Last weekend, Andrew was at the world’s longest bachelor party (4 days), so I did what a wife does in that situation – organized a ladies’ backpacking trip! We ended up with a pretty small crew of ladies + lady dogs and it was a blast.
On Saturday morning, we all met at Kate’s to finish packing up and headed up I-70 to Silverthorne. We parked at the Rock Creek Trailhead – it’s off of a forest road off of Highway 9. The forest road isn’t paved, but it’s not too rocky and would probably be fine if you had a 2WD car. The dogs were READY to go by the time we got to the trailhead. Layla and Maya (Kate’s dog) are besties, and they are crazy together. If we watch Maya for a weekend, Layla will sleep for a whole day recovering from all of the playing. We were afraid that Layla and Maya would try to wrestle the whole hike in, so we put dog packs on both of them. Layla borrowed one from Leigh, the other lady on the hike, who’s dog Bleu is recovering from a broken toe. It worked perfectly – they were both SO good on the trail and it definitely helped make some room in our packs, because, you know, packing for an overnight backpacking trip is hard. I think Layla loves to have a job – she likes to help pull the cart at Home Depot, and on Sunday morning she was all waggy butt about getting the pack back. The only downside is her crazy doodle fur, which got really matted underneath. Good thing she’s due for her last summer shave!
The Rock Creek trailhead parking was crowded, but we hardly saw anyone on the trail. We hiked all the way to Willow Lakes (~9 miles) – apparently the Boulder Lake hike, which spurs off of the main trail about 1/2 mile in, is the more popular hike in the area. Instead, we followed the Gore Trail for about 5.5 miles. It’s really mellow and beautiful – lots of greenery, wildflowers, and creek crossings. At 5.5 miles you hit the trail up to Willow Lakes – if you go straight and stay on the Gore Trail, it actually takes you to a different, much closer trailhead in Silverthorne, so you could do a shorter trip if you want. From the turn, it gets pretty steep for about a mile. There’s one more turn off at 7 miles to Salmon Lake which I want to explore another time! We stayed straight to head to the Willow Lakes, and a little after 8 miles passed the first one. Each lake was perfectly picturesque, but the last one had the best options for camping. Ah, the ruggedly beautiful Gore range.
Once we picked out the perfect spot, we set up Leigh’s GIANT 4-person tent (which was just as awesome as it sounds) and had a charcuterie snack and some wine. We keep it classy when it’s just the girls. We broke out Leigh’s camping bocce, which is a smaller, hollow version of normal bocce. I’m probably going to have to buy my own set – it was super fun with the added challenge of the white ball falling between wildflowers so you couldn’t always see it. After sacrificing my body for mosquito dinner, we snuggled into the tent for some cards. The little girls (dogs) were so tired they passed out. Is it just me, or is one of the best parts of camping a tired dog and sweet sweet cuddles?
We had a bit of a water emergency, which is ironic when camping near an alpine lake full of water. One Nalgene into pumping with Andrew’s/my Katadyn, one of the plastic pump pieces just broke off! Luckily, Leigh brought a steripen back up. Except… her husband had taken out the batteries the night before after they were testing it out. Luckily again, Leigh is incredibly smart and brought a 2nd back up of iodine pills. Lesson learned: it’s a good idea to have at least one back-up water option. (Sidenote: I emailed Katadyn and they will fix it if I pay for the part and the shipping. It’s not the repair policy I’ve come to know and love in the outdoor world, but it’ll do.)
We had a good run of sleep until 5:40am, when Layla and Maya decided it was play time in the tent. We got up a little later, made some breakfast, and packed up. Even though it was mostly downhill/flat, the hike out started to get long 6 miles in. We were all just silently trucking it to get to the car, and the pups were taking as many shade breaks as they could. We
made a beeline sat in I-70 traffic for over an hour to Idaho Springs and indulged in some well-earned BBQ (even though they were out of boiled peanuts – sad).
It was an awesome overnight trip and I would definitely recommend it – most people don’t make it all the way to the Willow Lakes on a day hike, so it felt pretty remote and so beautiful! Layla slept in past 7 on Monday, compared to her normal 5:30, and is still somewhat recovering, so I’ll call it a huge success!
Have you done Salmon Lake or Boulder Lake? What do you think?
BTW – Leigh hiked the whole thing in chacos. Kate was the only one smart enough to bring hiking poles.