The decision making process about which hike to do during our summer stay in Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park was not an easy one. Eliminating the long and treacherous 14,000 feet plus Long’s Peak climb from our Rocky visit still left 344 miles of hiking trails and numerous peaks open for climbing. We had several criteria that the perfect hike would need to meet. First, it must be long enough, at least eight or nine miles long, and scheduled to take 6-8 hours. We wanted a challenge somewhat comparable to Borah. Further it would need to be demanding enough in terms of elevation gain to present a challenge as I had been training rigorously with my incline trainer between 20 and 28 % all year long. I wanted to make use of that conditioning. Also, it would need to be do-able in terms of allowing us sufficient time to acclimate to the elevation to enable us to complete the hike safely and comfortably. Finally, we wanted to summit an actual peak, not just go for a long hike, turn around and head back down.
As you can imagine, with so many miles of trails from which to choose, hiking choices in Rocky did abound. We purchased several guidebooks covering day hikes in Rocky and poured over them during the month of June. We finally narrowed our selection down to two: Bear lake Trailhead to the top of Flattop Mountain, with a round trip hiking distance of 8.8 miles and predicted hiking time of 6 hours, and the Continental Divide Trail to the summit of Mount Ida, involving a round trip hiking distance of 10 miles and a predicted hiking time of 6 hours.
The description of the Ida hike sold us. Accessed via a tundra trek traveling along the crest of the Continental Divide, the guidebooks promised solitude as well as incredible scenery and the chance to see plenty of wildlife. From our experience last year on Mt. Elbert, we had learned that many Colorado hikes become quite crowded and busy during high season (i.e. July). The solitude sounded very appealing. By contrast, we were advised that, while the Bear Lake Trail had scenic views as well, it was rated much lower on solitude and wildlife. Our decision was made!
We planned our trip accordingly. We left our home in Wisconsin at about 1000 feet elevation and spent our first night at about 4,500 feet in North Platte, NE. Not a bad first step. Our second day, we arrived in Rocky and were pleased to note that our campground was at 8,500 feet. Another good step. Before turning in that evening, we drove up to the Alpine Visitor’s center to walk around a bit at 12,000 feet elevation. A nice precursor to our Ida hike which was to start at 10,750 feet.
The last part of our plan was to climb another 14’er just south of Denver and we had reserved our next campsite accordingly. Mt. Ida, at 12.880 feet would be a training hike for Mt. Evans at 14,000 feet plus. Also we would have a day of rest when we were traveling so we would climb Ida on Friday, travel to our next campground, then climb Evans on Sunday giving us a bit of time to rest up for our next trek. Little did we know we had in store another major change in our plans a bit further down the line…
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