Our Orginal plan was to hike to Parika Lake in the Never Summer Wilderness, however we didn't plan on their being rangers at the trailhead next to the "No Dogs" sign, and so we had to reroute. After studying a map, we decided to try to hike around the National Park to Bowen Lake.
The trail ended up being awesome, following the Continental Divide Trail with awesome vistas all along. We dropped down into the camp area just in time to claim a spot and climb into our tents before the first thunderstorm of the weekend hit (this would become a theme of the weekend).
In-between thunderstorms (which went on all afternoon), i managed a few casts on Bowen Lake and got a number of hits from small 20-23 cm (8-9") cutthroat trout, bringing a few in. The evening cleared up and Cassy cooked a delicious dinner from (website coming soon).
The next day we hiked 5 km over to Blue Lake, which was full of big, beautiful trout and not as crowded as Bowen Lake. Justin, who was new to fly fishing on this trip, landed a beautiful 41 cm (16") trout which we decided to have for lunch. (Note: In retrospect i feel bad about this: normally i just fish catch and release. I did not realize (I even asked a forest service worker on the trail) that the greenback cutthroat was a threatened species, and we probably shouldn't have eaten him. I can't tell if this is a protected greenback cutthroat or a colorado river cutthroat...)
Unlucky for us, while we were cleaning the fish, another storm came upon us, and we had nothing to do but hunker down and cook the fish during a hail / lightning storm while praying we wouldn't be struck. Lightning freaks me out more than the average person, so I was pretty shaken, but had no-choice other than sit there and enjoy the trout... which was some of the best fish I've eaten.
When the storm let up a bit, we hiked down to loose some elevation and then the rest of the way back up to Bowen Lake through intermittent showers. We got to our camp right as another thunderstorm hit, and hunkered down in our tents with our clothes drenched. Storms hit the rest of the afternoon: so leaving and heading back over the divide wasn't an option. Cassy whipped up another delicious dinner, and we had a couple more casts before heading to our tent for a rainy night.
After some pretty loud storms that night, we decided to get an early start and head back before we got stranded by another thunderstorm. The hike back was beautiful (and fast), with clouds cresting the divide as we hiked. We kept a fast pace, and the rest of the trip was uneventful.
The trip was great and relaxing! Given another shot at it:
- The fishing at blue lake was incredible, and it wasn't as crowded as Bowen lake. This would be an awesome destination at a slightly lower elevation.
- Colorado mountains get unpredictable thunderstorms in the summer. Plan accordingly, and make sure you have rain gear and extra food. (or the ability to catch it 🙂 ).
- Driving over trail ridge road is the way to get to the never-summers... although if you do go through winter park, stop at the rise and shine bakery. it's delicious.
On a sadder note: being away from technology can be a blessing and a curse on a trip like this. My grandmother's health rapidly deteriorated during our trip and she passed away slightly before we got back to civilization. I regret that I couldn't have one last phone conversation with her, but she was an amazing woman with a pretty cool life. I know she's been longing to re-join grandpa Stan for a long time, and I'm glad she was comfortable and didn't suffer when she died. As the theme of this story is storms: a final story in her tribute.
Growing up in Missouri, I used to spend a lot of time over the summers with Grandma Ronnie and Grandpa Stan eating sandwiches, "helping" in the garden, and watching the Price is Right. One summer there was a violent storm with tornadoes reported while I was over there. Grandma and Grandpa decided to pour some lemonade and sit out on the screen in porch to watch the storm (I was just as afraid of storms then as I am now). Grandma held me tight and wouldn't let me go inside as they watched the lightning and looked at the dark, swirling clouds.
In retrospect, having survived the great depression, cancer, a heart attack, diabetes, and many a mid-western thunderstorm Grandma knew best. Anxiety doesn't help anything: just pour some lemonade and enjoy life as it comes. Rest in peace grandma Ronnie (and say hi to Grandpa Stan for me).