P, Erdos and I drove up to Buffalo Pass on the continental divide at the southern edge of the Mt. Zirkel wilderness area. The wildflowers were magnificent.
We hiked north up the continental divide about 4 miles toward north Mt. Ethel and then back along the same trail. The photo shows Erdos and I on a rocky point where we turned back toward the car. It is impressive country. On the hike out, Erdos pointed two blue grouse (grouse season opens in WY on September 1st.)
We set up camp over the pass at Dry Lake campground, a few miles up the hill from Steamboat Springs. Stopped and soaked at Strawberry Hot Springs on our way to town, had dinner in Steamboat Springs and sat around the campfire for an hour or so before hitting the hay. Drove home in the morning back over Buffalo Pass and up through North Park and Walden. Turns out to be about 70 miles from home.
Pen, Erdos, Mary and Warren and I backpacked down the 16 mile Encampment River trail from Hog Park to the BLM campground just outside Encampment. The trail follows the river as it drops through a canyon out into the Platte River valley. We hiked downriver about seven miles the first afternoon, starting out at about 1:30 and arriving at a camp site at around 6:30. The upper section of the trail has a lot of up and down with the trail climbing high up the hillsides above many of the cliffs that plunge down right into the water. Other times, it follows close to the river on a narrow track. We all probably wanted to stop hiking around 5:30, but there was no place to pitch a tent in the steep sided canyon.
Fish was on the menu for dinner and so I broke out the fly rod and managed to catch a beautiful wild brown and a brookie to add to the larder. There is certainly a different aspect to fishing when there are hungry people expecting you to catch dinner. The river up here is fast flowing and not overly rich in aquatic insect life. I did find a few caddis cases under rocks on the river bottom and there were a few recently shed stonefly exoskeletons dried onto rocks above waterline. I managed to catch the fish on a caddis imitation. After trying a few different flies, including watching two fish rise to, follow and then reject a rather large (size 10) caddis imitation, I ended up doing best with a smaller (size 14) tan Goddard caddis.
Mary and Warren did the menu planning and food shopping including wine selection. This included cleaning the trout and cooking them wrapped in foil with butter, salt, pepper and some chopped celery. Trout, risotto, and a couple of liter boxes of French Rabbit Pinot Noir followed by brownies made for an outstanding meal.
Erdos has never been backpacking and I don't believe he's ever slept in a tent before. At one point as darkness fell, he headed up to the trail and back toward the car, stopping to look back and no doubt wondering what the hell we were up to. By the time we got into the tent, he was tired enough that he pretty quickly abandoned his scepticism about the whole thing. He easily runs 4 times the distance we walk and I'm sure that in total this was an eighty mile run for him. He is beat today.
Day 2: After breakfast, we packed and started down canyon. The photo shows us ready to take off on day 2, a bit tired but happy. The nine miles out from the camp site to the end of the trail were harder than I'd expected they'd be. The upper section of the trail is mostly forested with the trail running through the trees. About six or seven miles upstream from the lower end the terrain opens up into steep and rocky sage country with few trees except the cottonwoods, aspens and willows just along the river. The sun was brutal. I don't know how hot it was, but it must have been near ninety if not more. In the last five miles, much of the river itself runs across private land with the trail up on the south bank separated from the river by barbed wire fences. For the last two miles or so the far bank is intermittently clustered with small cabins and trailers.
Sixteen miles later, happy, tired and achy, we got back to the car parked at the camp site just at 1:30. Exactly twentyfour hours after we'd left the top end. Warren and I drove up to get my truck, a drive of about 30 miles, mostly on dirt roads, only to realize I'd left the keys in my pack! Argh. Pen and Mary made the second trip up and back, this time with the keys and actually returning with the truck.
This hike is on a great trail along a beautiful wilderness river. We saw maybe ten other folks the entire time (all but two were fishing), and those were mostly concentrated at either end. Next time, we think we'll take three days to allow more fishing time and to generally allow for a more leisurely trip.