Back to my Hiking Page

Summer 2010 trip

Since my mom loves these so, here is my trip report of my 8 week trip to 
Colorado to hike some 14ers (mountains over 14,000 feet) and hike to 
mountain lakes.


Part 1 - just getting started

Sunday, July 4: It was simply a day of driving from Dallas to Taos, New
Mexico - a 12 hour drive (with only 2 short stops along the way).  I got
to the Taos Ski Village about 6 pm Mountain time, and parked at the
parking lot for the trailhead.  I read some before it got dark and then
went to bed - no fireworks (high fire danger).  I had changed my original
plans of leaving from Monday to Sunday as the forecast for Taos was sunny
for Monday and 40% chance of showers on Tuesday - turned out to be the
right decision as the weather was perfect on Monday with not a cloud in
the sky and when I left Bandelier National Monument around 2 pm on Tuesday
there was a long line of dark clouds over the mountains to the east (south
of Taos, but they probably extended to Taos).

Monday, July 5:  I had set my alarm clock for 5:30 am, but woke up at 5 am
and decided to go ahead and get ready for my hike up to Wheeler Peak - New
Mexico's tallest peak.  I got ready and headed up at 5:30 am - the sun
wasn't up yet, but it was light enough that I didn't need to use my
headlamp.  Up, up, and up I went.  I went at a slow pace with lots of
pauses and some rests as it was my first day of hiking and I was fresh
from the flatlands.  It was a pretty hike as the trail headed up alongside
a creek through the trees.  After the trail left the creek, the trail
turned into an old (rocky) dirt road.  There were a couple of branches
along the way and only a few were signed, but I managed to guess the
correct way to go and never had to backtrack.  Eventually the road went
away and I was back on a true trail (which I prefer) and still heading up.
The trail went above the tree line and I got to go through my first patch
of snow (all snow crossing were fairly easy and not dangerous).  I
continued going at my slow pace and enjoyed the views.  I reached a ridge
and was not too thrilled to see that the trail headed down (which meant an
up on the way back).  In addition, I could see where the trail continued
on a grassy slope at a high elevation across the way (not only was I going
to lose elevation, but I would have to regain it).  So I headed down,
down, down back into the trees.  The trail crossed a stream and it was a
pretty spot where I decided to rest at.  I had expected a number of people
to be hiking what was for some a holiday (with the 4th being on a Sunday)
and was surprised that I hadn't seen anyone.  While resting at the creek,
a young man on horseback came by - so I wasn't the only one out there.
And while heading up from the creek, a pair of trail runners passed me
coming the other way.  I got above the treeline and could see the trail
heading up, up, up to a green ridge.  The hike was taking longer than I
thought it would (and I was beginning to doubt that it was just 4 miles
from the trailhead to the peak) so I decided to make it my day and took
more breaks (and took my time returning) - if I was going to go to Los
Alamos, I needed to be done with my hike by 1 pm at the latest (with a 2
hour drive from the trailhead to Los Alamos) and there was no way that was
going to happen.  So I headed up, up, up to the ridge.  Along the way, 5
people passed me coming the other way (I was still surprised at the low
number of hikers) and the horseback rider returned.  I reached the ridge
and enjoyed the views of the valley to the southeast with a pretty lake
below.  There were lots of marmots along the trail, but they were a little
shy and would hide when I approached.  At the ridge, I could see a peak
ahead and was thinking I was getting close, but I soon realized that it
was just Mount Walter and I still had more up to go.  At Mount Walter, the
trail dipped to a saddle (not to long of a dip) and I could see Wheeler
Peak not too far ahead.  I could also see the path (non-maintained trail)
from Lake Williams to the saddle and didn't think I'd enjoy going down
that steep path and decided to return the way I came (which had a number
of pretty views and Lake Williams didn't look to be much more than an
oversized pond).  I finally reached the summit at 11:50 and used the timer
on my camera to take my trophy picture - it is the 8th state tallest peak
I've been to.  I had the Wheeler Peak all to myself and stayed there for
about 30 minutes.  As I was heading down from the summit, the crowds
arrived with about 10 people heading up - but that would be it for the
crowds as I only encountered 4 more people along the summit trail on the
way back.  Shortly after heading down from Mount Walter, I noticed some
brown specks on an snow patch in the valley below.  I stopped and sat on
some rocks and pulled out my binoculars and watched a herd of 9 big horn
mountain sheep playing on the patch.  They weren't really fighting, but
sort of test fighting with nudging each other, sometimes facing off or
jumping, but mostly just standing around.  Pretty neat.  As I said, I took
my time heading back and stopped a number of times at pretty places and
read for a while.  I took my shoes off and feet soaked for a short bit at
a creek crossing about a mile from the trailhead.  I didn't return to my
car until about 6:30 pm (13 hours after I started).  I was tired, but not
exhausted.  I figured it was about a 12 mile hike with 4000 feet gained
(I'll try to find a more accurate reading for when I do my trail writeup
for my hiking page) - it was definitely a lot longer than the 8 miles I
was expecting.  But my car was happy that it didn't have to move an inch
after such a long drive the day before.

Tuesday, July 6 - After piddling away some time (I woke up early again), I
headed for Los Alamos - the museums didn't open until 9:30 am.  I went to
the Los Alamos Historical Museum first.  It was interesting as a good
chunk of it was about the living conditions of Los Alamos during the
Manhattan Project (which is what I was interested in learning about).  It
was a small museum and I'm not a museum person so it only took me about 30
minutes to go through it.  I then went over to the Bradbury Museum, the
official museum of the Los Alamos National Laboratory.  I was disappointed
as it had very little on the going ons of the lab during the Manhattan
Project and I got more information from the historical museum - most of
the Bradbury Museum was hands-on projects for the kids and info about
modern technology.  So it only took me about an hour for both of the
museums.  I headed over to the nearby Bandelier National Monument, which
contained a number of ancient Pueblo ruins.  I walked the main loop by a
number of ruins, with ladders to go up and look into the small cave
storage areas - the buildings that were in front of the caves no longer
existed, outside of some foundation areas.  Kind of interesting, but I've
seen better ruins at other places.  I took the extra walk to the Alcove
House and forced myself to go up - the house was in a cliff overhang about
150 feet up and the way up involved 3 long ladders that I didn't like one
bit (in fact, midway through the 2nd one, I would given up and headed down
if it wasn't for the fact that there were people on the ladder behind me).
The overhang area wasn't very big and you could see holes in the rock
where they had wooden logs to support the building's roof.  The park
service had rebuilt the ceremonial kiva for the Alcove House.  After I got
back down, my hands were shaking from the nerve-racking ladders.  Since it
was just 2:30 pm, I decided to make the long drive to Silverton (ended up
being about 6 hours).  The drive between Durango and Ouray (with Silverton
in the middle) has to be one of the prettiest drives out there.  There
were some heavy clouds over the taller peaks along the drive, but I had
blue sky above me.  Near Molas Pass, I took the short drive to Andrews
Lake and stopped and took a couple of pictures.  And then as I was coming
down the pass, I saw a pretty reflection on Molas Lake and pulled over to
snap a picture.  I arrived at Silverton at 8:30 pm.

Wednesday, July 7 - I again woke up early, but couldn't get myself to move
and took my time and didn't hit the trailhead for Ice Lake until 7 am.  It
was a beautiful morning with clear skies, but, alas, that wasn't meant to
last.  The hike to Ice Lake is one of my favorite and I thoroughly enjoyed
myself.  There were a number of wildflowers, but they were not in full
bloom.  I enjoyed my usual stop at the top of a waterfall a mere 40
minutes into the hike and sat there for a bit.  Then it was back to the
huff-and-puff up.  The Lower Ice Lake basin is a gorgeous area with
numerous peaks visible and a number of waterfalls.  I still had blue skies
and took my time going through the basin - with a long rest at the start
of the basin and another at the creek crossing before the climb out.  The
water was a little high at the creek crossing and I opted to change into
my water shoes and make a wet-water crossing instead of trying to rock-hop
across.  And then was the up, up, up along side a pretty waterfall.  And
then more up as the trail makes its way steeply to the ridge.
Unfortunately the clouds were building and it was looking like I wouldn't
be able to spend as much time at Ice Lake as I would have liked - there
were threatening clouds above the peaks to the north.  I did make my way
to the outlet stream of Ice Lake (my favorite spot) and sat on a rock in
the middle of the water with my shoes off for about 30 minutes, reading
and keeping an eye on the clouds.  I then walked around the lake and lake
area for about 30 minutes when I heard thunder and decided it was time to
head down to the lower basin.  Due to the steep rocky trail, it's just a
slow going down from Ice Lake to the lower basin as it is going up.  I
made it down with no rain and took a long break at the creek crossing.
Another spurt of thunder sent me on my way towards the end of the lower
basin and closer to the treeline.  I sat there for about 30 minutes and
this time the cool wind got me moving.  I took my time heading down (still
no rain) and took a long break at a spot near a waterfall and then a 30
minute sit at the top of the waterfall I stopped at on the way up.  I
stopped at the creek crossing at the bottom of the falls and was reading
there when a drop of water splashed on my book - I first thought it was
from the creek and then realized that the rain had finally come.  It only
sprinkled as I quickly finished up the hike and started raining (with more
peels of thunder) shortly after I reached my car - it then rained solid
for 2 hours.

Thursday, July 8 - I headed up at 7 am for a road walk to Clear Lake - the
road is a 4-wheel drive only one-lane road and my little sedan couldn't do
that road.  I was surprised that I didn't encounter any vehicles as I
headed up.  Even while the road was still in the trees, the scenery
visible between the trees was beautiful.  The road reached a gap in the
trees (shortly before the treeline) and the views of the Ice Lake Basin
area was just stunning (no lake visible, but still impressive) - as
someone else called it, 'The Money Shot'.  Since I was walking the road
instead of driving I got to enjoy the grand views even more and for a
longer period of time.  At a switchback in the road, a small waterfall was
visible - not very impressive looking.  But taking a short sidetrip for a
close look reveled that the falls then fanned out and there were about 12
branches as the falls cascaded down for about 20 feet - very pretty.  At
the next switchback was an old mine - nothing much, just a hole in the
mountainside and a large metal container.  Not too much further the road
reached a saddle (though there was an old road visible higher up on the
mountainside, the way to Clear Lake fortunately didn't go that way) and
headed though the low point between two mountains.  The road went around a
small pond and as I was near the end of the pond I saw a fox wandering
around - pretty neat.  Seeing me, he quickly moved away and I went on to
the lake, just around the bend.  It was a very pretty lake and I was glad
I had made the extra effort to hike/road walk up to it (4 miles, 2000
feet).  Again I was surprised that I had it all to myself.  I found a nice
spot and simply sat and enjoyed the views for a while.  After about 30
minutes, the first vehicle arrived, followed soon after by another.  I got
up and wandered around the lake a little and then decided that the spot I
had been sitting at was the best one and returned there (and more vehicles
arrived).  Not too long after I sat down, it started to drizzle and I
decided to pack up, put the rain gear on, and head down (after about an
hour at the lake).  I took my time heading back (only off-and-on drizzle
until the last mile when it was a steady rain) and had to pull aside a few
times to let vehicles pass.  I finished around 1:30 pm and as I had
nothing else planned for the day and it was raining off and on, I simply
went to my camp area and read a book the rest of the day.

Friday, July 9 - I again had a 7 am start for my hike to Columbine Lake
(not too far from Silverton, Red Mountain area).  I took a dirt road off
of Hwy 550 and parked my car at a (non-bridge) creek crossing.  I put my
watershoes on and crossed the creek - burr, that woke me up!  I walked the
road about 1/2 mile to the trailhead.  The trail to Columbine Lake is a
local favorite and not known by the tourist and I had it all to myself
this day.  The narrow trail headed up, up, up the mountainside - I was
huffing and puffing for an hour.  The trail calmed down for a little bit
and I thought I had put most of the hard stuff behind me (it's a 5 mile,
2500 feet hike so I though the elevation gained would be spread out some)
- wrong.  The trail resumed heading a steep up and was soon above the
trail line.  I groaned as I realized that the lake was not in the bowl up
ahead but that the trail went through a ridge near the top of the valley.
After lots more huffing and puffing, I made it to the ridge.  There was a
snow patch to cross and I made it through without too much problem.  It
was a pretty view from the other side of the ridge and the trail was
fairly easy in heading at a mild down.  There were a few snow patches
along the way that I made it through with no problem, but I hit one about
1/2 mile before the lake that I had a problem with (with the trail heading
up).  I made it about 1/2 way through the snow patch before deciding that
it wasn't going to work and turned around and rear-slid back to the dirt
(even if I had made it through that patch, I could see that there was
another patch further ahead that I wouldn't be able to cross).  With a
general idea where the lake was at, I made my way down alongside the snow
patch and then non-trail over to the outlet stream.  I found a faint trail
there and followed it up to the lake.  It was a very, very pretty lake
(initial reaction was, 'Oh, wow!').  I only stayed about 45 minutes as
weather was again a concern (but took lots of pictures).  I had no problem
finding my way back to the real trail and made it to the ridge without
rain.  I even made it back to the treeline without rain, but it started to
drizzle soon after.  It was only a light drizzle and soon stopped, so I
didn't have to put my rain gear on.  It did rain for about 5 minutes as I
was heading down (down, down), but I was able to wait it out under a tree.
This time, my feet enjoyed the wet water crossing and I was happy to
return to my car (it was a tiring hike).  I had spotted with binoculars a
mine relic near Hwy 550 while on my hike and had noted where to pulloff
and make a short dirt road walk to see it.  It was an old shaft building
that was still standing and still had some of the big engine equipment
there - neat to see.  With the weather issues, I had decided to head over
to Grand Mesa and do a hike there the next day instead of starting my
14ers (and risk having them rained out).  So I drove over to Grand Mesa
and stopped at the visitor center - closed, but there was a park map
outside.  While I was looking at the map, I was swarmed by mosquitoes and
they changed my mind about staying there.  So I took scenic Hwy 92 back to
Hwy 50 and then headed down to Lake City (in the dark) - I also took the
nasty Alpine Loop road in the dark and reached the Red Cloud trailhead
parking area (and camping area) at 11 pm.

Saturday, July 10 - I had hiked to Red Cloud Peak before, but hadn't made
it to Sunshine Peak yet (an hour and a half from Red Cloud), so that was
the goal for the day.  I headed out at 5:30 and hoped that the weather
would hold out for me to reach both peaks - it was a blue sky in the
morning, but that was the way the days had started the previous 3 days.
It was light enough that I didn't need a headlamp as I slowly made my way
up, up, up.  After about 3 hours, I made it to the ridge and was surprised
at how windy it was (and cool), so I kept my sweat jacket and light sweat
pants (I took the pants off once, but put them back on soon after).  After
another huff-and-puff (and pause) hour, I finally reached Red Cloud Peak.
Since I had been there before, I only stayed about 10 minutes and headed
towards Sunshine Peak - there were clouds in the area, but none
threatening.  After another hour and a half (and the last half was a dozy
up a rocky slope) I reached Sunshine - Yeah!  At just 14,001 feet Sunshine
Peak is the shortest of Colorado's 14ers.  I didn't stay too long as I
wanted to get back to Red Cloud before weather became an issue.  I did get
a couple of snowflakes on me as I headed down from Sunshine, but that
cloud passed and it was back to blue skies.  I reached that saddle between
Red Cloud and Sunshine and could tell that it wasn't going to rain for a
couple of hours, so I could (and did) take my time heading back.  I took a
couple of long breaks and reached the pond area.  I had planned on staying
there for a while, but heard thunder and could see a storm was at the
Handies Peak area (across the valley from Red Cloud) and I would likely
get some of the rain.  Sure enough, it started to drizzle shortly after I
had reached the pond (which is above the treeline).  I put my rain gear on
and quick-walked back.  Not quick enough as it started raining hard and
the wind was blowing strong - not fun.  I managed to make it to a creek
crossing (where I had actually planned on stopping before the weather
became an issue) and found a spot where it wasn't windy and hunkered down
and hoped the storm would let up (the clouds had been moving quickly
throughout the day).  After about 10 minutes, the wind had stopped and it
wasn't raining as hard, so I continued down.  The rain stopped once and I
took a break and took my rain gear off - almost as soon as I did that, the
rain started again.  I finally made it to the treeline (and the rain had
finally stopped completely) and took a long break right there.  An hour
after the storm had started, it was sunny again.  I finished my hike
without another stop and was back at my car at 4:30.

Sunday, July 11 - Up for the day was a pretty loop hike for Handies Peak
(up Grizzly Gulch and down American Basin and then road walk) - a 12 mile
loop.  The wild flowers were in full bloom above the treeline for Grizzly
Gulch and I was glad I was doing the hike, despite all the work and it
being a repeat hike.  I took my time and enjoyed the views of the colorful
flowers with Handies Peak looming above.  I huff and puff my way to the
peak at my usual slow pace.  I reached the peak, but didn't stay long as I
was hoping to spend some time at Sloan Lake before the weather turned
poor.  I was the last up from the Grizzly Gulch side, but a trio from the
American Gulch side were nearing the peak as I was heading down.  I made
it to Sloan Lake, but the clouds had arrived and it started to drizzle.  I
found a nice spot and sat with my rain poncho on lakeside - turned out I
felt foolish for pulling it out as the drizzle didn't last long and that
was the only rain I had.  Not knowing that, I only stayed about 20 minutes
at the lake due to weather concerns.  I made my way down the American
Basin side and was a little disappointed in the wild flowers - I've read
others say how pretty the American Basin is, but with both my visits to
Handies Peak I've found he Grizzly Gulch side to be prettier.  That's not
to say that it is ugly, just not as pretty.  The road walk was uneventful
- there are some beaver ponds alongside the road, but I didn't see any
beavers.  I took the nasty drive back to Lake City and then headed north -
I had decided not to do Uncompahgre Peak the next day as I simply did not
feel like doing a 16 mile, 5500 feet hike (with 8 miles of road walk) [I
could give more reasons for not doing it then, but it simply did not sound
like fun right then].  So I headed out to Crested Butte.  It was rainy and
dark when I arrived and I had a hard time figuring out the way to go, but
I eventually found the road for Kebler Pass.

Monday, July 12 - I had planned on stopping at Lost Lake (along the Kebler
Pass road) in the morning and doing a short hike there, but unfortunately
the area is closed for the summer do to construction.  I settled for
driving part of the scenic road (not too scenic, probably better in the
Fall when the many Aspen tress are changing colors) and a quick stop at
Kebler Lake.  I headed over to the tiny town of Gothic and set out for my
hike to Copper Lake, starting at 8 am - the latest start I've had to a
hike.  The trail went by an unimpressive waterfall and then continued as
an old road almost the entire way to the lake - ironic since the road walk
was part of the reason I tossed aside Uncompahgre Peak.  It was a fairly
uneventful hike to the lake, except for 2 icy cold wet water crossings
(and I'll repeat, the $8 I spent 10 years ago on water shoes was the best
$8 I've ever spent).  I reached the lake and was underwhelmed - it was no
comparison to the 3 mountains lakes I went to in the Silverton area.  The
lake was surrounded by small bushes and marshy areas where the trail
reached it and it was buggy, so I couldn't really rest lakeside.  I did
find a spot a little away from the lake with a view and sat for about 10
minutes.  I decided to go up to East Maroon Pass - I could see the way
from the lake and it didn't look steep and was only 1/2 a mile away.  Man,
was I really glad I did that.  The lake looks much prettier from above and
then there is the pass area.  It was just stunning 360 degrees.  I went up
a ridge a little to the right and found a nice sitting spot, but had a
problem - I couldn't figure out which way I wanted to face.  I settled for
sitting one direction for a bit and then turning another way.  From the
pass area you can see the impressive Maroon Bell peaks, Castle Peak,
Conundrum Peak, and several other pretty peaks.  Needless to say, I sat
there for a bit and just looked around.  Afterwards, I simply headed back
as I wasn't sure if the weather would hold out (actually did - didn't get
a drop of rain that day) and I needed to make the long drive to the San
Luis Peak trailhead as well as get some pizza (dinner for the next several
nights) in Gunnison.  The drive to San Luis Peak involves 25 miles of dirt
road.  It was managable for my sedan, but it was tough on my nerves and a
really long drive.  I arrived shortly before it got dark.

[Tuesday (San Luis Peak), Wednesday (Mt Shavano), and Thursday (Mt
Princeton) will be on the next report - didn't have time to do the
writeups yet and wanted to get this out when I had a chance (doing

There are 10 pictures for this writeup at


Part 2 - Let it rain

Tuesday, July 13 - Up for this day was the hike up to San Luis Peak.  I
got up early as usual and headed on out as the trail headed up along the
valley floor.  I noticed a number of beaver dams and ponds on the valley
floor and started looking for beavers - no such luck for a while.  As I
was nearing the end of the beaver ponds, I spotted movement near a pond.
I stopped and looked and waited.  After a few minutes a beaver swam out of
its home, did a quick loop, and dove back underwater.  After a few more
minutes he did the same thing.  And after a few more minutes he got up on
a rock (that he was originally on when I first spotted him) and then he
went back into the water and I continued my hike.  The trail left the
valley floor and started making its way up and up and up.  I finally
reached the ridge between San Luis and Oregon Mountain and could see the
peak ahead to the left - but still had a good distance to go.  Weather was
a bit of an issue, but I managed to peak before the rain arrived.  Due to
the weather concerns, I only stayed at the peak for 10 minutes.  And sure
enough, just as I started to head down, a few bits of snow came down - it
didn't last long.  I made it past the rocky part and was headed down the
open slope when it started to rain.  I put on my rain poncho and hunkered
down, waiting for the rain to pass, which it did after about 15 minutes.
The rest of the hike was uneventful, except for another burst of rain
(which occurred while I was in the trees and I was able to simply sit at a
dry spot under a tree and wait it out).  I managed to make that long,
tedious drive out from the San Luis Peak trailhead with enough time left
to make it to the trailhead for Mt Shavano and so I was indeed set to do
that hike the next day (I did have concerns that it would take too long to
get out from San Luis and to Shavano before it got dark - as it was I
arrived at Shavano at 8:30 pm).

Wednesday, July 14 - Obviously up for this day was Mt. Shavano.  It was a
pretty hike for a while as the trail headed up through the trees - though
a bit buggy and I put on Off for the first time this trip (only the once
as it wasn't as buggy heading back down).  After several hours I reached
the treeline and still had plenty of up to go.  It was very windy at the
ridge and I layered up - though that didn't last too long as I got warm
with all the effort it took to reach Mt. Shavano - a rocky peak.  I
reached the peak at 12:15 pm and had it all to myself.  I spent about 15
minutes looking for the route from Mt. Shavano to Tabeguache Peak (just
3/4 mile away), but couldn't find the way - didn't see any rock cairns
marking the way, lighter rocks indicating foot traffic, or foot prints in
the few dirt spots.  I even pulled out my binoculars to look for the route
further ahead from where I was at, but saw no signs.  I wasn't about to go
wandering clueless around a rocky peak and settle for going back to the
top spot and sitting for 30 minutes and watching several marmots soaking
in the sun (and keeping an eye on me).  I was very disappoint that I
couldn't find the way to go to Tabeguache (I would have definitely gone if
I had), but it was probably for the best that I didn't as it rained about
an hour and a half after I left the peak and I would have been somewhere
on the traverse when the rain came and that rocky traverse wouldn't have
been fun to do when wet.  Coming back down from the ridge, I spotted a
female big horn sheep (the females have little horns) on the trail.  She
soon left, but as I got further down, another female came into sight not
too far away.  I sat down to rest and watch her for a bit.  After a while,
her kid joined her.  I then continued down (and soon the rain came, though
it did not last long).  Once I got to the treeline, I took my time heading
down and stopped at various places to read.  After I finished, I headed
over to the Mt. Princeton trailhead for my next day hike.

Thursday, July 15 - I started at the lower parking area for Mt. Princeton
and that meant I was road-walking for a while (it's definitely a 4-wheel
drive only road to the upper parking area).  It was a long and ugly walk
up the road.  Even once I reached the area where most of the 4-wheel
vehicles had parked (radio towers), I still had over a mile of road-walk
to go just to reach the real trail.  I finally reached it (after passing
it and wondering if that was the trail (no sign) and then back-tracking to
it) and headed up the green slope.  But the trail was only on the green
slope for a little bit and then entered a rocky slope - as in carefully
make your way across rocks (mostly level, but some bit of an up).  And it
was that way for a long ways.  So to teach me about my complaining about
the rocks, the trail took a left and headed steeply up to the ridge with
some rocks and a lot of loose dirt - really nasty going down.  Once I
reached the ridge, I still had a ways to go and it was back to rock
scrambling, but this time at an up.  So up and over the rocks I went.  And
up an over the rocks I went.  I finally reached the summit and couldn't
believe how long it had taken - I left the lower parking lot at 5:30 am to
go 6.5 miles and gain 5400 feet to the summit and finally arrived at 1:45
pm.  Ugh.  Fortunately weather was not an issue this day.  It wasn't that
pretty of a hike and although nice, the views from the summit were not as
grand as at other peaks.  Going back down wasn't any faster - it simply
takes time to go across those rocks.  I did get to see a pretty sunset,
but unfortunately I was still road-walking down when it occurred.  I did
make back to my car before it got fully dark and didn't need to use my
headlamp.  I finally finished that awful hike at 9 pm - Mt. Princeton is
definitely my least favorite 14er that I've done.  Since I didn't get back
to my car until so late, I simply stayed another night at the Princeton
parking area.

Friday, July 16 - I drove from the Princeton parking area to the Mt. Yale
parking area.  As I was approaching the Yale parking area, I realized that
I was tired - as in sleepy, not sore.  So I decided to take a nap.  I woke
up 2 hours later at 8 am and got ready for my Yale hike.  There was an
information sign at the trailhead and I looked at it and saw that there
was a mountain lake just 3 miles ahead.  Since I was getting such a late
(for me and my pace) start and Princeton was such a trudge and not very
pretty, I decided to go to the lake for a milder outing and do Yale the
next day.  Looking further at the info sign, I saw that it said it was an
11.5 mile hike to Yale where as my info sheet (from about Yale
said it was only an 8.75 mile hike - so with it likely being a longer hike
than expected I definitely was making the right choice to go to Lake
Hartenstein.  It was a pretty hike up through the trees and not very hard
- I did take my time and was in no rush (again the weather was nice all
day).  Even so, I reached the lake sooner than I expected - I had thought
it would be up above a ridge and instead it was below the treeline.  It
was nice, but nothing really pretty or that I would recommend.  It was
shrub-surrounded, so no good lakeside sitting spots, but I managed to find
a spot near the lake.  There was a nice view of the lake with Mt. Yale in
the distance.  I stayed at the lake for a while and read some and took my
time heading back.  Back at my car, I decided to take the drive up to
Cottonwood Pass - a paved road to the pass and the trailhead was along
that road.  It was a pretty drive, but not too eventful.  I went back to
town (Buena Vista) and did laundry and got online for the first time of my
trip [and sent out Trip Report 1] and that took me in to the evening.

Saturday, July 17 - I got up early and headed up to Mt. Yale.  I
encountered a group of backpackers heading down that I had met the day
before at Lake Hartenstein and we wished each other good luck for the day
- some of them were going to give Mt. Princeton a go.  The hike up was
pretty through the trees and went some next to a stream.  Then came the
fun part as it headed up, up, up a hillside.  The trail reached the
treeline and there were some nice views there.  There were a lot of people
on the trail (being a Saturday and a paved road to the trailhead), and
most of them passed me.  The next long section of the trail involved more
of the loose dirt junk with a long, hard up to the ridge (again, really
not fun heading down).  I finally reached the ridge and rested a bit and
watched some marmots.  The rest of the way to the peak was a rocky
scramble (similar to what I had with Mt. Princeton, except not as long).
I reached one spot and had a traffic jam as a lot of people were coming
down from the summit.  I stood aside to let those coming down go pass and
was amazed that every time I looked, someone else had turned the corner
and was coming down - must have been about 30 people as I waited about 10
minutes for them to come down.  It was finally clear and I made it to the
summit with only minor difficulty to bag my 7th 14er of the trip.
Unfortunately, there were a ton of gnats at the peak and because of them I
didn't stay very long.  Plus weather was an issue - there were storm
clouds to the south and north, but not at Mt. Yale, but who knew how long
that would last.  I carefully made my way back to the ridge and rested
there again.  And then slowly made my way down the loose dirt junk, taking
my time.  The weather did hold out and I only got drizzled on slightly as
I headed down.  I took a couple of long breaks at some pretty spots in the
trees before finally finishing my hike.  It started to rain as I headed
back to town and I could see storm clouds along the peaks, which had me
concerned about the next day.  I gave my folks a call and then headed to
the Missouri Gulch trailhead (kick off point for 3 14ers (1 duo)). 

Sunday, July 18 - I woke up around 5:30 am and started to get ready for my
hike (but was slow going) - it was still dark and I was having trouble
telling what the sky was like.  So at 6 am, I looked to the west and saw a
solid line of light clouds - if it was cloudy that early, it was
definitely not a day to go up a 14er.  My experience with the Rockies is
that once you spot one cloud, however small, many more are soon to come.
And I don't want to be above the treeline when a storm hits so I'm not
even starting a 14er hike with the possibility of poor weather - and have
had a few people tell me that I've made the smart decision.  So I figured
it was going to be a wasted day.  I briefly stopped at some old log
buildings near the trailhead (nothing exciting) and then drove 4 miles
further up the road to the (non-4-wheel drive) parking area for Huron
Peak.  I decided to go ahead an walk the 2 miles of dirt road to the real
trailhead just to see what it was like (and how far I could get my car up
the road the next day).  As I was walking up the road, I saw a sign that
said Huron Peak and Lake Ann straight ahead.  Hmmm, Lake Ann, I wonder how
far ahead that is?  A little before the trailhead is an old mine and I
walked around that area a bit.  The mine wasn't much (just the
orange/yellow mound), but there were 2 cabin buildings partially standing
that were kind of neat.  I went to the trailhead and saw that there were 2
trails - Huron Peak heading up to the left and another (Lake Ann?) heading
straight.  It was only 10:30 am and there were storm clouds in the area.
I headed a little on the lower trail and found a nice spot and sat for a
bit.  While I was sitting, a trio came down the trail and I asked them
about the trail.  They said that Lake Ann was too far to go before the
storms arrived, but about 15 minutes ahead was a nice spot where you could
see the Three Apostles - 3 large peaks - and Huron Peak.  I went ahead on
the trail a little ways and found a nice shaded spot under a big tree as
the storm arrived.  It rained steady for about 20 minutes, so I had
definitely made the right decision in not going up a 14er.  After the rain
stopped, I continued on the trail and reached the pretty spot the group
described.  I talked to a couple about Lake Ann and they didn't know how
far ahead it was either.  But it was such a pretty hike that I decided I
would just continue on the trail and would turn around when I felt like it
or had reached the lake.  Guess which one happened?  I did have to wait
the storms out 3 more times - the last when I was just 15 minutes from the
lake (had stopped as I wanted to still be in the trees when the rain
arrived).  I reached the very pretty lake and the skies above were mostly
blue.  And they stayed that way for over an hour as I enjoyed the lake
(even feet-soaked for a little bit).  In fact, it got a little warm with
the sun out.  So I eventually headed back and took my time and the weather
had turned into a pretty late afternoon.  So what I had thought would be a
wasted day due to the weather turned out to be a very pretty hike and a
very nice mountain lake.

Monday, July 19 - So after a day delayed, I headed up to Huron Peak.  The
sky was pure blue in the morning and hopefully it would stay that way at
least until I peaked.  After the uneventful road walk (and I did know
where to park my car a little closer before the road got too rough thanks
to my previous day) I reached the trailhead and started heading up.  After
a bit the trail started switchbacking up and up and up - I knew there was
going to be a lot of up to this hike as it is only 2.75 miles to the top
but gains 3500 feet.  After reaching the treeline (after lots of
huff-and-puffing), there was a nice view of the Three Apostles peaks in
the distance.  That view soon went away as the trail went in front of
Huron Peak for a mild bit as it headed to the east side of the mountain.
And then it was back to up, up, switchback up to the ridge.  As usual, a
number of people passed me along the way and I was pretty much bringing up
the tail (I hike at a very slow pace in the mountains).  I finally reached
the ridge and took a short break - short because a cool wind was blowing.
I was only 1/4 mile from the peak, but still had to gain 550 feet - ugh.
And it was a rocky up the rest of the way.  I reached the peak and very
much enjoyed the views.  I could see Lake Ann to the west and a number of
mountain peaks.  There were storm clouds to the north and east, but those
didn't worry me as my weather would come from the west (or develop above
the peak).  So I enjoyed the peak for a little while and took my time
heading down.  I did get spitted at a little bit (very light rain), but
that didn't last long and no more rain came.  The clouds did stay into the
evening and I was worried about the weather for the next day.

Tuesday, July 20 - The alarm clock went off at 4:30 am and it looked like
there were still clouds around (hard to tell in the dark), so I went back
to sleep for an hour.  I woke up again and, sure enough, there were plenty
of clouds still around.  So that meant no 14er for that day.  I slept for
another hour and then tried to figure out what to do with my day - there
were no other hikes that I wanted to do in the area and I hated the idea
of wasting a day.  So I decided leave the area and do my Aspen area hikes
and then return and (hopefully with better weather) do the 3 14ers from
the Missouri Gulch trailhead.  I took the pretty drive to Aspen (about 1
1/2 hours) and then headed up to the Cathedral Lake trailhead.  It was a
shorter hike at just 2.8 miles and 2000 feet, so that worked well with my
later start time.  I took my time heading up, even though it was such a
short hike, with several reading breaks.  It was partly cloudy in my area,
though there was a pretty solid cloud cover to the east (where I would
have been).  The hike to the lake wasn't that exciting or overly pretty -
there was a hard zig-zag section up to a ridge and from there (not too far
from the lake) was very pretty with a number of rugged peaks visible.  I
reached the lake and it was definitely worth a visit.  I walked around the
lake, taking various pictures, and found a pretty spot and sat for a
while.  I walked around the lake some more and eventually headed back down
- again taking my time and in no rush.  I drove back to Aspen and stopped
at Dominoes and the grocery store to resupply.  It took a while to get out
of Aspen due to traffic and then I had a hard rain for a while.  I drove
over to Snowmass, where I hoped to do a lake hike the next day.

Wednesday, July 21 - It rained during the night, so that had me concerned
about the weather - and sure enough it was a solid overcast in the
morning.  Since it was a lake hike, I went ahead and started on the trail
for Snowmass Lake.  The trail starts through private land and my first
problem was that I couldn't get the gate open - I ended up sliding
underneath it, getting my hands and knees muddy.  I knew there were cows
in the area, but was quite surprised when about 20 of them were on the
trail.  It was a first for me as I had never been delayed by cows before
while hiking.  I tried to shoo them on, but they just stared at me.
Eventually one started heading down the trail the other way (I was
standing out of their way off trail) and the others soon followed.  Turns
out one of the reasons my shooing wasn't working was that they  were near
the far gate and couldn't go further that way.  I didn't have any problems
with the other 2 gates as they were simply wire-latched, and figured out
the 1st gate on the way back as a notched had to be lifted up to be able
to open it.  The clouds were still heavy as I headed up, but I was able to
see a pretty waterfall in the distance and some of the peaks.
Unfortunately, that was about it as .5 miles ahead it started to drizzle.
My shoes and socks were already soaked due to the moisture from the brush
dropping on them, but I was being stubborn and put my rain gear on and
continued on the trail.  After about another .5 miles, I gave up - I was
about 5 miles into the hike with another 3 to go (it was to be a long
outing) but the rain wasn't letting up and didn't seem to be a semi-quick
pass through as had happened in previous hikes.  So I turned around and
headed back.  Just as I turned around, I saw a hummingbird flinting from
flower to flower (sorry, Mom, not picture as it was too quick and I didn't
want to get my camera out in the rain).  So after watching it for a
moment, I started the long treck back.  From when the steady rain started,
it rained for about 3 straight hours.  My poncho kept my head and body
dry, but my shoes were even more soaked.  The rain finally stopped about 2
miles from the trailhead, but I was presented with another problem.  Some
horses had gone up the trail and back and made what was a wet trail into a
muddy mess with additional obstacles.  After finishing my hike, I cleaned
up and had to shoo away a fox that was loitering in the parking area and
interested in my open trunk.  I went to go to the Capitol Lake/Peak
trailhead area (I had planned on a hike to the lake), but took my sedan
about 3/4 mile up the muddy dirt road (with no pulloff spots) and decided
not to go any further as it just wasn't for my car and turned around and,
thus, passed on that hike.  Basically not a good day.  I did go up to the
Maroon Bells area (no fee after 7 pm) and took a quick visit to Maroon
Lake, near the parking lot, for a view of the distinctive peaks - very
pretty (but a lot of gnats at the lake).

Thursday, July 22 - While at Maroon Lake, I looked at a map of the area
and saw that there was another lake hike near where I had done the
Cathedral Lake hike two days before (weather was again going to keep me
from doing a 14er hike).  I woke up early, but dozed for a while and then
read my book - with the rain the evening before, I didn't want to start my
hike until hopefully some of the moisture dried up.  It was again overcast
in the morning.  I was going to start my hike around 10 am, but only had
about 50 pages left in my book and decided to finish it before heading up
so I didn't get started until 11 am.  The hike to American Lake was about
3 miles and 2000 feet gained - much of that elevation gained early as the
trail switchbacked up a green slope with Aspen trees.  I got drizzled on a
little bit (and Aspens aren't good for keeping you dry when you hunker
beneath them), but that stopped almost as soon as I put on my rain poncho.
The trail finally finished with the slope and was pretty as it widened and
went through some evergreen sections and some open meadows.  A little more
rain passed through and everyone who I had seen head up was now heading
back, with the last telling me that I'd have the lake to myself.  I
reached the lake and looked around a bit before finding a nice spot and
opening a new book.  It was a pretty lake, but not stunning.  Since it was
my day, I spent a lot of time at the lake.  I could see a storm
approaching and decided to start heading down and look for a nice
evergreen to hunker beneath.  The storm arrived and was heavy enough that
I needed my rain poncho on even with the pine branches above me.  But
after 30 minutes, the sun was back out and I finished my hike without any
more fanfare.  I decided that I would give Capitol Lake a go for the next
day (with an additional 2 miles with the road walk) and headed back over
there to the lower parking area - which is where I sit now typing this
while a very heavy storm passes through (feeling sorry for those
backpackers I saw heading up at Snowmass and those likely at Capitol

Friday, July 23 - There were storms the night before and another went
through at 3 am, but I had blue skies in the morning.  But the evening and
morning rain meant that I had a wet trail.  Since the drive up to the
trailhead for Capitol Lake/Peak was 4-wheel drive (and there were no
pulloffs), I parked at the lower parking lot and walked the road for 2
miles.  My destination for the day was the lake, not the peak (which is a
class 4 degree of difficulty and I only do class 1s or 2s).  There were
two options to hike to the lake, meeting up 2.5 miles later, and I took
the option that headed down to the valley floor.  It was a narrow trail so
the brush soon had my shoes and socks wet.  At the valley floor, I made a
wet-water crossing - always a good wakeup call with the chilly water,
although it might have been worse putting my wet socks back on (way too
early to switch to a dry pair as they would just be wet shortly).  The
hike was pretty uneventful (besides wet shoes and socks) and only had one
"Oh!" moment when I got a good view of Capitol Peak in the distance as the
trail went through a meadow - turns out the other route (which I took on
the way back) was much better with many more Capitol Peak views (plus not
losing as much elevation and then re-gaining it).  I reached the trail
junction and continued on towards Capitol Peak, taking a break soon after
the junction with a good view of the peak.  Not too much further came the
nastiness of the hike.  I was noticing bear prints in the mud of the trail
(no bears visible in the area) and then heard flies buzzing and looked up
and saw a dead cow just off the trail - eeeewww!  I quickly moved passed
it with my thumb and forefinger pinching my nose and my hand over my mouth
[pretty effective at blocking smells].  It was a bit of hiking to reach
the lake - 5.5 miles plus my 2 miles of road walking, making for a long
day.  There were some pretty wild flowers in the long meadow (over 1/2
mile) that preceded the lake area and I did enjoy them especially with the
rugged peaks visible above.  I reached the backpackers campground and
found that I had a little more work to do as the lake is rock and boulder
surrounded so you can't see it until you go up the rocks.  I finally
reached the very pretty lake and enjoyed the view with Capitol Peak
directly above it and a green slope for a pass trail to the right.  I
carefully made my way lakeside and sat and enjoyed the place for quite
some time (there were clouds, but not rain clouds).  I was surprised that
I had the lake to myself - there were others in the area, but most of them
had gone up a (different) pass and weren't at the lake.  I took my time
heading back (this was my day and I was car-camping at the same spot).  I
encountered a group of backpackers that I met while hiking back from my
failed Snowmass Lake outing 2 days prior and talked with them briefly.
One said that the lake was really pretty, so I decided I'd give that
another go on Sunday.  Taking the water ditch branch back to the
trailhead, I once again encountered cows on the trail.  This time it was
only one or two at a time and they were pretty good at moving out of the
way when I shooed them.

Saturday, July 24 - Back to the 14ers.  Or, 'Have you hugged a rock
today?'  With the good weather the day before, I was hoping it would hold
out again (at least until noon, giving me time to peak) and headed over to
Castle Peak.  Once again, I had additional road walking due to my poor
sedan not liking those nasty dirt roads - and this one was a rocky dirt
road that I took for .5 miles to a parking sport (and if I knew it was
going to be that rocky, I would have simply parked at the end of the
pavement and walked the extra bit).  So this was to be a 13 mile, 4600 ft
little outing.  So I walked the road, walked the road, and walked the
road.  The first 5 miles were road walking.  And after 3 miles, the road
was really rough so most others were road walking too.  I had fun watching
a 4x4 pickup truck struggle in a rough section and then struggle some more
(it was so slow going that I caught up with them) and decide to turn
around.  So up on the road I went.  The road went below an old mine and
then rounded the bend and came to an end.  Amazingly, two vehicles had
managed to make it all the way to the end of the road - kudos to them.  As
I was approaching the end of the road, I began to have doubts about this
hike.  There was a huge snow slope that I could see people heading up.
And there was another steeper one that I could see a pair coming/sliding
down.  I'm not fond of walking on snow, and this would be at a slope.  Yet
I could now see the peak and after all that road walking I didn't want to
turn around.  So I headed up the snow (turns out that was really the only
way to go) and slowly made my way up (didn't fall once).  It took me a
while, but I finally made it to the top of the snow.  Then was a nasty
loose dirt and talus route up to the ridge.  There was a cloud looming
above and I was thinking that the ridge was going to be my turning around
point.  But by the time I reach the ridge, the cloud had moved on and the
sun was back out.  I could see two people coming down from Conundrum Peak
(there is a saddle between Conundrum and Castle) and then taking the steep
route down from the saddle and then snow sliding the rest of the way - it
looked crazy and scary, yet 6 more people did it that day.  Obviously, I
didn't.  I was having enough fun with just Castle Peak.  So with Castle
Peak in sight and knowing it was a rough go to get there, I let my
stubborn streak rule and headed for the peak.  It is a rock scramble with
an up and with using your hands at times and I didn't like it one bit.
Fortunately I knew two of the "easier" routes (think left!) and didn't go
the even scarier ways if you didn't go left at those two points.  But
still it was tough.  I was making the last scramble up and was surprised
when the summit arrived - no false peaks.  So I made it to my 9th 14er of
the trip.  Castle Peak was definitely out of my comfort zone and I won't
be repeating it.  But the views from the top are spectacular 360 degrees,
including a pretty valley down to the southwest and the distinctive Maroon
Bells peaks to the northwest.  Going back was just as slow as I thought it
would be as I carefully made my way down and around the rocks and then
carefully and slowly down the talus slope.  Instead of just taking the
snow route at the bottom of the talus slope, I headed across the rocks to
the steeper snow slope.  Time to take out my rain poncho again, but this
time for fun as use as a sled.  I got on the snow, sat down, and slid.  It
was fun at first, but then I got going too fast - I managed to stop myself
and decided that the slope was just too steep for me.  So I walked slowly
across the snow back to the rocks and then made my way to the other snow
slope.  People who had come done earlier in the day had created a snow
chute and I got on that (with my poncho) and slid down to the bottom with
a hoot and big grin on my face.  Although the slide was fun, I was glad to
be done with the snow.  On the walk back, I walked around the mine ruins
(nothing still standing) and then took the long road walk back and was
glad when I finally reached my car.

Sunday, July 25 - Oh what a difference a few days make.  No clouds, no wet
brush soaking my shoes and socks, the trail not a muddy mess (though there
were some muddy spots), and no cows blocking the trail.  So with a
beautiful blue sky in the morning, I gave Snowmass Lake a second chance.
I repeated the first 5 miles of the trail with little fanfare.  Soon
afterwards, I rounded a bend as was rewarded with a pretty sight of the
beaver ponds with a rugged red ridge in the distance.  I reached the log
jam portion of the trail and very slowly made my way across - the way
crosses near the outlet of one of the ponds via logs that have bunched up
along the stream.  It took me a while to get a across as I'm very cautious
- in fact I decided it would be faster to do a wet-water crossing (a
little further down the stream) on the way back, and that's what I did.
The trail soon went into the trees and it was uneventful until reaching
the lake.  Man, am I really glad that I gave this hike a second go.  What
a gorgeous lake!  The turquoise blue larger lake is surrounded by massive
peaks and is just really pretty.  I headed to the right end of the lake
and found a really nice spot lakeside and just sat for a while, had lunch,
and looked around.  Twice I pulled out my book to read, but both times
simply put it back without opening it as the views kept grabbing my
attention.  You know you are at a really pretty place when you can just
sit for over 30 minutes and enjoy the views.  Eventually I got up and
explored the other end of the lake, but discovered that I liked the place
I found first the best and went back there and sat (and this time read
some) for an hour, spending about 2 hours at the lake before heading back.
I took my time heading back (was staying the night at the trailhead).  The
afternoon clouds had rolled in, but the (sporadic) rain didn't come until
well after I was back at my car.  It was a long outing at 16 miles, but
well worth the effort.

There are 11 pictures for this writeup at


Part 3

Monday, July 26 - So after 3 straight hard days (15 miles to Capitol Lake,
13 miles to Castle Peak, 16 miles to Snowmass Lake), I decided to give
myself a day off.  Okay, so it was a "Patricia day off".  I got up early
and headed over to the Maroon Bells.  I wanted to see the distinctive
peaks in the morning light and do the short (2 miles) hike to Crater Lake.
I walked by Maroon Lake, past a number of photographers, and took a couple
of pictures myself.  I headed up to Crater Lake and wasn't too impressed
when I got there.  I then walked around the lake and was awed.  The lake
was mirror still and the Maroon Bells reflected beautifully off it.  I
found a spot lakeside and simply sat for 30 minutes.  I was also amazed
that I was the only one there - the Bells are a well-visited tourist spot.
I headed back down and found the crowds - they just arrived later than I
did and I passed about 20 people heading the other way at 8 am and the
parking lot was already full (with a person very glad when I left).  I saw
a porcupine along the road as I was headed away from the Bells.  I said
goodbye to Aspen and headed over Independence Pass.  Along the way, I
pulled over at a Point of Interest and took a walk through the ghost town
of Independence, where a number of old buildings were still standing and
many more foundations were there.  I headed over the pass and went to
Leadville.  I stopped at the visitor center and picked a brochure that
described a driving route to a number of mine ruins in the area.  So I
spent a couple of hours looking at mine ruins - I can't tell you how many
times I said, "Cool!" as I did the drive.  A couple of times I stopped and
walked on part of the Mineral Belt bike trail where there were mine
information signs and some more mine ruins.  See, I can be a normal
tourist.  Afterwards, I headed back to Buena Vista and splurged with a
meal of a hamburger, onion rings, and a shake at a popular local spot.  I
then did laundry and posted trip report 2 before heading to the Missouri
Gulch trailhead to give Mt Belford and Missouri Mountain another go
(recall that I did Huron Peak in that area a week ago and then left for
Aspen as the weather turned questionable).

Tuesday, July 27 - I had blue skies in the morning and headed up the trail
for Mt. Belford and hoping to also be able to do Mt. Oxford (reached from
Belford) and crossing my fingers for good weather.  Gaining 4,600 feet in
just 3.1 miles to the summit of Mt. Belford, the trail obviously had a ton
of up to it.  I did have a little trouble in getting moving in the morning
and didn't start my hike until 6:40 am.  And up I went.  And up I went.
And up I went, huffing and puffing almost from the start as the trail
switchbacked up.  The trail headed up along a ridge of Belford and was in
good condition with stone steps - in fact there were two groups of people
working on improving the trail this day.  After forever and a day, I
finally reached the peak - my 10th 14er of the trip!  I found my second
wind at the peak and headed over to Mt. Oxford, deciding not to be
cautious this time with the weather - there were storm clouds to the
south, but didn't look like anything would head my way in the next couple
of hours (wrong).  With the weather concern, I made a fast for me treck
and did the 1.5 mile traverse (dropping about 700 feet and then regaining
almost the same amount) in just an hour.  I stomped on the geomarker at
Mt. Oxford's peak and only rested about 10 minutes before heading back to
Mt. Belford.  I made it to the saddle between the two mountains and the
poor weather arrived.  Not rain, but sleet.  Lots of fun heading back up
the steep slope with little pieces of ice pelting me.  I made it to the
ridge, still sleeting, and decided to take the longer route going by
Elkhead Pass instead of going back the way I came - the Elkhead Pass route
looked to be more dirt and not as steep where as I was concerned the way I
came would be slippery with wet rocks.  As I neared the pass, the sleet
finally stopped and I had a pretty view into the valley on the other side
of the pass.  I took my time heading back from the pass to the original
Mt. Belford junction - the threatening storm never really arrived (though
some rain did, but didn't last too long).  I finally took a long break in
the trees next to a creek, pulling out my book for the only time of the
hike, and rested for about 30 minutes until it started drizzling.  I did
my good deed of the day in helping a fellow hiker who was having knee
problems by loaning my hiking stick and brown ankle wrap that I carry and
giving her some Advil to help her complete the last 20 minutes of the hike
(she and her friend had made it to Belford, but her knee was really
bothering her going down hill).  The evening was overcast and I was hoping
that the weather would clear overnight so I could do Missouri Mountain the
next day.

Wednesday, July 28 - It rained heavy during the night and the skies were
fully clouded over in the morning, including some low lying clouds.  Since
I had seen the Missouri Mountain trail while hiking up to Mt. Belford, I
knew it was a very steep trail to the ridge and not something I wanted to
do when muddy.  So I decided not to go hiking this day - I briefly thought
about repeating the Lake Ann hike, but didn't want to drive my car 4 more
miles on the bumpy dirt road and (even more so) then repeat those 2 miles
of road walking.  So I just dozed away the morning.  Of course, around
10:30 am the skies were mostly blue with some small white clouds.  I also
considered heading up for the summit then, but figured it would take me 5
to 6 hours to reach the summit and who knew what the weather would be like
at 3 pm.  I took a short drive over to a campsite near the creek and
settled in for the day.  I took my camp chair and sat next to a creek for
several hours and read a book on this uneventful day.  A cloud cover did
arrive in the afternoon, but no rain in the valley (don't know how it
would have been on the mountain) [though it is raining now at 5:30 pm].
I'll give Missouri Mountain again on Thursday.  

Thursday, July 29 - Missouri or Bust!  I did have blue skies in the
morning and headed up for Missouri Mountain.  The first couple of miles
shared the same trail as Mt. Belford and then the next mile was the same
as I came down from Elkhead Pass (from Belford).  So after 3 hours I took
the turn and headed up for Missouri Mountain - the clouds had rolled in,
so weather was an issue.  I switchbacked up the green slope and then
headed up the rocky slope at an angle.  After lots of huff-and-puffing, I
finally reached the ridge.  But I still had 3/4 mile to go as the trail
headed along the ridge to the true summit.  I was crossing my fingers for
the weather - Mt. Belford was in the clouds and clouds were heading
towards Missouri Mountain, but no storm clouds yet.  So I headed across
the ridge and then reached the nasty section where I had to make a 10 foot
drop and then head carefully along the path as the path itself was angled
to the left (never something I like).  But the peak was just ahead and I
made it!  I only stayed about 10 minutes as there were heavy clouds all
around and I hoped to get down to the valley before the rain started.  I
made it past the nasty stuff and then along the ridge and headed down the
rocky stuff when the rains came (and out came my rain poncho).  It was
even more slow going with the wet rocks, but I made it safely down.
Almost as soon as I got out of the rocks, the rain stopped.  I took a rest
and then started moving again when I heard thunder.  On the way down the
green slope, I saw two lightning strikes to the southeast (not close to
where I was, but it kept me moving).  I hit the treeline and continued
down to the creek crossing.  I gave myself an extended break there in
sitting for 30 minutes and reading - the break ended when it started
drizzling.  I made it back to my car and was ready to say goodbye to the
area.  I stopped in Leadville for supplies and then drove over to the
Mount of the Holy Cross area - it rained most of the drive and the drive
to the trailhead isn't fun as it's 8 long miles of pothole dirt road, but
my car would get to sit there for a couple of days as I had two hikes
planned for the area.

Friday, July 30 - After all the rain the evening before, I had blue skies
for the start of my hike to the Mount of the Holy Cross.  It is considered
one of the prettier 14er hikes, but also one of the more difficult as the
trail first goes up to a pass then drops 1000 feet before the long climb
to the summit - making it a 10.8 mile, 5600 feet hike.  It was peaceful in
the morning and I made it to the pass with no problem.  I was surprised at
how mild the trail was heading down from the pass.  The trail turned a
bend and then there was a wonderful distance view of a waterfall and Holy
Cross.  Then the trail headed down, down, switchback down to the creek
crossing.  It was a wide creek crossing and the rock-hop didn't look to
promising to me (widely spaced and the water was high) so I put on my
water shoes and made a wet-water crossing - burr, and the water came up to
my mid-thigh.  Then it was up, up, up through the trees.  I finally
reached the treeline and only had 1.6 miles to go - but 2300 feet to gain
(ouch).  After a bit, the trail became a rock scramble and that slowed me
down even further.  Clouds were now all around, but not above.  I did
consider turning around due to weather concerns (and then would try again
on Sunday), but decided to keep going and would turn around at the first
drop of rain.  I reached the high ridge with no rain and continued on as
the trail (and there was actually a trail in this section) wasn't too hard
and I had pretty views down on Lake Patricia (and, of course, took a lot
of pictures of the lake that shared my name).  So, weather be darned, I
was at the point for the final summit - a 600 foot rock scramble, and this
was even more of a scramble than the earlier section was as hands were
definitely need to help go up the rocks.  It was very slow going but the
knowledge that the peak was within reach kept me going with only
catch-my-breath pauses.  And then the summit was finally there - the 13th
14er of my trip.  And it was definitely very pretty with great views of
Lake Patricia, the nearly hidden Bowl of Tears lake, and other views.
Unfortunately weather concerns again kept my summit visit to about 10
minutes.  It was slow going back down the rock scramble, but the weather
held out and still no rain.  I made it to the ridge and headed along it
and then down the "lighter" rock scramble - I wanted to get through the
difficult stuff before the poor weather arrived (it was all around except
where I was at).  I got through the rough stuff and took a break - then
thunder to the southeast sent me moving to the treeline.  But still no
poor weather where I was at.  Since most of the hard stuff was over, I
took a couple of longer breaks (and read some) as I headed back to the
creek crossing.  I again used a wet-water crossing and then took another
break.  The fun of going back up to the pass (and gaining 1000 feet) was
ahead.  It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be (figuring I'd be really
tired after the summit hike) - I think the two breaks helped that I took
along the switchbacks up at pretty spots where the falls and Holy Cross
were visible.  After another break at the pass, I made a straight shot
down (about 30 minutes to do 1.5 miles) and reached my car almost 12 hours
after I started.  Amazingly the weather held out the whole day (I got
spitted on briefly coming down for the pass, but that was it).  Although a
long day hike, Holy Cross is definitely a very pretty hike.

Saturday, July 31 - Up for the day was supposed to be a simple 10 mile
(round trip) hike to the Tuhare Lakes.  After 4 miles of hike, the trail
first reaches the pretty tree surrounded Lake Constantine.  I took a brief
visit there and then headed onward.  I saw a pretty bird with a red head
and spent a few minutes trying to get a good picture of it without scaring
it off.  I reached the junction for the lakes and Fall Creek Pass.  I
decided I would try to do both and headed up to the pass first.  It was a
pretty hike to start as there were views of the cascade falls to the left
and nice views of Lake Constantine back in the distance.  The wildflowers
were blooming, so that was pretty too.  The trail kept heading up and got
thinner and I had to push through some bushes.  I rounded a bend and was
thinking that I might have a rock scramble ahead, but the path curved to
the left.  After another curver and more up, the path reached the upper
basin.  I still had a ways to go through the basin, but I could see the
pass in the distance (the route to the pass was longer than it looked from
the map and I kept thinking that I should have just stuck with the lakes).
I headed down into the basin and then across and stepped in some water.
Great.  The path went through a marsh area and there were no way around -
so my shoes and socks got soaked.  There was another marshy area just
ahead, but my shoes were already wet so it wasn't an issue.  I headed up
and finally reached the pass.  It was pretty, but not worth all the effort
that it took to get there (I've seen prettier pass areas).  To my left was
a long portion of the Mount of the Holy Cross ridge (the summit wasn't
visible) and a little ways past the pass was a view down on 2 of the Seven
Sisters Lakes.  As I said, pretty, but not stunning.  I didn't stay long
as I still wanted to go to the lakes and I didn't know if the weather
would hold out - it was 12:45 and there were clouds in the area.  So I
headed bsck across the basin and got my shoes soaked again.  I took a
break after the basin and took my shoes and socks off for a few minutes.
I couldn't bear to put my wet socks back on, so I put on a dry pair
(knowing that they wouldn't stay dry long as the shoes were still wet) -
and my feet were glad that I did so.  I headed back down, down, down to
the junction (and looked for a way to cut over to the lakes trail, but
didn't see one that would avoid the ponds in the area between the two
trails).  I reached the junction, took a brief break, and then headed a
steep up.  It was less than a mile (more like 1/2 mile) to the Lower
Tuhare Lake from the junction, but, man, did they make you work for it.
The trail headed a harsh up, including a couple of rock scrambles, and
reached a pretty view of the falls from the lake as the water dropped,
then headed along a slanted rock slope, and then dropped some more.  The
trail headed steeply up near the falls, so I head pretty views while I
huffed-and-puffed.  The lake was just ahead and it was worth the effort.
The smaller sized lake (which I'm always partial to) was set in a little
bowl with a waterfall on the far side.  I found a pretty spot at the end
of the lake at sat for about 15 minutes (my longest rest so far) and
enjoyed the view.  I would have sat longer, but I wanted to go to the
upper lake and the weather was still questionable.  The path went around
the lower lake and then headed up the ridge near the falls - it was a
steep up, but not as hard as the way to the lower lake.  Near the top, was
a nasty rock scramble that included a 10-foot rock climb - not my favorite
thing.  I made to the lake and found that I liked the lower lake better.
The larger lake in a rock bowl was pretty with the rugged Holy Cross ridge
on 2 sides.  I talked with someone at the lake for a little bit and then
decided to head down as I'd rather spend my time at the lower lake.  The
rock climb down killed my nerves - I tried finding an easier way down, but
that was the way I had to go.  I managed to get down okay, but my body was
shaking afterwards and it took me a few minutes before I could make the
rest of the steep down.  I made it to the lower lake and found a different
(easier to get to) spot to sit for a few minutes.  Again, the weather was
a concern and I wanted to get down past the hard stuff to the junction
before any rain came, so I only sat there for a few minutes.  The rain
stayed away and I made the junction without any problem.  I took a break
at the junction and then headed back to Lake Constantine and took another
break there (pulling out my book for the first time of the hike).
Amazingly, the weather still held and I took 2 more breaks (needed rest as
my body was tired) as I finished the last 4 miles of the hike.  It was my
second consecutive day of a 12 hour outing, and my feet let me know that
they weren't happy with all that hiking.  Fortunately I had a milder day
planned for the next day (just 6.6 miles).

Sunday, August 1 - I lazed around a little in the morning as I didn't want
to head down that rough 8 miles of dirt road until most of the Holy
Crossers had already arrived.  I eventually headed out (only encountering
one car coming up as I headed down) - it took almost an hour to drive
those 8 miles.  Then it was over to I70 and then down to Breckenridge.  I
had planned for a lighter day and it was a good thing as the weather
outlook was very poor.  The skies were fully overcast (both at Holy Cross
and Breckenridge).  I found the trailhead for the Mohawk Lakes and started
my hike around 10:30.  The mild trail went through the trees and
eventually reached the uneventful Mayflower Lake.  But from there the
trail headed up alongside a waterfall, with a couple of cabin ruins (and
one still standing) in the area.  At the top was the remains of a tram
structure - kind of neat - and the lower Mohawk Lake was just ahead.  I
found a nice spot and sat and enjoyed the pretty (but not stunning) lake
for a bit.  The mine relics actually detracted from the lake as the mine
mounds marred the scenery.  Even with it likely to rain soon, I headed up
to the upper lake, with the trail again going alongside a waterfall.  As I
correctly figured, it started to rain as I neared the lake.  I headed up a
little from the lake and found a some what shaded spot under a couple of
pine trees and sat for an hour while it rained.  The rain turned to
drizzle and soon stopped and I decided to head down with the pause in the
weather, first taking a couple of pictures of the upper lake (there were 2
lakes above that area that I had thought about going to, but the weather
dictated that I head back).  I made it back to the lower lake with only
slight drizzle and took a short break there.  I also made it down from the
lower lake with only slight drizzle and then took my time the rest of the
way back.  It did rain a couple of times (with storms to the east) as I
headed back, but I simple waited out the heavier stuff under trees.  I
made a grocery stop and called by parents in Breckenridge, while it
rained, and then headed over to the small town of Alma and another dirt
road drive (this time 6 miles) to Kite Lake, where I hoped to hit 4 14ers
the next day (weather permitting - it rained most of the evening).

Monday, August 2 - There were low white clouds in the morning, but nothing
seemed threatening so I started my hike for the Mt Democrat-Mt Cameron-Mt
Lincoln-Mt Bross quad hike (figuring if worse came to worse I could abort
the hike and do what was left the next day).  With the clouds, it was cold
so I layered up - and stayed layered up until the end of the hike.  So I
headed up, up, up to the saddle between Mt Democrat and Mt Cameron.  The
clouds remained, but the weather held so I headed the rocky up Mt
Democrat.  I did give an "Oh, crap!" at the false summit for the peak, but
fortunately the real summit wasn't too far ahead.  I reached my 20th
overall 14er and gave a yelp of joy when stepping on the highest point of
Mt Democrat.  Unfortunately the views weren't very good as there was cloud
cover all around (I was there when the clouds weren't actually on the
summit, as was the case part of the morning - in fact, shortly after I
left).  With lots more hiking to go, I didn't stay long at the peak and
headed back down to the saddle.  From the saddle, it was up to Mt Cameron.
I was surprised at how easy the trail was - graveled most of the way and
almost no rock crossings.  But it was probably the worst summit I've been
to.  I keep looking for the summit as the trail went over a couple of
large mounds and realized the summit was simply a small rock pile in the
middle of a mound.  Again the views were lacking due to the cloud cover.
But I could see Mt Lincoln straight ahead and not too far away, so I
headed for my 3rd peak of the morning (crossing my fingers that the
weather would hold out).  It looked like it was going to be a bit of a
climb to Mt Lincoln, but ended up being a fairly easy hike as there was a
trail all the way to the peak (no rock scramble like I expected).  I was
still hoping to do one more summit this day, so I again didn't stay long
at Mt Lincoln (plus the clouds were still low).  Once reaching the saddle
between Mt Cameron and Mt Bross, it was a road walk to the summit of Mt
Bross (like Cameron, not that exciting of a summit).  So with weather
threatening, I headed down on the Bross-Kite Lake trail.  It was a nasty
trail with loose rock that took some care to go down (if I had known the
trail was like that, I would have returned to Cameron and taken the better
trail back down).  The weather finally broke at around 1 pm as a light
rain started - fortunately I was past most of the hard stuff (still some
rock area to go down, but the trail soon improved and there were actually
rock steps).  The rain didn't last long, though.  I did have to make a wet
water crossing and changed briefly into my water shoes.  I was annoyed a
little later as there was another short wet water crossing and I simply
then left my water shoes on as the parking area was a short ways ahead.
Soon after I arrived at my car, a light rain began.  With the 4 14ers this
day, my 14er total for the trip is up to 17.  After a bit, I drove back
down the pot hole, slow going dirt road and then headed back to I70.  I
stopped and had a piece of chicken at Kentucky Fried Chicken before
heading over to the trailhead for Grays Peak - with 3 miles of dirt road
(my car must hate me by now).  And there is yet another rainy evening,
with heavy rains, as I sit here typing this.

Tuesday, August 3 - I got up in the morning surprised at all the vehicles
that were in the parking area - there were only 3 when I went to sleep and
the lot was near full at 6 am.  I got up and headed out hoping the weather
would hold and I'd be able to summit both Grays Peak and Torreys Peak
(with the two sharing a saddle).  The weather was nice in the morning, but
that wasn't uncommon.  The trail headed mildly up the valley for 1.5 miles
before starting the climb.  Then it was up, up, up, with a number of
people passing me, including a group of 6 monks.  The summit looked so
close yet it was really a lot more work away.  I switchbacked up the face
of Grays and then reached the summit.  I took a rest at the summit and
said hello to a couple of friendly dogs that were at the peak and then
headed down to the saddle.  It was a steeper down to the saddle and then a
steeper up to Torreys Peak, but I made it with no problem (and the weather
held).  So 2 14ers this day (making it 6 in 2 days).  Torreys was also my
25th overall 14er, so that was exciting.  The clouds started threatening,
so I headed down.  Along the way, a fellow hiker pointed out to me where 4
white-tailed ptarmigans were, so that was neat.  The rain held out until I
was at the easier section (last 1.5 miles) and then stopped almost as soon
as I put on my rain poncho.  I reached my car and that ended my good day.
I was looking in my hiking purse for my car keys and couldn't find them.
Sure enough, there they were sitting in the center console of my locked
car.  Great.  I was sure I had placed them in my hiking purse before I had
left, but obviously I hadn't.  Of course there was no cell phone service
at the trailhead.  A nice couple gave me a drive down to the lower parking
area and let me use their cell phone to call AAA (my phone, of course, in
the car).  I called AAA and explained that my locked car was 3 miles up a
dirt road and they said that the service person would pick me up and take
me to my car and unlock it at no charge (as part of AAA's service).  After
the full hour of waiting (fortunately the rain held out), the service
person arrived and told me that he had to charge me $90 to go up that
road.  I said AAA told me it was no charge, but he insisted that he had to
charge me but that I could probably fill a claim with AAA to be
reimbursed.  Great.  I had no option (with no phone) but to pay the fee.
After the drive up the road, it took him less than 5 minutes to open the
car.  I love people who take advantaged of others in tough situations.  So
with access to my car, I headed over to Georgetown where I was going to
take the drive up to Guanella Pass where the trailhead for Mt. Bierstadt
is located.  Bierstadt was to be my 20th 14er of the trip (my goal) and by
doing it the next day I would have done 20 in a month (having started my
trip July 4), so I was really looking forward to it.  There were road
construction signs that said that the road was closed at Clear Lake - not
good, but I didn't know how far up Clear Lake was.  So I drove up and it
was definitely closed well before the pass.  Great.  I drove back to
Georgetown and stopped at the visitor center and asked if the road was
open to the pass from the south side.  I was told that it was.  With that
20th goal in mind, I opted to take an over 100 mile detour to reach the
pass from the south side.  I arrived at the pass around 9 pm with it being
dark and quickly got ready for bed as threatening clouds were approaching
(and it did storm).  Great.

Wednesday, August 4 - I woke up at 6 am and took a look to the west and
didn't like the clouds I was seeing.  I decided to wait 30 minutes and see
if the clouds were approaching the area I was at.  Yup, there were and
around 7 am it started raining.  I was surprised at the number of people
who still headed out despite the weather.  I had figured it was going to
be a wasted day and dozed for a while.  A little before 9 am, I looked out
to see some blue sky with light white clouds (non-rain) - the storm clouds
were on the peaks to the east and moving away.  I decided to give the hike
a go, figuring I could turn around if the weather changed.  So I headed
out at 9:10.  The trail went by a pretty pond as the trail headed down
from the parking area - I then watched a duck land on the pond, causing a
ripple.  Then was a wet water crossing - have I mentioned lately how much
I love my water shoes?  The trail then started the climb and the weather
was holding.  I reached the green slope and headed up and south toward the
ridge.  And up towards the ridge.  And up towards the ridge.  Man, it took
forever to finally reach that ridge.  Once I reached the ridge, it was
only 250 feet and a rock scramble (not as difficult as Holy Cross) to the
summit.  I reached the summit and stomped on the geo-marker (once I found
it) and celebrated my 20th 14er in a month's span.  Although the weather
was still good where I was at, there were storm clouds to the south and to
the east - and once those two started thundering I decided to head down
(south and east weren't likely to come my way, but there were rain clouds
to the west in the distance) - so once again my visit to a summit was not
very long.  I managed to make it down just past the difficult stuff when
the light rain started.  I put my rain gear on as I figured it was going
to rain off and on the rest of the hike - it never did seriously rain
until after I was at my car - and kept my poncho on as I quick-walked back
(didn't like the thunder, even though those storms were not above me).  I
made the long drive back to I70 (this time going by Breckenridge instead
Denver, which seemed to take forever).  I decided to take the next day off
in celebration of my 20th 14er and decided to do the lazy 14er and drove
over to Mt. Evans.  With the long drive, I didn't get to Evans until
around 8:30 (with the cloud cover, there was no sunset).  The road goes
almost to the top of Mt Evans (14,264) and I arrived at the top parking
lot as it was starting to get dark.  I grabbed my camera and sweatjacket
and hopped out of the car ... and froze.  I was in a t-shirt and shorts
with my hiking sandals on (no socks) and that jacket and it was about 38
degrees with a bit of wind.  But I was racing the dark, so I headed up the
easy trail in about 5 minutes to the summit of Evans.  I snapped a couple
of pictures - you can see the lights from Denver at the peak - and
quick-walked back to my car and put the heater on.  I stayed at the
campground 14 miles down the road.

Thursday, August 5 - I woke up early and decided to drive up Evans again
for the sunrise.  I was a little late as the sunrise occurred during the
drive, but it worked out okay as it occurred when I was near a pond with a
nice view of the mountains, so I stopped and snapped a picture and then
watched the sunrise the rest of the drive up.  I was surprised that I was
the only one at the summit (it is a tourist spot).  I enjoyed the solitude
and views from the peak (with being able to see more with the light than
the evening before) - and being more bundled up than I was the night
before.  I took my time driving down and stopped at a couple of places to
snap some pretty pictures.  I then stopped at Echo Lake and took some time
to catch up on these trip notes.  Since my drive north was to take me by
Winter Park, you can guess what was on my mind, Dad.  I pulled into the
ski resort area, shelled out $15 (ouch), and got in line for the ski lift
for the Alpine Slide.  I endured the fear of the ski lift (white knuckled)
and got my cart and zoomed down the slide with a big grin on my face and a
couple of whoo-hoo's.  I went so fast that I had to slow down near the end
(actually using the break) as I caught up to the kid in front of me.  I
don't know if it was really worth $15 for just one ride, but it was a
blast and I don't think I can go by Winter Park in the summer without
stopping there.  I stopped at Pizza Hut and restocked for my dinners (long
overdue) and then continued north, looking for an RV park.  I had hoped to
do some laundry and get a hot shower and get online, but (unbelievable)
couldn't find an RV park.  I had looked up a place for Granby before I
left, but it was no where to be found and the only other RV park didn't
have showers, so I'd have to wait until I got to Estes Park (and I was
_really_ looking forward to that shower).  So I headed over to Monarch
Lake, where the trailhead for Cascade Creek is located (my hike for the
next day).  I talked to a lady about hiking at the info station for about
an hour and then went to my car and read until it was time to go to bed
(the mosquitoes kept me in my car - fortunately they don't come out in the
cool morning, so they weren't a problem as I started my hike).

Friday, August 6 - Back to hiking, I headed out along the Cascade Creek
trail to Crater Lake, 7.3 miles up the trail.  It started out as a
peaceful morning and I was first on the trail.  I reached the cascade area
(the creek lives up to its name) and took a rest.  A couple of people
passed me while I was resting.  I took a picture of another cascade and a
larger group went by - I decided to wait a little bit so that they would
get further up the trail.  As I headed back on the trail, I briefly talked
with two young teenagers.  They said that they were from the Woodland
(girls) Cross Country team and there were _60_ of them on the hike.  Whoa.
They were spread out some, so I tried to keep in front of most of them
(except for the group that had already passed), hoping to reach the lake
before they did.  I soon saw a small gathering standing and watching
something - it was a male moose near the trail.  He was happily eating and
shouldn't have been a problem passing him on the trail, except for one
fool who was getting too close just to take a picture (more people are
killed by moose in the parks than any other animal).  I snapped my picture
(from a distance) and decided to head on past before the moose got
annoyed, then rest of the group followed me and then soon passed me.  Some
more girls passed me and I reached the Crater Lake-Pawnee Lake junction
and continued toward Crater Lake.  I continued at a faster than usual pace
and was soon passing those girls as I had hiking shoes on and a hiking
stick which enabled me to move better across the muddy sections and the
rocks.  I reached the small Mirror Lake (looks like a large pond) and took
a picture of the lake with a slight reflection of Lone Eagle Peak on it
(seen better mirror lakes) and then continued, trying to keep in front of
the girls.  I reached Crater Lake and took an immediate left and found a
really nice place lake side.  It was a pretty, larger sized lake - and the
girls had settled further along the lake where I couldn't see them, but
occasionally a shout or shriek was heard when another group arrived.  And
then more shrieks as some girls either jumped in or were tossed in the
lake.  Fortunately, they only stayed about 20 minutes and then no more
shrieking.  I stayed about an hour with a pretty lunch spot and read some.
I was surprised that no one else was at the lake - I was expecting people
(though not the 60 group) on this pretty and supposedly popular hike on a
pretty summer day.  I then headed back to Mirror Lake and sat there for
about 20 minutes.  I went back to the trail junction and decided to head
up to Pawnee Lake (Crater Lake was actually a mile less than I was
expecting), a mile from the junction.  But a lot of up as it switchbacked
up.  Then it was mild with some pretty views and then it seemed to be
taking forever to reach the lake (but maybe that was just because I rushed
the last mile to Crater Lake).  I finally reached the lake and found it to
be very pretty and was glad that I was able to hit both lakes (they're
different and I wouldn't know which one to recommend if someone only had
time for one of the lakes).  Unfortunately my good weather didn't last and
it started to drizzle while I was at the lake, so I didn't stay as long as
I would have liked.  I started heading down and some thunder to the south
kept me moving.  Of course, 30 minutes later, the blue skies were back and
it didn't rain again.  I took my time heading down (staying at the
trailhead that night) and took long breaks at each of the cascades, even
though they were near each other.  So that was my little 16.6 mile hiking

[Saturday's and today's notes will be in part 4]

There are 8 pictures for this writeup at


Part 4

Saturday, August 7 - I have the worst timing with Rocky Mountain National
Park (last time I was there was Labor Day weekend) as I was going to be in
the popular park on the weekend.  I got up early and took the long drive
over the Ridge Crest Road (I've done the drive before, so I didn't make
stops along the drive).  I found the elk early in the park as they were
eating alongside the road on the drive in.  After almost 2 hours, I
reached the trailhead for Lawn Lake.  One thing I should point out that I
haven't is that the devastation caused by the mountain pine beetle (which
kills lots of pines and leaves them standing with brown pine needles) is
really noticeable in the Lake Granby area and in Rocky Mountain National
Park - the damage starts to become visible once you get north of I70.  Up
for the day was a 15.4 mile little hike up past Lawn Lake to the Crystal
Lakes.  The trail to Lawn Lake heads up a valley that was widened by a
flash flood in 1982 that was caused when the dam at Lawn Lake collapsed.
For safety reasons, the trail stayed mostly in the trees instead of next
to the creek (with the high, but unstable dirt walls) and was fairly
uneventful.  I reached Lawn Lake a little over 6 miles in and could tell
where the water level used to be before the dam collapsed.  It was still
very pretty, but I only stayed lakeside a little while as it was very
windy at the lake.  I continued up to the Crystal Lakes, wondering where
the crowds were on this so far beautiful Saturday.  I hooked a left with
the trail and headed across a stream in front of a small waterfall in a
bed of wildflowers.  I then reached a pretty pond, but it was not my
destination.  I then reached a pretty lake, but it was not my destination.
After a little bit of rock scrambling, I reached the very pretty upper
Crystal Lake.  I wandered around a little bit and took a few pictures
before finding a nice spot to sit lakeside, still wondering where everyone
was as I couldn't believe that I was the only one at this beautiful spot.
I sat for an hour and enjoyed the lake.  Of course, the clouds started
rolling in.  I headed down to the lower lake and was going to sit there
for a while, but the drizzle started and I didn't sit long.  Of course,
almost as soon as I passed the pond heading out it stopped drizzling.  I
continued down and went back to Lawn Lake and tried to sit there for a
while, but the clouds started spitting at me again.  And again, just after
I left the lake the drizzling stopped.  I took my time on the way back
with some reading-resting breaks and some hunkering under trees to avoid
rain and avoid putting my rain gear on.  I finally relented in putting my
poncho on and, of course, the rain soon stopped and didn't rain again the
rest of the way down.

Sunday, August 8 - I got up early and headed over to the Bear Lake area,
trying to beat the crowds.  It was still a little cold and was windy in
the parking lot, so I decided to sit in the car for about an hour.  I
layered up and headed on up on the little 1 mile hike to Dream Lake, my
favorite in the park.  I had beat the crowds and had the lake to myself.
But, as expected, it was very windy at the lake.  There was also a heavy
layer of clouds on the peaks above the lake - this was a concern as the
hike up to Flattop Mountain was my hike for the day and it was the
mountain above to the right in the clouds.  I decided to take the 1 mile
hike over a ridge to Lake Haiyaha and hoped that the clouds would move as
the morning went on.  I had been to Lake Haiyaha before, but it had been a
while since I visited the boulder surrounded lake.  As I approached the
lake, I could see that there were also clouds layered on the peaks above
the lake as well as the gap between them.  Then I noticed the rainbow.
Really.  I tried to make my way quickly over the rocks to get closer to
the lake, fearing the rainbow would disappear, but it stayed and I took
tons of pictures - though they didn't do my rainbow justice.  I then sat
in a comfortable spot on the rocks above the lake.  It was windy, cold,
and misty, but I had the biggest grin on my face and was thrilled with my
rainbow - I stayed there for a while and had trouble making myself
eventually leave (no reading at this spot, simply watching my rainbow over
the lake).  And there was nobody else at the lake to share the majesty - I
did see a handful of people heading to the lake as I headed back to Dream
Lake and hopefully the rainbow was still there when they arrived.  I took
another stop at Dream Lake before heading back to the parking area - the
crowds had arrived by 9 am as there were a ton of people heading up to
Dream Lake as I headed down and the lot was already near full.  I then
headed in front of Bear Lake to catch the trailhead for Flattop Mountain -
I figured I would either reach the top or the clouds and would turn around
with which ever came first.  As I was heading up, a guy and his kids were
stopped looking at something.  I figured it was just a squirrel or
something fairly common, but he pointed out that it was a male grouse.  I
had never see one before and the grouse was showing off for a female in
the area with his tail feathers spread and orange-red throat thing
bulging.  And he was good enough to pose for pictures for us.  Pretty
neat.  I continued up and up and reached the Dream Lake overlook.  The
lake doesn't look like much from above - I'll stick my wonderful lakeside
views.  But the spot does have a nice view of the distant Mills Lake with
Longs Peak above - however, Longs Peak was in the clouds for all the
morning and early afternoon.  The trail continued up, up, and up to the
Emerald Lake overlook - now Emerald Lake is actually prettier from above
than lakeside.  And the trail continued up, up, and up and it was very
windy and the wind had quite a bit of nip to it.  I had thought the top
was the ridge above, but the trail turned out to go behind that ridge and
there was still a good ways to go.  I nearly turned around a couple of
times because of the wind (not because I was tired) - it was really windy
and the wind was cold.  But I wanted to see the Dream Lake valley from
above and the glacier that is at the top of the valley, so I pressed
onward with my stubbornness kicking in.  And I had to go all the way to
the top to get those views, so I made it.  I snapped my pictures and
quickly turned around and headed down, trying to get feeling back in my
fingers.  Since the hard stuff was over, I took a few longer breaks (out
of the wind) heading back down.  I made a sidetrip back to my car and
grabbed a slice of cold pizza and headed back up to Dream Lake, where I
had an early dinner.  I then headed out of the park, made an overdue call
to my parents, and stopped for a hot shower and laundry.  Laundry took a
lot longer than I expected and I ended up not reaching my campsite until
11:30 pm.

Monday, August 9 - I woke up early (without an alarm clock) and headed
over to the Wild Basin area of Rocky Mountain National Park (southwest
area of the park) where I was planning on hiking to Bluebird Lake, which
had been recommended to me by someone on the Lawn Lake hike.  The sky was
fully overcast and I headed on out around 6 am.  I had gone about 1/3 mile
and realized I was really forcing myself to move and I was simply very
tired (sleepy) and decided to turnaround and take a nap and see if I felt
more like hiking later - plus it was drizzling and the fact that it soon
started raining after I returned to my car made this a very good decision.
I slept and doze for about 2 hours, with the sun actually waking me
(though the sun didn't stay long).  I felt much, much better and could
tell once I started hiking again the different in my attitude.  So I
headed up the trail with a number of other people.  The first event is the
Copeland Falls - they should be ashamed that they actually named that
short drop of water.  After over a mile past that is a pretty cascade
(worthy of being called a waterfall).  While I was resting there, a group
of about 6 horseback riders went by.  And they were slow going as I soon
caught up with them and then took a couple of breaks just to let them get
further ahead and lets the smells air out.  After another mile was a
waterfall and fortunately the horses stopped there, as did most of the
people.  With the horses stopped, I didn't and continued on.  At a
junction further on, I was talking with a pair from Seattle when the
horses approached and I said a quick goodbye and headed up the left branch
- but the horseback riders took the right branch, so that was a needless
worry.  The trail then went through a burn area from a 1978 fire.  The
regrowth was still thin enough that the distance views were good.  I
continued straight past the Ouzel Lake side branch (weather issues and
time made me skip the sidetrip) and was later glad I did so when I looked
down on the tree surrounded lake and it didn't look to be worth the extra
effort.  It started to drizzle on me as I approached the non-burn area and
soon found a nice resting spot under a pine tree and sat there for a while
until the drizzle stopped - even saw a hummingbird while 
sitting.  I then continued on as the trail started its tougher up, going
through the trees and then a rocky section (with still a good trail).  I
reached a small basin and it was pretty with a waterfall straight ahead
and then another to the left.  But of course, the lake was above the
waterfall so that meant a big up was ahead.  Up, up, up I went (but not
too long), but it was pretty with the waterfall to the left visible most
of the way and then some sections of wildflowers.  I reached the pretty
lake - it was worth the effort - and made my way over the rocks to
lakeside.  I found a great spot and took off my shoes and socks and
planned on staying for a while.  But the weather did not cooperate.  I
hadn't been there too long when it started to drizzle.  I was going to
wait that out, but it looked like more rain clouds were on the way, so I
put my shoes back on and prepared to move.  As I was doing so, another
person arrived at the lake (and I startled him as my great spot was kind
of hidden) and was setting up a timer for his camera, so I offered to take
the shot.  And the rain stopped.  Well, I was up and moving and decided to
head down the steeper part before more rain came.  I got down and then
took my time heading back with taking several longer breaks along the way
(and the weather held the rest of the way).  I probably should have moved
a little faster as I didn't get to the East Portal for the Moffat railroad
tunnel (and trailhead for my next day hike) until after dark.

Tuesday, August 10 - I woke up early as usual, but didn't start my hike
right away as I only had about 50 pages left in my book and decided to
finish it before heading out.  The sky was clear blue in the morning and I
headed out into the James Peak Wilderness with the hope of hitting a
number of mountain lakes (there are several in the area, which made this a
prime spot for me to visit).  I first took the mandatory picture of the
Moffat train tunnel (completed in 1927 and still in use) and then headed
out along the old road bed for Rogers Pass (old as in early 1900s).  After
a mile was the junction for the Forest and Arapaho Lakes.  I continued
along the trail, heading up and kept going.  I promised myself a rest at
the junction for the Forest and Arapaho Lakes, but never found that
junction and eventually rested as I needed one.  I then reached a tree
surrounded lake and had no idea where I was at as the trail went around
the left side of the lake and my map showed no lakes with a trail around
the left side.  Well, it was definitely a trail, so I continued along it
and soon reached another larger lake.  The lake was very pretty with the
ridge of the Contential Divide directly above it.  There were a pair of
people fishing in the lake, so I asked one if I was at the Forest or
Arapaho Lakes.  He said Forest (and had come from Moffat Road).  So now I
knew where I was at.  Apparently they redid the trail when the area became
a wilderness and the map I had was of the old route.  With the fishers at
the lake and wanting to hit some more lakes, I didn't stay long at the
largest of the Forest Lakes (the lower lake was also a Forest Lake and
there are a couple more not on the trail).  I headed back down, keeping a
careful eye out for the branch for the Arapaho Lakes, but found no sign
for it and any trail branch I saw had tree branches across them (an
indication not to use the trail any more) - I even tried a bit of old road
bed I saw below the newer trail, but it petered out.  So no Arapaho Lakes
for me.  I went back to the Rogers Pass trail and headed up for the Crater
Lakes.  After the Crater-Rogers junction, the trail headed up, up, up and
more up.  Phew, I thought I was back on the Columbine Lake trail near
Silverton the way that trail kept heading sharply up.  It finally reached
a ridge and then was fairly mild a short ways to the first lake, on the
left.  I made my way lakeside and really liked this little lake.  There
was a green slope on the west side with the Divide peaking above it.  I
didn't stay long as there were 2 more lakes along this hike.  A short ways
ahead was a branch to the right that went to the 2nd lake.  That lake
didn't catch my interest - it was a lot larger and I didn't think as
scenic.  I tried to figure out which way the trail went past the lakes and
ended up back-tracking some.  Turns out the route goes alongside the west
edge of the 2nd lake and then next to the inlet stream.  Well, on my map
it looked like a normal trail, but reality was that it was little more
than a path (goat path is what I call trails like this).  The dirt path
headed up sharply next to the falls - so sharp that it made the earlier
hike up to the first Crater Lake look easy.  But I was stubborn and
continued heading up.  The path cross the stream at a safe spot and then
was more of a steep rocky up.  The good news was the top of that was the
end of the climb.  The narrow path went through the brush (I had to push
away some small pine branches to get through) as it made its way around a
small pond and over some rocks.  Then I could see the very pretty lake.
But I couldn't get to it as the small trees and bushes went all the way to
lakeside.  I even crossed the outlet stream to see if I could find a
lakeside resting spot on that side, but no such luck.  I didn't search too
hard as there were now some clouds in the area and I decided to make my
visit short to the lake in a bowl with the ridges of the Divide directly
above.  So I headed back down - it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be
(though it wasn't easy either).  The weather held and I went back to the
first lake, which I liked the best, and stayed there for a while.  I
didn't rush heading back, but didn't take long breaks as there weren't
really scenic spots along the way.  I was staying at the same place for
the night and wanted to catch up on my trip notes (doing so now).
Amazingly the weather held the entire day, making it a very rare rainless
day on my trip (either just my 3rd or 4th) [my theme song of the trip is
"Here Comes the Rain Again"].

Wednesday, August 11 - I had originally planned on taking this day off as
I had a long drive between the Moffat area (well west of Boulder) and my
next planned hike near Westcliffe (well west of Pueblo).  But I still had
another lake area for where I was at and decided to take the 10 mile hike
to Rogers Pass before starting my drive.  So I headed back along the
Rogers Pass trail, repeating the first 1.5 miles to the Crater Lakes
junction and continuing straight.  The trail varied between the old road
and true trail sections as it headed through the trees near a creek,
mostly at not a hard up.  The trail turned a bend and started to head up
more (though still not too hard) and it criss-crossed the creek.  It then
reached a pretty basin with a small pond to the left, with lots of
wildflowers, and I could see some of the ridges and peaks of the
Continental Divide ahead.  After taking a break at that pretty spot, I
soon reached the largest of the Rogers Lakes - didn't stay long as I had
just taken a break.  The trail headed up a green slope (and this was an
up) and the larger Heart Lake (not heart shaped, but a weird shape) was
straight ahead.  I headed towards it and stopped at a rock well above the
lake.  I was debating between staying at the lake or continuing up to the
pass (and that would definitely be an up).  I sat for a few minutes
looking between the lake and the pass trail and then got up and headed up
to the pass trail.  It was less than a mile to the pass, but a lot of
elevation to be gained.  The trail switchbacked up and up, with some good
views down on both Heart Lake and the Rogers Lakes.  The trail took a last
switchback and then headed up at an angle for a ways - the good news was
there was no false peak and the pass was at the end of the angle.  I
reached the Continental Divide and looked down the east side to the ski
slopes of Winter Park and then looked to the south at James Peak, taking
some pictures.  I went back to the pass and saw sections of the old road
bed (Rogers Pass was a toll road that competed with the nearby Rollins
Pass) and then headed back down.  With my long drive ahead, I didn't take
many breaks as I headed back and was on the road by 2 pm.  I drove down to
I70, over to Hwy 470 (and made a grocery stop), down along I25 (made an
Arbys stop), and over along Rt 96 to Westcliffe (and made another grocery
stop), arriving after 6 pm.  I then drove the 6 miles of (not too bad)
dirt road towards the Humboldt Peak area.  I was very concerned when I saw
the "4 wheel drive only past this point" sign - the upper trailhead was
almost 3 miles ahead.  I actually took my sedan up the road a short ways
before deciding that I didn't want to take my car up that road and turned
around.  Great.  With the extra road walk, it would have been an 18 mile
(and tons of elevation) hike, and that was more than I wanted to do.  I
was very disappointed as I was looking forward to this hike as the trail
went by 2 lakes as it headed up the 14er (and my driving directions said
the last 3 miles were "rough 2wd" so I thought it wouldn't be a problem).
So what to do now.  I headed over to Salida and decided to car-camp at the
Mt. Shavano trailhead, knowing my car could reach that spot and I wouldn't
have a problem car-camping in the area and would be reaching it in the
dark (where as there were also road questions for my next planned hike,
plus I had to go through Salida on my way to that hike) - it gave me the
option of re-hiking Shavano the next day (with trying to get Tabeguache
Peak), though it wasn't likely I'd do that as the Shavano hike was a long
one.  Plus it started raining as soon as I arrived at my camp spot, and
continued raining until after I fell asleep.

Thursday, August 12 - As expected, I didn't feel like re-hiking up to Mt.
Shavano in the morning (and didn't wake up until 6:30 am).  I decided to
go back Salida and get some hot cakes at McDonalds [it seems the only time
I ever go to McDonalds is when I'm on vacation].  Though there were blue
skies above, as I was driving away from Shavano I could see a layer of
clouds to the west, so it was a good thing I decided not to do that hike
as I probably wouldn't have reached Tabeguache Peak again.  I had my
hotcakes and took advantage of the outlet socket on the wall and caught up
on my trip notes.  I took a short stop at a National Forest building and
looked at a map of the area to see if there were any mountain lakes not
too far away - just the O'Hare Lake along the drive south, which I
recalled.  So I took a little sidetrip and drove the dirt roads to O'Hare
Lake - it wasn't that exciting and I just stayed there while I made up
some sandwiches and breakfasts (Nutella on bagels).  I then headed down to
the San Luis Valley and over to the small town of Crestone.  I kept my
fingers crossed that my car would be able to make it to the trailhead as I
headed up 2 miles of dirt road.  After a mile was a 4-wheel drive only
sign - great.  I decided to ignore the sign and see how far up the road
(it wasn't as steep as the Humboldt road) my car could go.  It was rough,
but not too bad for a now experienced dirt road driver and I managed to
make it all the way to the trailhead parking area.  I parked and settled
in for the day - it was about 2 pm.  I pulled out my camping chair and
found a nice spot under a tree and read for a while.  I eventually
returned to my car and sat in it and finished the book (which I started
the same day) and then went to bed.  I did have a gorgeous sunset at the

Friday, August 13 - I was going to get up at 5 am and get going, but it
took me a while to get moving and I didn't head out until 6:15 am.  Up for
the day was the hike up to Willow Lake and then on to Challenger Point, a
14er.  The trail switchbacked up through the trees, over a ridge, and up a
lot more in the next valley with tons of switchbacks (annoyingly, a number
of them didn't have much umph - if you're going to switchback, you want to
go up some for the extra distance).  After a little over 4 miles, I
reached the very pretty lake and found a nice spot and sat and enjoyed the
view for a bit.  The good-sized mountain lake has a sheer wall on the far
side with a waterfall going down the middle and then the rugged peaks
above.  After my not too long rest, I continued around the lake and then
up the headwall - it actually wasn't that hard of an up.  I enjoyed the
views of the lake from above.  I then followed the trail as it went
through the brush and to a small rock field.  I headed up and wasn't quite
sure which way to go and ended up going to the right, following some rock
cairns and bits of trails - wrong.  I ended up heading mostly off trail
(definitely off the standard route) as I went up the steep and rocky
slope, at times using my hands to help me along and almost never standing
up straight.  Early on (with an idea I was on the wrong route) I thought
about turning around - would have been a wise decision - but I kept going.
Despite the tough route, I would occasionally spot other footprints and
cairns so I wasn't positive I was on the wrong route.  After a ton of
tough up, I reached a notch at the ridge - and the route description I had
described a notch but it said you had to go through it and my notch had a
drop off on the other side and a steep up to the left (again, there was a
trail, so this was a route, just not the best route).  I went up it and
then the path headed left and did some scary things that I forced myself
through, thinking the peak was just ahead, but it kept going.  Heading
along a ridge, I spotted a couple and asked if they knew where Challenger
Point was and the lady pointed behind her (still ahead of me - I could see
it, but was hoping it wasn't it), but she also said that they thought the
dip between us was the notch (the one from the trail writeup).  I got
excited with the thought of being on the actual trail and eventually
joined them at the true notch.  I then headed on to the peak, with more of
a trail (and none of the scary stuff) - it was still rugged, but nothing
like I had been through.  I finally reached the summit (the 21st 14er of
the trip, 27th overall) and took a much needed rest there and said a
prayer of thanks for making it safely.  Fortunately the weather was
absolutely beautiful (otherwise I would have been in big trouble - or it
would have prevented me from going through some of that nasty stuff) and I
wasn't rushed at the peak.  There was a plaque at the summit honor the
astronauts from the Space Shuttle Challenger - I don't know if they
renamed the peak in honor of them in the 80s or if it already had that
name.  I headed back to the notch and took another break.  Three guys, who
were camping at the lot and I had talked to before, told me that it was
also a nasty up on the real trail.  Which meant that it would also be a
nasty down.  So I headed down, not sure how nasty it would be.  It was
nasty with a ton of loose dirt and rock at a steep slope (probably not as
bad as the way I went, but with my non-route I was able to stick more to
rock scrambling than loose stuff).  It took a ton of time to get down that
slope, even with the little help I had of route finding for two heading
down while I was above them heading up (I tried at one point to get to the
real trail, but there was a drop between where I was at and the real trail
- but I could see a better way for the two heading down and directed them
towards the grassy area).  I slipped a couple of times on that nasty loose
dirt, but only fell once (hard, but surprisingly don't (that I can tell)
have a bruise on my rear)).  It only took me 2 1/2 hours to get from the
summit down to the valley floor (top of the falls area).  Ouch.  I said
another prayer of thanks for getting down safely.  Even if I had gone up
the correct way, this still would have been a killer hike.  I decided that
Challenger Point hike is the ickiest one I've done, surpassing Castle Peak.
On the way down, with as much time and energy this hike was taking, I
decided to move the hike to Blanca Peak from the next day to Sunday and,
thus, I could take my time heading back and car-camp at the same spot.  I
took a good break at the top of the falls - and much needed as I didn't do
much more than pause as I headed from the notch to that spot (and you know
it's a killer down when you are huffing-and-puffing when going down).  I
talked with a guy camping with his father and gave him some advice about
the hike to the summit, which they were going to try the next day.  I then
went down to the pretty lake (would have been much happier if I had simply
spent my day at that beautiful place) and then sat there for a while.  I
then headed down and got to tell the weekenders heading up how much
further they had to go to get to the lake (and the campsites).  I took two
shorter breaks the rest of the way back and reached my car about when I
expected - a little after 8 pm (and after the sunset).  A really long day.

Saturday, August 14 - So after that tough day, I went for an easier day
and lazed around in the morning, not getting up until after 7:30 am.  I
decided to try the South Crestone Lake trail, which headed out off of the
same spot as the Willow Lake trail.  I didn't know how long it was to the
lake (from the area map near the start of the trail, it looked to be about
3 miles, but in reality was longer) or how much elevation gained, but I
gave it a go anyways.  The trail headed up and then switchbacked up a
hillside and then over to a green slope with more switchbacks.  The slope
was annoying as the trail is less used and the ground cover would brush
against my legs.  Then the trail was mild for a ways before heading up
again.  And then it was mild for a short bit before reaching a small falls
and some switchbacks up.  I had hoped that the lake was at the top of that
area, but nope, more mild and then yet another climb.  I reached a meadow
and could see a ridge ahead where the lake was probably above (with rugged
peaks all around), but took a look at it and decided I didn't want to go
up that ridge - I had been hiking for almost 3 hours.  I went a short ways
back to a shady spot and sat and rested and had a bite to eat.  After a
bit, I went back to the edge of the meadow and actually started through it
before stopping, taking another look at the ridge, and saying forget it
and turned around and headed back.  The hike back was fairly uneventful
(though I was surprised that I encountered a handful of people, including
a group of backpackers, as I had seen no one all morning).  I stopped at
the small grocery store in town and got a drumstick (ice cream) and then
headed over to the Lake Como Road (a little bit of a drive).  The road has
a reputation of being really nasty (even for 4-wheel drive vehicles) - and
it's over 5 miles up the road to Lake Como - but I was able to take my car
up 1.5 miles before pulling over at a nice little pulloff (with a small
tree to give me some privacy when necessary) and spent some time readying
for the next day (and needing the sun to go down and things to cool off
before I could call it a day as it was in the low 80s during the day).  I
actually probably could have taking my car up a little further (but not
too much), but this was a nice spot.  Oh, and not too jinx it, but two
straight days without rain!

[Sunday's and today's notes will be in part 5]

There are 7 pictures for this writeup at


[If you've tried to e-mail me while I've been gone (
and it bounced, it's because I've got full spam protection on my account
while I'm gone and the spam filter (which I don't control) bounced you for
some reason.  My account is still there.  Since I've had it for so long,
it's on almost every spam mailer out there and I get over 100 (mostly
junk) e-mails a day.  And since I knew I'd hardly have access while I was
on vacation and didn't want to waste my rare online time going through
over 1000 mail messages, I had the filter put on.  I'll remove it when I
return and you can send me a note then if you want.  Sorry for any

Part 5

Sunday, August 15 - My mom is from Alamosa and I could see the distinctive
Mt. Blanca in the distance from the farm as well as we drove by it when we
came from Dallas, so I was really, really hoping I could summit Mt Blanca.
Blanca is the 4th tallest in the state and is a long hike and not an easy
climb.  The first challenge is getting up that nasty Lake Como Road.  I
headed out early at 4:45 am by headlamp walking up the rocky and steep
road - my car did make it 1.5 miles up the road, so that saved me 3 miles
of hiking.  After about an hour, it was light enough that I didn't need
the headlamp any more.  But it was slow going as the rocks were loose and
the road angled some.  I reached the first spot of wondering how the heck
a vehicle gets over that and continued up along the road - the nasty Lake
Como Road is impossible for all but experienced 4 wheel drive drivers and
recommended for just short jeeps as a small wheel base is needed.  The
road reached a bend and actually headed down for a little bit.  As the
road started heading back up was another impossible road spot and they
actually had a name for this spot, "Jaws".  Someone told me that he had a
picture of a truck stuck on Jaws with all 4 wheels off the ground and oil
leaking out underneath.  The road continued up and there were a few more
"you got to be kidding me" road spots and I was actually grateful to be
hiking the road instead of in a vehicle as I'd be white knuckled on that
road in a vehicle.  It only took me 4 hours of road walking to reach Lake
Como (about 4 miles from my parking spot, but 3000 feet gained).  The lake
was nice, but not stunning.  I took a break there before continuing around
the lake and up above the treeline.  The road reached a basin with a pond
and a larger lake and that was the end of the road and the way up was
trail for a while.  The trail headed up next to a waterfall (surprisingly
not a hard up) to another basin with 3 ponds and a very pretty lake - the
trail didn't go next to the lake, so I just looked down on it, while
Ellingwood Peak was to my left and Mt. Blanca to my right and a saddle in
between them.  The pure rock trail soon faded and I was left following
cairns and orange tassels (that had been placed by the forest service to
mark the best way) as I rock crossed and some scrambled (using hands as
guide) my way up to the saddle.  It took a while, but I made it to the
saddle.  And that was the easy part as the way then headed along the ridge
or just below the ridge as a pure scramble all the way to the summit.  And
it was a narrow ridge was a steep drop on the other side, so I didn't go
up there unless it was the easier route at times.  The view was pretty at
the ridge.  It was rough and slow going as I made my way still up and over
towards the summit and the last up to the summit was unpleasant - but I
made it!  I was thrilled to have peaked Mt. Blanca and even took a trophy
picture at the top (something I rarely do).  There were 6 guys also from
the Dallas area at the top when I was there and we talked a little bit.  I
stayed on the peak a little while (it was a beautiful day) and took the
mandatory 360 degree pictures - the views were great.  It took another 4
hours to get from Lake Como to the summit (with the total hike to the
summit being over 6 miles and over 6000 feet gained).  And going down was
very slow as it simply takes time and caution to go down rocks.  I
eventually made it down to Crater Lake (the upper lake) and went lakeside
and sat for a while as I planned on taking my time heading back.  After
going down next to the falls and just past the lake down there, I rounded
a bend and saw movement to my right.  I stopped and looked and there were
4 young male big horn sheep staring at me.  They then resumed nibbling at
a firepit, where obviously someone had deposited some goodies.  I watched
them for a short bit (making sure I was a safe distance away from them)
and took a couple of pictures before heading on.  I took another long
break at Lake Como before tackling the road.  I talked with some people
while heading down the road (as they were heading up or parked for the
night) - I probably should have passed or shortened some of those
conversations, but I can't help but talk hiking with others.  The sun set
and I actually had to pull out my headlamp again.  There were storms to
the north and then there were also storms to the south and I was beginning
to wonder where my car was as I continued down the road, glancing to the
right with the headlamp to see if my car was there.  After a bit, I
actually pulled out my car keys and would press my lock button every few
minutes (I was afraid I'd pass my car in the dark), which would make my
car beep and flash its lights when it was within range.  I was very happy
when my car finally beeped at me and I saw the lights flash a short ways
ahead.  About 5 minutes after I reached my car, the storms arrived (and
stayed for a bit, complete with thunder and lightning).  I didn't reach my
car until 9:15, so it was a really long day.  But I did it!  Blanca was
the last 14er of my trip, making 22 14ers summited on this trip (and 28
that I've done overall).

Monday, August 16 - I was near Alamosa and my next hike was near
Telluride, so I had a long drive ahead of me.  I did do a drive by the
family farm (hard for me to do as it has changed so much since it was sold
a few years ago), was glad to see the Gray cabin was still standing, was
sad to see the old school house is still neglected, and took a brief stop
at my grandparents' gravesite.  I stopped at the Malt Shoppe in Pagosa
Springs (the shake was good, but the hamburger and onion rings didn't sit
well and I didn't eat much the rest of the day) before continuing on to
Durango and up and over towards Telluride.  I stopped at an RV site along
the way and got a shower (ahhhh) and did a load of laundry (and got online
a bit).  I then reached Lake Trout and drove the dirt road for 2 miles to
the Lake Hope road and then tortured my car a drove 2.5 miles of rough
dirt road up to the trailhead (managing not to damage my car - I'm getting
good at those rough dirt roads).  Parking was limited and angled at the
trailhead and I actually took my car back down to a nicer and more level
spot for the night.

Tuesday, August 17 - Obviously up for the day was the hike to Lake Hope.
I walked the road 1/3 mile back to the trailhead and enjoyed the pretty
hike through the trees.  The trail reached a more open area and I had
great views of the peaks across the valley in the morning light and then
back down on Trout Lake and the peaks in the far distance - a very pretty
spot and I stopped there again on the way back.  The trail went back into
the trees and then switchbacked up, up, up.  The trail exited the trees
(again with great views) and headed a little more up and then reached a
gap in the ridge and there was the lake.  It was a very pretty lake and I
was glad that this hike had been recommended to me.  I made my way down
lakeside and enjoyed the pretty area, surprised I was the only one there.
The only disappointment was that the lake was about 10 feet shallow (my
guess was that they release water from the dam (Lake Hope does have a dam)
to keep Trout Lake (with its tourist cabins) level).  But it was still
very pretty.  After about 30 minutes, I went back up to trail and decided
to head up it and see where it went - hoping it headed up to the pass
between two peaks with a view down the next valley.  It did (and wasn't
too hard of an up), but the view of the next valley wasn't that great (no
lake down there - I was hoping that it'd be the Ice Lake valley, but that
was too much to ask for), but the views of Lake Hope from above were great
and what made it worth going up towards the pass.  I went back down to the
lake and the crowds (okay, not really crowds, but a number of people) had
arrived.  I made my way back to lakeside (while, for some reason, no one
else did) and sat there for a while and had lunch.  Some clouds were
rolling in, but I still took my time heading back (never rained) and
enjoyed the pretty views.  A very pretty hike, not just with the pretty
lake.  I made it safely down the Lake Hope Road without killing my car and
headed over to Telluride.  I went to the view for Bridal Veil Falls and
saw that there was no car camping allowed there, and my hike the next day
would start there.  So I was wondering what I was going to do for the
night.  I found the city campground, but they wanted $20 for a night.  I
then went back outside of town and the forest service campground wanted
$16 for a night (okay, that was now my backup plan).  I had stopped at the
visitor center in town before I left and asked about how rough the Alta
Lakes Road was and was told that since I made it up the Lake Hope Road I
should have no problem with the Alta Lakes Road.  So I headed up that road
- I had wanted to see the lakes and had even considered hiking the road.
The road wasn't bad at all - in fact the only problem was when a vehicle
came the other way and wincing as they passed on that narrow road.  I
reached the small ghosttown of Alta and parked and looked around the area
with a number of buildings still standing and others not.  I could see
that the road got rougher, but it looked like I could find a way through
the rough spots, so I got back in my car and continued up the road
(weaving a little to avoid rocks) to the Alta Lakes.  The road reached the
campground at the lakes and I stopped and looked at the info sign - cost
for the night $0.  The road in the campground area was really rough, but I
managed to get my car into a nice little spot and stayed there for the
night.  I walked around the Alta Lakes - nice, but I was very glad I had
not hiked up to them as they weren't worth that effort - and then grabbed
my book and sat lakeside and read until it got dark.

Wednesday, August 18 - I got up early and headed down from the Alta Lakes
(wanted to get down before anyone else decided to drive up - it worked as
I didn't encounter any cars heading up) and drove over to Telluride to the
lower parking area for the Bridal Veil Falls.  From the lower parking
area, it is a 2 mile hike up to the falls along a 4-wheel drive road (and
I didn't try taking my car along this road, good thing as it was too rough
for my sedan).  Along the road heading up on the left side is an old
mining area.  Up above on the right side is the falls - a split falls with
a building in the middle.  The (maintained) building is the old (as in
1905) electric power plant that used to power the mines and town.  So up,
up, up I went - enjoying the views and interesting things along the way.
I reached the top and the way for Blue Lake (my destination) continued up
the valley behind the building.  I had considered doing the hike to Silver
Lake, whose branch was a short ways behind the building, but saw it was a
wet water crossing and didn't feel like doing that cold crossing at 9 am.
So I continued along the road towards Blue Lake up the valley, some what
pretty with a tall, thin falls along the way and along the creek for a
while.  After a good while, the road went by a small shack and I could see
old piping rounding a bend ahead and figured the lake was around that
bend.  I reached the lake and was disappointed.  It was a very pretty
lake, but the area was spoiled with a ton of mining junk - not neat stuff,
but lots of old pipes laying around, lots of broken glass and ceramics,
and other pieces of metal.  Plus the lake was about 20 feet shallow - it
just looked like it would be a really pretty place in its natural setting
instead of littered with junk.  I did stay at the lake for a little while
before heading back.  I again considered doing the Silver Lake hike, even
crossed the creek, but there were questionable clouds in the area and the
hike to the lake was a very steep up and something I wouldn't want to come
down with a muddy trail and so I decided to play it smart and skipped the
hike due to the weather concerns.  I did take my time walking the road
down, and got drizzled on a little bit.  I then headed out of Telluride
and drove towards Ridgway, taking a right turn on to a dirt road about 5
miles shy of the town.  Then driving 8 miles of (fairly good until the
last mile) dirt road to the trailhead for the Blue Lakes of the Mt.
Sneffels area.

Thursday, August 19 - It rained during the night and was overcast in the
morning and it was looking to be a day spent in the car instead of hiking.
More rain came in the morning and I spent some time catching up on my trip
notes (until my computer battery got low) and then read some and did some
puzzles.  Around 2 pm there were patches of blue to the sky and I actually
concerned going on the hike (it was only 3.3 miles to the lower lake), but
decided not to - good thing as more rains came around 5:30 pm and I would
had still been on the trail, there was even some thunder and sleet with
that storm.  So a day of nothing.

Friday, August 20 - What a difference a day makes.  I awoke to blue skies
(okay, once the sun came up, the skies were blue) without a cloud above.
I finished my book before I set out on my hike as I wanted to wait until
at least 9 am to start my hike in hoping that the sun would dry things out
a little.  It was still a little muddy when I headed out, but not too bad.
The trail headed up through the trees and there were few views of the
peaks.  Once I started to get views of the peaks, I was very glad I had
waited a day to do this hike as the peaks added to the beauty of the area
and they were not visible in the clouds the day before.  I reached the
Lower Blue Lake and it seemed to be nice, but I couldn't get too close as
there was some brush in front of the lake.  I crossed the outlet stream
(where the trail continued) and then took a side branch over to the lake
for another look.  Wow.  It is an absolutely gorgeous lake, with the
electric blue shade that reminded me of Ice Lake.  I didn't stay too long,
figuring I'd take a longer stop on the way back, as I had 2 more lakes to
reach.  There is a 600-foot elevation difference between the lower lake
and the middle lake, but the up wasn't too bad since the view included
looking down on the beautiful lower lake.  Shortly after leaving the lower
lake I was startled by movement near the trail and saw 3 young male dear,
one with a nice set of antlers.  Soon after losing the last view of the
lower lake, I reached the Middle Blue Lake.  It wasn't too exciting after
the stunning Lower Blue Lake and the trail stayed above the lake, so I
didn't make a sidetrip lakeside.  The Upper Blue Lake wasn't too far or
much of an up ahead and I had the same reaction that I did with the middle
lake - paled greatly in comparison to the lower lake.  From the upper lake
I could see the steep route up to the pass (and Mt. Sneffels (a 14er) up
to my right, which definitely wasn't in my plans as someone earlier in the
trip described the difficult part and I didn't think my nerves could
handle it - plus the standard route for Sneffels is from the southeast,
and the Blue Lakes trail is from the northwest).  I had originally thought
about going at least part way up the pass for views down on the lakes, but
was pretty sure that the lower lake wasn't visible from the pass (maybe
from the peak) and decided to skip the pass as the upper lakes weren't
worth the extra effort.  I did head to the right of the upper lake up a
small hill (and couldn't resist a "Sound of Music" moment) and did have a
very pretty view from above of the middle lake with the distinctive Dallas
Peak in the distance.  I didn't stay too long in the area and headed back
down.  I reached the first overlook spot for the lower lake and sat there
for a while, ignoring some mountain goat dung nearby - and the scenery was
pretty enough for me to put up with that extra smell.  I then headed down
a little further and found another spot to sit for a bit.  And then headed
down at a slow pace, developing a crick in my neck as I kept looking down
to the left at the lower lake.  Eventually I made it down to the lake and
made my way over to a pretty spot lakeside and sat for an hour, reading
some and enjoying the views some.  I was a little surprised when I saw
movement in the water and spotted some good sized trout in the water - too
bad I'm don't fish as these would be easy catches as when I tossed some
bread crumbs in the water, the fish went after them.  Some clouds did
arrive while I was at the lake (now early afternoon), but they didn't look
threatening and didn't rush me.  After leaving my nice resting spot, I
walked a short bit around the other side of the lake (as usual, I had
found the best spot first, where I had sat for an hour) and then headed on
down.  I took a couple of breaks on the way out, as I was in no rush, and
got to my car around 4 pm.  I did have a little bit of a drive in heading
over to Silverton and I can't seem to do the drive over Red Mountain Pass
without going slow (and pulled over a couple of times to let others pass)
and gawking at the many neat mine ruins in the area.  I eventually made it
past that area and settled in at the free camping area just north of

Saturday, August 21 - I headed over to Andrews Lake, just south of
Silverton, where I tried a new hike to Crater Lake (yes, my third "Crater
Lake" hike of the trip - like "Blue Lake", a common lake name).  I didn't
know how long of a hike it was going to be or how much umph it would have.
I first thought it was going to be at the top of a switchback up (and
would have made it a pretty short hike), but the lake wasn't up there,
just some ponds.  So I continued on the trail as it varied between ups and
downs and meadows and trees - nice, but nothing stunning or really
eye-catching.  After over 2 hours, I was beginning to wonder where exactly
this lake was going to be.  After 3 hours, I was beginning to question if
there really was a lake.  The trail reached a marsh and then I was really
hoping that wasn't the lake.  Thank goodness it wasn't and the real lake
wasn't too far ahead.  It was a nice lake with a mountain somewhat above
it along one edge, but not a stunner (as Ice Lake and Columbine are in the
area).  So I was a little disappointed in the outing as I was hoping for a
better lake.  I did later find a sign that said it was 6 miles to the lake
(still don't know the elevation gain).  I took my time coming back as the
clouds had rolled in (though it never rained).  I was considering doing
the Silver Lake hike near Silverton, but that was a steep goat-path and I
definitely wouldn't to be coming down that if it rained.  So I picked up
an ice cream cone in Silverton (sigh, no drum sticks, just a cheap
imitation) and headed back to my camping area and finished my book (a
short one) and typed up some more trip notes.

Sunday, August 22 - Up for the day was a repeat hike to the very pretty
Columbine Lake.  I first checked to see how accessing the trailhead would
be from the south side - there was a bridge over the creek, but the road
to the trailhead was too rough for my car (plus reportedly had very
limited parking) so I headed over to the north end and took the dirt road
off of the highway and again parked near the creek - it meant a shorter
road walk from the north end, but I also had to start my morning with an
ice cold wet water crossing from the creek.  Brrrrr!  It was only 38
degrees outside so the water was colder than it would be on the return
crossing - it took a while to get feeling back in my feet (not just toes)
after going across the creek.  Then I headed up the road, past a small
mine (just a hole in the mountainside) and then headed up, up, up the
narrow trail for Columbine Lake.  The first 1/4th of the trail is pure
switchbacks up the mountainside through the trees.  Once you get to the
treeline, you think that the hard stuff is over - this time I knew better.
The trail goes up about 3.5 miles in that valley to the ridge and then
crosses the ridge and is fairly mild as it goes above the next valley for
about 1.5 miles to the lake (the hard, tiring part is getting to that
ridge).  I did go at faster pace than the first time - the difference of
doing a hike early in the trip and late in the trip when my body is in top
hiking condition as it took about an hour less to reach the lake.  There
was still a small snow patch at the ridge (I could have gone around it,
but it was more fun to go through it and say I hike on snow in late
August), but all the other snow that was around for my earlier hike was
gone.  The area on the other side of the ridge is very pretty and I
enjoyed it as I headed towards the lake.  This time I was able to take a
trail all the way to the lake (snow caused a detour on my first visit) and
the trail actually ended up near the outlet stream (where my detour took
me) and I reached the gorgeous lake near the stream.  I was in awe at the
various shades of blue of the lake as it would change with the wind and/or
sun (there were clouds in the area) - I must have said "Wow!" at least 20
times while I walked around or sat at the lake.  What a beautiful way to
spend a Sunday.  I spent about 1.5 hours at the lake, never pulling my
book out as the beauty of the lake had my full attention.  There were some
darker clouds in the area, so I decided it would be best if I headed out
and got back to the treeline before any poor weather came through (never
rained, though).  I took a few rests on the way back, but not too long due
to the weather concerns.  This time the wet water crossing felt good on my
feet.  It did sprinkle slightly when I reached my car, but that was it for
a while.  It was about 3 pm and I still had plenty of day left and wasn't
sure what to do.  I went over to the town of Silverton and looked at one
of the info maps about the Alpine Drive (scenic dirt road).  From the map,
it looked like the drive to the ghosttown of Animas Forks was not 4-wheel
drive, so I decided to head up there.  I reached the non-town of Eureka
(not enough left to even call it a ghosttown) and, sure enough, there was
a sign recommending 4-wheel drive past that point (about 6 miles before
Animas Forks).  Well, my car has been on a lot of rough roads this trip
and I've gotten pretty good at driving on them, so I continued along the
road.  It wasn't fun, but wasn't too bad except at a couple of spots - I
was getting a little annoyed that a number of people coming the other way
were not yielding (up hill has the right of way, and it is a narrow road).
I went about 5 miles and decided that it was enough torture for my car and
pulled over and road-walked the last mile.  Animas Forks was a really neat
ghosttown as a number of the house are still standing (thanks in part to a
historical society) as well as some of the buildings for the mining areas.
I wandered around the area some and snapped some pictures.  I walked up
the road a little bit to look more at the mining area and glanced to my
left and saw a really neat looking structure further along the road.  So,
of course, I had to walk to it.  It was the old Frisco Mill, where they
used grind up rocks and sort the minerals from the mines.  The structure
is really large (and falling apart) and really neat.  Although my car
might have not appreciated it, I was very glad I had made this outing.  I
headed back to Animas Forks and then started my road walk back to the car
and it soon started raining and rained the rest of my walk and drive back
to Silverton.  I then went back to the camping area and it continued to
rain off and on.

Monday, August 23 - The rain continued off and on during the night and
into the morning and there were low clouds when I woke up, so I wasn't
going to be doing the Ice Lake hike this day.  I dozed some, read some,
and did some puzzles.  Around 11 am another short bit of rain came through
and the clouds were still around.  Around 1 pm I decided to give the
Silver Lake hike another go.  I had tried to do the hike a couple of years
ago, but there was a snow patch shortly after the mine that turned me
around.  I took my car a little ways up the dirt road and then parked it
and road-walked about 2 miles up to the old Mayflower mine ruins.  There
was an aero-tram between the mine and the mill at the valley floor and
some of the tram towers are still standing and there is even a couple of
sections where the wires are still up with a couple of carts hanging high
above - always neat to look at.  Up at the mine, unfortunately the mine
structure had partially collapsed since I was last there (looks like some
rocks had fallen on it) and it looked more like a pile of wood than the
neat structure it used to be.  The area around the mine is like an old
mining junk yard and it is always neat to look at the various pieces of
rusting metal there.  The narrow trail (goat path) was clear, so I headed
up the path towards Silver Lake - it's only a mile between the mine and
the lake.  I was ignoring the clouds as there was still potential for more
rain, but I was really hoping to get to Silver Lake.  After a bit, the
trail widen some and I was a bit happier (didn't like some of the narrow
sections) as I headed up towards the ridge.  After some switchbacks, the
trail reached a rock face and I looked at the way the trail headed up the
rock and said, "No way."  The trail headed steeply up the rock with a rope
there to help, but I (with my fear of heights) didn't like the looks of
it.  I sat down and took a rest and then took another look at the way up
and again said, "No way" and turned around and headed back down - so no
Silver Lake for me.  I was disappointed, but at least I got out of the car
for the day and got to really see that I'd probably never make it to the
Silver Lake area (where there were lots of old mines).  

Tuesday, August 24 - So after a poor day of weather, I awoke to blue skies
and headed up to my favorite in Colorado, Ice Lake.  The lake is stunning,
but the hike to get there is pretty as well.  But I was a little concerned
that the weather wouldn't hold out (it didn't) and I didn't make my usual
longer breaks at pretty spots as I headed up to the lake.  Unfortunately
(but as expected) the wildflowers were now out of season, so I didn't have
the many columbine flowers and various other wildflowers that fill the
landscape in July and early August.  But, even so, it is still a beautiful
hike.  Being in great hiking shape, I made it to the lake in good time -
good thing as the clouds had developed, but I decided I wouldn't head down
until it started raining or looked really threatening.  For my last visit
to the lake, I had wanted to head up to the ridge directly above the lake
(had previously done the sidetrips to Fuller Lake and Island Lake, but
wasn't interested in repeating those, but this sidetrip would be a new
one), but the weather issues prohibited that.  This time I was able to
head up there.  There is not a true trail up to that small basin, but
enough people had made the trek that there was a faint path I could
follow.  As I expected, it was very pretty up there with a number of ponds
and the rugged orange ridge more closely above.  I then headed over to the
top of the large mound above Ice Lake and was thrilled with the majestic
view of the lake from above and sat there for a while.  I eventually went
back lakeside, to my favorite spot on a large flat rock in the middle of
the outlet stream and again sat for a while (this time with my shoes off).
I was able to enjoy the area (including my sidetrip) for about 2 hours
before deciding that I really should start heading down due to the weather
concerns.  Almost as soon as I left the lake, it started to drizzle (but
didn't last long).  I was talking to a couple next to the waterfall (less
than a mile from the lake) when it started to rain and I soon had to put
on my rain poncho.  It did stop raining for a little while when I was in
the beautiful lower basin area and I did sit and watch some marmots for a
short bit - but the sound of thunder soon had me back on the trail.  And,
unfortunately, the weather prevented me from taking my usual long stops at
certain spots along the trail (that one spot of rest in the lower basin
was the only one I had), though I did sit at one spot in the trees (near
another waterfall) while waiting for the sleet to stop and rain to let up.
And I also only had a short stop at the top of the first waterfall as it
was still thundering in the area (but not above).  Of course, 30 minutes
after I reached my car there was no more thunder or rain.  Although I'd
rather have had a full day for the hike, I was thrilled that I got to
spend so much time at the Ice Lake area and explore the area above the
lake.  I went back to my camping spot and read my book for the evening.
But the day had one more surprise as I looked up and had a beautiful
rainbow in the distance above Kendall Mountain (peak above the town of
Silverton) of which I had a perfect view while sitting in my car.

Wednesday, August 25 - The plan for the day was to drive from Silverton to
Alamosa (a bit of a drive) and visit family in the evening.  Since I
didn't want to get to Alamosa until more towards the evening (when some of
the family would get off work), I decided to make a 30 mile detour south
of Durango to Aztec, New Mexico.  Way back at the start of my trip, I had
planned to visit 3 historic Indian ruin places, but after visiting
Bandelier National Monument I had decided that visiting one place for one
day was enough for me(interesting and worth visiting, but I wouldn't have
the proper focus for a second visit on the same day) so I skipped the
Chaco ruins (which also would have involved a 40 mile dirt road drive) and
the Aztec ruins.  So this was a good opportunity to check out Aztec Ruins
National Monument.  Do I know myself or what - making the stops on
separate days was definitely the way for me to visit the ruins (though I
still haven't made it to Chaco).  The Aztec Ruins NM was a small ancient
Pueblo society whose area had been excavated in the 1920s.  The area is
low land (not cliff dwellers) and the buildings are now mostly rock and
dirt short walls with a few kivas (ceremonial and religious gathering
places), including a rebuilt larger kiva.  It is a very nice small park
and they give a brochure that describes a number of places and areas along
the self-guided walk, including walking through some of the still standing
rooms that contain the original wood ceiling.  Talking a short bit with a
park ranger, I found out that they believe that there are a number of
other structures in the area (owned by the park service) that they are
leaving unexcavated for future generations.  I spent a little over an hour
walking through the area and reading the brochure - very interesting and I
was glad I had made the sidetrip.  I then went back to Durango and headed
towards Pagosa Springs.  I stopped at the Chimney Rock area (distinctive
rock formation and also has Indian ruins) with the thought that maybe I'd
spend a little time there, but the tour cost $10 and ran for 2.5 hours and
I didn't have that much time to spend there, so I simply looked at the
rock from a distance and the hummingbirds near the small info building
(and took a couple of pictures of them for my mom) before heading back to
the main road and driving to Pagosa Springs (and skipped the Malt Shoppe
this time since the food didn't agree with me on my last visit).  I gave
my parents a call to get a relative's phone number, and my dad told me it
was 107 degrees in Dallas, ouch!  I then called my relatives in Alamosa
and let them know I was coming and they said they actually wanted me to
visit (since it was a flexible trip, I didn't give them much advance
notice I was coming).  I continued the drive to Alamosa and arrived in the
late afternoon and spent the rest of the day socializing with family and
having a very nice time.  My dad's news of the temperature in Dallas had
me not ready to head back home and I decided to extend my trip by another
day.  And then my cousin Jane mentioned that she'd like to do a hike to a
falls area near the Sand Dunes, but couldn't do that until Friday, so I
added another day [the additional 2 days added were all my dad's fault for
telling me how hot it still was in Dallas].

Thursday, August 26 - I really liked Willow Lake, but didn't get to spend
much time at the lake as I was focused on summiting Challenger Point - and
getting up and down the peak took so much time.  So I thought a return
trip for just the lake would be nice and to actually spend some time at
the lake (it was about an hour's drive from Alamosa to the trailhead).  So
I got up early and drove over to the trailhead (my car not thrilled to
have to again do the 1 mile section of "4-wheel drive", but I again made
it without a problem (except thinking it was a really long mile)).  I
hiked up the trail and didn't take too many pauses as I had seen the views
a couple of weeks ago and was more focused on reaching the lake.  I made
it to the lake without much excitement and was again struck by how pretty
Willow Lake is - glad I made a second visit.  I settled down near the
outlet stream, with a view of the rock face and waterfall on the far side
of the lake, took off my shoes and read for a while.  I eventually moved
to a different spot, closer to the waterfall, and read some more.  And
then went back to my first spot and stayed for about another 20 minutes -
I spent over 1.5 hours at the lake.  Since I wanted to be back to Alamosa
in time for dinner and more family socializing, I headed on down.  There
were some female and a couple of kid big horn sheep near a campsite, again
eating from a firepit, that I watched for a short bit.  I did gather some
wild raspberries on the hike back (for my family as I'm not a fan of
them).  And I picked up a drumstick (ice cream) at the store in town
before heading back to Alamosa.  And I had another nice evening of
visiting with family and playing some cards.

Friday, August 27 - My cousin Jane and I headed out early to the parking
area for Zapata Falls.  Jane has had a number of health issues over the
years, so this was to be a slow hike and my main job was to make sure she
didn't overexert herself and that she took her time and a had number of
rests along the 1/4 mile hike up to the falls area (and it was an
elevation gain).  The old road bed that was the trail was pretty rocky, so
I lent her my hiking sticks (my main one and my backup one) and those
definitely helped her to be able to do the hike.  As I said, we took our
time and took lots of rests and she was quite thrilled when she reached
the falls area (and I was very happy for her).  For me, the falls area
wasn't exciting - you don't see much from the bench area next to the creek
and I didn't feel like getting my feet wet in walking through the creek to
get a look at the falls (and Jane wasn't able to do that).  So we sat
there for a bit and took some pictures and rested.  The real scenery came
on the hike down where there were great views to the right of the Great
Sand Dunes and the Sangre de Cristo mountain range (which includes a
number of 14ers) looming above the dunes.  If you are not familiar with
the Great Sand Dunes, they really are massive sand dunes plopped down on
the valley floor - kind of strange to find sand dunes (and not little
things) in the middle of Colorado and nestled against a mountain range,
but there they are naturally.  In fact, Jane told the story of her future
husband being excited to show her the sand dunes of Cape Cod in
Massachusetts and her reaction upon seeing them was, "Where are they?" as
she was used to the heights and sizes of the Great Sand Dunes.  We took
our time and lots of pictures heading down and then made a short stop at
the sand dunes' visitor center (having visited many times before, neither
one of us was really interested in going on the dunes) and then went and
had a late lunch.  The rest of the afternoon and evening was again spent
visiting with family and playing some cards.

Saturday, August 28 - On the 56th day of my vacation, it was finally time
to head home.  I made the long drive from Alamosa to Dallas in one shot
and got home a bit after 8:30 pm Central time.  I had a great time,
including reaching the summit of 22 14ers in Colorado and the tallest
point in New Mexico, but it was nice to get back to my own bed and daily
access to hot showers.  I will take full credit for the rain that has
occurred in Dallas since my return.

There are 8 pictures for this writeup at


Patricia Bender
Not affiliated with or representing anyone besides myself