Earlier this year, my wife's cousin, Shannon, invited me to do some backpacking with her and some of her friends up in the beautiful back country mountains of Colorado.
When I lived in Texas, I used to dream about doing treks like this. And even though I've lived here in Colorado for the last 11 years, I still haven't made time for it.
But last week I did.
Shannon, Amy, and Justin and I headed out to Aspen, CO Wednesday night with the Four Pass Loop in our sights.
Located in the Maroon Bells / Snowmass Wilderness near Aspen, CO, the 26+ mile trail (beginning elevation 9,580') is routed over four mountain passes, each over 12,000 feet in elevation.
- West Maroon Pass
- Frigid Air Pass
- Trail Rider Pass
- Buckskin Pass
Here's a view of our route, and where we started
Below will give you an idea as to how steep the ascents and decents were
This hike was was rated as one of the "Best Hikes Ever" by Backpacker Magazine, and now I know why!
Oh my gosh this hike was gorgeous.
My pack weighed around 40+/- lbs. It wasn't bad. But I felt the results of wearing it at the end of the day.
My main struggle was breathing! The air is thin enough at the starting point. Then you just keep hiking UP with the added weight on your back minus the oxygen.
It was challenging. But once I learned to control the rhythm of my breathing, it was much more doable.
Shannon, Amy, and Justin were great to hike with. And in doing so, I now feel closer to all of them. Funny how just doing something as simples as going for a hike can bring people closer.
The ascent to our first campsite
One of the many marmots we saw along our way
A quick group selfie in front of the most photographed mountain peaks in Colorado,
the Maroon Bells
And here we go!
Our first stop, Crater Lake
Justin Jumping in to help Amy across
Taking a few minutes to recharge
Our state flower, the Columbine
We had a porcupine wander through our camp this night. It was a big 'ol prickly thing that showed no fear. Why would it? Nobody wants to mess with them. We did get a little too close for it's comfort and it looked like it was preparing to take some counter action with its quills. We respected its need for space and left it alone. It was too dark to get a decent picture of it to share. But just think of a huge pin cushion with legs that makes strange squeaky sounds as it walks.
The next morning, we packed up camp and headed out to tackle two passes in one day,
West Maroon Pass and Frigid Air Pass
Atop our first pass
West Maroon Pass
Elevation 12,500 feet
At the summit of the second pass
Elevation 12,415 feet
And back down into another valley we go in search of our next campsite
We were very fortunate to find this campsite nestled off the trail next to a small waterfall.
We were feeling pretty sore by the time we got here and were really looking forward to relaxing and recharging for the next morning. Soon after we got our camp set up, a rolling thunderstorm came through. We took to our tents and it was the perfect background music for us to drift away to for a late afternoon nap.
We were some happy campers!
We packed up our camp again and headed out down lower into the valley basin before we started our climb back out. It was like starting over from scratch.
Towards the end of this day it was decided that we all had one common want; a cheeseburger and fries. This became our motivation on our last couple of days.
On our way up to Trail Rider Pass, we stopped for a quick photo op
Going clockwise: Me, Shannon, Justin, and Amy
Looking down on Snowmass Lake from the top
Trail Rider Pass
Elevation 12,420 feet
Aside from the mass of mosquitos that were constantly attacking us, we found another great place to camp on the side of the mountain. We even had a white tailed deer stroll leisurely through our camp. We acknowledged each other and she casually strolled on.
Our last day.
Amy and Justin arrive at the top of our last pass!
Elevation 12,500 feet
Now let's go get that cheeseburger!
This trip was some very much needed internal therapy for me.
We all get caught up in the everyday cycle of life. Work, chores, paying bills, etc
And although those are necessary parts to life, they're not what life is all about.
Remember to make time to do things that feed and recharge your soul.
The only thing missing on this trip for me was my wife, Janie. I wished she could have been with me to experience this.
The next one!