Buena Vista

Do It: Pine Creek Camping


Growing up in the Midwest, I thought I had a pretty good appreciation for fall, and particularly fall foliage. And then I moved to Colorado. There’s nothing like a grove of aspens alight with yellow, not to mention an entire mountainside of color. The drive from Denver to Buena Vista via 285 is better than a fireworks show. At Kenosha Pass cars lined the road as people stopped to snap photos.


We departed Watershed Ranch just before 5pm. Our first leg involved a Jeep trip about 3 miles up an old mining road. From there we hiked 2 miles up, to where Pine Creek meets the Colorado Trail. We arrived right around sunset, built a fire, set up camp, prepared dinner, and gazed at the stars. This was baby Henry’s first camping experience, at 8-months old (Henry’s parents own Watershed Ranch).


Our campsite was at 10,000 feet, and temperatures probably dipped to the upper 30’s by early morning. I made myself stay in my tent until a little after 6am, and then got up to watch sunrise. This alone was worth the trip. I hiked in a mile or so, to enjoy the light. Two moose walked through the meadow just in front of me.


After oatmeal and baby prep, we departed camp around 9am. We hiked the Pine Creek Trail to a small falls, snacked and relaxed before retracing our steps back to camp. We did 8.2 miles all-in, and topped out around 11,300 feet.


After breaking camp and packing up, we hiked the remaining 2 miles to the Jeep and were back at the ranch around 3pm. Perfect weather, peak fall color, and good company = pretty great backpacking weekend. Until next time, Collegiate Peaks!

Something I (re)Learned: Perspective


Every time I drive 3+ hours southwest to my friends' ranch between Buena Vista and Leadville, Colorado, I'm reminded of what really matters (and doesn't). There's a lot more calm there: a lot more quiet. They have 170-acres and a 5-month-old baby boy. So, the only things that really matter are water (they run hydroelectric power), hay (which is really an extension of water), and family. They work hard, have fun, and roll with dozens of unexpected situations that come their way, daily. Cell phones are largely useless on the ranch. Breathing is a little more labored at between 8,000 and 10,000 feet. You go to bed when it gets dark, and you wake up when it gets light. You pray for rain. 


Access to so much (too much?) makes it easy to put value in unimportant things. I found myself forgetting about things like Strava and Twitter and email. After 5 days in the mountains, I kind of didn't want to return to these things. All of the sudden, I didn't really care how many vertical feet I had climbed or how fast: just that I had gotten to the top, and could see for miles. 


There are reminders all over the ranch of how little the world of farming and survival have changed. Over the year that my friends have lived there, they've collected all kinds of artifacts. Farm equipment, bear traps, tools. Things become unearthed. I spent one night in their camper at the top of a ridge. The sky was clear and the stars were immense. I've spent time in rural New Mexico, and in a remote location in Montana--those are the only other times I've seen stars so bright. That night sky alone is enough to prove that nothing much matters--that our entire existence is a bit of a coincidence. 


My goal moving forward is to bring a little ranch mentality back home. Maybe push some of the data aside and do the thing for the sake of getting to the top and looking out at all there is to see. Try to put more value in the basics: water, stars, breath. And also, make the trip to the mountains more often: embrace the feeling of being very small.