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Rip & Go: Bowen-Baker Loop – Never Summer Wilderness, CO

Get national park scenery without the crowds on an alpine overnight with lakeside camping.
may 09 may 09 may 09 rip bowen 445x260Fairview Mountain (Kim Phillips)

Locals Know
Area fly-fishing guides envy you. According to Jeff Ehlert, co-owner of Grand County Fishing Company, Bowen, Blue, and Parika Lakes (the last of which you’ll be camping by) offer some of the best early-season cutthroat trout fishing in the Never Summers. "These lakes are less crowded for a really simple reason: Most fishermen don’t want to hike in that far," he says. Pack a 6-weight rod (see the Trip Planner for rental info) and use little ant and beetle patterns in spring. Toward late summer, when the fish turn into finicky eaters, use scud patterns–they look like the small freshwater shrimp on which the fish naturally feed. During the initial thaw, though, "The fish will eat a bare hook if you throw it in," Ehlert says. Pick up a fishing license ($9 for a one-day permit) at Estes Park Mountain Shop.

See This

The verdant Kawuneeche Valley stretches along the border of Rocky Mountain National Park and the Never Summer Wilderness. Glacial ice measuring more than 20 miles long carved out this marshy lowland, creating a U-shaped homestead for megafauna. Kawuneeche means "coyote creek" in the language of native Arapaho, but today moose reign supreme. Rangers estimate that the local moose population tops 700. You’ll see the most from mid-July to late August, when it’s warm and grasses are abundant. Moose tracks are larger and pointier than those of elk, which also live here.

Camp Chat
Notice those brown pines? The mountain pine beetle has infested more than 1.5 million acres of Colorado forest since 1996. In a healthy ecosystem, beetles are kept in check by long stretches of subzero temps, but a warming trend has both enabled the bugs to mature faster and weakened trees. Experts say Colorado could lose its lodgepole pines by 2050. Discuss: Should we intervene in protected areas, by thinning trees or spraying, though by definition a wilderness is to remain untouched by human hands?

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