Women Alone in the Wilderness
My summer bucket lists typically include at least one backpacking trip. This year, my friend Bridget and I decided to test our wilderness skills—alone. Some may say you’re not alone if another gal is going, but in our eyes no boys = alone! Neither of us had been backpacking more than a couple of times, so we were sure to pack our knives and pepper spray for the unexpected. Luckily, we already had everything we needed; we just had to borrow a water filter. Here’s to not getting Giardia!
Our plan was to leave Thursday evening after a shorter day at work and then head up the canyon to the Indian Peaks, just behind Eldora Ski Resort—nearly 30 minutes from Boulder. We were determined to get there Thursday night to set up camp regardless of the weather. Good thing we didn’t forget our rain gear because it rained the entire hike in. Fortunately, it was still a beautiful hike—it may have been wet but the sun was peeking through. We set up camp in the rainy night, but our excitement about the experience kept us laughing. We woke up to the warm sunshine and were greeted by some friendly neighbors who told us how entertaining it was to listen to us giggling while setting camp in the dark and rain.
We decided to spend our first day hiking to Caribou Lake over the Arapahoe Pass. We hiked down a 1 mile, 1000 ft. drop-off into a vast valley where we reached the striking lake. With mostly switchbacks down we felt like we were training for the Grand Canyon, obviously on a much smaller scale. We saw a few tan tents from the top of the pass, which made us feel more comfortable hiking down there with the knowledge that we weren’t entirely alone. After a couple hours of lugging our 55 lbs. bags around, we realized that what we thought were tents were actually large rocks. It was official: we were the only humans camping in this valley. We began to worry after realizing it would take a couple of hours just to get out of the enclosed valley. So we did what any girls would do, and planned for every possible situation that could happen.
Our plan, of course, was to set camp and proceed with our hiking. Unfortunately, the day flew by and the afternoon rain showers started rolling in. Once we finished our chores of setting up camp and getting water, the rain finally stopped and we were able to explore the valley. We excitedly stumbled upon a mysterious cave. Of course, my first instinct was to go inside and check it out! At that point Bridget shouted, “No way, that could be a bear cave!” It was then that we realized we had been walking over bear droppings the entire time. I laughed at her, thinking “how ridiculous,” when a bear popped his head out of the cave. Okay, no, not really, but we did see a fresh bear print in the mud. Who knows if it was really a bear cave, but we decided we weren’t willing to find out.
After eating our meal in a bag, we tied our food in the tree far away from the tent. After staying up all night listening to coyotes, strange bird sounds, and what we would like to think were moose callings echoing through the valley, we were certain that either we, or the food, would not make it through the night. We woke up to the sunlight and were quite relieved to see each other. We walked over to check on our food, and were pleased to find that the bears must not have been that hungry—they left our stash alone. We packed up and booked it out of what we dubbed “Bear Valley.” We decided to make the most of our day by ditching our 55 lb. bags and summiting South Arapahoe Peak. All the setting up camp, carrying huge packs, and the anxiety of the night before was well worth the view. After many hours of hiking to get to the top of the ridge, we were totally stunned by the beauty of the glacier that lies between the South and North Arapahoe peaks. And since we are independent women, and weren’t surrounded by the influence of boys, we decided to fully enjoy the overlook and soak in the view—rather than push ourselves up the ½ mile scramble to the peak. It was then and there that I formed my opinion of the adventure: the Indian Peaks are my favorite mountain range, and backpacking is my new obsession.