Ever since I started working at The Backpacker, it has grown my love for the outdoors. Two of my best friends from Tampa, Matt and Jack, came along with me on this trip. Matt and I completed similar trips last year to Colorado, but it was a first for Jack. As we just graduated, we decided that this was the best chance to do this trip before everyone gets too busy with jobs and luckily for me, I work at a place that encourages these trips. I’ll get into where we went and photos after I share what I brought with me.
• Gregory Paragon 58 – this is an overall great pack, with many features including an optional day pack used for your water bladder and also includes the raincover. It also included several compartments for better organization.
• Big Agnes Tumble 2 – The Tumble 2 has the MtnGlo feature which allows you to turn on some lights in the tent so you can either read a book or grab something without moving around in the dark
• Big Agnes Air Core Ultra Pad– This is my favorite pad because it packs down small and is several inches thick which makes it very comfortable to sleep on.
• SealLine Baha 30L – Great dry bag to use either in your packs for organization or to use kayaking
• Sawyer Mini – Very easy to use water filter that can fit on the inline of a water bladder or screw on to water bottles.
• MSR Whisperlite -Incredible stove that is light and can cook or boil water pretty quick
• Salomon Quest 4D – By far my favorite boots. Uses Goretex waterproofing and has great support along with the contragrip Salomon uses. There’s a reason these boots win awards
• Smartwool Hiking socks -Using wpol socks helps keep the moisture off your feet to avoid blisters and add a little more support.
• Ex Officio boxer briefs – Outstanding underwear that is moisture wicking and quickdrying. Also you can wear these for several days at a time without worrying about smell.
• Patagonia Baggies– These shorts are very comfortable and can be used in a variety of activities like hiking or rafting.
• FreeFly Lightweight Long Sleeve – Easily my new favorite long sleeve shirt. The bamboo it is made with allows it to be quickdrying and has UPF protection. Ive worn this hiking, rafting, fishing, and also just out and about. This shirt really can do it all
• Arc’teryx Atom LT Hoodie – This jacket keeps you warm with little weight and can also pack down into its own pocket to save room or be used as a pillow,
All of these items can be found at The Backpacker and all of them worked very well and made the trip better.
Our first night we spent in the Wichita Mountains in Oklahoma, which is only 10 hours from Baton Rouge and is a very nice getaway. It was a little hot during the day, but the campgrounds were great and the short hike we did had this incredible view.
The next morning we woke up at the crack of dawn and then drove to southern Colorado and arrived at Sand Dunes National Park. We arrived early enough in the afternoon to where we could do a very fun hike that had some incredible views. Also the campgrounds were over 9,000ft in altitude so coming from sea level; you will feel the altitude but wasn’t anything that slowed us down too much as we drank more than enough water and ate properly. We hiked to the Zapata falls and filled up our water bottles there as the water was just above freezing from the snow melt. We ran the water through our filters and it was perfect.
Then the next day after we slept in for a little bit we drove back down to see the sand dunes which were incredible. After seeing the sand dunes we then drove a couple hours north to Buena Vista where we stayed the next couple nights and hung around Buena Vista. Here we went to a local BrewPub called Eddyline and the food and beers were delicious. After A quick meal here we then went to hike up to a pair of high alpine lakes called the Harvard Lakes on Mount Harvard. The hike was pretty much straight uphill and gained around 2,000ft in elevation before reaching the lakes. So if you ever go up to the mountains be sure to give yourself plenty of time to get up the mountain as it will take longer due the altitude and elevation change.
The day after the Harvard Lakes hike we drove over to Fairplay, CO (where the creators of South Park are from) and went to Mount Sherman and went for the summit. Mount Sherman is 1 of 53 mountains that are over 14,000ft high and they are all nicknamed as “14ers”. The range of difficulty can be anywhere from a moderately difficult day hike to a challenging overnight hike with intense switchbacks and scrambles. We chose Mount Sherman because it is one of the easier 14ers to do and this would be our first summit so we didn’t want to put ourselves into something that we weren’t prepared for. It took us a couple hours to get up the mountain and at this altitude it is much colder and the wind was howling with gusts up 60mph. By the time we got to the saddle of the mountain which was at 13,500ft we just couldn’t push it anymore as the altitude was too much and we were worried if we did make it the summit we would be too tired and make it dangerous to come down with risk of hurting ourselves. This just means I will have to go back and get the summit under my belt.
We then drove back to Buena Vista and camped there one more night and woke up the next morning and drove to Canon City to go white water rafting with American Adventures Expedition. We met up with Garrett and Shelly, who both worked at The Backpacker and we spent the day with them as Shelly was on her way out to California and Garrett was almost done training to be a raft guide with AAE. After rafting we found a campsite on the Arkansas River and just hungout the rest of the day as we were pretty tired. The next day Shelly went on her way to California and we headed to Amarillo were we went to the Palo Duro canyon and did some hiking there and ended up back in Baton Rouge a week after leaving.
As always these outdoor trips bring something special to you as you get to experience things that you may never get to experience anywhere else. Please come by and ask me about the trip and my gear, but until the next adventure I will see y’all at the store!