The UFO watching at the watchtower didn't make me see any strange objects in the sky except the starry night with no light pollution, which was plenty and maybe better for me overall. It was time to rest because I had planned to take a small hike in the morning at the brink of the Sangro de Cristo mountains and then head for the next national park. I was pro at sleeping in the near-freezing temperatures now. A couple of socks, two pairs of sweatpants, two-three shirts, a hoodie or two, and a jacket. With that, I rolled up inside the sleeping bag and woke up on day 5 of the trip.
The first hike of the day was near the Great Sand Dunes, but it was up in the mountain. I hiked up the frozen lake in the morning and quickly headed north. There was a long drive ahead of me, and I had to get supplies along the way. The trip should take me around 270 miles (~450 km), which was planned for five and a half hours of driving through the mountains. If you remember, I mentioned how I was riding uphill most of my trip from Texas to Colorado. This continued because I was about to ascend the famous Rocky Mountain National Park.
Before getting there, I almost stopped at South Park city, but I was running late already. Driving fast is not an option in the US, especially because the rented car was on my friend - Talu, and my driving license was Serbian 😂 So I followed the traffic signs and listened to some country radio along the way. After six or more hours of driving, I was at the campsite we had previously reserved.
My campsite was at 8,500 feet (2500 m), and I arrived there pretty late, around 6 PM. It was getting cold already, but I was too excited to be there. I could see the snow tops around me for the last two days in Colorado, but now, they were within arms reach. This got me going, and I set out for a "quick" hike behind the camp and looping back to it. I ignored all the warnings to be careful and not hike while dark outside, believing I could make it before sunset. Of course, I was wrong 😂
I started the hike slowly and took pictures whenever I could, but at some points, I panicked. The light hour was in full effect, and I wasn't even halfway through the trail. At some point, I started running instead of hiking. Bear in mind I had my two cameras - Zenit and Yashica - around my neck as I hurried down the evergreen woods of the Rocky Mountains. At some point, I got surprised by the snow ☃️ on the trail. It was May, and the snow was still here? It shouldn't have surprised me. I was high up in the mountains.
The time was running short and blue hour was already showing with its cold colors. The cameras were only useful now with a tripod. I took a shortcut and slid down to the campsite with my flashlight, knowing damn well I still had dinner to cook 🤦
I started a fire quickly and fried two steaks for a light dinner. My hands were freezing and getting numb. The temperature was dropping quickly and with no warning. This was one of the coldest nights for me, for sure. I prepared well, but the weather in the Rockies in May is still pretty rough. That night it went below freezing, but as I mentioned, I was now a multi-layered sleeping pro. As it turns out, getting warm inside the sleeping bag can be achieved relatively easily, but the problem is when you wake up and step out of the bag 🥶
More on waking up and stepping outside to freezing temps in the following post tomorrow.