Skip to content

Colorado Camping (how I almost went down in a burning ring of fire)

Rocky Mountain High
Rocky Mountain High

Liz and I retraced our steps to one of our favorite Colorado camping locations in South Park this last weekend. We originally found it in 2003 when we thru-hiked the Colorado Trail. We typically return at least once a year to car camp.

Surrounded by the mountain air and majesty that make Colorado so special, I thought back to the first time we visited this place. It isn’t hard to resurrect the memory. I mean, how could I forget this exact spot? It was here that I got served my ultimate camping come-up-ins. And I deserved every last bite!

Colorado Camping1
Enjoying the Creek

June of 2003 feels as if it were no more than a year ago (but here we are in 2016). Liz and I were eager to find adventure along the Colorado Trail. We started in Waterton Canyon on June 12, 2003, and successfully completed our 500-mile pilgrimage to Durango in late July. I could tell you countless stories – and probably will on this website – but the first story I’ll share is purely self-deprecating.

Four evenings after stepping out on the Colorado Trail, Liz and I were making dinner when she knocked over our camping stove. I was still on edge from the 2002 summer fires and totally overreacted to Liz accidentally tipping over the stove. (In 2002, Colorado nearly burnt to the ground. The High Park and Hayman Fires were just a couple of the notable blazes that ravaged our drought-stricken state.) I panicked and gasped and was overly dramatic about the entire thing…. and then we picked up the stove without incident.

Colorado Camping
Colorado Camping

The next couple of days were cooler. Highs crested in the mid-50s. Clouds constantly threatened to spill rain, but we got little moisture. We were making our way along the South Platte Mountains when we decided to stop for an evening. It started to sprinkle and both of us were ready for our first campfire of the thru-hike. All of the kindling was wet enough to fight me when I went to light it. And I was just tired and lazy enough to follow up with my next move.

I flicked the lighter on the kindling four or five times to no avail. I knew that I had more than enough white gas (which is a type of fuel for a backpacking stove) to get us to our next food drop at Kenosha Pass. Instead of persevering with just a lighter, I decided to expedite the process with my white gas. I poured a liberal amount of gas on the fire pit.


Apparently there was still a spark in the kindling. The white gas hit the spark, and a flame followed all the way up into my 1-liter MSR gas container. The fire was about to hit my hand when I threw the lit container into the woods – onto the spot that I’m currently standing.

"The Unforgettable Spot"
“The Unforgettable Spot”

The container spit out the rest of the fuel. A fiery inferno ensued. I grasped for my Nalgene and threw water on the fire. I tossed rocks onto it. I kicked all sorts of dirt on it. Fortunately, I extinguished the flames fairly quickly. I thought to myself at the time, I’m glad Liz didn’t see that escapade considering how much I overacted to her incident a couple nights prior – this is so much worse!

I turned around and there she was. Liz just smiled. I still put my tail between my legs every time I think about it!

It’s good to reminisce about the past. It’s also great to enjoy the present. I can hear the wind whip off the 12,000-foot high peaks all around us. I can enjoy the slow pace of the babbling creek by our campsite. And I’m going to revel in the good company of my family and pups the rest of the evening.

Morning Mist
Morning Mist

Signing off from the Colorado Trail.


Camping in Colorado

Leaving Camp
Leaving Camp

Josh T

Josh is a native son and big fan of pack burro racing. He thru-hiked the Colorado Trail, loves running and biking, and is passionate about sharing his favorite journeys and experiences with others. You can typically find Josh out exploring the less beaten paths under Colorado’s sunny skies.

Leave a Comment

Back To Top