A week spent in Colorado is always a week well spent. Graham and I couldn't go to Colorado without at least a quick trip to Rocky Mountain National Park, but the majority of our time there this time around was spent backpacking along the Gore Range Trail just outside of Vail.
Before I get to the good stuff I have to quickly share the story of our one night stay in Rocky Mountain National Park. Graham and I reserved a walk-in site at the Aspenglen Campground, on the West side of RMNP and were very excited for the first night of camping on our great West to East Coast adventure. We were even more excited that we snagged a walk-in site and would have some privacy and a bit more of a wilderness feel for the evening. On our way to RMNP from Denver we decided to stop in Boulder to explore downtown a bit, get some caffeine, and make one last stop at REI. Once we were finally ready to head into the park we left sunny Boulder and... drove straight into a massive thunderstorm. I try not to be a fair weather camper, but nobody can deny that camping (and setting up camp) in the rain is simply worse. Luckily, we dawdled enough in the car that by the time we reached our campsite and got our gear together, it had stopped raining. We were able to get our tent set up - and crucially, got the rain fly on - without it starting to rain and I felt like we dodged a major bullet. Just as I was getting set up to get cozy and Graham was preparing dinner I got the worst news. Our trusty Jetboil, that had cooked us almost five weeks of dinners straight during the road trip and kept us fed from Utah to California to Washington, wasn't lighting. Fair warning, at this point in the evening I was pretty hangry and really craving that Knorr's Spanish rice side and can of black beans we were about to chow down on. Once it was clear that our Jetboil had really kicked it for the evening we did a quick Google Maps search and discovered that one lodge just outside of the park entrance was still serving dinner. I was pretty sad to have to leave our little wild paradise, but the hunger won out. We loaded our valuables back in the car and complained to each other as we exited the park and prepared to pull into the parking lot of the lodge bar and grill - and suddenly a black bear ran in front of the car and off into the bushes. Now, a key piece of in formation is that I had never seen a black bear before. I've grown up spending summers in Maine and every time that I stayed behind for a walk in the woods, someone else in my family saw a black bear. Now, with my parents living in Western Massachusetts, I have to listen to them complain about the number of black bears they see. All the while, I've been dying to see one myself! Anyways, long story short, we escaped the rain, lost out on a camp dinner, but got to see my first black bear. Oh, and our Jetboil was easily fixed at REI the next day. All in all, a win.
The day after we got back from our night at RMNP, we took off for a two night backpacking trip along the Gore Range Trail. We left Denver in the afternoon in order to spend a night at the trailhead and get started early the next morning. We started off at the Copper Mountain Trailhead, a fairly well traveled trailhead on the side of the highway. Our first day we went up through Uneva Pass (11,900 ft.) and got some fun views of the ski runs on Copper Mountain and the surrounding areas. Our second day was pretty killer, as we hiked up and through Eccles Pass and Red Buffalo Pass. The third day we got narrowly escaped some threatening thunderstorms to exit the wilderness near downtown Vail, and promptly drove straight to the best burrito shop around for some post-backpacking fuel before driving back to Denver.