About a week after returning from South Dakota, I headed out on another adventure. This was a backpacking trip with long-time friend Jon Bassett. Our route formed a circle in the Mount Zirkel Wilderness area, so he dubbed our trip the Zirkel Zircle.
The slope was steep, a mix of grass and rocks. My pack was heavy, my belly was empty, and my legs were tired. Far below us was Bighorn Lake, ringed with piles of talus.
Our hike had started a few hours earlier, at the Lake Katherine trailhead. This trailhead sits on the western edge of the Park Range, more commonly just called “The Zirkels”, named after the signature peak in the middle of the wilderness area of the same name. Getting there required a scenic drive through Poudre Canyon, Cameron Pass, and the empty expanses of North Park. We had left mid-afternoon on a Friday, eager to get a jump start on the weekend.
Our original plan was to hike to Lake Katherine, but a large group of bros in the parking lot swilling Budweiser convinced us to try the more distant Bighorn Lake instead. We arrived at the lake just after six. Unfortunately, three big parties were already there, including a large Boy Scout troop. And so we found ourselves climbing this steep slope, three hundred feet above the lake.
We could finally see a valley opening up on our left, and we found a camping spot without too much trouble. There was a nice stream, a nice dinner spot on the open slope we had climbed, and fully 62% of the total mosquito population in the state of Colorado.
We enjoyed a late dinner and got ready for the morning’s climb to the Continental Divide.