Once I had finished reading the book, “Ranger Confidential: Living, Working, and Dying in the National Parks,” my thoughts immediately turned to hiking. It was too late in the day to complete a ten-mile plus hike, but I had wanted a trek with a bit of distance. However, when I had driven to the North Inlet Trailhead, I was disappointed to have found the parking lot full. Thus, I decided to try out an exploratory hike up the Baker Gulch Trail.
The trail starts inside Rocky Mountain National Park at the Bowen/Baker Trailhead, approximately 6.5 miles north of the Kawuneeche Visitors Center. A shared trail before it diverges about a third of a mile in and slight right on the trail, I began my journey. After a short distance I crossed into the Never Summer Wilderness; my crossing witnessed by a doe and her two fawn. The trail winds gradually through old growth Conifer and Aspen, which run parallel to Baker Gulch. On the trek, I had discovered several small meadows, and stopped briefly as Mineral Point came into view. I paused for a moment to take in the solitude truly of being one alone with nature.
At 2.4 miles from the trailhead, I had climbed to an elevation of 9500’ and a great stopping point to view a small cascading waterfall located below the trail. I ventured down the steep embankment to get up close and personal with the gulch. It was there that I imagined the crush of water pouring through this narrow portion of the gulch during the spring run off. As I retraced my steps, I climbed back up to the trail, which would be just shy of the half-way point to Parika Lake. The continued trek to Parika Lake would be a bit tougher, 2000′ in elevation gain is what would stand between me and lake, as it sits at an elevation of 11,360′.
I made way back down the gulch and reentered Rocky Mountain National Park and looked north into the Kawuneeche Valley, admiring the priceless view of the Never Summer Range on the horizon.