CO – CDT, Wolf Creek Pass, Weminuche Wilderness (07/22)

My next destination on THE Colorado Trail was Spring Creek Pass. There’s no quick way to get from Silverton to Lake City. As per my style I looked for a hike to break up the drive.

So I cheated on The Colorado Trail with a hike on the Continental Divide Trail. Well . . . since these two trails share tread for 314 miles, many of the sections I’ve been hiking, I didn’t feel too bad, especially since I consider myself a section cherry picker. I’d just come off Segments 23-24, the best in my eyes thus far. I knew I would probably be disappointed, but I was hopeful. I’d heard many times the Weminuche Wilderness is a favorite.

Wolf Creek Pass holds special memories from the time I snowshoed to the Lobo Overlook a few years ago (blog link).

When I saw the communication towers, I was reminded of the crazy snowshoe trek. Instead of heaps of snow I found dark thunderstorm clouds. I spent the evening at the overlook storm watching. It was quite a show!

It ended with a lovely rainbow, before the heavy rain came for several hours during the night.

There was a lot of beetle kill trees making me think a lot had changed in this area since my book was published in 2016.

I love finding old signage.

Another new wilderness for me to mark off my map.

Much like hiking through burned forests I decided to focus on the smaller delights.

The first monkey flowers I’ve seen in Colorado.

First gentian blooms of the season as well.

Bino Bob was the perfect prop for this colorful mushroom.

Just like with burned forests, this standing dead trees require a lot of trail maintenance. I met a group of young women who were doing just that. They were amazing packing cross-cut saws through this wilderness. I was happy to have the opportunity to thank them.

I finally arrived at lovely Rock Lake.

Besides the lake, the blooms and creeks were a highlight, while the deceased trees were detracting.

The trail was in fairly good condition although there were several areas of erosion that might cause those with exposure concerns a bit of anxiety.

I liked the stretch with these rock formations highlighted by plentiful blooms.

This was a 9.4 mile round trip hike with 1,200′ elevation gain/loss. In my opinion there are a lot more WOW views in Colorado and I wouldn’t consider it “best” of anything.

In fairness, this book was published in 2016. There are three hikes listed which I’ve already done as part of The Colorado Trail and I agree they have been highlights for me as well.

  • Tenmile Range
  • Kokomo Pass
  • Porcupine Lakes
  • Cataract Ridge

I hiked Snow Mesa a little too late in the season for me to consider it WOW but I’m guessing a couple weeks earlier would have been flower power, especially if you hike it on a blue sky day.

North Clear Creek Falls

As I headed north on the Silver Thread Scenic Byway, I couldn’t help but be reminded of my trip in April 2017 (blog link) when there was still plenty of snow around.

WA – Mount Rainier National Park, Mowich Lake Trailhead (Spray Park) (July 2021)

I remember when I hiked the Wonderland Trail (link) regretting that I didn’t have time to visit much acclaimed Spray Park. With Joan’s help, this was going to be my opportunity for a do over. But first, since I’d had a rest day after hiking, we decided to make it a twofer day.

Eunice Lake/Tolmie Peak

While Joan hiked to the lookout at Tolmie Peak, I enjoyed a swim at Eunice Lake and wished I too could be up on that rim.

Ascending 1,000 feet in 2.5 miles is still quite challenging for me as I regain fitness following my lengthy knee surgery rehab.

Eagles Roost/Spray Park

This was to be my first backpack trip in 10 months. Joan offered to carry part of my weight to ensure success. We were able to secure walk-up permits to this campsite only a couple miles from the trailhead.

We were offered this view of Mt Rainier on the way to our campsite. We were both still pinching ourselves at our luck with perfect weather, amazing views and backcountry permits.

I was incredibly happy to have Joan as my enabler.

Spray Falls

We’d read that we should visit Spray Falls for sunset, and so we did. Well we might have needed to go a bit later but we couldn’t find an easy way to cross the creek for optimal views and were certainly not going to attempt in the dark so we accepted the visit as good enough.

Spray Park

We wondered if there would be a sign welcoming us to The Park, but alas without such a sign we decided this bridge marked the boundary. I’d never heard the word park used to mean meadows until I hiked the Wonderland Trail.

We’d been warned about the skeeters in Spray Park so we came prepared.

In the background is Hessong Rock a very popular day hike.

Mountain Bog Gentian

The Avalanche Lilies were HUGE!

We were headed to a lake below the pointed rock, Observation Rock.

Everywhere we looked were floral delights.

We’d brought our microspikes in anticipation of this. It was so much fun to walk on snow. We met a snowboarder who’d been up to the top and enjoyed his ride down.

We had a few uphill climbs but our microspikes handled it like champs.

When we were hot or needed a break we found a perfect canvas for making snow angels.

Yay we found J&J Lake, an unnamed lake below Observation Peak.

There were 360 degree views.

And of course we swam. YES it was cold and our swims were short.

Looking back at where we’d been.

We found the energy to hike back up to the viewpoint to watch sunset. 

Pacific Coralroot was a highlight of our campsite.

While the miles might not have been impressive, I was thrilled to complete my first backpack trip in 10 months.

Thanks Joan for making this trip possible. What a wonderful week we shared in Mt Rainier National Park, making memories and living without regrets. As my niece would say, living our best lives!

I wonder if my surgeon and physical therapist would have approved this activity? I stayed away from the snow all winter and spring, but by the end of July I could no longer resist.

DATE(S) HIKED: July 29-31, 2021

RESOURCES:

Other Jaunts in Washington (link) including the Wonderland Trail (link)

CA – Shasta-Trinity National Forest, Parks Creek Trailhead . . . Let’s Go Swimming

After a wonderful smoke-free three-day window spent at Bear Lakes in the Trinity Alps (link), I had another day and a half available to play. It wasn’t quite enough time to visit a planned area that I’d saved for these conditions so I decided to see if one of my favorite areas was crowd and smoke free. As I drove by the Deadfalls Meadows Trailhead I was delighted to see zero cars. What would I find at the more popular Parks Creek trailhead? Two cars and smoke-free skies. Decision made!

I headed out knowing I had lots of options. I could lollygag and spend time swimming and enjoying the sun, or I could summit Mt Eddy, or I could hike miles and miles on the PCT, or I could explore some off-trail areas. So many options and I loved having the freedom to choose. I considered each hour a gift, knowing the smoke would most likely return. Nearby the Red Salmon Complex fire was burning in the northwest corner of the Trinity Alps.

I was delighted to find a few late season blooms.

There were signs of fall including colorful seed pods.

Lower Deadfall Lake was at the lowest level I’d ever seen. There was a couple camped nearby. Even though the lake was shallow, I found sufficient depth for swim #1.

Middle Deadfall Lake is spring fed so it tends to be more inviting.

I wandered around the lake finding the perfect spot for swim #2. Surprisingly except for the PCT southbound thru hiker I met near the main trail, I had the lake to myself.

The thought of obtaining drinking water from these lakes is gag worthy. So many swimmers and bathers during the summer months. Thankfully the springs were still flowing. One of the benefits of previous visits and map reading.

The pond between Middle and Upper Deadfall Lakes was not on my swim list.

I found the “crowds” at Upper Deadfall Lake, where I ran into three couples. Knowing views from Mt Eddy would be under a veil of smoke I skipped that hike on this day, opting instead for a walk around the lake and swim #3.

I found some blooming gentians.

Amazingly I’d lollygagged away most of the day and it was time to make my way to one of the unnamed lakes.

Something bad happened on my way to this campsite. My knee made a loud popping sound and I couldn’t support my weight. I sat and rested for a while tried again and after about an hour was able to hobble to camp. I worried all night about my ability to hike out unassisted. This is one of the negatives of solo hiking. I didn’t have a history of knee problems and was quite concerned that it wouldn’t resolve during the night. Plan A was to attempt walking out on my own. Plan B was to text a couple of friends who lived nearby to see if they would carry my pack while I attemped walking without the weight. Plan C would have been hitting the SOS on my inReach, an option I wanted to avoid if at all possible.

Little did I know the orange colored sunset was foretelling about a change in conditions. This is the view the next morning toward Upper Deadfall Lake and is the section of trail where my knee failed me.

Thankfully slowly and steadily I was able to begin my hike toward my car. The full moon was setting. I’d enjoyed the glow during the night which surprisingly escaped the smoky veil.

The Trinity Alps were now invisible.

Sadly this would be the end of my summer/fall hiking season. Upon returning home I went to a walk-in clinic for x-rays, followed by a visit to my primary care, then a referral and visit to an orthopedist, an MRI and finally surgery scheduled for early October. I have a radial tear of the posterior horn medial meniscal root with a 1cm gap.

So after avoiding all indoor establishments since late March when the COVID-19 pandemic began, September was all about potential exposure in the highest risk places. But heck since I was already taking risks, I decided to get my hair cut; that was a boost to my happy factor and will certainly help with healing and recovery.

Adventure Date(s):

  • September 3-4, 2020

Resources:

Links:

I participate in the Amazon affiliate program and may receive a commission on qualifying purchases linked in this post. It doesn’t affect your price but it helps support this site.

WY – Teton Crest Trail, Grand Teton National Park (Part 3 of 4)

I can now say I survived THE DEATH ZONE!

My primary goal of the day was to explore Alaska Basin

The cloudy skies made for perfect hiking temperatures but less than ideal views and photos. 

The Monkey Flowers were at peak and were prolific near water sources.

There were a few shady enclaves hiding Gentian flowers.

There are several lakes in the basin. I was quite disappointed by the quality of lakes in the Tetons. They are much more like ponds, not a place you want to swim nor gather drinking water. 

There is a side trail that takes you to the pass next to Buck Mountain, a detour on my agenda. 

Look closely at the mark under the clouds. That’s a helicopter! I met a man running down the trail. He said he’d had to run to the pass from the basin to call 911 on his cell. Jackson Hole is between the gap. His friend had developed severe stomach pains overnight and needed urgent extraction. Relying on cell signal in the mountains is risky; I’m thankful for my InReach (two-way satellite communicator).

What’s on the other side of Buck Mountain Pass

Looking down into Alaska Basin

Views from Buck Mountain Pass

The trail continues around the other side of the Alaska Basin

Looking back up toward Buck Mountain Pass

Do you see me? This marmot made me chuckle. He was absorbing the warmth of the rock, hiding from the breeze and hoping I didn’t see him. 

I’d originally planned to camp at Sunset Lake, but because I was outside GTNP I had the flexibility to camp elsewhere. When I found this spot on the Alaska Basin Shelf, with nearby water, I knew this would be a better home for me. I had a view of where I’d spent the day and felt as though I had the entire place to myself. 

With smoke in the air, I had a nice sunset view. Wonder if the view was better at Sunset Lake

To be continued . . .

Hike Details:

  • Date(s) Hiked: 8/31/17
  • Mileage: 8-10 miles (didn’t track)
  • Elevation Gain/Loss: minimal except for the climb up to Buck Mountain Pass
  • Trail Conditions:
    • Tree obstacles: minimal if any
    • Overgrowth: minimal if any
    • Signage: good
    • Terrain: excellent
  • Water: plentiful
  • Camping: plentiful and unrestricted by GTNP permits
  • Solitude: moderate, so a few groups on the trail but no one near my campsite
  • Bugs: grasshoppers and bees
  • Precip: clouds that didn’t result in thunderstorms on this day
  • Temp: 41 overnight low
  • Jan’s Cherry Picker Delight Scale: 5 cherries (out of 5)

Tips:

Links:

Resources: