Monday – September 2, 2013
We awoke to a beautiful sunny morning with the temperature in the high-50’s, here at the Timber Creek Campground in the Rocky Mountain National Park. As is our custom on mornings like this, we have our coffee and breakfast outdoors, gazing in awe at the sight of the majestic mountains surrounding the campground. The temperature is forecast to be 65 to 75 today, depending on the altitude one is at.
After a hearty breakfast of bacon, eggs and hash brown potatoes we are now fortified to take on a strenuous 7.4 mile round trip hike today to LuLu City in the Kawuneeche Valley. This is just one of several hiking trails located within the park. This trail has an elevation gain of 350 feet. Our campground is at an elevation of 8,900 feet, so our total elevation on this trip will be to 9,250 feet.
LuLu City was formed in the summer of 1880, over promising silver ore mining reports. Prospectors were drawn to this area to explore the surrounding hills. In 1881, the town contained a scattered population of 500. Despite the claims of remarkable development, no great silver ore discoveries were made. The small amount of silver ore that was discovered was low grade and proved too costly to transport any distance. By the fall of 1883, the town was largely deserted. Today, the forest nearly hides the evidence of human habitation. Most simple buildings, built solely of logs have disappeared. The once vibrant city, promising hopes of fortunes to many, is now an open meadow filled with wild flowers.
We arrived at the trailhead to the LuLu City hiking trail at 11:30 a.m. attired in our hiking clothing and boots. We put on our backpacks containing bottles of water, fruit, granola bars, almonds and walnuts. My backpack also contained an emergency whistle, compass and bear spray. We secured a map of the trail at the trailhead and off we go.
The LuLu trail runs parallel to the Colorado River, which at this stage is a narrow, shallow, flowing stream of crystal clear water traversing over a bed of jagged rocks. Within a short distance, one encounters the steepest portion of the trail. This is the part of the trail that taxes your stamina at this altitude. The trail then winds its way through dense forest of pine trees and open meadows. After about 30 minutes on the trail, I realized I had not put the compass and bear spray in my backpack. A bit perplexed at my lapse in double checking my gear, we decided to continue our hike. We met a few other hikers along the trail and received no reports of bear activity, so we felt comfortable with our decision to continue the hike.
There are no grizzly bears in Rocky Mountain National Park. The major predators here are black bears and mountain lions. The park literature states the black bears start their hibernation in August so that may explain why we have not seen any on our visit here. Mountain lions are elusive and tend to stay clear of areas populated by humans.
About 1.5 hours into our hike we came upon a sign pointing to a "Privy" off to the west of the trail. We made a mental note of this should we feel the need to avail ourselves of this facility on our return trip. We continued on the trail, some sections of the trail were quite narrow, with a steep pine tree lined drop-off on one side sloping down to the Colorado River and the other side of the trail sloping upward through a forest of pine trees. Single file traversing on these sections of the trail are the prudent thing to do! Other sections of the trail took us through beautiful open meadows filled with wild flowers and containing small pools of crystal clear water. The pools were only about 10 feet in diameter and not more than 1 foot deep, but amazingly they contained a few fish about 4 inches in length. Further along the trail we came upon an open meadow and the remnants of a log cabin that had succumbed to the ravages of time and weather. There was not much left of it, but it did provide us a place to sit down on one of the logs to rest.
Time for lunch! We found a trail leading off of the main trail that took us to a cliff overlooking the Colorado River about 30 feet below us. An aged downed pine tree provided us with a place to sit down while we devoured our snacks. Refreshed, we decided it was time to head back to the trailhead. But first, a stop at the "Privy" was in order.
The "Privy" is located a short distance from the main trail. It consists of a four-sided wall, approximately 5 feet high, constructed with seven logs, with a gap of about 1-1/2 feet at the bottom. Two sides are about six feet long, with a three-foot entry cut into the other side. The two ends are about 4 feet in length. There are gaps between the logs so privacy is somewhat sacrificed. The functional part consists of a deep pit in the ground covered by a metal pedestal with a toilet seat. Hey, this is over 9,000 feet up in the wilderness of the mountains, don’t expect any indoor plumbing here! And, we had to wait our turn! There was another couple ahead of us utilizing this wonderful backcountry facility!
Our return trip took us back through the open meadow by the remnants of the log cabin. As we rested there, a bizarre sight came into our view. Three adults, two men, one woman and four small children were leading three llamas. The llamas were all carrying camping equipment. In addition, one of the children, a little girl, probably about three years old, was riding on one of the llamas. The other three children probably ranged in age from six to eight years old. They had been camping in the backcountry and were returning to the trailhead.
After nearly five hours of hiking, we finally reached our starting point at the trailhead at 4:20 p.m. Sharon’s pedometer showed we had hiked a total of 8.35 miles. Time to return to camp and relax!
We spotted the family with the llamas. They had them loaded into a trailer in the parking lot and were ready to depart. They had Colorado license plates on their truck. Two of the llamas were lying down and one standing, just looking around and making strange guttural noises.
Tomorrow another adventure begins.