Sitting at a desk
i gaze at the changes
both within and beyond
the window.

beginning this summer
lush green and inviting
sunshine streaming in…

now the trees glow
in natures splendid show,
brightly alit
the colors of fall

but passing on, leaves drop by
at great pace…
counting down to what seems yet another winter,
bidding their time
for the future in store

but for now, small talks…
Autumn equinox!

Backpacking the Winds: Titcomb basin

Mid August a friend from our hiking group planned a backpacking trip to Titcomb basin in the Wind River Range, WY for the Labor Day weekend 9/3 to 9/5 2016. I signed up immediately, pretty excited on reading about the area and looking at some (probably photo-shopped?) pics on google. A week before, my right foot got a huge deep blister and i was worried whether i’d be able to make the trip. I monitored it (frequent cold water washes, Vit-E caps and full rest) and by Wednesday it had crusted but still a little pain underneath. I decided to go. Over the week, the number of people signed up was also fluctuating- it started with 5 or 6 at the beginning, went down to 2 a couple days later, and then back to 6 but we ultimately ended up with 3 people going, me included.

We started the 7 hour drive from Boulder at around 3:30pm Friday. The drive was pretty uneventful we talked about the usual random things. Boulder news, little bit of tech, medicine and hospital treatment in the U.S and abroad and also reminisced about or last trip to the Wind River Range, exactly 2 years ago on Labor day weekend. We arrived at the road leading to the trail around 10:30pm and drove around a bit looking for an open camp spot. Finding one we setup and slept immediately. At around 1:30am each one of us was awoken by loud thunder and strong lightening and rain. It was one of the strongest lightening ive ever experienced. Some of the flashes were extremely bright and lasted for over 2 seconds. In our drowsy state it was easily confused with actual sudden daylight. In the morning, we woke by 7pm and got ready and drove 20mins to the Pole creek trail head in Elkhart park. The parking lot was already pretty full, lots of groups going fishing, hiking, backpacking and climbing. We parked, packed, i bandaged my blister, and were off by 8:30am.

The trail starts off gradually in pine forests. We covered the first 2-3 miles at good pace, and soon reached the junction of Miller Lake trail. Here we took our first break as it was the first open meadow after a long time in the pine trees. We could also see the peaks far off in the distance to our left then continued further and went through pine trees again.

Our next stop was Photographer’s point. Here we had a nice stop, took in the views and plenty of pics.

After photographers point the trail begins it rolling up and down nature for the rest of the day. It rolls down slowly from now for a while then opens out into a meadow and the climbs gradually again through pine forest. Our next target was Seneca Lake about 3-4 miles further. We stopped by a quaint stream crossing for lunch at about 1:30pm. Here it started raining suddenly and we had to take cover. After waiting for about half and hour we continued onward. The trail climbs again gradually and descends suddenly to hobbs lake, then is flat for a while and then climbs again through pine towards Seneca lake. We were soon approaching our 8-9 mile mark. Its only on reaching Seneca Lake that the trail actually “opens up” leaving the kind of boring pine forests behind.

We took a photo stop on the seneca lake overlook and continued on the rocky trail alone the lake shore. Passing the final small section of the seneca lake we reached the lost lake trail junction. We continued on counting down the miles few feet at a time. Then past the small greenish lake, on the right, we continue then get past another small lake and ascend on the rocky unnamed pass. Up the pass the views in the distance are quite amazing. Just vast backcountry wilderness with a backdrop of pointy peaks.

Phew! We still had 2-3 more miles to get to Island Lake, our destination for the night. We completed the miles in silence in the evening sunlight and breathed a sigh of relief on getting the first peek at island lake. We descended slightly down the trail, and began looking for campsites to the left, as we dint want to go too further so it would be easy for us to leave while departing. We setup our tent, laid out our sleeping bags, took our food stuff and went to the edge of the gentle rolling slope overlooking Island lake. We had a gorgeous view of the lake and the Titcomb basin beyond it. We ate in the setting sun and took in the views and relaxed. It was blissful and time flew by.. After sunset, i retired to bed by around 8pm.

Again overnight we had heavy rain and very light hail. Next morning we awoke to low hanging clouds surrounding all the peaks shrouding everything in fogginess. The weather looked thunderous and not suitable to head into the basin. I was sound asleep, and looking at the weather i decided to just stay at camp and chill and rest my leg. The other 2 left camp at around 11:30am and were hoping for the weather to  clear. By around 1pm the weather turned for the worse. There was an intense hailstorm, soon it was snowing. I was snuggled up in my sleeping bag thinking about the other guys stuck in this weather. By 2:30pm the storm had passed by and soon they arrived and shoveled the snow form around the tent. We decided on what to do. The weather was clearing, and to avoid a long hike on our last day back, we decided to pack and head out our destination being the campsites near Seneca Lake.

In the clearing weather, we say snow capped peaks which yesterday were totally barren. The snow on the ground, on the peaks and the colors made everything look very pretty. We hiked on, looking back to the peaks and Island lake occasionally. Just before our assent to the rocky unnamed pass, it started to hail again. Seeing no thunder clouds or lightening, we continued on bracing ourselves against wind and hail. Over the exposed pass, with no cover what so ever, and on the other side, we battled rain and hail and traced our steps back to Seneca Lake. The ground here was covered in a light layer of snow (1 to 2 inches easy) We setup camp, ate by the lake in the setting sun and slept.

Overnight again there was snowfall, much heavier than the previous afternoon. We awoke to many inches of snow around our tent. It was cold. We ate, packed and started our return journey. I stopped by the Seneca lake shore to refill water and continued on. The trail was snowy and easy. We covered the miles at a good pace, and soon were retracing our steps, past the downhill section after seneca lake, into the meadows, unnamed lakes, hobbs lake, and were into the pine forests again .Here the trail was very slushy, muddy and wet. After the last meadow our next stop was photographers point where we would have an early lunch by around 11:30am, but not being hungry and eager to complete our day, i continued on into the last leg of the hike, the gradual downhill section through pine forests. I covered the last 4-5 easy miles at good pace, and was at the trail head at 1:40pm sharp! The others arrived after a while as they had stopped for a break at Photographers point.

Soon we were off back to Boulder. The return journey was ok too, we listened to some interesting podcasts on a variety of topics, and by 10pm were back in Boulder, feeling accomplished on having completed another awesome trip to the Winds, and like last time, got to experience a variety of weather.

Until next time…

Silfra- My first dive!

Ever since i decided to go backpacking in Iceland and was planning and researching on what to do there, i came across the Silfra dive at  Thingvellir National Park on the popular Golden Circle route. It immediately caught my attention and i had to do it! Not only did the pics look gorgeous but it was also geographically unique, geologically special and would definitely be quite an adventure!
So i began looking to what it would take to do it. Having never been SCUBA diving before, i was a little apprehensive about it. A quick search online, and i signed up with a local dive shop in Boulder, CO for the open water diver course. The first part of the certification (the class room and pool dives) was completed the third weekend of June. I did pretty well in the pool, after initially struggling with the treading water skill, but overall totally enjoyed the underwater breathing experience.  The open water dives at Blue Hole,NM were quite the experience. The water was absolutely blue, a cool 64F when it was over 95F outside and was a zoo, with over 20 divers in the hole at any given time. Up until my certifications, id decided how id do in class and trials and then decide whether to dive Silfra or not. Before my open water dives i was at a 40% yes, but after i was at around 95%. The only thing still holding me back was that Silfra was going to be a dry suite dive in almost freezing water, and the weather of the day.Ultimately by first week of July, i took the plunge and signed up with DIVE.IS for their Golden Circle and Dive Silfra combo day trip for July 17th. The count down had begun.

On 17th the guide and divemaster AJ from DIVE.IS picked me up at the hostel and the only other 2 people in our dive group -a couple from Mexico- and we were off for the day. We hit all the usual stops on the Golden circle, and reached Thingvellir at 4PM for our dive. AJ was a local Icelander and very friendly, we chatted the whole day and time flew by. At the dive site there were other groups too – a diving and a couple snorkeling groups. CJ was going to be our divemaster while AJ had been assigned a snorkeling group that day. CJ went over the dive plan by the entrance area and gave us an overview of what lay ahead. The couple in my group were celebrating their 30th anniversary and had already done a lot of diving. The lady was a bit apprehensive about the dry suite dive, and though internally i may have been more nervous than her; this being my first dive, i was actually pretty excited and looking forward to it! CJ decided i should be next in line after her so she could keep an eye on me.

We all got geared up. It took a while. First our base layers/thermals, then the thick  onsie that they gave us for insulation. Over that went the dry suite, with special precautions and care while fitting the handcuffs and neck linings. Then went our hood, gloves and mask and we were off to the dive site. The crew from DIVE.IS were very friendly, professional and thorough. I really appreciated their help and encouragement, especially CJ. Once we had our fins on, first we did a face down peen underwater, just to get a sense of the temperature- i dint feel cold at all, probably the deep blue view i got masked everything else! Next was the weight check one by one. I was fine, with 12kgs on. Then was the buoyancy check. Here i struggled a little. I descended rapidly, and when i had to level off id inflate my BCD slightly as well as a slight puff into the dry suite, and hover for some time, but if id stary kicking or swimming, id head straight to the surface. Then i had to deflate again and get the balance. It took me a couple tries, but i finally managed to get buoyant at the level CJ wanted. The other 2 managed it with no trouble at all.

Once we were set, we were off, down the Silfra Hall, into the Silfra Cathedral and then finally banking left and ascending into the Silfra lagoon. It was magical !!  The sunlight was also doing its thing and making the clear water even more awesome, bathing the steely rocks in light and making the green trolls tail moss look little sparkly.

A picture is indeed worth a thousand words. Here are some shots from our dive.  From one Continental divide at 1 mile above sea level in the heart of the Rockies, down into the other continental divide at the separation of the Eurasian and North american plates in crystal clear glacial water was over, and is now enshrined in memory forever!! giving me some serious bragging rights on having completed Silfra as my first open water dive!!

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