We didn't know where we were going to go backpacking until the morning we left. We thought it best to just go ask a ranger for tips on where to go, rather than risk picking an area that had been affected by the wildfires. The woman we spoke to suggested Fourmile Lake, an alpine location, at about 14 miles round-trip.
We parked our car at about 9,000 feet above sea level and started the hike up. We were going uphill a majority of the day, and the elevation's effect on our Minnesota lungs was certainly evident in the number of breaks we needed.
A huge grove of birch- unexpected and beautiful!
In some of these pictures you'll notice a lot of pine killed by the mountain pine beetle. The number of dead trees is part of what contributed to the wildfires of this summer, and we could see why. Entire mountain sides would be completely dead and dry as we drove and hiked. Fortunately, we still had plenty of green, and no restrictions on campfires at the spot we camped.
We continued moving higher and higher up and across the mountains. We took lots of breaks and only saw three other people the entire day.
After we cleared the peak, around 12,000 feet above sea level, we went downhill for a short while and got to walk through high mountain meadows. Absolutely the most beautiful thing I've ever seen, even with the high numbers of dead trees. There were wild flowers, streams, and open fields of foliage.
After a full (7 hour) day of hiking, we made it to our campsite. I'll be posting more on that later.
A summary of how I felt during and after the trip hiking up:
1. The pack wasn't too bad. Mark did carry more than I, and my shoulders/ back hurt, but picking up the pack after a break didn't concern me. I felt strong and capable being able to carry most of what I needed to survive the short trip on my back.
2. Despite that, this was the hardest thing I've ever done and I've never been more tired. The elevation and uphill hike could be blamed, and the people we saw without packs were struggling nearly as much as we were, but this hike was brutal. I've never been more exhausted and sore in my life, but it was worth it.
3. Being alone is exhilarating, and a bit terrifying. There were moments when we'd be on steep incline and Mark would stumble, and I'd get this panicked feeling of what I'd do if he got hurt. We didn't have phone reception, and I'd likely have to leave him to go back for help if anything happened. Okay, it sounds darker now that I type it out, but you think about it when you're doing something like this.
Alright, that's enough for now. I'll be posting more about our campsite and descent in a day or so!