So, my options are:
- Ignore the rule and go anyway. Risk getting fined, or having my food ransacked. Unlike many other little misdemeanor statutes like speeding tickets, etc. hiking stuff is usually not passed to be a revenue generator; it's only passed because there actually is a need for what they're requesting. This is a bad option.
- Order one and hope that it arrives in time. I can't find bear canisters at any store here in Michigan. Nobody has them. I've actually checked in the past. With less than a week to go, this is a bad option.
- Buy one in Colorado. This is a bad option for two reasons—it will cost me time that I need to use to hike, and I don't know how (or even if) it will fit in my pack. Making this literally a last second thing seems like a terrible idea.
- Go to my West Elks backup plan, hang my food like normal, and do Maroon Bells later with some friends or my brothers.
So, of those options, the obvious one is obvious, right? Here's my backup route; a nearly 50 mile double loop. I'll probably reverse the order of the lower (second) loop actually, and go through the Mill Creek canyon east to west rather than the reverse. By that point, I'll be two days out into a 4-5 day trip. My tentative plans are to stop for night one near those two lakes just before Castle Pass but after the switchbacks on to the forested bench (it's about 11½ miles into the hike). Second night tentative plan would be, with a reversed loop, to make it just barely into the Wilderness boundary of the Mill Creek canyon, and tackle Mill Creek and Storm Pass in the morning. This leg of the second loop has very little climbing, so it should be good for relatively big miles, but I don't want to be in too big of a hurry. If I don't end up making it all the way to the Mill Creek trailhead area, that's OK too.
The third day, in this plan, would be the one where I want to most take my time and enjoy. Stopping and enjoying the sites, sitting and looking at spires of breccia surrounded by golden, quaking aspens. Maybe I'll get lucky and see the herd of elk that seems to be spotted frequently in Mill Creek. Anyway, I'd go over Storm Pass, stop and look at the Castles, maybe go summit West Elk Peak without my backpack (if I feel like it) and then camp somewhere in the South Castle Creek drainage. Maybe by those two kidney shaped lakes. Then, I can make my way back towards the car, spend another night somewhere near Swampy Pass, maybe, and then go to the car. If I get there early enough, I can do something else; go check out the Beckwith Bench, or go see the Maroon Bells before leaving town, etc. If it turns out I have even more time than I expect or think I'll have, I can make a quick trip to nearby Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, which I haven't seen since I was a teenager. Maybe even a tweenager. I don't remember. It's been a long time, and I'll be very close.