700 and Still Kickin'
~Sunday, May 15, 2022~
Wow, where did the time go? How did we get to 700 days? That’s 16,800 hours of pure adventure and witnessing first hand just how amazing our country is. It’s quite phenomenal. The varied climates, the numerous state and and national parks, the diversity in culture, and the many attractions make this BIG, and I mean BIG country of ours worth exploring and celebrating. And we’ve become pretty knowledgeable RV’ers in the process, all during a global pandemic! With only a few impactful setbacks….the transmission going out on a brand new truck and me getting COVID, we’ve not regretted or looked back once. This journey has been absolutely amazing. So let’s go…..we’re ready for those next 350 days!! By the time I’m done blogging, I’ll have enough photos and writing material for a trilogy. Thank you followers, for continuing to join us vicariously through our blog as we carry on with this amazing adventure.
About a 30-minute drive from our campsite is a highly rated 4-mile loop trail called the Monarch Lake Loop, considered an easy hike in the Arapaho National Forest and Indian Peaks Wilderness. We chose it for its dog friendliness and 4.9 Google rating. And the pictures attracted our attention as well. Sadie always seems to have a sixth sense about when she’s able to join us, especially once she’s in the car. She basically whimpers with excitement until we’ve reached our destination.
This trail can get especially crowded on weekends. But it wasn’t too bad for a Sunday, thinking maybe the Spring thaw and muddy trails kept hikers at bay. Even before getting on the main trail, the views were breathtaking with the lake at 8,400 feet, surrounded by the grandeur of the higher snow-capped Rocky Mountain peaks. The contrast of the lush green forest and blue sky looked almost fake because it looked so perfect.
Monarch Lake is considered one of the most beautiful lakes in all of Colorado, so we were happy to be in its presence.
We didn’t think we’d encounter snow since everything around the lake appeared thawed, but there was still quite a bit to be seen on the trail itself. Poles would have been helpful, but we still managed o.k. You couldn’t help but notice the many downed trees in this particular forest. Man, what a mess. A violent windstorm must have come through here on multiple occasions. Most of the debris looks like it'd been here for quite some time, waiting one day to return to the soil. It’s apparent the Forest Service hasn’t quite gotten to their Spring cleaning yet, at least on the trail.
Where there wasn’t snow, there was mud and quite a few mini streams to cross…..the Arapaho and Buchanan which are more like rivers this time of year. As we continued our way, we only saw glimpses of the lake due to the dense column of trees blocking our view, and only occasional sights of the peaks. Easy to miss, we saw a very strange looking object off to the side of the trail, fairly close to the lake (sort of above the lake). We found out later it is a steam powered winch
that was used to drag logs down the mountainside where they were placed into a flume, down to the lake and hauled out. This logging operation only lasted 4 years from 1904 to 1908.
About a mile in, we crossed paths with a couple who told us they had just witnessed the falling of 3 tall pine trees directly in front of them, now blocking the trail. Wow!! And there’s barely a whisper of wind today. Maybe all of the snowmelt has caused things to erode, not to mention how shallow rooted most of these trees are in the first place. Within minutes our “easy” hike became “moderate”. In fact crossing any downed tree area is downright dangerous. It didn’t take long for a back up of hikers to occur, as we were all trying to figure out a way to maneuver around the blocked trail.
We decided to give it a go, which in hindsight was not the best judgment call. A lot of the limbs and the deep snow underneath them made for unstable ground, causing us to create snow potholes with each step (for lack of a better term). For Sadie, she made it look easy with her 4-wheel driving, dodging rocks and trees. We would highly recommend not trying this at any time since you never know what’s lurking under that forest floor……jagged, sharp limbs that you could fall on, invisible flowing water under the debris, and many a void under your feet.
Once we managed to get on top of the larger fallen trees, it made it easier to get to the other side. After about 30 minutes, we finally made it.
This led to the next unexpected turn of events. When we arrived at the very end of the lake, we noticed we were starting to veer off course, heading away from the lake. With still 2 miles of the loop to go, we decided something didn’t look quite right. So Jeff whipped out his cell phone to look at the photo of the map he had taken at the beginning of the trail (we always do this in case we don’t have cell service). In our experience of hiking, we’ve never seen such a poorly designed map. And it didn’t help that the trail wasn’t very well marked as well. If you have a loop trail, any sign should point you in 2 directions. We only saw one arrow pointing us in the direction of where we had just come. We had also noticed a field of debris that had taken out a few signs which maybe would have helped steer us in the right direction. We continued on another 5 minutes and ran into a group of hikers, all with their cell phones out looking at their GPS’s. Even the GPS seemed to show us off course. We all agreed that we were heading on the Cascade Trail into another valley, so at least for Jeff and I, we decided to head back a bit to see if we missed a turn somewhere. We never saw those hikers again, until the end.
Heading backward, we saw no turn which told us that the section of the trail that we were questioning was likely the right one. But we just didn’t feel like risking what seemed to be off-course. We knew at that point, we were not going to finish the trail, a first for us. And with that, came the dread that we’d have to go through the fallen tree section, ALL OVER AGAIN!! 😥. But this time, having to remove our backpacks, we found a tight squeeze underneath the trees rather than going around them. Whew!! It certainly made for an adventure we won’t soon forget. At least we got our 4 miles in and saw some amazing scenery in the process. And for Sadie, what could be better than a trail which encompassed meeting other dogs, running in snow, swimming in a beautiful lake, and fetching any stick that dad threw? By the end, she was one tired pooch!
After one last swim for Sadie, we ran into one of the couple’s we’d seen previously at the “WTF juncture”. They, unlike us, managed to find the connecting trail to finish the loop around the lake. What?? They said after we had met, they hesitatingly continued on another 15 minutes where they finally saw a sign pointing them in the right direction to finish the loop. So that’s what it was. We just hadn’t hiked far enough. Grrr 😡!!
After our interesting hike, we drove a few miles out of the way to the small town of Granby. Granby is in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, surrounded by miles and miles of open land and is a recreation lover’s paradise. The store in Grand Lake is especially expensive, geared toward tourists. So since we were already near Granby, we found a more affordable shopping experience at Food City. But what is affordable these days in the way of groceries? Prices are insane right now!
Our 30-minute drive home mostly consisted of rehashing the day's events. Nothing frustrates my husband more than bad maps, and poorly marked trails. So of course he had to check out other maps. One of our go-to’s is the “All Trails” app, which is what we should have looked at in the first place. Sure enough, the “All-Trails” map showed a more exact route of veering away from the lake a good ½ mile, before returning back towards the water. Lesson learned: DON’T RELY ON TRAILHEAD MAPS!! They show more of an overview of the area, not the specifics. Download a map from the “All Trails” app and you can’t go wrong.