Friday, September 9, 2011

Backpacking/Mt. Massive

Last weekend was Labor Day weekend and also the weekend before my birthday and what better way to celebrate a birthday then by hiking into the wilderness, camping, then taking on the 2nd highest 14'er in Colorado!  The entire week before was filled with anticipation as we backed our packs and figured out exactly where we were going.  Mt. Massive actually was our third choice behind Holy Cross and Snowmass but due to circumstances out of our control we ended up at Massive.  We loaded up the car early Saturday morning and began our drive to Leadville where our hike would begin.  Loading the 30lbs packs onto our back we began walking.  I have been backpacking before but the views in the Mt. Massive wilderness are breathtaking!  The trail followed a stream almost the entire way and every turn lead to even more beautiful views.  The peaks of Mt. Massive and Mt. Elbert loomed over us, almost like guards of the wilderness we were entering.  I felt truly at home here and sharing it with my girlfriend Jess and my good friends Brandon, Erick and Ashley made it even better!  We hiked for several hours back into the bowl the mountains formed, searching for the half-moon lakes.  We reached the end of the trail, but no lakes.  Brandon, Erick and I then decided to explore the area to see if we could spot anything.  We climbed higher and higher until finally we could see a magnificent turquoise lake tucked into the base of the mountains.  That's where we would camp!

A perfect area for a camp was located on the edge of the lake and a huge boulder sat on the opposite side that gave an expansive view of the entire valley.  I could've sat on that boulder for hours and hours looking at the beauty laid out before me.  We got camp set up and began cooking dinner which was a great learning opportunity.  Guess how much Mac & Cheese five people can eat?  I'll give you a hint, not a full gallon bag worth of it!  I guess having too much food is a okay problem to have and not the other way around.  After stuffing as much Mac & Cheese as possible, Jess gave me a amazing birthday surprise!  She packed Swiss Cake rolls and candles with her and then stacked them up so I would have a birthday cake!  It was awesome!  We were all pretty exhausted so once the sun went down we all went to sleep, excited for our summit attempt on Mt. Massive that would begin tomorrow.

We survived the night at 12,000ft...barely.  Temperatures plunged well below freezing and besides almost freezing during the night I was very excited in the morning.  Watching the sun rise over mountain peaks, lighting up the clearest lake I have ever seen is the best way to start off a day.  Breakfast consisted of a little oatmeal and hot water.  Not much but enough to get us energized.  We packed up camp and head to the Mt. Massive trailhead for our summit attempt.  The air was crisp and chilly but hiking through this beautiful country was amazing.

We dropped off our large backpacks at the trailhead for Mt. Massive, grabbed what gear we did need and head up.  The trail was quite steep and rocky!  Once we cleared treeline the views were incredible!  We could finally see the expansive valley below and even spot a few lakes we didn't see before.  We were also visited by several critters on the way up.  One quite large marmot seemed to lazy to move when Ashley and Jess approached so of course they had to see how close they could get to it! We also heard some talkative pikas along the way but the coolest animal was at the top! We saw three mountain goats hanging out at the summit!  We were all exhausted but seeing these animals and the view from the top made it completely worthwhile!  The day was so perfect, we stayed on top for awhile and ate our lunches and relaxed.  What a great birthday!