The view from the road looking down on the town of Silverton before sunrise. I was on the move.
The bite was still hot on the Conejos, but I had a side-trip on the agenda. It was time to put this scouting trip behind me. My friends and I have been talking for years about planning a trip to Colorado with bows in our hands and tags in our pockets, and this looks to finally be the year! A new acquaintance to our usual hunting posse informed us of an area he had hunted in the past. His stories of elk and bear encounters held our attention, and we were sold on this location. But there was a catch. His group had always paid a trespass fee to one of the ranchers whose property bordered the public land. From the back side of his ranch, they would make day trips into the public areas to hunt. We didn't want to do that this time. We want to pack all our gear in, set up a spike camp, and hunt from there for the rest of the week. Studying Google Earth and other GPS mapping software, we thought we could see a way in without doing any trespassing. What we didn't know was the condition of the trails (if there were trails), and the difficulty of the hike. That's what I volunteered to find out.
By the time I got on the trail, I was already behind schedule. I wanted to be hiking by sunrise, hopefully making it to our predetermined spike camp area before the temperature rose. Unfortunately, it was probably closer to 10:00 a.m. before I was making tracks. I was glad to see the first part of the trail was more defined, and easier to travel than I had imagined. The first 4 or 5 miles went by easily, until my legs began that dreadful turn to jello. My place slowed after that. I stopped often to snap pics of the trail. The trail was muddy, which made walking more difficult, but allowed for this picture.
Being unaccustomed to hiking alone in bear country, I had already tied a bell into my shoe laces. But after these tracks started showing up on the trail I began talking out loud to the forest. It started with the simple "Hey bear........hey bear......" every minute or so. But before long I had reverted back to my Jellystone roots. "Ehhhh Boo Boo?"
The views on this hike more than made up for work involved in getting to my destination. After nearly 7 hours of walking, I came upon the meadow below.
My legs told me this was a good place to stop and set-up camp. I marked the path in on my GPS so we would have no trouble getting back here in September. I took off my pack and sat down on a fallen tree. Exhausted. I'd been resting for less than ten minutes when I heard something over my left shoulder. I carefully grabbed my camera and snapped this pic before they caught my wind.
That was enough proof for me that we had picked a good location! After setting up camp, filtering water, and cookin' up some dinner, it was time to dry out my socks and boots from the soggy walk in.
I watched another large group of elk pass through the meadow that evening, but they moved on as the darker clouds began rolling in. I ended up crawling in the tent early that night and fell asleep to the sounds of a thunderstorm.
After crawling out of the tent the next morning, the first thing I did was peak out over the meadow. Sure enough, the elk were there again. September can't come soon enough!
I wanted to get an early start, as I knew the hike going out would be more difficult than coming in. I quickly shook off my tent and stuffed it in my pack. I crunched down a Clif Bar and waited on my coffee. With everything secured in my pack, I headed back towards the meadow to pick up my bear bag before walking out. I must have missed this interesting Aspen tree the night before. It seems I wasn't the only one who thought this meadow made for a perfect camp setting.
I had a long walk ahead of me, but the crisp morning air made miles go by with moderate ease. I encountered several groups of elk in the smaller creek bottoms as I retraced my path. My body, like clockwork, hit the wall around mile 5 or 6. I figure I have less than two months before I'll be doing this again, but with more weight on my back. I'll be hitting the gym and climbing some stairs before then, but I'm sure it will be just as brutal. 8 miles in, 8 miles out. That's gonna be a fun time packing an elk out if we are fortunate enough to get one!
With the "work" out of the way, it's time to get back to the trout streams! More on that next time.
Mid June 2017
1 week ago