After a couple of weeks spent on fundraising research and crunching numbers on previous years’ Sustainable Trails data, last week I was beyond excited to corral all of my camping gear and head out to the woods. It was an incredible and productive week of establishing relationships with organizations that may help CFI achieve its aims in the future and setting up trail counters to expand our trail-use research. I could write a novel about the fantastic views of icy peaks, the first buds of the wildflowers, and the scores of wild animals we encountered along the way and still not do the experience justice. However, I would also describe this trip as something of a rust-buster for all involved, and since tales of mishaps are much more fun anyways, I will instead provide a chronicle of our most significant face-palm moments.


Benefits of car camping: oh the space! The flexibility! The organization! When everything doesn’t have to fit into one small pack, and especially when the expansive back of a truck is at your disposal, it seems practically negligent not to bring along a host of creature comforts. A massive memory foam pillow (Brian): Sure! A dozen clamshells of berries (Lloyd): Why not?

Disadvantages of car camping: when you have 15+ containers for all of your different supplies, especially when you are switching between vehicles, it is all too easy for one of those containers to get left behind. We learned this the hard way when the temperature started to drop the first night and Brian returned from the truck with a concerned expression to announce that the bag with his pants and long-sleeves was nowhere to be found.

Now under most circumstances shorts in a Colorado summer would be far from a hardship, but from trip reports we knew that our next day’s destination, American Basin, was still buried under snowshoe/ice axe levels of snow. Where there is a will there’s a way however, and with a donated long-sleeve from Lloyd and a sturdy pair of tall gaiters our intrepid Communications and Development Coordinator made it through the harsher conditions of the week with good grace.

Brian's Rad Attire

The super stylish Brian shows off a daring flash of knee as he rocks the shorts, snowshoes, and gaiters look.



Our foray up Redcloud/Sunshine was something of an emotional roller coaster. A beautiful afternoon and a snow free trail: great! An avalanche had taken out the counter cairn: bummer. A perfectly positioned tree just up the trail: fantastic! Nobody had remembered to bring the necessary parts for tree-mounting the counter: major frustration.  Fortunately, as a distance runner from Colorado spending most of the year stuck in a major city, I had been itching to get a good trail run in and happily scurried back to camp to grab the necessary pieces.  Running back to pick up forgotten items seems a typical intern duty, but as I trotted along through the dappled sunshine I had ample opportunity to reflect that rarely is this task carried out quite so literally, and almost never in such beautiful environs.


Whoever decided it would be a good idea to make the bag for REI Passage 2 tent poles a deep forest green, I have a bone to pick with you. I dearly love my tent—we have had many adventures together—but the small sack exactly matching the hue of a healthy spruce was just an accident waiting to happen, especially for a scatterbrained person such as myself. After a long day of hiking, running, and driving, the sensation of reaching into the tent bag at the new campsite to find only footprint, shell, and rainfly can only be described as gut-wrenching.

It was a beautiful night and in the end I enjoyed sleeping under the stars, but I’m still kicking myself for being so careless.  While this was by no means my only silly intern mistake of the week, it was by far my most impressive.

Emily's Tent

A beautiful place to spend a couple of nights. Tent poles, you are probably still under that tree.


As you have doubtless already gleaned, this post is aimed more towards entertainment than instruction. If some moral is required however I guess my takeaway would be this: preparation is not a box to be checked pre-departure. Instead it is a constant process of maintaining awareness of yourself, your possessions, your needs, your companions’ needs, and how those needs might change.  With enough experience this doubtless becomes second nature, laughably obvious to seasoned veterans, but for newbies like myself it deserves consideration.  More importantly however, when we have each other’s backs, roll with the punches, and laugh at our missteps, most things turn out ok.


Emily Barnes

Hello! I am Emily, CFI’s summer intern. I am an Environmental Engineering major and cross country runner currently studying at Yale University. This is my first season with CFI and I will be providing support in the office and the field on everything from fundraising to volunteer coordination with particular emphasis on the Sustainable Trails Program. I hail from Boulder, CO and my favorite things are trail running, backpacking, and sitting on summits for unreasonable amounts of time.