Jen, the boys and I arrived at Rocky a little after 10 in the morning. We proceeded to the backcountry office to pick up our permits. As it was the middle of the week in October we virtually had our pick of available backcountry sites. We chose the Old Forest Inn site on Fern Lake trail and drove out to the trailhead.
The drive to the trailhead was beautiful with fall colored aspen quaking in the breeze against a backdrop of snow dusted mountains. Despite the high number of available permits, we were far from the only car parked at the trailhead. While Wyatt and Colter played in the piles of fallen leaves, Jen and I loaded the packs.
Finally around noon we started out on the trail. The lower portions of the trail paralleled the Big Thompson River through a wide valley. Scattered stands of aspen illuminated the valley with their oranges and yellows. As this was to be Wyatt’s first trip to walk the entire way by himself, we made slow progress.
We inched our way down the trail with frequent snack and rock-throwing breaks as we ascended the narrowing valley. Finally around 3:30 we made it to “The Pool”. Wyatt and Colter found some horses that they imitated by stomping their feet before we started the short climb up to the campsite.
The Old Forest Inn site is named for a backcountry fishing lodge that existed on the site in the early 1900’s. We chose our tent site and set up. After securing our food in the bear box (actually an old military ammo box) we got back on the trail to see Fern Falls.
Our plan was to keep a brisk pace to get up to the falls so there would be plenty of daylight left to cook by. I had Colter in the backpack carrier and Wyatt on my shoulders. The trail switchbacked up the mountains, necessitating occasional rest stops. At one of these stops Colter decided to get out of the backpack to walk. He kept up a great pace all the way to the falls.
We spent 10 minutes or so at the falls before heading back to camp. Once there we cooked dinner and I took each of the boys for a walk to get them settled down for bed. This was successful for Colter, but Wyatt and I had to lay outside watching the moon for about an hour before he succumbed to sleep.
Morning brought an unusually warm temperature in the low 40’s and cloudy somewhat threatening skies. We cooked oatmeal for breakfast before breaking down camp and loading the packs. Intermittent rain showers helped to encourage Wyatt to keep a good pace as we descended. Wind stirring the aspen caused them to shed large amounts of leaves which Wyatt described as “leaf rain”. We made it back to the truck around 1 and were treated to herds of bugling elk as we drove back out of the park.