Maroon Bells Wilderness - Day 3
When we woke up, the sun was shining. During the night, we had both woken up several times to catch our breath. We definitely weren't used to the high elevation. Today we would follow a river uphill before climbing to a mountain lake. The first few hours went well and we were surrounded by great mountain views. When we took a break, several other 'hikers' passed. One guy had a $20 tent hanging from straps connected to the bottom of his backpack. That was a good moment to explain to Diane that that's where you're supposed to put only your lightest gear. A while later his girlfriend walked by, carrying a huge sleeping bag in her arms while walking uphill over the rocky trail. We were very curious where they were going, but unfortunately didn't seem them again.
A group of hikers that had camped at the same site as us also passed. One of the guys came up to Diane and asked if she had been in the military. Apparently he asked because she looked like one of his former colleagues, although Diane said it was because she looked so tough. When we started walking again it suddenly began to rain very hard, but the storm disappeared quickly again.
We passed an open field where I hoped to see Moose, but unfortunately we didn't. There were supposedly many wild animals in the Wilderness, including deer, elk, moose, mountain lions, black bears, mountain goats, coyotes, porcupines, and bobcats. I hoped to see all of those, although Diane had a slightly different opinion. We passed a lake with a few campsites and a large river running out of it. We had to cross the river by walking over a bunch of logs. It was a bit shaky, but fortunately we didn't fall in the water.
Shortly after, the climbing got more intense. We would need to zig-zag up the side of a mountain for several hours. Yet another thunderstorm started, which again ended 30 minutes later. Then the scorching sun came out again. By now we were pretty tired and really noticing the altitude. Around 17:00, we reached the mountain lake, which would have been very beautiful if it wasn't starting to get cloudy again. As the trail would go downhill from there, we decided to keep walking a bit longer so we could camp at a lower elevation.
We were in a dense forest and it started to get dark. I saw what looked like an elk, although it might also have been a big deer. We made camp shortly after. A group of hikers passed and camped a bit farther away. One of the guys came back to our site to get water, as theirs didn't have a river nearby. He said there was still snow higher up in the mountains, but we would likely be able to cross all the passess on our route without special gear.