© 2019 by Hagen Creative

New York, NY | Mankato, MN

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Summer 2016 | Colorado Overnight

January 4, 2017

This past August, I was invited to a family wedding in Cheyenne, Wyoming, but my girlfriend (Laura) and I figured that we would make an adventure out of it and go down a few days early. We decided that we should go back to one of our favorite states, Colorado, and do an overnight camping trip in the mountains. We drove to Colorado Springs and I found us a 3.5 mile trail not too far outside the city. We stopped at a grocery store to get a small amount of food for that night and the next morning before driving to the trailhead. We packed up what little gear we could carry and set out for the summit.

This deer is the very first thing that we saw as we neared the trailhead. It was just standing there, hanging on the side of the road, very much still in town. At first, I thought it was one of those plastic lawn ornaments that people keep in their yards, but I quickly realized it was real, so of course I had to stop right there and take a quick picture. 

 

The trail began with a fairly easy mile or so of hiking toward the summit of Mt. Cutler. We passed a few locals along the way, including an older gentleman who said he's been doing that hike every week for 40+ years. At a certain point, the trail divided and on the right was the beginning of the trail for Mt. Muscoco where we had planned to find camp. At this point, the trail quickly became less manicured and began to climb at steeper angles. This is a shot of Laura on that portion of the trail, carrying her share of the supplies for our overnight stay.

 

Before heading out, I checked the radar and saw that there was a chance of rain, but we weren't going to let that stop us after having driven for 14 hours that day. As it turned out, the rain pretty much left us along (except for later that night) and created some pretty memorable views like this rainbow over the city of Colorado Springs.

 

Once we neared the top of the mountain, we ditched our packs and finished the remaining portion of the trail (which had basically disappeared at that point) without them weighing us down. The last little scramble to the top took us a long while because it was steep, with loose rocks, and we were exhausted because we had not given our bodies a chance to acclimate to the elevation. When we finally made it, we spent about forty minutes relaxing, soaking in the view, and of course taking some photos. It was definitely the best vantage point for viewing the landscape, but offered little in terms of area to camp. From the top of Mt. Muscoco, we were able to spot another nearby peak which seemed more fitting to our need for a large flat space to pitch our tent.

 

A shot of Laura taking in the view as a few rays of sun poke through the clouds, saturating the valley in light. 

 

I loved the way that the sun and clouds worked together to paint the terrain in an intense pattern of light and shadow.

 

I loved it so much that I figured it would be a good spot to update my profile picture haha. Photo creds to Laura on this one. 

 

At a certain point in the evening we realized that we would have to stop playing and get to work gathering firewood so that we could cook our dinner and stay warm while we gaze at the stars. In this photo, I'm using a pocket chainsaw (bought on amazon for like $8) to cut branches off of a dead tree. 

 

We built our fire beneath this rock formation so that it could be easily contained and offer us a little bit of reflected light as the night got darker.

 

For dinner we shared a can of Campbell's Chunky Steak and Potato Soup which we cooked in my enamelware pot that I found at a thrift store in North Dakota. 

 

From our camp we had two amazing views. On the right of our campfire we had a view of downtown Colorado Springs which lit up like a sea of lights surrounded by mountains. On the left, and pretty much everywhere else that we looked, we had an unending view of mountain peaks and valleys. This view became even more sublime as the night went on because a thunderstorm rolled in all around us and the sky broke out into a firework display of lighting and huge cracks of thunder. Thankfully the heavy rain missed us and we were only sprinkled on for a few hours.

 

We awoke with the sun, uncomfortable from a night of sleeping on rocks in an oversized tent that let in the rain water, in time to see the light drench the landscape in a golden-reddish hue.

 

There's few things more impressive that a view of mountains in the morning and evening. In this photo, Mt. Muscoco is casting a large dark shadow in the foreground as the sun peaks out from behind it.

 

For hydration, Laura and I each brought two water bottles and rationed them throughout our approximately 15 hour stay, being sure to save enough for morning coffee and the hike back to the car. Here, I'm boiling some of that water to mix with the Folgers instant coffee that we picked up at the grocery store the afternoon before.

 

Sunlight illuminating the smoke from our campfire over our wood pile as I wait for the water to boil. It's little scenes like this that I fall in love with every time I am in nature. 

 

Here is a shot of me using some dead pine needles to clean out any leftover soup that had burnt to the inside of the pot before sticking it back in my pack.. I then threw the needles in the fire where they could burn away. After burning the needles, I covered the fire with the surrounding dirt/rocks, stomped it out, and waited until it was no longer hot to the touch. (This is my PSA to anyone that chooses to camp in the wilderness. Follow the Leave No Trace Guidelines. Clean up your campsites to the point where it looks like no one was there, pack everything out that you bring in, and be responsible when using fire.) 

 

Finally, here is a shot of us hiking out around 10am that morning. Less than 24 hours later, the two of us were in Cheyenne, Wyoming, dressed to the nines in our wedding attire, celebrating my cousin's wedding with all of my family.

To whoever is viewing this, I wanna thank you for taking the time to look at these photos. I put a lot of effort into my photography, on both a professional and personal level, and although it would I would never stop regardless, it does mean so much to know that my photos can bring joy, excitement, and adventure into the lives of others. Thank you so much for your support.

 

-Zach

 

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