October 20, 2017
The past two years, we’ve tried to start a tradition of camping somewhere new. Last year, we kept it local to Starved Rock/Illini State Park. But this year, thanks to our Southwest Companion Pass, we took our camping trip out west to Colorado to explore Rocky Mountain National Park. No car camping (last year was a baby step for me since I’d never been camping before!). This year, we put everything on our backs and hiked into our campsite – Pine Ridge (about 1.5 miles uphill from this parking lot). I’ll be the first to admit, I was pretty nervous about it – but Dan is a pro-outdoorsman so if there’s anyone I’d follow blindly into the woods – it’s him.
It was pretty cloudy/rainy the whole drive in from Denver, so I was not looking forward to hiking in and setting up camp, but as we parked and got set up to go… the skies cleared (sort of) and this beautiful rainbow appeared. It was the perfect sign to let me know everything was going to be okay.
As we hiked in, we were battling against the dark. Our flight out of Chicago got delayed, so we arrived a few hours later than we had originally planned. We needed to get to our campsite and set up before dark, so stopping for pictures was NOT encouraged by ranger Dan – HA! Good luck not letting me snap at least one pic. And of course since I was taking one, he decided to sneak one in, too.
This was home for the next three nights. It doesn’t look like much, but it was AWESOME. We had the entire campsite to ourselves 🙂 And we lucked out that this particular site had a privy (otherwise we were fully prepared and came with a shovel)!
Yep, this is where we pooped for three days. I know it seems awful, but when I was expecting to be digging holes all weekend – this was a very welcomed LUXURY!
The next day we explored the area near our campsite (actually behind the privy). We climbed up the rocks pictured on the left to enjoy this view and some snacks. After our little break, we hiked up to Ouzel Falls for a light hike. This trail was pretty touristy, but still gorgeous. I’m a sucker for streams and the sound of running water, and I was feeling a little under the weather so this was the perfect easy hike for day 1. The best part was our little chipmunk friend, Alvin, that ate nuts right out of our hands… he later returned to haunt us/steal our trail mix while we were napping in the hammock. This was right before I got stuck and had nowhere else to go…
Then Dan, of course, showed me up and walked across the higher, more dangerous log over the stream (left). Oh, and that hammock was AMAZING. I could sleep in that thing every day of my life. Those smiles are pure happiness (of course, this was pre-chipmunk messing with us and stealing our snacks).The next day we spent pretty much the whole day hiking up to Finch Lake (~8 miles round trip). On the way, we saw a cow and a calf, and barely any people – which was nice. The only people we saw were 3 locals and they were surprised we had found that trail since not many people take it – which is always a good sign to us! It was a pretty tough hike, so we set up the hammock for a little nap/snacks. Photo cred for the picture below goes to a tree branch. I hung up my camera and took it remotely from my phone. I’m surprised it turned out because it was SO windy that the camera was swaying back and forth (note my hair).
Poor Dan is always my photograph muse, but he’s a good sport.
We had such a fun time – I LOVED unplugging from the world and getting back to nature. Can’t wait for next year’s trip! Does anyone have any suggestions?? Leave your favorite camping spots in the comments below and/or hike recommendations… I’d love to hear what y’all are exploring!