NM – San Pedro Parks Wilderness

I couldn’t believe my luck. Joan decided to take a slight detour into New Mexico as she began her relocation travels from Moab to Atlanta. I’m all about opportunities and there was no way I was giving up this one. I may have said my goodbyes a month earlier after our week in Capitol Reef and the Henry Mountains, but I was more than ready to say HELLO again, lets play! I’d stopped at the Ranger Station in Cuba looking for ideas and thus learned about San Pedro. When you want to play, how can you say no to a park? San Pedro Parks Wilderness is known for high, moist, rolling mountaintops with numerous meadows and large grassy “parks.” Source: USFS 

My readers and friends know I don’t enjoy planning or rigid itineraries. I love that Joan embraces this philosophy. We prepared by downloading maps to our Gaia phone apps, which would supplement our paper map and trail descriptions. I thought this quote in a book I was recently reading was quite appropriate for this adventure as we had no destination in mind; how much food we carried would determine the maximum length of our journey.

We began our hike from the San Gregorio trailhead located in the southern part of the wilderness. I don’t have a photo at the trailhead so I’m assuming there wasn’t any signage. About a mile from the parking lot is San Gregorio Reservoir. I couldn’t talk Joan into going for a swim. Maybe on our exit? 

Time to find the parks. Will there be swing sets and slides? Maybe we’ll find ziplines and a concession stand with rootbeer floats.

At the first junction we decide to stay on the Las Vacas trail, saving the Damian for our return. 

We stay the course at the next junction also. I love having so many options for loops and variety. 

I loved this trail. Weather and temperatures were perfect. This was Jan’s definition of flat strolling trail; no bushwhacking required. 

We were soon reminded late April is early spring at 10,000 feet. 

We were excited to be on the CDT. “The Continental Divide National Scenic Trail climbs to the beautiful San Pedro Parks Wilderness area from Cuba, NM and then heads northeast to the Chama River and Carson National Forest. The CDT route follows the Los Pinos, Las Vacas, Penas Negras and Rio Capulin trails through the Wilderness.” Source: Continental Divide Trail Coalition

Well since we didn’t find any fun toys in the park, we decided napping in the grass (imagine it’s green with plentiful wildflowers and butterflies) would be an acceptable substitute. 

Of course we needed to summit nearby San Pedro Peak (10,952′).

Hey look, peak #2, Ped Peak at 10,523′.

Signage was inconsistent and confusing within the wilderness. We were glad we had multiple resources. 

Trail 31 is also known as Rio Capulin Trail. 

It’s wise to come prepared for rain. 

Umbrellas make such a difference, especially during hail storms. 

The next few miles on the CDT/Rio Capulin was trail in need of some maintenance with lots of deadfall. This sign represented the junction of trail #31 (Rio Capulin) with trail #30 (Rio Gallina) were we planned to begin the next leg of our loop. It was getting late so we decided to continue a bit further north on the trail and find a place to camp.

We slept on options. I wasn’t thrilled with our choices.

  1. Reverse direction on trail #31 back through known deadfall jungle gym
  2. Continue hiking north until the trail crosses Highway 96 or Road 103 and try hitching back to the trailhead
  3. Attempt unmaintained trail #30

Known or unknown? Joan left the decision up to me.

My ultimate decision was to give trail #30 five minutes. How much worse can it be than what we’d already hiked?

Soon 5 minutes turned into 15, 30, 60, 90 . . . there was no evidence of old trail. But by now it seemed better to continue forward.

Are we having fun yet? Well Joan loves this stuff, Jan not so much. 

See that smile? Yep Joan kind of fun. She’s even more relaxed since I made the decision to take this route. Oh Jan, what were you thinking?

We quickly gave up on trying to stay on course with our digital map and instead decided to visit a couple of interesting points of interest marked on the map like Red Rock Cliff.  Compass navigation was very helpful at keeping us moving in the right direction. This is Joan’s specialty; I have room for improvement.

Look we found ourselves some red rocks. 

Along the way we found some interesting sights. 

1930 graffiti

1937 cursive writing graffiti

At four hours in, I’m happy for breaks and butterfly distractions. 

We can’t believe our eyes. Someone else has been this way in the not so distant past. 

We see a cave on our map so once we locate on the ground, Joan goes in to explore. 

Then it was time to find the path of least resistance. 

The happy smile of finding our way out of the deadfall . . . ONLY eight hours into this day’s obstacle course adventure.

YES, the trail is in sight. Excellent job expert navigator Joan!

Yippee! Lets find a place to camp! 

Jan was plenty tuckered after this 9-hour day of off-trail, log hopping, bushwhacking fun. That was a long 6-mile day!

Why is Jan tuckered? Joan did a fine job capturing my challenges. 

Any regrets? Not when I’m sharing it with my friend. She makes me giggle, laugh and enjoy the crazy situations we find ourselves in. 

It’s a new day. Our plan is to complete a figure eight loop but after our experience with the non-existent Gallina Trail, we had low expectations of trail conditions. We camped near the junction of San Jose, Las Vacas and Los Pinos Trails. 

On the Los Pinos and Anastacio Trails, we found a mix of nice surface, snow covered surface, well-trodden trail, and post/cairn-marked trail. 

We liked the looks of the Palomas Trail. 

How does the Damian Trail look? 

Ha, I guess we might as well end this loop with more obstacles. 

Back at San Gregorio Reservoir I still couldn’t talk Joan into a swim. 

Adventure Date(s):

  • April 28-30, 2018

Tips:

  • Carry a paper map. Although it was dated 2006, it was a necessary supplement to our digital versions. 
  • Obtain trail conditions reports from both the Cuba and Coyote Ranger Stations.
  • Prepare for weather. Temperatures dropped to high 30’s both nights, plus we had heavy rain and hail.

Resources:

Links:

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CO – North Clear Creek Falls and the Silver Thread Scenic Byway

My body was busy acclimating to Colorado elevation and temperatures. The previous day I felt that 11,000′ as I snowshoed from Wolf Creek Pass to the Lobo Overlook on the Continental Divide (link to related post). I continued my travels northeast on CO-160 to South Fork, then turned northwest on CO-149 to Creede, after which I came upon this sign. 

Who cares that it’s 27F and 8am, it’s just a short jaunt. What’s an Observation Site? It’s a viewpoint or overlook.

According to signage, it’s a drop of more than a 100 feet off the edge of the rock shelf that creates North Clear Creek Falls. The rock shelf, called the Nelson Mountain Tuff, was formed out of ash flows from an enormous volcanic eruption about 27 millions years ago.

That’s some icy water. 

Yaktraks made for safe walking across this icy tundra. They aren’t nearly as aggressive as microspikes but served the purpose on this day. The Altra Lone Peak Neoshell shoes keep my feet toasty warm and dry during the winter.

Another short jaunt I’d taken the previous date was to Treasure Falls, near Pagosa Springs off CO-160. 

It’s a 105 foot drop. Too bad I didn’t pull out my camera, so the best I have is this stinkin’ phone photo. 

When traveling through new areas I like to stop at the scenic byway posters to gain perspective and find short jaunts like the two mentioned above. 

I’m always drawn to high points. 

Travel days are a good way to build miles though a series of mini jaunts. 

Views from the Continental Divide from Slumgullion Summit (love the word).

Just a bit west of Slumgullion Pass.

Further west on CO-149.

Check out this private bridge on Lake San Cristobal. 

A view of the bridge from the other side of the lake. Must have cost a pretty penny! 

The geology changed as I got nearer Lake City. 

Self discovery is the best. I’d driven down this road in Lake Fork Canyon to find a campsite. 

Lake Fork of the Gunnison would provide nature’s lullaby. 

The gift however was this discovery as I took a short jaunt. 

Adventure Date(s):

  • April 6-7, 2017

Tips:

Links:

Resources:

CO – Highlands Mary Lakes Lollipop Loop – Weminuche Wilderness, San Juan NF

The access road to this trailhead near Silverton makes this hike a bit less popular than the one to Ice Lakes. The first couple miles are mostly through forest interspersed with waterfalls. 

After climbing 1,300′, I found the first lake and wandered around two more while enjoying open alpine tundra views. I wasn’t as awestruck as I’d been when I saw Upper Ice Lake but found it enjoyable none the less.

I continued to follow the trail and/or markers up to the Verde Lakes viewpoint. 

I got teaser views of the Grenadier Range. Now those look like my kind of mountains! 

And found the Verde Lakes. I think I might like to visit the high lake to the left in photo. The topography is interesting and makes for easy off-trail exploration.

I continued climbing to connect the Highland Mary Lakes Trail #606 to the Colorado Trail (CT) / Continental Divide Trail (CDT) #813. There were occasional markers and tread but nothing clearly marked. The views became more and more WOW as I climbed. 

It’s always fun to be back on trail after spending time route finding. The CT/CDT was smooth sailing! 

Notice the HUGE cairn on the top right side of photo. I saw several along the CT/CDT. It appears these are a popular way to mark the CT although unnecessary except in snow, which can be long-lasting in the San Juans. 

To complete my loop, I transitioned from the CT/CDT to the Cunningham Gulch Trail #502

As I drove back to the main road from the trailhead, I noticed this  . . . looks to me like an old glacier???? 

Hike Details:

  • Date(s) Hiked: September 20, 2017
  • Mileage (per ViewRanger): 7.5-8 miles
  • Elevation Gain/Loss (per ViewRanger): 2,400′
  • Elevation Low/High (per ViewRanger): 10,800′-12,900′
  • Trail Conditions:
    • Tree obstacles: minimal
    • Overgrowth: minimal
    • Signage: moderate
    • Terrain: a few steep spots but mostly well graded switchbacks on actual trail otherwise fairly easy alpine tundra off-trail hiking; some wet and muddy sections.
  • Navigation Skills: minimal for trail sections, moderate for off-trail sections
  • Water availability: plentiful below tree line
  • Camping availability: moderate below tree line
  • Solitude: I only saw one individual fishing at one of the Highland Mary Lakes; otherwise it seemed I had the entire area to myself on the day I was there.
  • Bugs: None
  • Wildlife: None
  • Precip: None this date, but pretty windy
  • Temp: Unknown but would guess 40-50
  • LNT: Mostly excellent except at trailhead. I found a PB jar near the top of a bald.
  • Jan’s Cherry Picker Delight Scale: 4+ cherries (out of 5)

Tips:

  • Dispersed camping available near trailhead, but beware of mice problems.

Links:

Resources:

CO – Rocky Mountain NP, Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP, Colorado NM

I had my fall itinerary planned for Colorado. The universe had other plans. I ran from the Tetons as wildfire smoke overwhelmed this asthmatic. I cruised south hoping for an escape from the haze and heavy particulates.

First stop was Rocky Mountain National Park. I drove the Old Fall River Road to the Alpine Visitor Center at 11,796′ in hopes of finding clear air. But alas it was not meant to be.

I’d stopped in the Medicine Bow Mountains the previous night and enjoyed a few hours of reprieve.

Heading south out of the park, I saw some touring cyclists whom I’d met in Pinedale a few days previous. At that time they were heading south, but it appeared they’d flipped and were now heading north. I wouldn’t want to ride or hike in these conditions.

Not a good day for flying in a balloon either.

As I continued to try to outrun the smoke, I found some clear air at McClure Pass south of Carbondale.

Watching the aspen show off their autumnal colors was on my list for this fall. At least I found aspen. Too bad Colorado wasn’t playing nice.

Near Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, I found  . . . yes smoky skies that gave me a colorful sunset.

The moon glowed orange as it rose, although I wasn’t able to capture the color in this photo.

As the sun rose the next morning, it was apparent my day was going to be smoky. After seven straight weeks of hiking and spending my days and nights outdoors, I was feeling like a caged lion.

Since I was already within a few miles of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, why not gather some literature and get a quick introduction? I’d seen comments and photos from others saying how surprised they were and that this park became one of their favorite stops. 

I stopped at the North Rim Ranger Station. The ranger suggested I walk the Chasm View Nature Trail

I was glad it was a flat very short trail. The provided interpretive guide was well written and informative. From rim to rim the canyon measures 1,100 feet; from rim to river it’s 1,723 feet; and, the rock is a mere 1.7 billion years old. I liked this place and will return in the future. The campground on the north rim is nice and there is so much geology to explore. I didn’t even go to the south side.

I drove the road stopping at all the signed viewpoints. 

Do you see the kneeling camel

I’d been keeping my eye on the smoke maps and webcams. I swerved west stopping at Colorado National Monument

It was smoky and hot, but I drove the road for a bit stopping at the viewpoints. This is Independence Monument.

The most interesting to me was the want-to-be coke ovens, after spending time in Idaho earlier this year looking at the real thing. 

My minion friends may have been saying Howdy, but I was saying Goodbye for now to Colorado. You may be a colorful state but during this very short visit you were monochromatic in your grays. This wasn’t the least bit how I planned to spend the month but timing is everything and it just wasn’t my time. I’ll be back to explore all the planned places I researched just like I did in the Winds.

Dates: September 4-7, 2017

Links to my other Colorado Jaunts

WY – Lester Pass, Northern Wind River Mountains, Bridger Wilderness

After completing the Jean Lakes Lollipop Loop, I landed at the Big Water Slide near Fremont Crossing for the night. 

What an interesting place. There is a significant creek (Fremont?) flowing under the bridge (on left of below photo), then creating a pond as it makes this sweeping corner before dropping over large smooth rocks creating a waterfall (top right of photo) as it once again becomes a creek. 

Fremont Crossing Bridge

The pond as it gets ready to go over the slide. There were quite a few fish jumping in this pond.

The top of the slide aka waterfall. 

The crashing power of water. 

The next morning not only was I happy to be kissed by the sun but thrilled to have finally captured the rays.

Soon enough it was time to head south over the Fremont Bridge.

It’s been in the low to mid 30’s in the mornings. I prefer campsites away from water and low spots to minimize condensation and frost. Back at the Highline / Seneca Lake / Indian Basin trail junction, I continued southeast on Highline Trail #094 (aka CDT). 

The summit post at Lester Pass

I loved looking back at all those peak I’d previous visited during this trek. 

While climbing, it was hard not to look backwards at this lovely view. 

Looking to the south, you could see Angel Peak and Angel Pass (the distinctive V). The basin between these ridges held Cook Lakes, my destination for the night. 

Looking back up at Lester Pass

Tommy Lake

I’d planned on hiking the Cook Lake Trail #163 as a loop circumnavigating lower lake while visiting upper lake.

Lower Cook Lake

After battling through brushy trail, I wasn’t able to find an easy way to cross the outlet of Upper Cook Lake and decided it wasn’t worth the effort so reversed my path instead. 

It seemed I had Lower Cook Lake to myself for the night, although I heard gunshots in the distance which was quite disconcerting. The multiple rounds sounded like target practice up the canyon and over the small ridge on the far side of the lake. This was another very active fish area. 

Sunset colors were pretty amazing.

This is a confusing junction as evidenced when I met a CDT thru-hiker who ended up on the Pole Creek Trail #094 rather than the Fremont Trail #096 (aka CDT). 

It’s always a good morning when it starts with wet feet crossings. This one was about mid calf height, the next was about to my knees. 

I enjoyed seeing these bring yellow lilypads blooming on the ponds. 

With the heavy use of this section of trail, you can expect to find many items left behind. I did my part by picking up this bladder and a few more things but I just couldn’t carry others such as a nalgene bottle and some very heavy binoculars. I lost a pen this trip, so karma says I need to pay it forward by helping to clean the trails. 

As I traveled this next section of trail on my entry, I was feeling the feet to the barn syndrome. Elkhart Trailhead here I come!

Eklund Lake sure provides a nice view of the Winds. 

Time to cruise the superhighway. I’d neglected to check my water situation at Eklund Lake and found myself in dire need when I arrived at this sign. There was a pond holding yucky water but I decided to take my chances at finding something better along the way. I had about 1/4 liter remaining and really needed to eat but couldn’t do so without water, so onward I went.

I was rained on earlier this day and it looked like my thunderstorms were building as I arrived at Photographers Point. I befriended a couple guys who were heading up to summit Fremont peak and found one was carrying a gallon of water. He was glad to part with some weight and I was so very grateful for the fresh liter of water. Ah, food, water and onward I went. 

Although water was non existent, there were some remaining wildflower displays. 

How could you not laugh at this stubborn llama (or handler). They were only a couple miles up the trail. I wonder how things were going a few hours and miles later. It wasn’t a pleasant sight watching what it took to get the llama up and moving.

I spent a fabulous 5-6 weeks in the Winds and yet barely touched the surface. There is so so much more to see. I look forward to future exploration. 

For summer 2017, I say goodbye. I’m so thankful for these 6-weeks of exploration. What a memory maker!

Links . . .

Hike Details:

  • Date(s) Hiked: 8/22-23/17
  • Mileage: Approximately 18-20 (conserving battery so didn’t track)
  • Elevation Gain/Loss: Unknown, constant up and down (conserving battery so didn’t track)
  • Trail Conditions:
    • Tree obstacles: minimal
    • Overgrowth: minimal (most on the Cook Lakes trail)
    • Signage: moderate on main trails (confusing without a map or gps at a few junctions)
    • Terrain: lots of muck primarily from excessive pack animal use; also rocky ground and a couple wet feet crossings
  • Water: plentiful (except for final 6ish miles)
  • Camping: excellent
  • Solitude: Expect lots of company on trail. Many day hike from the trailhead to Photographers Point, many also camp at Eklund Lake.
  • Bugs: plentiful but I didn’t use any repellent this trip (the wind is my friend)
  • Wildlife Sightings: none beyond birds, squirrels, chipmunks, pika, and marmuts
  • Precip: I had a little rain my first and last day of this trip
  • Temp: Overnight varied and seemed to fluctuate a lot in the 30’s and 40’s, highs were probably in 60’s-70’s.
  • Jan’s Cherry Picker Delight Scale: 3+ cherries (out of 5)

Tips:

  • Be prepared for altitude, elevation changes, weather changes, bugs and navigation. Also review current food protection requirements/guidelines (I used an Ursack with an Opsack liner). If I were to hike this loop again, I’d use my bear canister as in many areas there were no trees to use as an anchor for my Ursack.

Links:

Resources:

WY – Jean Lakes Lollipop Loop, Northern Wind River Mountains, Bridger Wilderness

After a day in Titcomb Basin and another in Indian Basin, it was time to explore areas further north while creating some distance from both the weekend and eclipse crowds. 

So I said goodbye to my lovely campsite with this welcoming sunrise. 

I love hiking in the early morning. 

Instead of returning to the trail junction, I opted to hike cross country through the Island Lake basin to connect with the Highline Trail #094 (aka Continental Divide Trail aka CDT) near the Fremont Crossing Bridge. I was so sick of hiking stock-beaten trails. I’d sank to my knee in this muck my first day. 

Let’s play, make a route. 

Then there I was at the Fremont Crossing Bridge

To the Jean Lake’s I go. 

Lower Jean Lake

I know these for-profit pack trains are required to obtain permits, but I wonder if a fee is involved? If so, the forest service should be using those funds to repair the trails. If not, the groups should be required to participate in maintenance. There were so many on these trails and as a result the tread was a mess for hikers. Rant over! When rocks had been placed in low spots, it made a huge difference in being able to hike through, although it was still a bit like playing hopscotch.

The stream connecting Upper and Lower Jean Lakes. 

This waterfall was gorgeous. I spent a lot more time enjoying this location on my way back through. 

So much water. 

Even on this trail snow traverses were required. 

Of course you know whenever I find flowers and granite, I’m happy! 

It’s hard to tell, but my tent is on a bench above Upper Jean Lake. There were many benches and options for camping although finding privacy for potty time was another issue. There is a small lake just off trail, perfect for a short dip.

The next day, objective one was to summit Shannon Pass

Looks quick and easy, right? 

Looking back down at Jean Lakes. 

Also looks shorter and flatter than it really is. 

There are some nice ponds near the top. 

And, yes more snow traverses. 

The top is within sight, or just another false summit? 

Such a tease. 

In reality it only took me about 45 minutes to ascend but it sure felt longer. 

Peak Lake is another popular destination. The scree fields on the far side of the lake are the beginning of the route over Knapsack Col. I’m so happy with my decision to skip that option after seeing this. I really dislike hiking on scree!

It was great to enjoy the occasional floral display before I hit hell. 

Now I know why this is called Cube Rock Pass. Not my idea of fun 😦

30 minutes later I’m still having fun, NOT!

I was so happy to be out of that rock hell. Took me about 45 minutes to get to this point. 

Now time to lose lots of elevation, visit some wildflower meadows and drop back into treeline. 

I passed over Vista Pass without noticing anything special. It certainly wasn’t memorable. I transitioned to the Highline Trail #094 (aka CDT) heading south toward Summit Lake. It took me about 2.5 hours to descend to this junction from Cube Rock Pass.

Green River Pass was another one that I didn’t recognize immediately. 

There is a long green mesa/plateau between Green River Pass and Summit Lake. It was a huge surprise and I found myself at Summit Lake before I knew it.

This would have been a great place to have watched the solar eclipse, but alas my timing was off. 

As I descended from Summit Lake, I found this welcoming waterfall. 

Looking back at the mesa. 

I was treated to this fiery sunrise from camp the next morning. It’s Eclipse Day! Will the clouds stay away?

My private pond for the night. 

As I headed into the Elbow Lakes Basin, Mother Nature was keeping the suspense high. 

I decided to stop here for the eclipse viewing. I was headed toward higher mountains and worried the clouds might back up against the peaks preventing a clear view. The wind was blowing and it was quite chilly while I hung out for about 1.5 hours. 

I hadn’t researched options for capturing the big event so mostly I just experienced it. But I did capture this photo during Total Eclipse and the next one as the eclipse passed. You can also compare to the before photo above. They don’t even come close to the WOW I experienced during and after the event. The wind stopped, it became freezing cold, so very quiet and a little eerie. 

After the big event, I walked in silence through the Elbow Lakes Basin enjoying the natural beauty. It seemed like it took 15-30 minutes before the atmosphere returned to normal. 

I really liked this softer side of the Winds. I could see myself returning to the Elbow Lakes Basin to roam this hills. 

Soon I was back at the Shannon Pass junction and headed back down to Jean Lakes

I spent lunch enjoying this waterfall between Upper and Lower Jean Lakes. It was funny I watched a group of four grumpies march by without even giving it or me a glance. 

Lower Jean Lake is huge. It’s slightly off trail with plenty of private dispersed camp areas in the trees. 

To be continued . . .

Hike Details:

  • Date(s) Hiked: 8/19-20/17
  • Mileage: Approximately 20-25 miles (conserving battery so didn’t track)
  • Elevation Gain/Loss: Unknown, constant up and down (conserving battery so didn’t track)
  • Trail Conditions:
    • Tree obstacles: none
    • Overgrowth: minimal
    • Signage: moderate on main trails
    • Terrain: most memorable was the challenge of Cube Rock Pass with some bouldering, plus several areas of snow travel, some soggy hiking and wet feet water crossings.
  • Water: plentiful
  • Camping: excellent
  • Solitude: Moderate
  • Bugs: plentiful but I didn’t use any repellent this trip
  • Wildlife Sightings: none beyond birds, squirrels, chipmunks, pika, and marmuts
  • Precip: None this day
  • Temp: Dropped to 33 overnight in my tent
  • Jan’s Cherry Picker Delight Scale: 4 cherries (out of 5)

Tips:

  • Be prepared for altitude, elevation changes, weather changes, bugs and navigation. Also review current food protection requirements/guidelines (I used an Ursack with an Opsack liner). If I were to hike this loop again, I’d use my bear canister as in many areas there were no trees to use as an anchor for my Ursack.

Links:

Resources:

WY – East Fork Lakes, Southern Wind River Mountains, Bridger Wilderness

After spending three weeks on the east side of the Winds, it was time for an introduction to the west side. With the high snow year, it made sense to start in the south and work my way north. Using Nancy Pallister’s book, “Beyond Trails in the Wind River Mountains,” I mapped a tentative route with plenty of alternatives. I began my trek from the Big Sandy Trailhead south of Pinedale. 

I waited until morning to decide if I was going to hike clockwise or counterclockwise. The skies were quite overcast and hazy from wildfire smoke. Since I knew I wanted the best possible conditions for Cirque of the Towers, it was an easy decision to start clockwise, making Dads Lake the first destination. The hike began on the Meeks Lake Trail/Fremont Trail #096/CDT (Continental Divide Trail).

The trail became a bit confusing just before this next sign. Several social trails ran through a meadow, most likely heading to Meeks Lake

Less than 10 minutes later, these signs appeared. Notice how it’s now 4.5 miles to Dads Lake.

And then I FOUND the wilderness. 

Although views were hazy, wildflowers popped. I was especially happy to find tall Elephant Head orchids as those I’d seen on the east side were only about 6″ tall. These were easily 1-1.5 foot tall.

There’s nothing quite like flowers on a dreary day to keep me happy and smiling. 

Easy terrain trail was a welcome change from most of the miles I experienced on the east side. 

Mirror Lake lived up to it’s namesake with so much reflectivity. 

Dads Lake

Marms Lake

More trail happiness. 

My plan was to depart the trail at East Fork River (staying on the Fremont Trail toward Cross Lake until that junction).

Leaving Fremont Trail, I was pleasantly surprised to find fairly well defined tread along the East Fork River

Even thistle like the river. 

This is a ground cover. In the early season yellow but as they mature they get multicolored and then mostly pinks. 

These Queen’s Crown were such Dr. Seussish looking plants. 


Thunderstorms slowed me down, so I didn’t make the lakes the first night and decided this pond would do. 

Not a bad view from my tent where I could watch the storm progress and recede. I was thankful for my umbrella and poncho.

Sunrise the next morning. 

Nothing like drinking a cup of coffee which watching the ridge pink up. 

By the time I was ready to continue north, the skies looked promising. 

The thunderstorms may have cleared, but the wildfire smoke was still hanging around. I was so glad I’d saved Cirque of the Towers for dessert.

Why YES this is the Winds I wanted to find. 

And I found the East Fork Lakes

There were also nearby waterfalls to explore. 

I found this pack stashed presumably by someone out for a day hike. Note to self: might be a good idea to leave a note. I took a photo and marked the waypoint in case I hear of someone MIA. 

To be continued . . .

Hike Details:

  • Date(s) Hiked: 8/7-8/17
  • Mileage: Approximately 12 (conserving battery so didn’t track)
  • Elevation Gain/Loss: Unknown, constant up and down (conserving battery so didn’t track)
  • Trail Conditions:
    • Tree obstacles: none
    • Overgrowth: none
    • Signage: moderate on main trails
    • Terrain: very good, a few spots of muck
  • Water: plentiful
  • Camping: excellent
  • Solitude: Shared the trail with others between the trailhead and Dads Lake, but then saw no one until I met two CDT thru hikers near the East Fork junction. I also met three guys at Upper East Fork Lake who were out for a 12-day jaunt.
  • Bugs: plentiful but I didn’t need deet
  • Wildlife Sightings: none beyond birds, squirrels, chipmunks, pika, and marmuts
  • Precip: expect thunderstorms in July/August
  • Temp: Overnight varied and seemed to fluctuate a lot in the 30’s and 40’s, highs were probably in 60’s-70’s.
  • Jan’s Cherry Picker Delight Scale: 4++ cherries (out of 5)

Tips:

  • Be prepared for altitude, elevation changes, weather changes, bugs and navigation. Also review current food protection requirements/guidelines (I used an Ursack with an Opsack liner). 

Links:

Resources: