Peter Lyons

Conundrum Hot Springs Backpacking

July 31, 2012

Last weekend Jasmine and I did a backpacking trip up to Conundrum Hot Springs. I signed off work around 3 PM Friday and drove 3.5 hours out I-70 to Carbondale. The drive through Glenwood Canyon is pretty spectacular. Jasmine was staying a few nights with friends in Carbondale after spending 3 weeks in Aspen on an "Adventure Nanny" gig. She had a bunch of fancy new gear she was excited to show me as she finished packing up her stuff.

We went into town where there was a big festival going on. We got some yummy food including BBQ pulled pork, fresh salad, and an ice cream sundae. We wondered around a bit and then headed into a bar in town as the night rolled on. We ran into Charlie who had camped in our village at Apogaea, enjoyed a drink, and then called it a night.

Saturday morning Jasmine made eggs and bacon for me and our host family. Then we stopped at an outdoor store to get some freeze-dried meals, the liquor mart across the street for a shot of Bailey's Irish Cream, then we were on our way to the trailhead. The parking lot was full and I squeezed the car off to the side of the road a bit. After a flurry of laces, clasps, snaps, and pulls, we were off.

The scenery is quite beautiful as you will see in the photos below. Plenty of great groves of pines and aspen, bubbling creek, avalanche tracks down the steep canyon walls, and the bare grey skree above the tree line. It's a sizeable hike of 8.5 to the start of the campgrounds near the hot springs. With our late start (my fault for delaying the freeze dried meal purchase until the last minute), all of the official designated campgrounds were full, but we were able to go up a ways beyond that and find a decent spot to set up camp. After the tent was set up, the rain began to fall and we stayed dry enjoying a well-earned rest for a while.

After a nap, Jasmine hung our food high in a tree, then we ventured out in the drizzle to explore the area and go further toward the pass. We collected some water from the clear-running stream with Jasmine's fancy new steripen UV sterilizer toy. Then it was time to head to the hot springs for a soak.

The hot springs were crowded with folks having a grand old time. We stripped bare and joined the group. New people entering the springs were given a mandatory shot of whisky. We soaked a while and chatted up the folks. At the peak we had about 28 people in there. When I was good and pruned up, I got out and made my way back to camp. Jasmine stayed to soak a bit longer and protect one of the girls from a drunk/high guy who kept creeping in on one of the women.

I rested a bit back in the tent and Jasmine arrived after dark. It got cold pretty quick and we got dinner rolling. Jasmine had built a small camp stove out of a pair of aluminum soda cans. Apparently she learned this trick from our mutual friend Paul Mags, the accomplished through-hiker from CHAOS. It worked a treat and we ate the two freeze-dried meals (one good, one bad) and drank hot cocoa with Bailey's. Then it was off to bed to get out of the shivering cold and into warm sleeping bags. We listened to music a bit before going to sleep.

In the morning we had a nice breakfast of garlic mashed potatoes, eggs, and bacon. And we had delicious hot cocoa/coffee/bailey's mocha drinks. I think I might need to start having those every Saturday morning. We packed up camp, collected some more water, and started the hike out. Lunch was snacks and some delicious Dubliner cheese Jasmine had brought along.

Once back in town, we stopped at a grocery store where Jasmine got a gift for the family she had stayed with in Carbondale. We got some delicious sandwiches at a bakery in that shopping center. Then we got the rest of Jasmine's stuff and headed back. There was rain alternating between a drizzle and a relentless downpour almost the entire drive back. It made for some white-knuckle driving and scary hydroplaning, but we made it.

This was my first-ever backpacking trip and probably my first legitimate camping experience. I bought the pack last summer and only used it for climbing day trips. It was a good experience and for the most part I had a good set of gear. Some minor tweaks next, time, that's all.