Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Camping Adventure #1 - Chambers Lake

Hey gang, so this is gonna a two parter (maybe even three!) because we took so dadgum many pics! But no wonder we did!

For our first camping adventure of 2014, we chose Chambers Lake in the Roosevelt National Park/Rawah Wilderness up through Poudre Canyon. It was about 2.5/3 hours drive north of our Denver abode. Driving through the canyon is a joy all it's own! Just completely enveloped in ridiculous beauty and heart stopping wonder. Plus it's groovy to see all the rafters conquering the rapids along the way.

Every year we like to try a place that is new to us. This was our pick. Never been there. Never seen it in person. It isn't one we'd scoped out during a previous outing. We were going in blind. The campground is on a peninsula, so we knew there'd be plenty of water to paddle. Shawn googled it about a trillion and two times, so we also knew it hand't been completely decimated by pine beetles.

As we pulled in to our spot at Chambers, we were taken by the beauty. It is really lovely, but it was also raining so we didn't get a full grasp of everything at first. We seized a respite in the rain to start setting up camp. A lot rushed and a little damp, we got it all done. Of course as soon as we were finished the rain let up and the rest of the trip was drizzle free.

Once we were able to take a breath and look around, we were greeted by a speedy little buzzy sound. It was like a VW Beetle or the Jetson's spaceship. In actuality it was a Ruby Throated Hummingbird! There was a mess of the curious little fellas flitting about. They were so cute and hilarious! We all fell madly in love with them. Then we met a handful of chubby little chipmunks. You can tell these guys found their own paradise in the campground. Looks like they've been picking off camping crumbs for years. They too were pretty funny and quickly garnered our affection.

As usual, Shawn picked a nice spot. He's good at it!! It had it's pluses, but it did have a little bit of a minus. We had a sweet view of the water, but it was one steep booger of a climb to get down to it. There would be no wading and minnow catching at our site for the little guy. We stood at the top of the cliff wondering how in the hey we would get the canoe down the incline. There just was no way about it. So we went for a walk.

There are a lot of great walks/hikes at this place!!! We did find three good spots to launch the canoe. One we could portage, the other two we would have to load on the car. We also found a playground and a groovy little amphitheater. Would be a great scout spot!! Carrying on, we discovered moose scat and a swampy marsh that would be grand for frog finding. Then we trekked back to our camp and made spaghetti and of course s'mores. It was a great first day.

The next morning we slept in. Good and "in". I hand't slept that well in ages!!! We got up, made some of the best damned camping coffee in the world, french toast and bacon. It sure is grand to have good gear!!! We played for a bit, had a campsite scavenger hunt and then set out for a paddle about the lake. The portage down wasn't too bad. Pretty doable even though it was a bit far. We loaded in and headed out. There was a goal we set for this summer - creature spotting! We want to put a sticker on our canoe, but we can't decide which one so we agreed to choose one that represents the first animal we spot in the wild this summer. My hope is for a moose (which come to find out are not native to Colorado! They were introduced in 1970!) All that said, we were on a hunt for places to pull in, get out and discover. For most of the lake, getting out is not exactly doable. One section is privately owned and a whole bunch is surrounded by too steep o' inclines. We pulled in and coasted in some awesome coves, peeking up through the trees to see what we could see, but while that is a lot of fun for mom and dad, for a four year old it can get a little boring kinda quick. Thank goodness on the other side of the lake we found places we could explore!! And explore we did!!! It was fantastic!!! We got out and immediately started seeing signs.

About a week or so before our trip, Pax and I picked up a book called "Scat, Tracks & Signs" which told us what to look for. It came in super handy! We found all three! Scat, tracks and signs! One of the coolest things we found was owl pellets!!! We also found three nests, eagle scat, moose scat, elk tracks and a game trail! It was awesome! Another incredibly groovy discovery was a waterfall. Just amazing! There were, I think, three places we got out to wander and a couple more quiet coves we paddled just ripe for moose spotting. Lots of water grass for their big fuzzy muzzles to nibble! The canoe trip was an astounding success! So fun, so gorgeous, so interesting and best of all, Pax loved it!

The rest of the afternoon we hung out, played in the dirt and on the rocks at our site, took another little walk and sat on a bank to throw rocks in the water. That evening we played a round of Sneaky Snacky Squirrel (best kid game ever!), did water color paintings of our view (at least mommy and daddy did. Pax painted a portrait of an "invisible monster") and cooked chicken with lemon, rosemary, capers & potatoes in the dutch oven over hot coals. Yum yum extra yum! Of course we had some more s'mores and that night's special treat was glow in the dark drinks!! Topped it all off with a good old fashioned ghost story for Pax and a little Jack & Coke for us. And more great sleep..

Morning number two, Shawn and I woke up to watch the sun rise. It was gorgeous and worth the sleepy eyes. Just the two of us, taking it all in, enjoying coffee, a campfire and our own company. Its rare these days to have a morning together like that, and it was glorious. Once the big yellow orb was resting in the sky above the peaks, Shawn returned to the snuggly sleeping bag and P Bear. I lingered in the smoke and sunlight, clicking away. The whole day wound up being fun filled and adventurous. We took a nice, long hike after a breakfast of bacon and eggs. We climbed and crawled and crossed bridges and rocks and hills. Our eyes drank in as much as they could see and clean pine filled air tingled our olfactory system. We had the warm sun on our skin and little hints of mist from waterfalls and a rushing river. We also had bites. Lots of annoying nibbles from mosquitos and (worse) biting flies. Note to self - long sleeves and pants required next time.

There were folks we met along our camping adventure. Most of our interactions with them occurred on day two. In the morning we had a groovy language lesson from our Persian camping neighbors - just the nicest guys!!! They were so cool and friendly and considerate. They also informed us a moose had walked through our camp site the morning before we arrived. Walked right through it!!! My moose hopes were getting higher!! We met another set of nice people at the end of our hike. We spotted them on the boat ramp wading around with a little guy that looked about P's age. Of course we joined their fun and wound up having some lovely conversations. Nate (who was also four) and P became fast friends and swapped jokes while ankle deep in freezing cold water. Nate's mom and dad told us about an awesome little hike where they saw a ton of beavers!! Ok, I could go beaver over moose. Sure! Let's go!! They gave us directions and even a little brochure, so off we went. But first we had to make a pit stop at our campsite to have some lunch and refresh our water bottles. That's when we met a new set of camping neighbors.. ugh. Some very loud rednecks moved in. They kept spanking their smallest kid for crying (don't get me started on that), talked at the top of their lungs and switched between loud country music and loud hip hop. My nerves were being spent, so we hurried to pack up and go look for beavers.

On the drive over to Beaver Lodge Trail, we stopped at the Moose Visitor Center at State Forest State Park. It had moose stuff all over it! Big, giant moose sculpture out front, listing of moose sightings on a dry-erase board near the entrance, a big stuffed moose in the center of everything. It was moose-a-licious! An older gentleman showed me a picture of a moose he had seen just a couple of hours earlier in a parking lot of a nearby reservoir. My spidey, or moosey senses were tingling! I just knew we were going to see one soon! So Pax picked out a tube of North American animal toys to take home and we were back in the truckster on our way to the beavers. Or.. so we thought.. After about an hour of dirt roads past our turn into the state park, we turned around only to realize we had passed the trail head.. which was by the entrance. Waaa waaa... At least we saw some beautiful things on the drive and I didn't have to listen to the new camping neighbors.

We got back to our site and someone must've said something to the new neighbors, because they were significantly quieter. Hooray! That evening we cooked up a ribeye, cheesy potato and corn on the cob feast. Deeeee-licious!! After dinner we portaged the canoe back down and went out for a cruise. A storm was coming in, so the wind was up and the water was choppy. It made for a super fun adventurous ride!!! Unfortunately, it also made for a cold Pax and a nervous daddy, so our trip was a little short. We ventured out enough to make it over to a cove we deemed Moose Haven and another cove we named Lunch Point. It was a good paddle and an awesome time, even if it was a bit brief.

It was our last night out, so we all stayed up a bit late and enjoyed the fire. Some more s'mores, please. We read books and snuggled little P to sleep, then mommy & daddy crept out of the tent to sit by the fire and talk like grown ups do. It was good. It was all good.

Morning came and so did pack it all up time. Quick breakfast and clean up followed by a breaking down of our camp. It always seems to take 10 times longer to put it all away. I guess it's the reluctancy. We were all tired and filthy, but our hearts and heads were full. We were happy and excited that we would be venturing out again in two weeks. On the road leaving we drove with the windows down and made Big Foot calls into the echoing forest. It was a fond farewell and a "we'll see you again!" This is a site we will come back to.

Down the road a bit, we took one more adventure stop. Arrowhead Lodge. Go there! This is a step back in time. Once again we were greeted by hummingbirds, then we met a couple of retired volunteers who were taking care of the place for the summer. They were so sweet and fell in love with Pax. (but then again, who doesn't) They introduced P to Smokey Bear and gave him a button and a little comic book. There is a museum of sorts, so we explored it and chatted. Then we explored the gift shop and chatted. We bought a couple of things - an animal tracks matching card game for P and a Smokey Bear coffee mug for me. Then we went and checked out the cabins. They were fantastic. I could've stayed there and imagined a happier time all day. If those walls could talk... Acros the way was Profile Rock, also known as The Old Man of the Canyon. It's pretty cool. We looked around a little more and then loaded back up to go home. It was official. Our trip finally had to come to an end. With smiles on our faces, we headed south on I-25. Thanks Colorado, for giving us so much fun and beauty to explore!!!

Pics to come...

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