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Rocky Mountian National Park, CO

Backpackers: Carl Fisher, Lori Fisher, Ann Lewis, and Brian Lewis

August 1, 2005:  Started the backpack at Tonahutu / North Inlet trailhead at 10:00 am and arrived at Sunrise Camp at 2:45.  We had a relaxing lunch alongside the Tonahutu River.  There were two big events during the day, both occurring at about the same time.Two bull moose First, directly across from the Big Meadows camp in the big meadows we spotted two bull moose grazing.  And then, while watching the moose, we were treated to about 2 minutes of pea sized hail.

August 2, 2005: Got a late start.  We had to spend a part of the morning drying out equipment before packing up.  It rained all night long.  Our first stop during the day was at Granite Falls.  Since today was not a big miles day we took a 4 mile round trip day hike to Haynach Lake.

August 3, 2005: We decided to hit the trail early today (7:00 am) so we could beat the afternoon thunderstorms as we were crossing the Continential Divide.  It was overcast most of the day and we hit the high point of Ptarmigan Point at noon and immediately headed down.  The initial mile of downhill was marked by double cairns about 6 foot tall.  After that we hit significant switchbacks as we descended to our camp for the night - Camp July.  After setting up camp the sky was threatening rain so Lori and Carl went in search of a the privy.  Instead they were treated to 3 bull elk grazing in a field across Hallett Creek about 50 yards away.  These powerful beasts with magnificant racks kept us mesmerized for 20 minutes.  Then after finding the privy Carl and Lori were treated to 4 mule deer -a buck, doe, and 2 fawns - all that seemed very tame.

Shortly afterward the sky darkened and rain drops started to falling.  All of us retired to our respective tents to wait out the storm.  It was a powerful storm with rain, wind, thunder, and lightening.  After about an hour we heard voices outside our tents.  A father and two sons were standing under our tarp, soaking wet, shivering and without any gear - asking fCamp in rainor our help.  They got caught in the lightening storm on top and had been trying to get below treeline when lightening began hitting within 200 yards of their location.  They hunkered down hoping to wait out the storm.  When it didn't abate they dropped packs and ran downhill to our camp.

We fired up our stove to provide hot Gatorade and tea.  Their cotton clothing was soaked so we shared our extra gear to help warm them up.  When the rain let up, Ann, Carl and Lenny (the father) walked up the trail about a mile to retrieve their backpacks so they could set up their tent next to ours.  More elk were spotted on the trip.  It rained all night long.

August 4, 2005: We awoke to overcast skies, rain and sinking spirits.  The father and two sons with us were still wet and cold so Carl offered to give his polar fleece to one of the boys to use if they would mail it back when they got home.  It never hurts to provide a bit of trial magic when you can.  A short, quick consultation resulted in a decision to hike out a day early since most our gear was getting damp and, hey, this IS a vacation.  We set out before Lenny and his sons and after another set of switchbacks we hike the gentle downhill trail to Tonahutu / North Inlet trailhead and our rental car.  The rain stopped as we started hiking out causing us to question our decision until we got to the car, opened the trunk to load gear and rain started pouring!  Decision confirmed!

Post Script:  Carl never received the polar fleece in the mail.  However, helping someone in need on the trail is never wrong!