The Gore Range Trail extends 54 miles between the Southern and Northern boarders of the Eagles Nest Wilderness in the White River National Forest in Colorado. To test our equipment, meals, and skills, Emmy and I drove to Copper Mountain on Sunday for a two night backpacking trip. We started hiking from the Wheeler Lakes Trailhead at exit 195 on I-70 with loaded packs and four days of food, similar to what we will be using on the Colorado Trail.
On Sunday, we hiked 3 miles and 1600 vertical feet in elevation gain through a few light thunderstorms and enjoyed a nice wooded campsite that straddled two large meadows. We planned to hike 10 miles on Monday, but due to rough terrain of snow fields, boulder fields, and marshes that required significant detours, we only managed 8 1/2 trail miles. The only relatively flat area we could find to set up camp on Monday evening ended up being close to a pond with swarms with mosquitos and high humidity. Once inside our Big Agnes Fishhook UL 2 tent though, we found refuge from the blood-sucking onslaught.
Our Big Agnes Fishhook tent is unique in that there are no zippers, instead hooks and rings secure the doors of the rain fly and tent body. Despite my apprehensions about adequate bug protection and tent strength, after two nights, I have grown to really like this tent and the lack of zippers and highly recommended it. Unfortunately though, Big Agnes has stopped production of the Fishhook due to slow sales. I picked mine up on clearance, but readily admit that I would not have purchased this tent at the full price of $399.99 when other high-end, full-featured zippered tents are available for the same cost or less. Nonetheless, I am very happy with our tent and now know that it can withstand wind and rain similar to conditions we might experience on the Colorado Trail.
Tuesday morning was clear, and the sun quickly heated our campsite, thus awakening both us and the mosquitos. After oatmeal, a few handfuls of gorp and a mug of instant coffee, we packed up camp and started hiking. After a short distance, the forest thinned and we were in a large open valley with a creek in the middle and extensive marsh that made the actual trail impassable. For the next couple miles, we found alternate routes around bogs and over the creek to avoid getting our feet wet. At this point we were headed toward Frisco via the Meadow Creek Trail. Four miles later, the trail spit us out between exit 201 and 203 on I-70. Knowing the Summit Stage (a wonderfully free bus system in Summit County) picked up at 201 in about as much time as it would take to walk there, we decided to walk along I-70 (which is apparently illegal) toward exit 201. I was surprised by the large quantity of trash that litters the side of I-70 that is only visible from a walking perspective. We made it to the bus stop with five minutes to spare and then enjoyed the bus ride back to Copper Mountain and our parked car.
All in all, this was a fantastic 17 mile backpacking trip. We learned a lot about our gear and were able to test ideas we have learned about on other blogs and websites. I feel more prepared for the Colorado Trail after spending two nights with the very equipment we will be using. I also highly recommend the Gore Range Trail if you are looking for a short day hike or longer backpacking trip…the scenery and hiking is fantastic and the Summit Stage makes one-way trips easy.