Rough and Tumbling Creek Loop: Part II

**Once again, all photos by my lovable boyfriend of WMR Photography. Don’t want y’all thinking I finally got talented with a camera!**

I left y’all yesterday after Tally finally managed to squash her fear and conquer the water crossing. I’m pretty sure she was equally shocked and psyched because she was prancing all over the river bank, shaking her little butt and wearing quite the doggy grin. Obviously, I was very glad that she had made it across, but I was too busy chattering to give her a lot of loving! My feet were a lovely shade of white and I could not get them to warm up. Will and I sat in the sun and passed a good 20 minutes with him rubbing and blowing on my toes, trying to get circulation back into them. Luckily, they warmed up and we were able to set back on our way!

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My Outdoor Research Squadron Cap

Many trip reports claim that hikers prefer to do this loop in a counter-clockwise fashion because they don’t want to deal with the final ascent into Buffalo Meadows. Honestly, the final climb is truly nothing major and was so worth the solitude. Sure, it was a bit of elevation but it was absolutely nothing when compared to other local hikes. Plus, the view when we finally reached the Meadows was incredible. I love wide open spaces with big Colorado skies!

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We had met an older couple down below who had recommended a camping area that was tucked away from the trail. We followed their instructions and quickly found ourselves on a small bench, nestled up behind the trees while still enjoying a small glacial stream a couple hundred yards away. We easily set up the tent and sleeping bags that I was testing, and enjoyed a night of peace and quiet. Unfortunately, Tals had somehow managed to shred her paws again, so she and I spent quite awhile working on a little puppy TLC and cuddling. Turns out, Tals definitely needs dog shoes in her old age!

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Will took off into the valley to shoot some sunset photos, and Tals chose to go with him even though I tried to make her rest her paws. Instead of following, I enjoyed the utter stillness of the meadows while watching the sun disappear for the night. There is nothing like the silence of the mountains and the alpenglow in Colorado is absolutely stunning!

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I think this is when Tals saw a deer!

Sunday morning dawned sunny and warm, and we quickly stuffed our faces with oatmeal and Pop Tarts (sidenote: that will be the last Pop Tart I ever consume. My lungs went bananas after that!) We efficiently cleaned up camp, ensured that we had left behind zero evidence of our existence (as per Leave No Trace), and headed off to complete the Rough and Tumbling Creek Loop. We figured we were halfway through the loop so we should easily get back to the car by noon, ensuring that we would make it to the afternoon BBQ on schedule. In retrospect, this makes me laugh!

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Truth: this is the only front photo of me because all of the other ones had wicked unflattering stomach bulges over the waist belt. Totally inevitable with a pack, but I just couldn’t bring myself to post them!

We passed a group within a half mile and we turned to see one of the men chasing after us. We stopped so he could catch us, and spent a few minutes chatting trail beta. He had wanted to ask us how our half of the loop had been in terms of snow, and we told him that there wasn’t any. He looked relieved – too relieved, in hindsight! – and explained that their Saturday hike had been filled with lost trails, tons of snow, and post-holing for days. Naturally, this was the part of the trail we were heading into, so we briefly debated turning around and retracing our footsteps back in the direction we came from. However, I really didn’t want to get Tals across that river again, so we decided that the snow couldn’t be that bad… right?!

The first mile was easy and Will and I happily chatted, confident that we would be back at the car in no time. However, once we ducked into the trees, the snow levels started to build and we were soon tromping around in knee-deep snow drifts. Ironically, I had chosen to leave my gaiters in the car like a moron, so I had nothing to protect the snow from sliding in over the tops of my boots. On the other hand, Will had remembered his gaiters but hadn’t been able to find his waterproof boots, so his feet were completely soaked. In short, we sucked at preparation!

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As the snow grew deeper, the trail completely disappeared and we discovered we were basically hiking in a “choose your own adventure” novel. We figured we would just follow the post-holes steps from the crew that had trekked in the day before, but sometimes those footsteps were damn near impossible to find! We’d occasionally come to a dry patch where the snowy footprints vanished, and we’d have to split up so that we could both scour the mountainside in search of the continuing footsteps. Without them, staying remotely on trail would’ve been incredibly tough.

We continued like this for hours, crushing through snow that grew invariably deeper and more painful on the skin. Will broke trail for a lot of the morning, largely because he would fall right through my footsteps anyway since he weighs so much more. Unfortunately, he has a good half foot on me in terms of height, so some of the drifts were much deeper on me than they were on him! I can remember at least a dozen times where I fell through snow up to my hip bones, floundering around while trying to crawl my way out. It would truly be pathetic if it wasn’t so funny! Tals, of course, was loving life and enjoying the fact that her 60 lb. body didn’t sink in the snow at all. She would walk across the drifts and turn her head to look at us, almost as if she was asking, “Guys, you going to pick up the pace anytime soon?!” When she did fall through the snow, the vindictive side of me giggled because she could finally understand an ounce of what her mom and dad were dealing with. Is that wrong?!

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We finally crept out of the trees and into alpine tundra filled with willows. We had hoped that the snow would disappear since it was exposed to more sunshine, but alas, that wasn’t the case. Additionally, we had absolutely no idea where the trail was, so we were just hiking by our general sense of direction at this point. Good plan, eh? We knew we were close and that there was a bridge crossing the river that we needed to find, but we couldn’t locate the damn bridge. We waded our way down to the stream in hopes that hiking alongside it would finally get us to the bridge. Unfortunately, we then saw some day hikers on the opposite side, trekking upstream towards where the bridge was actually located. Apparently, we had overshot the crossing while stumbling around in the snow, and we would have to make our way back up-river in knee-deep drifts in order to find it.

Truth? There was no way we were backtracking! We knew we were within a mile or two of the car and that the rest of the trail was sunny, hot and dry. Because of this, we decided to screw the bridge and cross the river ourselves, completely dressed in our socks, boots, and pants! This wouldn’t be ideal under many other circumstances, but for that particular day, it was an acceptable decision. Plus, I got to help Tals cross yet another scary-for-her stream.

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Unfortunately, I was testing the Salomon Synapse boots which are legit waterproof (review soon in Active Junky’s upcoming Women’s Backpacking Gear Guide!) This meant that the water didn’t really want to leave my boots either, so I spent the next hour sloshing around in water-logged shoes. Honestly, I didn’t mind because it was so hot and dusty outside, but I sure did have wrinkly feet when we finally reached my Pathfinder.

In short, this is an awesome backpacking loop for anyone in the beginner-intermediate category that is looking for a basic overnight trip. Because of its relatively easy distance, you don’t have to carry a large pack and the solitude is beyond rewarding. Give it a shot!

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What’s your best outdoor adventure-gone-awry story? This can be running or biking too!

23 Comments

  • Reply Christy @My Dirt Road Anthem at

    Glad you made it through the snow fine! Looks so beautiful there!

  • Reply Heidi @BananaBuzzbomb at

    Always an adventure. With both of our lucks I wonder what would happen if we adventured together….it would be interesting, for sure!

    • Reply heather at

      I think you should road trip this way over the summer so we can find out!

  • Reply Dave at

    Sounds like a great trip Heather! Don’t worry about the hip belt thing, I’m pretty sure we all look that way with a pack on 🙂

  • Reply Amanda @runtothefinish at

    i’d like to request that your bf follow me around throughout my workouts from now on 🙂 awesome photos and wow what an amazing time!!

  • Reply Alyssa at

    I cannot even imagine hiking in snow right now. I’m sweating just sitting at my desk.

    • Reply heather at

      It’s almost 100 degrees in the city and half the damn state is on fire, so I don’t imagine there is too much snow left!

  • Reply Rachel @ Betty LIVIN at

    My now husband and I had a misadventure hiking two summers ago. We took off without being very clear where the trail was and not knowing the terrain. There was an unexpected 1 mile scramble and he wasn’t wearing the proper shoes so we had to turn around and go back. I was so mad because I had never finished a hike that we spent the whole hour hike down screaming at each other. You can read more on my blog post http://wp.me/p1DA8L-wn

  • Reply Corrie Anne at

    Looks so gorgeous. I like hiking — sort of — but haven’t braved the camping while hiking part yet. I’m sure my husband would love it since he did it a lot before he met me .Haha. I’m such a bad influence. More importantly, my dog would love it!!

    • Reply heather at

      Camping is the best part 🙂 It is so nice to wake up…and be totally removed from the rest of the world. Love it!

  • Reply Efo at

    Oh my gosh, what an adventure. Loved this recap… who knew the snow would be that high!? Geeze! The pictures are gorgeous though (way to go, Will!). And sorry to hear about your poor frozen feet after the river crossing (and Tals’ paws, poor pup). Frozen toes hurt SO bad sometimes. Yowza.

  • Reply Chris @ TheGearHouse at

    Great recap, Heather! Thanks for sharing and the pictures are great. Definitely going to add this trip to my list for backpacking later this Summer or Fall.

    • Reply heather at

      Thanks, Chris! Let me know if you give it a try!

  • Reply Sandra Laflamme at

    Wow! It sounds amazingly beautiful where you are and it sounds like even with some minor hiccups it was a beautiful hike. Do you have the doggy booties yet? Do you find that they stay on your dogs feet?

    • Reply heather at

      I don’t! I need to measure her paws tonight actually!

  • Reply Kayla at

    Never a dull moment!! haha. Funny: you kept marching forward instead of backtracking so you didn’t have to re-cross the scary stream, but ending up crossing another scary stream anyway!

    I’d say the most ridiculous moment I can remember right now would be when Patrick and I went hiking and got back to the car to make our late lunch date, and I realized I dropped my phone somewhere along the trail……We had to do it all over again (completely not prepared with enough food/water for a double hike), and I found it at the top of the trail!! Oops. Needless to say, we were very late, and tired and I had a very annoyed husband on my hands!

    • Reply heather at

      I remember when you guys did that! It was when you were here, right? In Boulder?

  • Reply Sarah @ Making Thyme for Health at

    Hi Heather! I just found your blog and wanted to tell you that I think it’s great! You are adorable and seem like such a good person. But really, I love your dog!! I have an older dog who is a mutt too and she gets worn out pretty fast on our hikes. Tals looks like she does pretty good though! She’s so pretty. 🙂

    • Reply heather at

      Thanks for the compliments, Sarah! Tals does very well but I have to be mindful that she is 7 now, and not quite the young pup she once was 🙂 Still, she seriously LIVES for outdoor adventure…similar to her mama, I suppose!

  • Reply LeeAnn at

    I love reading about your adventures with Tally. While I am certain you have already thoroughly researched it, I feel compelled to mention how much I would recommend Ruffwear Grip Trex dog boots for outdoor adventures. They are of excellent quality and durability, and Finn never minds wearing them when I make him, depending on the activity we have planned. That said, though, I would also recommend using the Ruffwear sock liner things with them. Also, if you are looking for a “handle” without the pack, the Webmaster harness is not the least bit cumbersome or heavy, but has the handle. We use it a lot and again, the durability and function cannot be beat!

    Please note I am in absolutely no way affiliated with Ruffwear, just a very happy customer.

    • Reply heather at

      Hey LeeAnn! Thanks for the thoughts on Ruffwear! I’ve been very happy with their products thus far as well, so I can understand why you’d vouch for them. I’m in the process of checking out a new pair of Ruffwear dog shoes for Tals and will definitely review ’em when I’m done. You actually bring up a good point with the harness though– she has the Palisades Pack which unclips, so I could totally just have her wear the harness on adventures like this. Great idea, thank you!!

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  • Reply Patrik at

    Love your site. Doing this trip solo this weekend since my wife has other obligations. Counter clockwise I think. We shall see. Cheers from Parker, CO!

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