North Cottonwood Creek Backpacking

Route Name: North Cottonwood Creek Trail

Trailhead Elevation: 9,895 ft.
Camp Elevation: 10,160 ft.
Distance: 1.52 mi. (my GPS)
Elevation Gain: 357 ft. (my GPS)




Hike-in
Start Time: 6:52pm
End Time: 7:15pm

Hike-out
Start Time: 9:39am
End Time: 10:00am


Trip Report:
North Cottonwood Creek
Last year we took my three boys on their first real backpacking trip. We spent two nights out in Missouri Gulch and hiked Mt. Belford while we were there. We decided to give it a go again this year as the boys had enjoyed it so much. The way our schedule worked out we didn't have an extra night to do two nights this year so we kept it simple and went for one night to just get the kids out into the wilderness.
Luke checking out the creek (on the hike out)
We spent the late afternoon getting all of our gear together. My father Denny and I each carried sleeping bags for Jonah and Seth whose packs were too small. My Dad also carried his 4-person tent and I carried my 2-person tent.  Last year we slept all 5 of us in a 4-person tent and it was tight. We opted for a bit more comfort this time. Jonah carried his clothing and food.  Seth just his food.  Luke carried his sleeping bag, clothes, food, and Seth’s clothes in his Osprey Ace pack.  We were finally out of the rental house about 6:20p.  We drove up the County 365 road and made it to the end of the road at the North Cottonwood trailhead and were shocked to see how many cars there were up there.  It was packed.  There were even cars parking along the side of the narrow road nearly blocking all traffic.  We were fortunate that at this time in the day there had been a few people leaving and we got a parking spot right up by the trailhead.  We figured there must be a ton of people backpacking in Horn Fork Basin and other locations and perhaps a few later hikers coming down from Harvard and Columbia.

We had debated hiking in a few miles on the trail to possibly get near our 2010 campsite or a lake that was up over 11,200.  The fact that we decided not to bring along fishing gear kinda ruled out the lake pretty quick.  Our late 6:52pm start on the trail ruled out much distance either.  We hiked in about ¾ of a mile and spotted a campsite along the creek and decided it was perfect. It was 7:15pm.  The thought of only having to do ¾ in the morning and the fact that we just didn’t need to hike another 1 or 2 miles to find a similar campsite fit well.  The only downside was this campsite was pretty close to the creek and also close to trail.  It was obviously well used but also well exposed.  Jonah and I walked 6 minutes up trail and found nothing better.  Dad, Luke and Seth searched up on a hillside near our original spot and found a more secluded site with a slight slope.  We decided to make it work.  It did have a tiny fire ring already and it had lots of dead wood.  It was a winner.
My two person tent and our campfire
We got camp set up and I spent time getting MRE meals ready for the boys while Dad got a fire going.  We had way more food than we needed but luckily we were able to burn all of our trash in the fire, it consumed it all up.  We ate as much as we could to empty out the bear canister a bit.  I had the buffalo chicken MRE which was basically shredded chicken with a buffalo sauce, pretty good!.  Seth had the sloppy joe, Luke had spaghetti, Jonah had the meatballs.  All pretty good meals. 


A fuller look at our campsite
We had a good roaring campfire for the night and it was a beautiful night.  Temps didn’t get too cold (or too warm) and we had clear skies sitting around the campfire.  Dad and I probably stayed up til about 11p watching the fire and it was a delight, as Dad pointed out, to not have anything to worry about in the morning.  No class 3-4 scrambling on a mountain peak, no great long hike out, just tear down camp and have an easy stroll, at our leisure, back to the car. For sleeping arrangements, we put Luke and Seth into Dad's tent with him while Jonah stayed in my 2-person with me.


Slept in til around 8am in the morning.  It was great to just be able to sleep in at camp and to not have any major morning obligations.  I was first out and I grabbed water from the creek in a pot and began to boil.  The others started to trickle out of the tents and we began to pull food out to eat.
Woke up to this view. I could do that every morning
We gradually worked on getting food taken care of and then worked on packing up camp.  Luke and Seth once again helped my Dad with his tent while Jonah worked with me on ours.  It was about 9:30am when we had everything taken care of.  We debated getting water filtered from the stream but with such a short hike out and a little bit of Gatorade left we decided to just head out.  It was 9:39am when we left camp and in a quick 21 minutes we were back to the trailhead.  Not a great “trip” for distance but an excellent one for just enjoying the wilderness and backpacking.

Time to head home
 Track:

I have a track and waypoints from the hike all contained in a KML file that you are welcome to download and use (at your own risk).  



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