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Daytrip: Escape the Heat at Brainard Lake and a taste of LifeStraw’s good life

My family was recently supposed to camp at Twin Lakes outside of Leadville but an inclement forecast forced us to cancel. Remember last year’s Come Hail or High Water: Our Family’s Shortest (and Worst) Camping Trip?  We did not want a repeat performance.

Recreating at Brainard Lake

We opted to daytrip later that week to Brainard Lake Recreation Area and with an elevation of 10,000 feet, it was the perfect reprieve from the searing heat. Early in our marriage, we had some memorable snowshoe and hiking adventures in this popular wilderness playground just south of Rocky Mountain National Park but it had been years since our last visit.

I had forgotten just how staggeringly beautiful it was.

Set in a glacially-carved valley, the craggy peaks of the Continental Divide are the backdrop for this azure lake that boasts a variety of year-round recreation opportunities in the Boulder Ranger District. There was still a fair amount of snow in late-June, which put a kibosh on our high-elevation hiking plans. My daughter Hadley used to throw tantrums when she wouldn’t get her way. Now, those fits are about our refusal to hike 5 miles round-trip through muck and snow to Blue Lake. Talk about mean parents.


Fortunately, she was appeased by playing on the shores of Brainard Lake with a plan to return in a few weeks when the trails have cleared.

Putting LifeStraw to the Test

lifestrawThe developed recreation area has vaulted toilets, campground and picnic facilities and available drinking water for those looking to stay for a while. However, I wanted to test my new filtration system–LifeStraw Personal Water Filter–that I saw advertised in Outside magazine. I’ve had a variety of water filters over the years but none that worked as simply and seamlessly as LifeStraw, which removes a minimum 99.9999% of waterborne bacteria.

 Since my kids participated in Avid4Adventures’s Survival Camp last year, I’ve been looking for a lightweight water filter to carry with me in the backcountry and I found it–LifeStraw weighs only 2 oz. and filters at least 264 gallons of water. It has been distributed to nearly every major international humanitarian disaster since 2005 and in broad public health campaigns in the millions.

It was disarmingly easy to use. I searched for the instructions, found there weren’t any besides two simple diagrams on the box: suck the water through the straw and to clean it, simply blow the water out. For an assembly-required-adverse person, LifeStraw’s simplicity was like manna from heaven. Or rather, very clean water.

Unambitious people would simply fill their water bottle and slurp it through LifeStraw but not us. I wanted my kids to know what it was like to suck from the marrow of the mountain i.e. directly from a freshwater stream so that is exactly what we did.lifestraw1

And the water was glacial cold, fresh and oh-so good, just like our entire adventure at Brainard Lake Recreation Area.

Getting to Brainard Lake Recreation Area

From Colorado Highway 72 at Ward, turn west onto the Brainard Lake Road. Travel 2.5 miles to the Brainard Gateway Trailhead, and continue another two miles to Brainard Lake. The entrance station is open seasonally and costs $10. Disclaimer: Mile High Mamas was sent a LifeStraw to review; all opinions express are our own.