Friday, July 11, 2014

Fern Creek Falls in Forest Canyon - Rocky Mountain National Park

Kali at The Pool, Big Thompson River
After four days in Colorado Springs, Kali and I drove north to Fort Collins, mostly to tend to our house in the foothills.  One day during our stay in Fort Collins, though, we drove to Rocky Mountain National Park for a rather ill-fated hike.  I'll spare most of the "gory" details, but the drive to the park was clogged with traffic, the park was crowded, parking was at a real premium within the park so we had to park at a picnic spot 0.5-mile from our intended trailhead, the day was hot, and Kali wanted to take a 30-minute nap before we set off all while I'm watching the thunderheads building up over the mountains.  (Kali perceived my irritation and agitation and decided to forgo the nap.)  I was not a happy camper when we set off on the hike.

I'd chosen a moderate, 5-mile round-trip hike up Forest Canyon to Fern Creek Falls.  With the additional walk to the trailhead from the remote parking lot, it turned into a 6-mile hike.
The trail into Forest Canyon
The hike was mostly though coniferous forest that pressed in from both sides.  There were a few breaks in the vegetation where we could look over the Big Thompson River roaring through the canyon, but mostly we just walked steadily uphill through the woods.

Kali between a rock and a hard place
The Big Thompson River at the edge of a burned patch of forest
Our first highlight along the route was The Pool, a place where the raging Big Thompson River broadens out (slightly) into a stretch of water that is smoother but still moving at an incredibly fast rate.
Footbridge over the Big Thompson River at The Pool
The Pool on the Big Thompson River - not a pool in which I'd choose to swim
Larimer County Youth Conservation Corp members at lunch below The Pool
After staring mesmerized at the torrent for a few minutes, we set off to see Fern Creek Falls on a tributary stream.
Ascending the Fern Creek Trail
Above The Pool, the trail narrowed considerably and was much more rocky, uneven, and steep than the heavily-traveled trail to The Pool had been.  Kali was becoming increasingly grumpy, and I started out grumpy, so we made a fine pair.  When we got to Fern Creek Falls, I stopped for a few minutes to take pictures, but the mosquitoes were ravenous so we didn't tarry long.  In addition, it started to rain almost as soon as we got to the falls, so we quickly donned our raincoats.  After a few minutes, the rain passed and we stowed the raincoats again.

There were many hikers schlepping backpacks who were continuing up the trail to Fern Lake and several other lakes in the higher country.  Both Kali and I had the same thought:  "Mosquito misery!"
Kali at Fern Creek Falls
Another view of Fern Creek Falls
Because we weren't going to get to a good place to view the snow-clad summits of the mountains, I took one shot of a snowy ridge peeking between the trees.
A glimpse of the snowfield above Fern Creek Canyon
Rock garden in greens
Rock garden in blues and golds
After I took some images of Fern Creek Falls, we hiked back to The Pool for lunch.  En route, we ran into the Youth Conservation Corps workers - a visibly less-motivated group of young people would have been hard to find.  Back at The Pool, we were greeted by packs of ground squirrels.  Do you think the hikers give them handouts?
Soooo cute...
We tossed this individual a sweet cherry
I guess if the touristas won't give me a fat, greasy and sweet handout I'll have to eat salad
After lunch, we headed back toward the trailhead - and we had an encounter that redeemed the entire trip.  As we were walking alongside the Big Thompson River, I noticed a long, dark, sleek form moving rapidly upstream on the riverbank just a few feet from the trail.  I called out for Kali who was a dozen paces ahead of me on the trail and we raced back up the path just in time to see a mink dive into the current and come back to the shore with a fish in its mouth!
Rock garden at trail's end
Here endeth my account of our Colorado getaway for this year.


packrat said...

That last line is downright Shakespearean, Scott. Even though it's an old joke, the "Kali between a rock and a hard place" line made me laugh. All things considered it sounds like a very decent trip to Colorado.

Scott said...

Packrat: Since I'm always asked by friends and colleagues about my vacation, I'll tell you what I told them: It was OK. Not great, not terrible. Next year, while we'll have to go to the house for its annual checkup, I think that we'll need to go on a "real" vacation, too.

Mark P said...

Seeing a mink would be cool. I've never seen one.

Scott said...

Mark: It WAS cool to see the mink (our first ever, too). As I said, the sighting redeemed an otherwise blah hike.

By the way; I've been commenting on your blog posts, but WordPress won't post my comments. I press the "submit" button, and then the screen returns to a blank "comment box", and my comment doesn't appear on your post. It's frustrating; I wonder what's up. I'm not ignoring you!

robin andrea said...

Sounds like an interesting journey, Scott. Glad it was redeemed by the mink. Wildlife has a way of taking the edge of an otherwise blah trip.

I'm wondering how you and Kali acclimated yourselves to the elevation there. Any issues while hiking?

Scott said...

Robin Andrea: We spent four days in Colorado Springs (at about 5,600 feet) early in our trip, and during those days we did moderate hikes that didn't require a lot of exertion. By the time we went to Rocky Mountain National Park, we were pretty much used to the elevation.