Monday, June 29, 2009

Camping in Pike National Forest

Summer in Colorado equals camping in the high country. Or at least it should, as often as possible. I was fortunate to get a second trip up this past weekend, and once again had a great time. Unfortunately, the birding wasn't spectacular. The Grey-headed, Dark-eyed Junco posed nicely in the early morning light, but that was the extent of good, photogenic birds.
I think the great sleeping in open air, the lack of alarm clocks or even watches, and the presence of good friends on hikes are all conspiring against me. I know that if at some point I can rise in the very early morning hours that I can get a blind set and see some good sights, but until then I am just going to keep going back for the whole experience and let the birds be what they may.

That was not to say that it was an uneventful campsite. Saturday morning we had a prickly visitor! Not wanting a confrontation between the Porcupine and Charlie (one camping couples' six month old Yellow Lab) we encouraged the spiny fellow along by slowly walking behind it and speaking loudly in the areas where it stopped in the trees.

Unfortunately, a porcupine who is being encouraged to keep moving along only pauses in the thick brush at the base of trees, and doesn't dawdle through the spaces in-between.

The highlight of the trip was a hike to Gibson Lake. It was a 6 mile round trip hike, and a nice one at that. Our campsite was conveniently located in the vicinity of the trailhead, and after breakfast and porcupine watch we were on our way.
I did notice a difference in myself while hiking with my friends up to the lake at just below 12,000 feet. What I found was that my group was still in a mindset of reaching the destination, while over the past year I have changed my focus to the journey and appreciating the transitions between habitats. Reaching the lake was rewarding though, a cool breeze across the tundra, trout jumping, streams and waterfalls emerging from snow fields, and groups of Alpine Forget-me-nots coloring our grassy seats on the lakeshore. Poofy white clouds periodically sprang from the ridgeline, but never developed into dark masses that could spell trouble for anyone caught above treeline.
I saw a few White-crowned Sparrows, and Robins - of course, but no Ptarmigan, Rosy Finches, or other high alpine specialities. I also missed a Marmot that had been around before we arrived and failed to photograph a Pika that had disappeared on a boulder slope before I could get it in frame. Just more reasons to get back up there soon!

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