Buddy of mine and I decided to do some scouting for elk hunting season, and after some discussion and some inspection of maps and satellite imagery and such, we found an area that has potential.
So Saturday morning, at 0500, I loaded the dogs into the truck (I'd packed the rest of the gear the night before) and drove up to Steamboat Springs. Made good time getting up there, and since he and his wife had driven up Friday, we met up and drove in. A few miles up some old logging roads/National Forest roads, and we parked. Humped over some hills, bushwhacked through some trees and such, found a few potential funnels that might offer a shot. Saw a metric shit-ton of deer track, including scat, and what I believe was some older elk scat.
During it all, my dogs were with us, and they were absolute rock stars. Always close, never making noise, nary a complaint about anything... I rather think they enjoyed it, truth be told.
We marked the spots we thought have promise, then came back down the hills, and drove into downtown Steamboat Springs proper for a bite to eat and a pint. Topped off the tanks, and drove up to Rabbit Ears Pass, where we found a nice spot to camp, overlooking a vast meadow that had a pond in the middle of it. Another potential elk hunting spot, my friend thought. I'd be inclined to agree, but given the easy access, I suspect it'll be flooded with hunters during season. For elk, if you want good chances at all, you need to put in the work, and driving up to a meadow so you can take a 75 yard shot from your campsite isn't what I'd consider "putting in the work".
At any rate, we set up our camp, had some dinner, and sat around the camp fire, enjoying the camaraderie that camping naturally affords.
By and by, sleeping at 10,000 feet ASL, away from the lights of the city, offers you views of the night sky that you wouldn't believe. We saw the Milky Way stretch across the sky, and more stars than I've seen in some time. It was truly beautiful.
Slept the sleep of the just, too... A few miles up and down those hills after an 0500 wake up really wore me out. Even the dogs were exhausted.
Woke up on Sunday, made some breakfast, and explored a bit more, only this time by vehicle instead of on foot. Eventually we headed towards Poudre Canyon, and stopped at Joe Wright reservoir. The Arctic Graylings are running this time of year, so we pulled the fishing rods from the cars, walked a half mile in along a muddy, sloppy, overgrown path, and started casting for fish.
My buddy is an avid fisherman, and he gave me a spare fly rod, a few minutes of instruction on how to cast a fly rod -- hint: It is NOT as easy as they make it look! -- and we started fishing. I managed to snag a little grayling on my third cast, which was remarkable considering that instead of the soft, floating presentation of the fly, my cast caused a rather impressive PLOP!, but catch the first fish I did. Little fellow, so we put him back. Buddy got a keeper a half hour later or so.
Fished for a few hours, and my focus was more on developing a smoother cast than catching fish, then decided to call it when the first rain drops fell. Walked back out, rinsed off the dogs, loaded up, and drove back to Ft. Collins. Unpacked the truck, took a shower, and went to my local brewery for a pint and a couple slices of food truck pizza.
Not a bad weekend at all.