The BIG Change

I decided to write a blog post to tell the tale of my getting married and the events around it. I’m sure some would love to read about it, and it makes for a good way for me to chronicle it for some day in the future for me. Pictures surrounding this epic tale can be found here. The tale of the engagement can be found on a previous blog post. The wedding date was September 27, 2009 to Wendy Millington. I decided years ago that for my bachelor’s party, that I wanted to go on a backpacking trip with my friends. So, I invited some of my backpacking buddies to go with me on a my trip. My brother Chris and a friend of mine from college, Ramsey, were able to make the trip out here. Both of them were groomsmen in my wedding as well. The trip was to be known as the Bad Ass Bachelor Backpacking Adventure (BABBA). The plan was for us to go to Rocky Mountain National Park in North Central CO for a 5 day backpacking trip. I had poured over a map looking for a good loop route that we could take that wouldn’t be too tough on those coming from lower elevation. I had finally found my route. We were going to start on the Grand Lake side of the park, work our way up to the Continental Divide, and then back down to the North Inlet to put us back where we started. Chris made a nice profile of the trip co_trip

I had flown out to Salt Lake City to visit with Wendy the week before the trip. The house we had signed a contract on had a shady realtor who signed another contract on the house. This had put our house hunt on delay as we had hoped to close on the house on my trip out there. We found another one and we just had to wait for everything to go through. While out there, Wendy picked up cold from one of her patients which she happily passed along to me. We both hoped to be well in time for our wedding. I was more worried about being able to hack it on the trail.

The day I flew back into Denver, Chris and Ramsey both also flew in. I was to arrive within an hour of both of them getting there to try to ensure a small wait time. Southwest was late getting me there by about an hour. Once we all met up, we headed to my car. I had checked the weather before I left Salt Lake and discovered that the weather had gone from beautiful with highs in the 70’s to snow starting the day we were to hit the trail. Ramsey was from FL and didn’t even own a pair of blue jeans. He had his cold weather sleeping bag though. Chris was from VA. I had told him he wouldn’t need his arctic gear as it was beautiful weather. So much for that. We stopped at my favorite restaurant for dinner that night, Woody’s Woodfired Pizza in Golden, CO. Once we were at my house, The Phat Pad, we began pouring over weather maps and forecasts to see what type of weather we could expect if we were to continue with the original plan.

The weather at Grand Lake just said snow, not how much, and that it was going to be highs in the 30’s for the duration of the days. We were going to be above Grand Lake, so it was going to be colder and even more snow. Of course, the day we were to hike out, Friday, it was supposed to be sunny and highs in the 60’s. Great timing. I had no doubt I could survive a trip in that weather, done it before. Maybe it’s just part of me getting old, but I didn’t need to prove that again, and I was wanting to have fun on my trip. I had also promised Lara, Ramsey’s wife, that I wouldn’t let her husband die. Being great friends, Chris and Ramsey were willing to do what ever I decided on. After looking over the weather data (did I mention all three of us were engineers Chris-Aerospace, Ramsey-Materials, Jason-Mechanical), I thought it looked like the SW part of CO was going to have a better chance of missing the front that was moving through the state. That’s OK, because that part of CO is my favorite part of the state.

The areas around Pagosa Springs and Durango are beautiful. It is also home to my favorite place to go backpacking, the Weminuche Wilderness. I had been down there a couple of times in the past. Once with Wendy in 2007 on a week long trip, and another time back in 1998 with Bill Sassani while waiting for the summer to start at Philmont.

On Monday, we went to REI to buy gear that Chris and Ramsey wanted to get for the trip. Ramsey was one of the founders of The Bulldog Hiking Club. It was a club that a few of us started when we were in college at Mississippi State University. Some of the distinctive marks of our hiking club trips were inclement weather, trips to a gear store, car camping, leaving well after our planned time, and drastic changes in trip plans. None of these things did we ever think would happen with our trips, but they always tended to happen. This trip was shaping up the same way. Chris and I had a history of backpacking trips that didn’t go as planned as well. This was turning into the perfect storm of backpacking trips.

Monday afternoon, we headed out on our trip, destination Pagosa Springs. My little Nissan Versa was stuffed to the gills with the three of us and our gear. It began snowing right outside of Denver as we were headed through Conifer on US HWY 285. This only reassured our decision not to go on our original trip. Ramsey, the fish whisperer, wanted to stop along the way at a local fly shop so he could get some flies for fishing. We happened to find a little hole in the wall gas station that doubled as a bait and taxidermy shop. Ramsey was able to get the flies he needed. I picked up some cold medicine as I was beginning to feel my cold coming on.

That evening we continued on to Pagosa Springs. We arrived around 8PM or so. Being dark, we decided our best option was to find a cheap motel and decide where to go from there. We ate at this little Mexican restaurant in town. We had brought lots of food for what we had planned to eat on the trail, but there just something about eating trail food in civilization that makes it less appealing. The motel we got had WiFi. Funny enough, the three of us spent the evening on our little hand held devices checking email, Facebook, sports scores, and what ever else. Like I said earlier, the three of us were engineers. We also spent some time looking over my maps and a hiking guide I had for the area. We decided to go do a day hike to Four Mile Falls where Bill and I had hiked 11 years previously.

Tuesday morning, we ate at a little restaurant for breakfast. We then set off for Four Mile Falls trailhead. The trail is a loop that is about 12 miles total. There is a river that runs near the trailhead as well, so it satisfied Ramsey’s needs.

This is the trail Bill and I had hiked several years ago. It has a large 300 ft waterfall about 3 miles in. Chris and I decided to hike this as a day hike. It would be 6 miles out and back. Ramsey loaded up my daypack and his fishing rod. I took my Camelback and Chris took his day pack and we set off. Not far into the hike we came to the boundary for the Weminuche Wilderness.

Chris and Jason at the Weminue Wilderness
Chris and Jason at the Weminuche Wilderness

As you can see, I am holding a hiking stick. I don’t normally use them, but Ramsey bought a pair of trekking poles and said he is a believer in using them. He convinced me to give them a try as it may make it easier on my joints. I refused to use them in the past as Philmont Rangers refereed to them as sissy sticks. But I conceded to give them a try. Believe it or not but they really do work well.

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