Maroon Bells Wilderness - Day 8
As soon as I got out of our tent, I noticed something ate the cork handles of my hiking poles. There was a marmot in the area and multiple chipmunk dens, so likely it had been one of those. It was an annoying way to ruin my poles, but at least it proved that I wasn't carrying our heavy bear canisters for nothing - they kept the small critters out.
We continued climbing and passed several small streams and Alpine meadows. There were again marmots everywhere.
Soon we were again above the tree line and traversed large grassy fields while getting more sunburned. I usually never carry sunscreen on my hikes because it's too heavy to carry enough for several weeks and I would get all greasy. I was glad Diane brought some though. The sun at that elevation was relentless. Diane had found that Dermatone made a sunscreen stick, which was basically a super lightweight Pritt stick of 50 spf sunscreen. By applying it multiple times a day and using our hats we could avoid at least part of the sunburns.
We were headed to the fourth and final pass of our hike. By now, we were better acclimated to the high altitude and our backpacks were a lot lighter. We really noticed the difference and could climb the mountain without needing to stop every 20 minutes. After a few hours we reached the summit. We were happy this would be the last big climb of our trip.
At the summit, we met a father with his son. Their hike thus far had been in exactly the area we had skipped. The man went out of his way to explain that that section was the most beautiful trail in the area. That was nice to know. Fortunately, our hike was also very pretty. We soon headed down the pass again. The man and his son were going in the same direction.
First we walked through open fields, then through forests, and eventually reached a small boulder field. Part of the rocks were covered in snow and there was a sharp cliff at the bottom of the field. This was the only slightly dangerous section of our hike, but it wasn't too bad. Soon we reached the same mountain lake we had been at on day 3. The weather was much better this time, which made for beautiful views.
We took a long break at the lake before continuing our descent. That part went along the same trail as we had hiked on day one. As we were going downhill, we covered most of the distance in only a few hours. We crossed paths with the father and son several times on the way down. They were friendly, but it was clear the father didn't like having too much company.
This specific trail had very few camping sites and not really any other places to camp. That meant we had to continue walking much longer than usual and it started to get dark by the time we found a campsite. The father and son had just arrived there and had taken the 'actual' campsite. There wasn't really room for our tent, but we had little other option. I wrapped our tent around a tree on a tilted piece of ground, which gave us just enough space to lay down. Fortunately, it wasn't raining. We quickly cooked dinner before going to sleep.