Laramie and Estes Park

random trip report

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1 June

I fly Oakland - Seattle - Denver - Laramie, arriving around 8:30. T picks me up at the (tiny) Laramie airport, and drives me around town, showing me her new life. Laramie has a western feel, and has a small but reasonably thriving downtown with nonzero grooviness. We drive by the house she's in the process of buying.

2 June

T and I drive ~1 hour to the Snowy Mountains, past wild horses and goats and the world's largest wind-eroded depression.

We climb, on snowshoes, a peak at the north end of a 3-mile ridge. We start at the south end, toiling up steep slopes, gaining the ridge, passing 4-5 false summits, getting tired, finally seeing the real summit, and going for it. I'm feeling very good - haven't been on snowshoes for a while.

Credit: T

Credit: T

We descend by glissading directly down near the summit, then crossing the rolling hills at the bottom, back to the car. T somehow loses a jacket and gloves during the glissade. We're down early (2-ish) because of possible weather.

Credit: T

Credit: T

We drive back to town and climb in the university rec center's small gym. It's not bad. The ratings are uninflated; I can do the 5.9s but not the 5.10s.

We go out for pizza, then go to one of T's favorite bars, where I have a 'Moscow Mule' but fail to get drunk. Laramie is sufficiently small that T can't go anywhere without running into students and colleagues.

3 June

T and I drive to Estes Park, passing through several small towns that T remembers nostalgically from her 7 years in Boulder (undergrad and law school). We reach Ron's condo, which is new and luxurious and has a beautiful view.

View from Ron's condo

Buck (Bobbi's sister's husband, with whom Ron bought the condo) is there. He's a realtor, and is in extremely good shape. We all climb the Twin Sisters: 8 miles and about 2000'. Patchy snow.

T, Ron and I walk around the touristy part of Estes, which has a river walk along an extremely scenic mountain stream. We eat at a generic place where I have a beet and orange salad; T has some kind of Thai shrimp rolls.

No sleep.

4 June

Epic hike day. We drive south and up a beautiful narrow canyon to the Indian Peaks area. We walk toward Pawnee pass.

Credit: T

The first couple of miles are on a paved road, closed to cars. We reach a lake and go around it to the right. The trail becomes snow-covered. Not too bad, even though we just have boots.

We talk with a young woman carrying a tripod, who is hiking up to the pass to take pics around sunset. She's going to hammock-camp. She talks of her Sprinter (large liveable van).

The head of the canyon is a steep wall below a lake. with a waterfall poking through the snow. The path up to the lake looks steep and slippery.

Credit: T

We look around. The left side of the canyon has vertical strips of snow, rock, and grass. The grass looks climbable. So we bushwhack, crossing the stream on a snow bridge, climbing a few hundred yards through snow-filled pines, and reaching the grass.

Damn my finger

The climb up the grass (with interspersed rocks) is long and steep, but doable. We gain somewhere around 1,500'.

We come out on the top of a broad ridge, with a line of sticks indicating the continental divide. There's an incredible view of mountains in all directions. Ron and I rest while T explores.

Credit: T

Instead of retracing our steps, we walk a couple of miles down the ridge, losing some altitude.

The ridge ends, and we have to get back down to the lake. A long slope of snow-filled forest is in our way. We look around for a trail bit find none. T tweaks her knee.

Eventually we just head down through the forest. It's actually pretty easy and fun. We reach the lake and there's another mile of snowy trail.

At the lake, T and I take a very brief dip. The water is just above freezing, but the air and sun are warm, and we dry out quickly.

We drive to Lyons for dinner at a blues bar / restaurant. I have pork enchiladas. Downstairs, a blues band is starting to play.

5 June

No sleep. Morning is bright and painful. Life... life.

We do a short hike to the top of Kruger Rock. T leaves for Laramie.

Ron and I visit the Stanley Hotel, which appears in Kubrick's "The Shining". Ron is interested in exploring Estes Park, which is a patchwork of disparate neighborhoods, looking for unusual things and signs of sentient life.

Ron cooks excellent pasta with pesto, chicken and broccoli for dinner.

6 June

I finally sleep. Ron and and I drive into RMNP to the Bear Lake trailhead and take the trail toward Flat-Top Mountain. The trail becomes snow-covered fairly quickly.

We make it above the treeline but not to the summit. Rain is predicted for the PM, and at noon there's a gust of cold wind as clouds move overhead. The hike down is bit unpleasant because of the slippery and irregular snow.

We get some food to go from a local Thai place, and do some more neighborhood exploring.

We rest, then drive to an amazing local sporting goods store that has a small climbing gym. Ron works on his technique. We meet a local guy about my age, Richard, who's a very good climber and has the biggest and strongest hands I've ever seen. He joins us and we climb for a couple of hours. Tremendous fun.

There's been a hailstorm that has left about an inch of marble-size hailstones. It didn't reach the condo.

Ron and I dine at the Mary's Lake Lodge, which lives up to its reputation as the best local restaurant. I have tomato bisque and kale salad - pretty healthy, eh? Ron has meatloaf made from 4 different cloven-hoof beasts.

Ron and I stay up late discussing Javascript and misunderstandings.

7 June

Ron and I pack up the condo and drive to Denver International, where we say goodbye and head for our respective planes.

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