It had been years since the first time I hiked to the summit of Eccles Pass in Colorado. Though, this one particular trek had never left my memories. Wild flowers decorated the endless high alpine meadows that lead me towards the Gore Range mountain peaks. Once beyond the treeline, they rose above me with jagged walls, creating a sinister appearance. It was at the summit and while scarfing down some lunch before descending back the way I came that two backpackers came upon me from the opposite direction. These two women, accompanied by a black dog, stopped for a quick chat and said they were coming from Vail and through hiking to Frisco, about 14 miles one way.
Since then, I’ve wanted to pursue that same hike, all the way through. And the opportunity finally came around with one, simple Facebook post:
Who wants to hike Frisco to Vail over two days?
This was from my older sister, Leanne, and I was the first to respond. Our crew grew from four to ten then back down to seven by the time we were packed and at the Meadow Creek Trailhead in Frisco. At the trailhead, at 5:00 AM, in the pouring rain. Great, motivating start.
A little over an hour of hiking later, the rain paused as the trail opened up in time to catch the sunrise. It ignited the clouds that surrounded the sky. This isn’t the way I first imagined the hike, but it ended up being grander.
Six miles and change was the plan for the first day. Walking with a 30 plus pound pack on our backs. The sun was blazing by the time we summited Eccles Pass, looking out to those same fiercely standing peaks as I did years ago. Lunch was inhaled and we began the descent to our camp in between two high alpine lakes. Tents were erected in the heart of a meadow spotted with Elephants Heads, Lupines and so many other colorful wildflowers.
Nature was here. Silently speaking, welcoming, congratulating us. We were halfway.
I napped among the flowers with the sun providing a warm blanket. And when I awoke, the boys had gathered more than enough firewood for the night. We all enjoyed dehydrated meals for dinner and some whiskey for dessert. Once the sun left the sky, our eyes were focused upwards. Hunting for shooting stars. The pitch-black night surrounded as the stars became more clear against it. We would all gasp and call out as we spotted one sailing across the atmosphere. Each time, as if it was our first.
The next morning was early, but lazy. We took our time breaking down camp, brewing coffee with our various techniques and swallowing another dehydrated meal. This day was a planned seven-mile walk until Vail’s Gore Creek Trailhead and the end of our mission. Though, things didn’t go exactly according to plan.
After following the trail for over a mile, we suddenly realized that Red Pass was now behind us, growing smaller in the distance when we were supposed to be hiking over it to begin our descent into the valley. We had to turn around.
We were almost back to camp before we discovered the faded trail hidden by a grassy stream. Finally, we were gaining elevation again, up and over our second pass. We didn’t have a schedule to stick to anyway and the sun kept our spirits up through the backtracking. At the top, staring into the valley crest, we were guided by multiple Cairns back into the forest we left early the day before. This time, we wouldn’t lose the trail.
The Gore Creek flowed alongside us and invited a quick break to cast some lines. With fish biting vigorously, we didn’t want to head out, but the dark clouds got us moving. As well as our growling stomachs. With the extra, unexpected mileage we munched through our snacks well before the end of the hike. But we set our minds to the endless tacos we would devour once we were back in civilization. Ten miles after leaving camp that morning, we emerged out of the woods with tired faces and muscles, but wide smiles.