Well into the drive to Big Creek Lakes Campground, the area began to look quite barren as almost all of the trees were dead and then as I got further into the mountains, what was perhaps death from massive infestation of the Pine Bark Beetle there was also evidence of a massive wildfire having ravaged the area.
Finally arriving at the lake that the campground was it situated above I had a very sombre feeling. This definitely was not the dense rich fir forest that is so typical of Colorado. All the lodge pole and other pine trees were burned and the area was filled with stumps, massive deadfall, and the tress that were left standing had charred trunks and needle a rusty brown. Enough trees escaped so that there was still newer growth pines and firs throughout the campsite. MY site (of course it is a crap shoot when you plug in a number online) was at the highest point in the campground and backed up to a burned out ridge. There was definitely an aroma of wet ashes as there had been a brief intense thunderstorm shortly after I got the tent set up. Better timing this time by less than a minute! At some level I find it ironic to be in a spot that is filled with loss. In walking throughout the area I began to see this from a larger perspective and found a sombre beauty in the landscape of the dead and dying trees. It makes me think of the impermanence of life and never knowing what the next minute will bring. Tragically it was a campfire that got out of control and resulted in the loss of millions of acres in the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest. I really began to feel glad to have had this experience in nature at this time. Another lesson learned in accepting the need to go with the flow and find the beauty in what unfolds before us.
Typical of mountainous land the storms were brewing in the afternoon and rolling in and out of the area. My gourmet lentil-bean with red peppers soup was eaten in the tent, my lap the table, as the wind was tipping the tent in a rather fierce way. This is not known as bear country, but I try never to bring food into the tent. But somehow with the fierce way the wind whipped in with the driving rain all I wanted was cover AND my food. The dogs already were in the tent. For the most part the evening was calm and the fire was massive and burned bright. There was so much wood in this area no need to buy wood.
The new dawn, July 3rd, came early but a beautiful blue sky appeared as I poked my head out of the tent. The sun was already begging to bake us inside our little cocoon. So I was ready to have coffee and breakfast and hike early in the day before the storms brewed and spewed their rage on us. I headed, with puppies in tow, to the trailhead at the far end of the campground that I had anticipated hiking and it was closed due to the danger of deadfall. So i would have to drive to one further up that I know was open. So I set out gently driving “Not-so-Pretty Miss” and we rattled up another washboard road to the Beaver Creek Trailhead. Kili seemed very lethargic all morning and wouldn’t eat but usually when off leash on a trail he perks up. We set out and the trail was in an area that had not been totally burned out though there still was a lot of deadfall from the Pine Bark Beetle. It was lovely walk in the woods with a few creek crossings which Simba is now negotiating without whining to be carried and they are learning to drink their water from them. One less thing for me to carry. Killi was not his normal run ahead and then double back to check on us but at least I didn’t have to do a drag the dog hike. However once we turned around he really perked up and was his old self running down hill. I am wondering if he is bothered by the altitude. I know I was huffing and puffing a bit but never gave it a thought that altitude might affect a sea level dog? I was glad we had another satisfactory hike at altitude. But even though there are trail similarities there is always so much diversity as well. Though there are not massive fields of wildflowers there are hundreds of many varieties scattered throughout. The intricacies of the flowers and plants is fascinating. This is the first hike I have taken that I encountered anyone on the trail. The campground is quite full but the draw seems to be the ATV 4 wheelers, and electric dirt bikes. It is also a great fishing lake so not known as a hikers paradise. But seeing no other person is true of the hikes I took in the Black Hills as well. The rest of the time was about relaxing in camp. I think the dogs are getting the idea that they have boundaries and as the campsite is rimmed by tress they a pretty much staying put — or they remember the pen or the lines and don’t want that! Life seems so simple when I am camping. Yes it is work but there isn’t the same need to multitask and it encourages me to slow down and really appreciate my connection to the earth that I can’t feel in my asphalt and cement residential neighborhood, my chlorinated swimming pool, and St. Augustine grass. We had a relaxing afternoon and evening, nice walk around the camp, a simple dinner and a blazing fire. There was a light rain storm but we are getting used to theses every afternoon or early evening. The drama unfolded in the middle of the night when it felt like my tent was going to take flight. Strong winds were racing down the ridge and the rain was pelting the back of the tent. It kept poofing and collapsing and swatting me in the head and as a result the water was seeping in through the area hitting my head. Kili was a quite nervous, Simba not phased at all and I just tried to push further down in the sleeping bag to avoid any more tent whipping. As with most of the mountain storm it ended quick as well.