Saturday, May 26 - Sunday, May 27, 1990: Cutbank campsite, RMNP

Last weekend I took my daughter Megan on her first-ever backpacking trip. She just turned seven. As you might guess, I picked a relatively tame trail and destination for this adventure. I'll write a trip report anyway, this time more purely for my own memoirs than as a source of information for future planning.

Cutbank is one of a number of single-group campsites dotting the Lawn Lake Trail in NE Rocky Mountain National Park. It is an easy 2.6 mile walk NW and north from the parking lot, with a gain of 1120', half of it in the first 3/4 mile or so. After that the trail joins the impressive, eroded gorge of the Roaring River, gouged by the Lawn Lake flood some years ago.

We picked up our phone-reserved permit at the back country office and departed the trailhead in Horseshoe Park, 8500', at 1520. Naturally I carried almost all the weight (and drew several amused comments from other hikers we passed). Nonetheless Megan fussed about the discomfort of lugging her own clothes in a daypack. We made frequent short breaks and I wondered how late we'd get to camp. To my surprise, despite her gripes, Megan hiked quickly and the trip took us only 2:15. The weather was cloudy, dark, gloomy, and threatened rain, but fortunately it continued dry and cool until after we were in the tent. We encountered some snowbanks on the trail the last 1/4 mile into camp.

The campsite was in a private, pretty hollow between tall lodgepole pine trees across the stream from the main trail. I set up camp slowly, trying to involve and educate Megan, who preferred to posthole around on some snow piles in her hiking boots. We pumped water from the creek, ate a sumptious dinner, played Pente in the tent by the light of a candle lantern, and went to bed early.

I was concerned about keeping us warm. We were quite bundled up so it wasn't really a problem. But I didn't feel all that well and it was a clammy cold night. The best tent spot was still slightly tilted. Megan kept sliding down to the foot of the tent. Several times during the night I checked on her and had to ``reset'' her by pulling her up, sleeping bag and all, to the high end of the tent. She slept like a log but I felt icky the next morning...

We roused slowly, ate breakfast, played more Pente (she's good) and even some Go (she's learning). I decided that hiking up any of the nearby peaks would be overkill. Instead we packed up slowly, played at the creek for a while, and headed back to my car. Again we made pretty good time (1:40 to hike down, finishing at 1330). This morning Megan was in cheerier spirits. I had to work to keep up with her. When the trip was over she was still enthusiastic about the experience and ready to do it again.

We mosied home with about eight stops, the first at a motel in Estes Park where we rented the use of a shower, hot tub, and pool. We gorged on Mexican food at La Casa, and collected rocks at a road cut in Devils Gulch.

By Alan Silverstein