For our first trip back into the wilderness, we drove up Poudre Canyon, then set up a base camp just off Pingree Park Road. Dispersed car camping is allowed in that area, which meant we could choose the spot that suited us best, no permit required.
After erecting the tent, we marveled at the starry night sky. Bright city skies make it easy to forget the enormous quantity of stars floating up there all the time. The sounds and smells of the forest enveloped us, simple but rich. The experience reminded us why visiting wild places is so important.
The next morning, sunlight peeked through the trees and gradually woke us up. We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast while watching squirrels play and chatter.
We drove a short ways to the Emmaline Lake trailhead and headed up the trail with small daypacks. We were in great spirits, happy to be back in the mountains.
The first 3.5 miles of the hike were mostly flat. We walked through an area which burned in 1994. Aspens and young lodgepole pines have eagerly taken root since. Beyond the young trees lay Colorado State University’s Pingree Park campus and the steep bare peaks of the Mummy Range.
The trees eventually opened to reveal Cirque Meadow. A creek snaked through vibrant grass in this beautiful place. Layers of peaks provided a stately backdrop. We decided this was the perfect place to stop for lunch.
After a tasty meal, Chris continued hiking. Anna stayed in the meadow where she spotted a beaver darting across the creek. Cloud formations whirled past above.
The trail rapidly steepened as Chris climbed towards Emmaline Lake. Becoming rougher, the trail eventually passed tree line, allowing a long view back towards Cirque Meadow and beyond.
After a good deal of climbing, Chris reached Emmaline Lake. The deep blue lake was mostly surrounded by massive rock walls. Wind whipped across the otherwise quiet lake.
This is an out-and-back trail, so once we thoroughly soaked in the grandeur we headed back the way we had come.
Back at our campsite we cooked dinner, read, and watched birds flitting from one tree to the next. As darkness fell, the sky produced raindrops instead of the previous night’s stars. We climbed into the tent just before a major lightning storm passed through.
On Sunday, we explored parts of the Poudre River’s south fork before heading home. It was a fun weekend and exactly the type of laid back trip we were seeking.