I signed Bryon and I up for trail patrol weeks ago, picking Bob and Betty Lakes as our destination. It was one of the few places we hadn’t hike to in the Indian Peaks Wilderness.
Sunday seemed like the perfect day, allowing us a day of rest on Monday for the holiday.
We were not alone in that thought. Holiday weekends are notorious for bring out hordes of people to commune with nature.
Add in record high temperatures, and it’s a recipe for Denverites fleeing to the high country.
Who could blame them? Faced with the option of baking in 98-degree heat, or escaping to the mountains where it was 20 degrees cooler, I’d have made the same choice.
If not for the Hessie Shuttle Bus, we would have never made it on the trail. We overslept, and parking everywhere was chaos. Even in downtown Nederland, we had to resort to squeezing a park along the Peak to Peak highway, that I’m not sure was quite legal.
As part of our volunteer duties, we count the number of people we encounter on the trail. During the first mile, we counted almost 150 people. Most headed up to Lost Lake, a relatively easy 4-mile round trip hike.
Once we passed by the spur trail heading up to the lake, the people disappeared.
We walked for long stretches of trail, glimpsing only an occasional squirrel.
Beyond the 2-mile mark, not surprising. In all my year working as a Park Ranger, I’d witnessed this phenomenon time and time again.
The majority of people who go hiking only go 2 miles out. After that, you can have the wilderness experience you crave with long stretches of solitude.
Even in parks like Yosemite and Yellowstone, this is true. I remember visiting Yosemite National Park during Fourth of July weekend many years ago. There wasn’t a parking space to be had in all of Yosemite Valley.
I decided to hike a lesser-known trail from the Glacier Point Road, heading to some waterfalls. Just like this past weekend, once I got a 1.5 miles from the trailhead, the people were gone. I enjoyed hours of solitude hiking along in one of the busiest national parks in the country. On one of the busiest weekends of the year.
There’s a lesson in this. Take that extra time to increase your stamina. Run an extra mile, go walking at lunch. Spend some time on the elliptical after work. You will have much more of a wilderness experience on your next hike.
All it takes is the ability to get past the 2-mile mark.