to the trailhead! We were giving one another high fives, and had experienced a type of ‘rush’ that no one else could understand unless they had been in our shoes. The backpacking trip was an amazing and humbling experience, and I am thankful to have had the opportunity to experience that. However, the hike had been quite strenuous, and is likely one of the hardest hikes I’ve ever done. So if you plan to complete this journey, make sure you are completely ready for it, because there is no one out there to help you, besides your hiking buddy, should you have one. Larry and I are already planning our next backcountry camping adventure!