Posted by Carla Bamesberger on 3rd Sep 2015
Every now and then, it is fun to pack up your camping supplies and travel to an area you’ve never experienced camping before. My husband and I recently decided to seek new adventures in Rabbit Ears Pass outside of Steamboat Springs. We camped at Dumont Lake Campground off of U.S. 40. The campground sat just off the highway, far back enough to cut highway noise. This site works perfectly for anyone wanting a highly accessible area at 9,600 feet. The campground offered potable water at hand-pumps (which made filling our 7 gallon Aqua-tainer easy), pit toilets (bring a headlamp for night time use), and picnic tables and fire pits at every designated site.
We pitched our reliable Eureka tent in a hurry, eager to hike up to the rock formation that gives Rabbit Ears Pass its name. This tent has served my family faithfully for about 15 years. After we pitched our tent, we prepared for the hike. We strapped on our Chaco sandals, grabbed lightweight Columbia button down shirts to keep off the sun, slapped on sunscreen and sunglasses, and topped off our Nalgene water bottles. We protected our faces and necks with straw sun hats.
Once prepared, we took a short trail from the campground over to the trailhead on National Forest Service Road (NFSR) 311. About a fourth of a mile up, there’s a turn off onto NFSR 291 to take you up to the rock formation. Now, on this trail, we learned a few valuable lessons about being prepared. I grew up climbing 14ers, so I’m more than a little snooty about the supposed difficulty of shorter hikes. When I learned about this easy 5-hour loop, my overconfidence trapped me into not preparing accordingly.
First, I learned to always bring a map. We hiked an hour up NFSR 311, missing the trail entirely. Our detour took us to a few beautiful camping areas in the national forest, and we even crossed paths with a moose. Fortunately, he wasn’t interested in us and we observed him from very respectful and safe distance.
Next, I learned to bring more water. We each brought one Nalgene of water, but we should have also brought some Camelback hydration packs for the trail’s steep inclines and 1,000-foot elevation gain. Those inclines made me wish that I brought brought a sturdy trekking pole to take the pressure off of a cartilage injury in my knee. Despite not preparing properly, we made it to the base of the rock formation, enjoyed the stunning views of the valley below us, and checked out the awesome volcanic rocks in the area. If we thought to bring a high altitude flower guide, we would have learned a thing or two about the abundant wildflowers growing along the way.
Back at camp, we enjoyed breaking in our lightweight GSI dishes and Snow Peak camping stove to make a well-deserved meal. We finished the evening by kicking back and enjoying our clear view of the milky way with some dehydrated ice cream. Our Thermarest sleeping pads and Marmot down sleeping bags protected us from the slight August chill even without a polypropylene base layer under our micro fleeces.
Fly-Fishing Dumont Lake
The next morning, we set up our collapsible fly-fishing poles, threw on our fishing vests, and walked over to Dumont Lake and enjoyed some fly-fishing. At first, we didn’t know what flies to use because we had never visited the area. We tried a caddis pattern with no result. We saw fish jumping all around us— one even jumped over my husband’s line— but nothing took the caddis. Careful observation of the water showed us that we needed to use flying ant patterns. Once we knew what to throw, it didn’t take long to bring in a beautiful rainbow trout. This scenic lake provided easy access to an amazing fishing experience.
Overall, we loved camping in the area and plan to go back again next season. We will come prepared next time, however. I won’t make the mistake of assuming I don’t need to prepare for an “easy” area just because I grew up backpacking Colorado’s beautiful mountains.
If you’re in the mood to head to unfamiliar destinations, make sure you go prepared. Jax Mercantile Co. offers a range of outdoor gear to fill all of your adventure needs, and our expert staff is here to answer questions, give advice and help you choose the right gear for your adventure. Please visit Jax online or check out a store near you to learn more.
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