We did not wake up in a hurry. Milo definitely was in no rush to get up and moving, but as the sounds of the Stillwater Campground came to life we knew we needed to start packing our tent up and getting the airstream ready to move to the next campground. Once everything was packed, including Kate's pack for two days on trail with us, we headed into Grand Lake to check-in to the Elk Creek Campground. They let us check-in early, so we parked the Airstream in spot 22 and quickly set up the awning, unloaded the bed of the truck, and put up the lights.
Critter's dad was all set up for the night, now it was just a matter of getting the four of us, Garbelly, Critter, Milo, and Kate back to Berthound Pass. It was around noon when we got to the pass. We grabbed some photos and waved bye to Critter's dad. The four of us started up a dirt road to a trail and began our climb up Mt. Flora. Everyone was headed down as we were headed up. "White Walkers" as Kate called them, making us the youngest on the climb by many decades. How cool to be surrounded by older, healthy, and adventurous individuals! Age is no excuse, people. Trust us.
Milo was so excited. Having never been in real mountains, he marched forward not missing a smell or sight. We crossed over a patch of snow but soon we were back on dry trail. Kate, even under the strain of gaining elevation and the decreasing oxygen, marched on with a smile. Quickly, we were above tree line, on a ridge line trail, overlooking the vast land of mountainous peaks, and climbing up to one of Colorado's many thirteeners.
The wind started to pick up and we could hear the rumble of thunder in the dark clouds moving in. Our afternoon summit was falling in line with why it's best to not summit in the afternoon. Thunder storms. So we just decided to play it safe, get to the top, and quickly get down. As we reached the summit at 13,123 feet, the trail turned into talus fields with wind breaks built in areas and a small path of flat stones laid out like stepping stones through the more jagged rocks. This was Milo and Kate's first thirteener, and they crushed it!
With the thunder growing closer and us the only positively charged objects for awhile, we began our descent along a ridge. The wind picked up and was determined to blow us over. All four of us stayed strong and hiked briskly to get out of the beating of the wind. We followed a path snaking through the talis fields on the back side of the peak. Even though we were walking through mounds of jumbled, sharp rock, it was some of thebest trail we have had! Huge, huge props to whoever built the trail. It made our descent carefree and allowed us to look for marmots and pikas, instead of having to watch our footing.
The barking of the pikas and marmots grew louder. Milo noticed one and when we turned his attention to the direction it was coming from suddenly he was surrounded by various pitches of barking. He just smiled and wagged his tail at the thrill of the chase. Kate, still smiling, seemed to be as excited as Milo was. We reached a handful of snow patches and kicked in our steps towards dry ground. The snow came as a complete surprise to Milo who immediately began running, sliding, playing and licking the snow. He would drop his front paws and scoot around on his head using the slickness of the snow and his hind legs to push him along. He leaped and ran up and down the snow field, in absolute euphoria.
We crossed over a couple more snow fields and the same reaction came from Milo. Kate was able to experience her first snow traverses and even maybe a small slip here and there to let her adrenaline spike up for a second or two. She was loving it though!
We headed down to a couple of streams before winding back up towards a meadowy saddle. The blooming wildflowers lit up the curves of the mountain and large rocky faces added an accent of grit. We looped around the saddle into the tree line and then followed the most beautifully built switchbacks down. We filtered water and then found a nice, flat spot to set up our tents. We all had mac and cheese for dinner prepared by Critter. Milo was the first to doze off, but the rest of us were not too far behind.
Garbelly & Critter