I was so excited to introduce our daughter to the Rocky Mountains. I wanted her to experience the difference in the air, new ecosystems and the grandeur of the glorious mountains.
The schedule was full from day one. We arrived at YMCA of the Rockies on Sunday afternoon. This turned out to be a splendid place to stay. First of all, they don't have tv's in the room, I was enthusiastic about this one, second, the wifi is spotty and its difficult to get texts out, OK with this too. I also liked the ability to use their pool, volleyball court and some other amenities for free in addition to paying a small price for art supplies in the art room on a very rainy day. The YMCA endorses a couple of companies that we used, including whitewater rafting with rapidtransitrafting.com and flyfishing with www.sasquatchflyfishing.com, we had a great experience with each of the outfitters.
Our first adventure was family fly fishing with sasquatch. We were outfitted with waders, boots and fly rods. We traveled to Sprague Lake in RMNP for where we wet our lines. The staff was energetic as they took their time to teach my daughter how to cast and they gave my wife some good pointers, now she doesn't snap the fly off the line. Me and two others went with our guide to a small stream that was an outlet of Sprague Lake. We spent time chasing Brooke Trout and Rainbow. Our guide did a nice job of getting us into some fishing and letting us know his thoughts about what fly should work. After the fly fishing excursion, we drove to a high elevation trail in RMNP. We took in some breathtaking views on the UTE trail. Only oncoming storm clouds chased away from this experience.
We followed up the fishing excursion with Horseback Riding. This excursion began on the YMCA grounds and traversed into RMNP. I was surprised to learn that the YMCA of the Rockies was their prior to the 1915 creation of RMNP.
We began our trip in Wild Basin at the Sandbeach Lake Trailhead. The gameplan for the first day was to hike 2 miles to hole in the wall campsite. We arrived at the trailhead at 3:30, just in time to watch a storm roll in, so we thought we'd give it a little time to pass. By 4pm it looked like we were good to go. So we hoisted our packs and began the 2 mile trek.
Beauty surrounded us as we made our way through Aspen groves and Pine stands, the distinct smell enveloping us as we passed through one to another. The elevation gain was noticeable in difficulty and in our views, getting more wide open once the curtain of trees separate from each other. Rain began to fall on us, and the clap of thunder caused us to head to a safe place. We patiently waited for the weather to pass under an ENO rainfly, chomping on snacks in the theater of RMNP.
It took about 2.5 hours before we arrived at Hole-In-The-Wall backcountry campsite. The campsite was near a stream and quite pleasant, although a bit buggy. We set up our tent in the designated area. We placed our kitchen on a ridge overlooking a valley with a nice breeze to disperse the mosquitoes. We all were in good spirits as Sophia munched on her ramen noodles and I cooked up some red pepper and chicken for fajitas.
We celebrated our day by handing out some awards at dinner. Kelli won the award for toughin out the hike an Sophia won the award for dealing with new adventures in an upbeat way. She took on rain, bugs, hiking and a significant elevation gain in an upbeat way. Nice expedition behavior.
Kelli and Sophia began to stir and started get ready for day, as Kelli began packing the sleeping bags, I started prepping for a simple breakfast of oatmeal and coffee. The topic of conversation at breakfast was about how quiet the night was, no crickets, locusts or whipperwills, just the rushing of wind through the mountain tops until morning when the birds began to warm the woods with their music. To our surprise, we were buzzed by humming birds as we ate breakfast!
It was 11:00 am when we began our two mile trek to Sandbeach Lake. The trail was steep and difficult, especially for day two on the trail. I was beginning to second my decision to hike on this trail, but my late action limited the backcountry campsite availability. We continued on for a couple of tough hours when we crested a hill and Sandbeach Lake was visible through the trees! We had just enough time for a brief celebration, then the rains came. I set up the ENO rainfly where Kelli and Sophia took refuge and consumed some calories. I looked for an appropriate camp and cooksite. It rained hard, and in a brief respite, I set up the tent. Thank Goodness because for the next three hours it rained hard! We set up sleeping bags and thermarests, Sophia read her book and at one point we all took a nap.
Eight pm and the rain finally stopped. It was still light and we started dinner. A fantastic version of chicken noodle soup with homemade dried veggies warmed all of us. Sophia said it was the best chicken noodle she ever had, I think it was first time she had chicken noodle on the trail. We discussed the ups and downs of backpacking , and the work it takes to acheive something special. By the time we hit the hay, we were all tired.
We had time to walk and play before departing. The lake stands at 10,300ft, in our explorations we found some really cool large boulders, a pond and significant snow to play in. We packed up camp and departed by 10:30am. We had 4 miles of downhill trail to traverse. The sun was our friend all morning and for a bit of the afternoon, then it began to rain and hail. We took the usual steps to stay safe and dry. We had a great time on this adventure, all of us were full of smiles as we made our way back to Estes Park for a well deserved lunch.