With Garbelly, in the Men's Dorm, and Critter, in the Women's Dorm, the morning had two versions. Begin split screen montage of our morning. Garbelly's morning is on one side. He wakes up when the sun began to shine over the men's dorm bunk beds, texts Critter, no response, lays in bed for a bit before texting Critter that he was going to go downstairs. Once downstairs he begins a conversation with Lil Buddha about breakfast and how we all had way too much food. Critter's morning is on the other side. She sleeps through Garbelly's first text and then his second text, the sun begins to shine over her face, she fixes it by burrowing her head deeper into covers, she is still asleep when Garbelly heads downstairs, she is still asleep when conversation begins, finally she wakes, look at texts from Garbelly, tries to close eyes to sleep longer, decides that she should get up then heads downstairs.
Once we were downstairs, we all happily and confidently agreed to head into town to the Fat Cat Cafe for an all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet. Three plates of quiche, Scotch eggs, various meats, biscuits and cinnamon rolls, and fruit later, it was time to visit the pie table. All the while we covered an array of topics with Lil Buddha and did not even bother with the time. We thoroughly enjoyed spending time with him, as he is well-spoken, an inspirational hiker, and just an all-around wonderful human being. He even paid for our breakfast! We tried to convince him not to do such a nice thing for us, but he insisted. When we thanked him, he told us to simply pay it forward, a common thread throughout our adventure so far. We bid each other 'Happy Trails' and headed back up to Shadowcliff to grab our packs and hit the trail. It was hard to leave the comfort of the common room at Shadowcliff. Honestly, we could have been easily convinced to stay another day, but with Wyoming so close, we deemed it best to keep moving North.
We entered Rocky Mountain National Park and followed an incredibly groomed trail past meadows of anglers and through pine forests of hikers. We met Judy, a park volunteer, and stopped to speak to her for a couple of minutes. She continued on with her job and walked up to a passing family to ask if they had seen any wildlife. We continued on. Once reaching the highway, we began our short road walk towards Never Summer Wilderness.
Along the road, we started to see cars pulled over and an incredible amount of people on the side of the road. We figured it must be something outstanding maybe a mama bear teaching her cubs how to cross a stream or climb a tree, maybe an ostrich had broken free from a far away zoo, or maybe just a moose feeding on some grass? We could not believe it. Traffic was being directed by Judy, the park volunteer, and everyone was out staring at the moose eat with their zoom lenses and children in tow.
We worked our way through the crowd and continued on towards our turn off. Once we reached the other side of the park, we passed by more anglers and very fishy water and looked at our maps to see the name of this creek. It was the Colorado River. Walking on across the headwaters of the Colorado River was spectacular. Just imagining that such a slow and winding creek would travel over a thousand miles south and carve out the Grand Canyon was powerful. It was also the perfect place to fish.
We were passed by three forest service men who to our surprise and excitement informed us that they had cleared our next eight miles of trail! We followed the trail gradually climbing until we left the park and entered the Never Summer Wilderness. Thunder could be heard in the distance, but we hiked on. The forest surrounding us was thick and green. Small waterfalls framed the trail and the bright colors of wildflowers decorated it. The thunder grew closer and louder but no rain fell yet. Critter's side began hurting again after a large pop occurred, a residual pain from coughing so much the last month (the never ending saga), so we set up the tent just in time for the bottom to drop out of the sky. So we did what anyone would do, we took a three hour nap. The rain did not last long and the thunder began to dissipate.
After our nap, we continued up our climb towards water and potential camp. We reached our water and as Garbelly filtered, Critter headed up trail to find camp. As she was turning a corner, she stopped in her tracks staring head on at a rather large Bull Moose. Slowly backing up, she put her trekking poles over her head and made noises. The moose just stood there staring back, not moving. Finally she positioned herself behind a group of skinny pines, and she could see the moose flick his ears and bend back down to continue eating. There were no herds of people to warn her of the moose this time, which is very preferable. Garbelly came up the trail and Critter whispered to him, "Moose!" Shocked at this Bull's size, he quickly grabbed a photo and then we both took a detour around the section of trail the moose was occupying.
We found a circle of trees with a perfect tent site in the middle and began to set up camp. The moose wandered over into the meadow on the other side of our campsite, and he just minded his own business feeding and drinking water. After setting up, we sat behind a tree to observe this large peaceful moose.
While we had our backs turned, another creature snuck into our campsite. A giant, fluffy, big-footed bunny rabbit, and he was busy chewing on our tent when we caught him red pawed. Our presence did not intimidate him, after chewing on our tent he hopped over to our packs and licked/chewed on Garbelly's strap then hopped over to our water and licked the outside of our bladders. Then he hopped away. We stood there trying to figure out if what just happened was real or some delirious, hungry hallucination. We sat down next to our packs just in time for the bunny to hop back into camp. He circled our tent trying to figure it out then hopped away. We grabbed our packs and wandered a little bit away from camp to begin eating dinner.
While we were sitting and eating, we watched the bunny work his way back to our tent when he realized we were gone and go straight for the mesh door. He tried to hop in but was disappointed by the mesh screen, instead he stood up on his back paws and looked inside. He hopped over to Garbelly's trekking pole which was filming the scene and sniffed the pole and then hopped away again. We could not bear to think that we would have to hang a bunny bag over night. We finished up our meals then headed to our now empty tent.
Under the almost full moon, we could hear, throughout the entire night, all the critters outside of our tent.
Garbelly & Critter