Jones Pass and Lone Lick Lakes camping

During the summer of 2020, since Pie and I were working from home and no longer had to spend an hour commuting home after a long day, it started to became the norm for us to nonchalantly decide Friday afternoon to leave for camping right after work. We could use the first leg of our journey to get a head start on traveling somewhere further, and possibly better, on the second day. This was a great strategy to get to see parts of Colorado that we wouldn’t normally have the time to see in a two-day weekend, but it also meant that sometimes we would end up with a long journey to get back home on Sunday.

Before this summer, the number of times hubby and I went camping more than one night at a time amounted to no more than one or two trips. By mid-August, the number of two-nighter camping trips greatly outnumbered our one-nighter camping trips by 4 to 2 and we were about to add yet another two-nighter to our tally.

We had big plans for the following weekend/week after this trip (for our wedding anniversary), so initially we had been content with hunkering down in our comfy home and bed for the weekend, but once Friday came, we had that camping itch again!

Before we could even settle down on the couch after a long work week, we were already packing up our usual camping gear and hitting the road in search of a forest to call home for the night.

Since we had decided so late in the afternoon to go camping, we didn’t have much time after our 5pm departure to find a camping spot in the diminishing daylight. We settled on a popular dispersed camping area just an hour outside of town that we had always wanted to check out, Jones Pass.

We quickly found out why Jones Pass was a popular choice for campers — and apparently word had spread way beyond the boundaries of Colorado that this was the place to be for camping outside Denver because we passed many vehicles with out-of-state plates parked along every nook and cranny of this road. After winding through a thick forest, the view unexpectedly opened up to a vast landscape of trees and endless green vegetation. Despite the boundless landscape, there was hardly a place left that wasn’t occupied by campers.

We hoped that more camping options might be available beyond the top of the pass, down the other side — after most people had long given up and eagerly settled on earlier camping spots — but this plan was thwarted by late-season snow covering the very top of the pass. After navigating some multi-point turns to turn around on a narrow shelf road near the top of the pass, we headed back down the road and settled on a gorgeous site overlooking the valley. The only catch was that the spot was right beside the road, which wasn’t ideal for the pups, but since it only had to do for the night, we were sold and it ended up being a fantastic site!

The next morning, we did a quick hike beyond the unmelted snow bank on the top of the pass, to see what was on the other side, but we didn’t stick around much longer because we were ready to start our search for a new and better camping spot for the night!

There really wasn’t much strategy behind our plan to find our next campsite for the night. Hubby picked a 4WD trail called Beaver Creek, outside Fraser, Colorado, about an hour north of Jones Pass, so we headed out to tackle it and next thing we knew, we found ourselves three hours out traveling up another 4WD trail to Sheephorn Mountain. We had come across a few potential campsites along the way, but to hubby’s dismay, I dismissed each one of them for various reasons. Not scenic enough. Not enough space. No shade. Right off the road. Not flat. Too windy.

Like many of our excursions, it almost felt like we might end up back home before we found a suitable campsite. We identified some tiny lakes, called Lone Lick Lakes, on our map and we crossed our fingers that the forest roads leading up to them would be drivable and have camping options because we were running out of options and patience!

We were in luck though because we ended up finding a perfect and established campsite at one of the three lakes. In Colorado, it’s rare to get a whole lake to yourself because there’s not many and most are high in elevation and not in areas where you can drive up to, camp at, and have good weather.

Leave No Trace guidelines dictate to camp at least 200 feet away from water sources in the wilderness and there’s good reason for this — to not pollute the water source and not scare away wildlife that visit (and need) the water source.

After getting settled, we enjoyed a lakeside happy hour, complete with quick glimpse of a mama moose and her baby trekking through the forest at the opposite end of of the lake (our second of three moose sightings of the season), before we retreated to our tent that night. Although our tent was further away from the lake, I couldn’t stop thinking not only about the moose sighting we had seen at happy hour, but more importantly, a bear that had scampered across the road on our drive in. We had spotted the bear many miles before reaching our campsite, but the sighting was a reminder that bears are ever-present in the backcountry, but especially near water sources like the quiet one we were at. Eek!

The next morning, I awoke before sunrise to loud, unfamiliar cracking sounds in the far distance. We weren’t in an area that would likely have any other campers making this noise and it was more likely that the sounds were a large animal, a bear or moose, stepping on downed timber. I listened to the strange sounds for a long period of time as they came closer and closer to our tent before deciding to get up to watch the sunrise… and more importantly, watch for any new visitors.

Eventually, indeed a bear showed up. I waited and watched the bear as he very slowly and quietly traced his way around the lake in the direction of our tent. The shrubs and trees concealed most of his peaceful morning hike, so there was no telling if he was suddenly going to turn up at our camp, lured in by smells of our previous night’s dinner, or if he was going to scamper off for a nap.

Hubby and the dachshunds slept peacefully in the tent while I debated whether it was better to let them continue their slumber and keep our fierce guard dachs from falsely thinking they could defend our temporary home from a giant bear or whether I should wake them up and tell them we were running out of there and abandoning all of our belongings before we were eaten by a bear for breakfast.

Luckily, the bear never showed up again after disappearing one last time in the trees not far from our camp. Although we ended up not being alone at Lone Lick Lakes, we’ll always have great memories of our mostly quiet lakeside retreat in the woods, accompanied by just a few visits from the locals.

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