$23/night: Pawnee Campground (Arapaho/Roosevelt National Forrest)
Since I’m staying put for a while, I only have three goals for the day: a decent hike, some time on the lake with the kayak, and a campfire.
I pre-packed a little backpack for an early morning day hike to Mitchell Lake. Water, 360-cam, drone, snacks, sunglasses, Tilley hat, bear spray… It’s only a few miles up.
Brainard Lake was windless, and as calm as glass. As I go up, I see quite a bit of snow in the shadowy places, and spring flowers are coming up. I pass two novice hikers, choosing each step like a first chocolate in a Whitman sampler.
Soon, I’m officially in Indian Peaks Wilderness.
Occasionally, the trail is covered in packed snow.
There’s so much snow that two hikers with cross-country skis passed me, crossing the river at Mitchell Lake, heading further up the trail.
Not having hiking sticks, wearing the wrong shoes, and knowing how bad my balance is, I decided to go no further. I can just enjoy Mitchell Lake. I’m not sure of its elevation, but it’s higher than Brainard (Mitchell Creek dumps into Brainard). It very windy – more whitecaps and spray. Too windy for the drone.
But the view is worth it.
I see the two novice hikers again, sloshing through a wet grassy meadow marked with signs for re-growth. No hiking, please.
I’m reminded of how many of the things I do on the trail that are second nature, were learned from my dad (the seed of a future blog post).
One the way down, I stopped to take a video of a very full Mitchell Creek.
Next, I walked the kayak to Brainard Lake. It’s teaming with tourists, hikers, youth groups, and people fishing. I gravitate towards the calmer far end of the lake – where a few creeks rush in.
The water’s shallow and filled with downed trees just below the surface. I pull up the rudder and Mirage 360-drive, and use the oars to navigate.
There’s quite a current and the water’s especially cold, and clear. I beach the boat on the shore and take it all in.
When I’m ready to go back, it’s so busy that it’s hard to find space on the shore to take out the kayak.
Later in the day, I fire up the Solo Ranger fire pit for a few hours of staring into the flames. Just try to look away – you can’t. Enjoy.