We begin our journey into the Colorado Wilderness on September 22, 2019. Our anticipation for the preceding adventure grows as the winding dirt road leads us miles into the backcountry. We come to an abrupt stop at the edge of a steep bank overlooking a beautiful creek bottom and endless miles of mountains trickled with light green and gold patches of Aspen trees. There is truly something special about being in the Rocky Mountains when the Aspens change. We have planned and prepared all year tuning our bodies and our bows for this one week.
My dad has a vast knowledge of the terrain and elk’s habits after hunting here for 25 years. Unfortunately, he isn’t able to join us this trip because he tore his ACL so my husband, brother and I are quite literally taking the reins. We load up our horse Joe and spend the first day hiking toward the location where we always camp, which is a challenge in itself. Without a clear GPS track we wander off the trail and find ourselves in a few strained situations. We aren’t able to make it seven miles to upper camp like we planned so we decide to set up a temporary camp for the night.
The next morning, we tear down the tent and load our packs in preparation to hike the next 3 miles to our timberline camp at 11,900ft. Here the trail turns steep and treacherous. When we finally break the crest of the mountain, I recognize the place like it was yesterday. The only difference is the harsh beetle kill covering the landscape. I am overwhelmed with memories and think about how different my life was the last time I took this journey 12 years ago.
We quickly assemble our tent and air up our sleeping pads. My brother Jake takes care of Joe as Grant and I organize our gear. We find water in the spring a couple hundred yards above camp. This is our only source of water and we use a filter to make sure it is safe to drink. I then boil water to prepare our freeze-dried meals for lunch. I don’t mind cooking when this is all it entails.
After lunch, we venture to a spot we call “The Pass.” Elk have traveled this high mountain trail for years crossing the continental divide to our side of the mountain. Here I watched over my dad’s shoulder as he took an elk and I have heard numerous stories that stemmed from this special hunting spot. Unfortunatley, we don’t see much activity that evening besides the curious chipmunks and native birds. The view is absolutely breathtaking and it seems like we can see for 100 miles. I inhale the fresh mountain air thankful to be disconnected from technology and the daily stresses of life.
In the dead of night, we wake up to the beautiful sound of elk bugling and realize we are in the heart of the activity. Not 100 yards from camp we hear multiple bulls bugling back and forth on either side of us. I noticed the temperature has dropped considerably as a chill runs down my spine. Huddled tightly in our sleeping bags we whisper to each other with excitement and thoughts of what the next day will hold.