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#183443 - 03/02/14 01:52 PM Help requested planning an October Colorado Trip
jamieS Offline
member

Registered: 09/29/04
Posts: 271
I'll be in Boulder Colorado October 16-20th this year and I'd like to add on a short backpacking trip. Ironically, I lived in Colorado for a while but never backpacked until after I moved to the Midwest. So my hope is to make up for lost opportunities with this little side trip.

I'm in my 40's and in good but not great health -- fit, workout multiple times a week, but not a runner. I currently live in Chicago, so altitude is a bit of a concern. I figure the few days in Boulder will help. Then I plan on hitching out of town and spending a few days in the front range. I'll sleep low the first night for sure.

My early research has found that October national forests will be full of hunters. So it looks like National Parks are the way to go.

All of this is pointing towards Rocky Mountain National Park... but are there any other places to consider?

(I'll ask about fine tuning my gear in subsequent posts, figuring out a location is step one.)

Thanks in advance for any insights! Looking forward to the planning and the trip.

-jamie

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#183447 - 03/02/14 03:38 PM Re: Help requested planning an October Colorado Trip [Re: jamieS]
OregonMouse Online   content
member

Registered: 02/03/06
Posts: 6391
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
Be prepared for snow and single digit temps at high altitude (actually, I've encountered those conditions in August, but October is on the cusp of winter). You might want to have a Plan B at lower altitude, but even lower down it can get quite cold in October.

Bear canisters are now required in Rocky Mountain NP. Check their website (go to nps.gov) and call to find out more details. Park staff can often help you with trip planning, and may have bear canisters for rent.

I can't recommend any specific trips, since when I lived there I avoided the park, but I do want to caution you to be prepared for the weather conditions.

If being a runner were a prerequisite for backpacking, I never would have left a trailhead.


Edited by OregonMouse (03/02/14 03:40 PM)
_________________________
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view--E. Abbey

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#183449 - 03/02/14 05:50 PM Re: Help requested planning an October Colorado Trip [Re: OregonMouse]
jamieS Offline
member

Registered: 09/29/04
Posts: 271
Thanks for the quick reply, especially regarding temperature/snow. Not a deal breaker, but definitely sobering. I knew I was flirting with the shoulder season, but maybe it's a more serious relationship than I realized. smile

That's okay though. Still interested in any front-range info...



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#183454 - 03/02/14 09:46 PM Re: Help requested planning an October Colorado Trip [Re: jamieS]
bobito9 Offline
member

Registered: 01/25/08
Posts: 385
I went to Colorado in late October two consecutive years with the plan of backpacking with my niece who was in school there. Both times snowy and cold. The second time we said the hell with it and drove down to Bandellier in New Mexico to backpack:)
However, the first time we braved the weather, hiked through snow, and had a pretty good time, ignoring a little scare when my niece forgot to stake down the tent and it blew away into a thicket of willows with her pad and sleeping bag in it, us standing in snow, wind, and temps of 20 that night:) We hiked in the Lost Creek Wilderness. It's lower in elevation than much of Colorado, though we still got up to 11,000'. The lower elevations had a lot of cool sandstone rock formations, I recall. Mid-October could go either way, weather-wise for you, but you have to assume that it could be pretty cold and snowy. If you stay in the lower elevations of the wilderness, it will be a little better for temps.
I'm sorry, but I can't recall the specific trails we went on. I believe we started on the Goose Creek Trail, at around 8000', maybe were up around Tarryall Peak (?). It was a nice little 3 day loop. I got the original tip from someone on this forum. If you do a search of past threads from about 4 or 5 years ago, you'll turn up more info.
One other area of Colorado which sounds interesting to me for the shoulder season, but which I have never gone to, is the area around Grand Junction, Colorado Nat'l Monument and some neighboring BLM lands: lower elevation, more like Utah redrock canyon-type country. (If anyone here has been there, I'd be curious myself to know about it. I especially like that it's easily accessible by Amtrak) However, that's western Colorado, so pretty far from Denver, etc.

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#183456 - 03/02/14 11:13 PM Re: Help requested planning an October Colorado Trip [Re: bobito9]
OregonMouse Online   content
member

Registered: 02/03/06
Posts: 6391
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
I think the source of the Lost Creek Wilderness trip reports was Dondo. He has a website but lately just posts lovely photographs rather than trip reports.
_________________________
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view--E. Abbey

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#183468 - 03/03/14 10:17 AM Re: Help requested planning an October Colorado Trip [Re: OregonMouse]
jamieS Offline
member

Registered: 09/29/04
Posts: 271
Did a little more research... sounds like staying on the east side of the divide will help minimize the snow issue.

The Wild Basin trailhead in Rocky Mountain National Park seems interesting...


Edited by jamieS (03/03/14 10:18 AM)

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#183594 - 03/06/14 01:14 PM Re: Help requested planning an October Colorado Trip [Re: jamieS]
jamieS Offline
member

Registered: 09/29/04
Posts: 271
I appreciate the advice so far. Here's another somewhat basic, but important question... about adjusting to altitude.

Here is my plan:
4 days at 5,500 ft, minimal activity
1 easy day (loop hike, ~4 hours up a drainage, then back down), sleep at 8,500 ft.
1 hard day ~14 miles to lake near the divide, sleep at 11,000 ft.
decend next day

My question: is this too much too fast?

Would there hard day be signficantly better if I spent another night at 8,500 beforehand or would the difference be fairly minor?


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#183599 - 03/06/14 03:53 PM Re: Help requested planning an October Colorado Trip [Re: jamieS]
OregonMouse Online   content
member

Registered: 02/03/06
Posts: 6391
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
Responses to altitude are so individual that it's really hard to tell until you try! You probably won't find out until your 14 mile day to 11,000 feet.

If you really want to be sure, insert a day with sleeping at about 9,500-10,000 feet in between the easy day at 8500 and the hard day at 11,000. The best would be to split that hard day in two, if you can camp somewhere near the midpoint. You may have to do that anyway if the altitude/long day affect you.

Also, keep well hydrated and plan a high-carbohydrate diet.

Lots of great information on altitude sickness and acclimatization from the NOLS Wilderness Medicine Institute here.
_________________________
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view--E. Abbey

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#183601 - 03/06/14 04:11 PM Re: Help requested planning an October Colorado Trip [Re: jamieS]
Exoskeletron Offline
member

Registered: 01/14/14
Posts: 16
So it sounds like you have decided what you're going to do, right?

I have had lots of friends and family come to Colorado to visit me from Wisconsin and I've seen a variety of responses to elevation as well. It seems like physical fitness level and water intake are a big part of whether or not you get sick. I say drink as much water as you can, and if you are in good shape you should be fine, especially with your plan to move up to higher elevations slowly over the course of your trip.

If you are still not sure about your plans, I have to always recommend the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. I love Colorado and I know there is a lot of great stuff to see on both sides of the divide, but Black Canyon is on the West side. It's a deep canyon though, so it's not at the higher elevation of the mountains and may be free of snow. It's magical to see, but climbing down into the canyon in October probably won't be safe unless there really is no snow.
Rocky Mountain NP is awesome and has lots of great hikes to offer. Even in the dead of winter there are accessible trails and lots to see, so I think you'd be fine there in October.
Just wanted to suggest that you look at lower elevation ideas like Black Canyon and maybe Dinosaur national monument, Colorado national monument, etc. None of those are exactly at sea level, but they may be less snowy than RMNP and other higher elevation options.

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#183602 - 03/06/14 06:34 PM Re: Help requested planning an October Colorado Trip [Re: jamieS]
BZH Online   content
member

Registered: 01/26/11
Posts: 838
Loc: Torrance, CA
Elevation acclimatization is definitely an individual issue. Get plenty of rest, stay hydrated and sleep lower than the highest elevation you hiked that day. If you are really concerned they do make a drug that is supposed to help. You would have to talk to your doctor.

Here is the technique we have used in the past... though definitely not a recommended technique:
http://www.backpacking.net/forum/ubbthre...7783#Post167783

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#183604 - 03/06/14 07:53 PM Re: Help requested planning an October Colorado Trip [Re: OregonMouse]
jamieS Offline
member

Registered: 09/29/04
Posts: 271
Originally Posted By OregonMouse
If you really want to be sure, insert a day with sleeping at about 9,500-10,000 feet in between the easy day at 8500 and the hard day at 11,000. The best would be to split that hard day in two, if you can camp somewhere near the midpoint. You may have to do that anyway if the altitude/long day affect you.


Thanks! I do have the option of leaving my friends in boulder and camping at a trail head the night before (around 8000-9000). (I don't want to miss out on the last night, but hard decisions must be made at times smile In this scenario I could do a loop hike the first full day maybe up to 10,000, but then come back down to sleep at 9000 again. (so two nights at 9000). Then on the third day go straight up the drainage to the lake near the divide at 11,000.

This leads to a related question... On the hard day I'll wake up with the sun as usual, break camp and eat "snacks" for most of the day, so I think I can fairly easily cover 14 miles... seven hours of two mph. But is that fairly likely?

I need to re-read the Tyee Lake report, seems like about that distance was covered coming from sea level...

EDIT: adding on... okay the NOLS information was very helpful, especially the guideline of generally sleeping ~2000 ft above the previous night.

So it looks like I'll do 8000, 9000-10,000 and then a night near divide --- unless weather or performance indicates otherwise, of course.


Edited by jamieS (03/06/14 08:01 PM)

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#183605 - 03/06/14 08:12 PM Re: Help requested planning an October Colorado Trip [Re: jamieS]
jamieS Offline
member

Registered: 09/29/04
Posts: 271
Heh, and now after reading this:

http://www.14ers.com/php14ers/tripreport.php?trip=4596

...I'm wondering if I'm over thinking it. Seems like just Isolation Peak (or as far as snow and conditions allow) and a lower camping site might be a good day. Then do it again up another drainage on the second day...

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#183645 - 03/07/14 06:12 PM Re: Help requested planning an October Colorado Trip [Re: jamieS]
Gershon Offline
member

Registered: 07/08/11
Posts: 1109
Loc: Colorado
Jamie,

Given what you said about your fitness level, I think a 14 mile day is expecting WAY too much in Colorado. Most people average about 1.5 miles an hour including rest stops. Few people plan for a 14 mile day unless they are in top shape.

That time of year, I would plan on spending the night at a campsite near a road. Each valley/drainage can form its own weather system and dump a load of snow during the night. If the wind is in the wrong direction, it will cover any trail markers. When the trails are snow covered, it's easy to go down an animal trail and end up lost.

If you can get to the Leadville Hostel (in Leadville, of course,) http://www.leadvillehostel.com/ the owner will be able to give you a ride to many trailheads on the Colorado Trail. You do have to spend the night there to get rides.(It's not too expensive.) You can also take the free bus to the trailheads in Breckenridge and Copper mountain. This will give you a wide range of options along the Colorado Trail and other trails. You can usually get good reports on the conditions on the Colorado Trail at www.trailforums.com.

In my opinion, Isolation Peak is a survival situation waiting to happen unless you are skilled in winter backpacking and winter navigation. It will only take a short period of snow to make the trail too slippery to descend safely.



_________________________
http://48statehike.blogspot.com/

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#183649 - 03/07/14 07:28 PM Re: Help requested planning an October Colorado Trip [Re: Gershon]
jamieS Offline
member

Registered: 09/29/04
Posts: 271
Thank you for the directness of your reply. I really do appreciate it. That makes perfect sense. If it snows overnight, trail finding and traction are a lost cause --- or at least a gamble that I'm not willing to take.

Well, that's it. No high camping at all. Completely out.

So now the question becomes: anything wrong with camping at sites near the trailhead and doing daytrips? I suspect that's probably fine and still would be very interesting. Basically hike up drainages, turn back at a pre-determined time or when the weather hints at being unfriendly.

(Thanks again.)

EDIT: Although I'm asking about dayhikes within Wild Basin, I'm also looking at the Leadville info, too.


Edited by jamieS (03/07/14 07:30 PM)

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#183651 - 03/07/14 08:52 PM Re: Help requested planning an October Colorado Trip [Re: jamieS]
Gershon Offline
member

Registered: 07/08/11
Posts: 1109
Loc: Colorado
Jamie,

There is nothing wrong with camping near the trailhead and doing day hikes. It's too bad you are so far north. There is generally more snow up there than there down here. (I live in Pueblo. Oh, it's snowing now. :)) Most of my day hiking is in the Wet Mountains or in the Sangre de Cristos.

There is no sense in planning too far ahead, as nobody knows what the weather will be like then. I would check the roads. Many of them washed out in the flooding this year.

_________________________
http://48statehike.blogspot.com/

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