Sunday, July 14, 2013

Camping on the Middle St Vrain River

As part of our marathon of male-bonding, Balázs and I went camping last week Monday-Tuesday.

Balázs would have been perfectly happy going somewhere like a pay campsite, but I wasn't going to let that happen. I asked around and heard that there was good dispersed camping along the Middle St Vrain river, up above Allenspark.

In my reading, I also found out that there is a Middle St Vrain 4x4 road, which is for "high clearance Four-Wheel-Drive vehicles only, which - I figured - is exactly what my Toyota Sequoia is, right? ...Wrong...

So my plan was to drive the Sequoia up the 4x4 road and then camp in the wilderness. When we got to the trailhead on Monday and the beginning of the 4x4 road, we realized that our Sequoia was going to have a hard time. The test pile is at the beginning of the road, which basically is there to say: 'if you can drive over this, then you can handle this road'. We were pretty sure we would hurt the car if we tried to take it over the pile, but the road on the other side looked totally do-able.

While we were considering our options, some guys pulled up in Rubikon Jeeps. One of the guys said he thought we could handle the test pile and the road if he spotted us. He did, and while I was on top of the pile with me truck, he asked me: "You don't mind if your car gets scratched up on the bottom do you?" Um...

So, we got over the pile, but not without bending the stairs on the side of the car a bit. I was able to drive up the road about 300 yards/meters before the engine began to overheat and we got to the next big obstacle. Realizing I had made a bad decision bringing the truck up that road, we decided to park it, leave a note that we were coming back for it the next day, and hike in to hike, carrying our gear.

We had to leave behind a lot of things we had brought for camping since we knew we would be hiking in over a mile, and couldn't afford to make more than one trip. We finally made it in far enough, found a good spot off the trails and near the river, pitched our tent, and went out to fish for food.

The river was running really high, so we were not able to catch anything, so we ended up going hiking - and found an awesome place with a 40-50 foot cliff overlooking a waterfall. It was breathtaking, and we could see the peaks in the Indian Peaks Wildernesness just beyond us.

After going back to camp we spent a lot of time shooting Balázs' air rifle, doing target practice with a tin can, and we ended up going to bed early after eating a meager dinner.

During the middle of the night, I woke up and went outside with a head-lamp on, only to see two shining eyes reflecting rig back at me. I knew we were in bear territory, so I was a bit concerned, but the animal moved away from me slowly and didn't make a sound. I'm still not sure what it was, but I think it may have been a mountain lion, since its eyes faced forward and it was so silent.

In the morning, we packed up, hiked back out to the car and, with Balázs' help, after about 20 min of work, we were able to get the Sequoia over the test pile with minimal impact to the car. It was a huge relief! I had lost sleep the night before, worrying about how we were going to get the Sequoia out of there.

Anyway, it was a good trip. I'd recommend the Middle St Vrain for people who want a hike-in camping experience. Go up to Camp Dick off the Peak to Peak Highway, and keep going until the parking lot, which is the trailhead for Buchanan Pass.

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