CO – Lizard Head Wilderness (Sept/Oct 2022)

I hiked a loop through this wilderness in the fall of 2017 (blog link). A couple of incidents remain strong in my memories. First was a connector section that was more rock climbing than hiking, way outside my comfort zone especially solo. The second was the snow storm providing a stunning scene the next morning.

There are two trails near Lizard Head Pass. I hiked the Lizard Head Trail one day and the Cross Mountain Trail the next. Many will hike both as a loop. Since I wasn’t interested in the 2.5 mile road walk on the highway I decided independent hikes were more to my liking.

I camped near the trailhead where I was treated to these views. Notice the recent snow on the peaks.

The colors are striking.

When I saw the sun sweep across the forest, it felt like magic.

The light changed again keeping me saying WOW!

Lizard Head Trail

As I’m putting on my shoes I notice this dog. I looked around for the owners.

Instead I hear baa baa and see hundreds of sheep flooding the parking area and thankfully moving below the trailhead. Little did I know that trail traversed the hillside and they indeed were on my path. Another group of hikers arrived and we began together. The dog and sheep didn’t seem to mind our presence.

There were a few trees displaying their fall colors.

The trail climbed gently via nicely graded switchbacks until finally the ridge was reached and the first of several false summits.

The reward! This is why I huff n’ puff my way of climbs. I love dramatic landscape views. First view of THE Lizard Head rocky outcropping.

My turnaround was at Black Face Peak where I had amazing 360 views.

I didn’t scamper up Black Face to see if there was a Benchmark survey marker. The faint trail on the ridge continues on to eventually connect to the Cross Mountain Trail I planned to hike the following day.

I’m guessing this area will be quite colorful in a couple weeks.

Looking down at Trout Lake. Further in that canyon is Hope Lake where I’d planned to hike, but instead found a road closure.

There were pikas in these rocks.

I was shocked to find these surviving bluebells.

I enjoy studying the details. Nature is amazing!

These were the first leaves on the trail I’d seen.

The hills are alive with color.

This was an 8-mile 2,000′ elevation gain/loss out-and-back hike.

I would love to find a way to get nearer these peaks.

I found another view campsite where I could watch the storm activity and light changes. Lizard Head Peak is to the left and a developing rainbow on the right.

The most bizarre sunset lighting.

The next morning I stopped at the restroom near the Lizard Head Trailhead. Across the highway I could hear sheep with the smell easily making it my way. I was easily amused the next morning watching the sheep being loaded up for market. I’m sure all those campers weren’t thrilled to find themselves in the middle of sheep central. The large mountain in the background is Sheep Mountain. Ah how appropriate.

Interpretative signs confirm this long-standing tradition.

Cross Mountain Trail

The first section of trail is open to bikes, the the trail splits and the main trail heads into the wilderness where bikes are prohibited.

The objective is obvious from near the start of the trail.

I believe this mountain in the foreground is part of Black Face where I’d been the previous day.

I think this Jacob’s Ladder was quite confused.

This was a day for quickly changing weather. It rained and hailed, the wind blew and the sun made occasional appearances.

Geology LOVE!

I heard the now familiar sound of fighter jets and knowing they typically come in at least pairs I quickly grabbed my camera and started shooting.

The drama continued as I debated whether I should continue toward the high point or turnaround.

I was so happy Mother Nature gave me the go ahead.

Once again, geology WOW!

This is the pass I came down on my 2017 loop hike. If you look closely toward the right of the photo you can see the switchback trail.

This is what the “trail” looked like when I came down from the pass in 2017. Notice Lizard Head to the middle right.

This was the nightmare pass I crossed back in 2017. Super sketch super scary for me.

With rain in the distance there was no time to dilly dally. I remembered the beauty of this area from my 2017 hike when I arrived here the morning after it snowed.

The 2017 comparison.

There were four horses on the trail in front of me. They started from the Lizard Head Trailhead while I was using the restroom and watching the sheepherders. They rode the loop minus the road connector. I found out they are a guide service and had a couple of clients that day and shuttle a car to retrieve the horse trailer so they can avoid the dangerous no-shoulder road walk.

Unlike the Lizard Head Trail, there aren’t any switchbacks on the Cross Mountain Trail. It’s a continuous uphill slog. This was a 7.4 mile 2,000′ elevation gain/loss and-and-back hike.

Six Days Later

Black Face from the Cross Mountain Trailhead

Lizard Head from the Cross Mountain Trailhead

Looking toward Sheep Mountain and San Miguel Peak.

Woods Lake Campground

There are several trails accessing the wilderness from the campground. After the storm I knew my options would be somewhat limited but a friend told me the colors were outstanding and indeed they were. Not a bad campsite! I had views of Fowler and Boskoff Peaks in one direction, and Delores and Middle Peaks in the other.

Overnight temperatures are getting a bit chilly. This was ice on my car after freezing rain.

Delores and Middle Peaks, evening colors after fresh snow.

Morning view of middle peak.

I wandered a bit on the lake and canal trails capturing a few early morning images.

Little Cone Peak

Fowler and Boskoff Peaks

Middle Peak

Sheepherder arborglyph or fraud?

A few days later I returned with my friend Jackie to see how the colors were changing.

I still wanted to see more oranges and reds. I’d call this success!

There were still plenty of green and yellow leaves, promising to extend leaf peeping season.


CO – THE Colorado Trail, Segments 12-13, Collegiate Peaks Wilderness (06/22)

You can plan or you can take things as they come. After completing segments 1-5, I landed in Fairplay. When smoke rolled in from the fires in Arizona and New Mexico I moved on to Buena Vista and discovered proximity to segments through the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness.

The sign seems incomplete. What happened to PEAKS?

Collegiate Peaks Wilderness was designated by the United States Congress in 1980 and it now has a total of 167,584 acres. It’s a subset of the Sawatch Range. When the tradition of naming the nearby peaks after universities including Harvard, Columbia, Yale, Princeton and Oxford.

I broke segments 12-13 into several section hikes. Like most long distance trails, the Colorado Trail has best seasons. I used this blog article published by the Colorado Trail Association to guide my planning (link). They also have active facebook groups sharing feet-on-the-ground conditions.

Silver Creek Trailhead

Segment 12 – Silver Creek Trailhead to Waverly Mountain Ridge

I initially hiked north from the trailhead, covering the southern 14 miles of this segment as an out and back for a total of 28 miles with 5,000′ elevation gain/loss. The high point was nearly 12,000′.

This section was all about Harvard; Harvard Lake and Mount Harvard. “Mount Harvard was named in 1869 when Harvard geology professor Josiah Whitney led a surveying expedition into Colorado to investigate rumors of soaring 17,000-foot peaks deep in the Rockies. After crossing Trout Creek Pass, they named the highest summit in sight for the expedition’s sponsor: Harvard University.” Source: Summit Post

You see the big peaks almost immediately. Peak Finder informed me none of these were Mount Harvard.

I found the trail grade and terrain to my liking and was soon at the first Harvard Lake.

The second lake was much nicer with lots of fish jumping and swimming. You can see Mount Harvard off to the right.

I felt like I was in the mountains when I found plentiful natural water, often with bridges for civilized crossings. I never carried more than a liter unless dry camping. What a relief after the first 5 segments.

The bridge was a much better option than the log, after losing confidence several years ago when I got vertigo and fell.

There were a few remaining snow patches, but none that impeded travel.

I was super excited to find these Jacob’s Ladder blooms.

And maybe more so to find one of my all time favorites, Western Pasqueflowers.

Heading toward Dr. Seuss mophead mode
Mopheads glowing in the early morning light

A few other blooms.

Blue eye grass ?

I love above treeline trail.

This was from near my campsite the first night. Little did I know the next day I’d be dropping way down into that canyon.

I was happy to find this campsite that offered both protection from the wind and nearby views.

Sunrise views.

I got an early start the next morning.

I considered a side trip to Rainbow Lake but once I realized it was too much ascending I decided against, but not before I was welcomed by my first Colorado bear.

A friend noticed this bear had been tagged. I was told in Colorado bears have a 3-strikes policy. This bear has one more chance. I’m really glad it was well mannered during my encounter.

I believe this is Mount Harvard at 14,421 feet, the highest summit of the Collegiate Peaks and the fourth highest summit in the contiguous United States.

The guidebook says the side trail to Elk Pass and Missouri Basin along the Pine Creek is a worthwhile detour. I’d hoped to have enough energy but these big passes were keeping my humble.

Tundra wildflower heaven!

The WOW factor was high. I believe this is Mount Oxford.

Much of Segment 12 parallels the Arkansas Valley with the Buffalo Peaks in the background.

I spent my second night at Harvard Lake and caught early morning light.

With a storm brewing the lighting at the smaller Harvard Lake was nice as well.

I met several CDT thru hikers taking the East Collegiate Peaks route, including the Netteburg family of 5 kids, with one being under the age of 1. WOW!

This section ended with me saying thank you to a trail crew headed out for the day, and them gifting me croissants.

Segment 13 – Silver Creek Trailhead to Mount Yale Pass

The next day I hiked south from the trailhead. It was an overcast day with occasional sprinkles and lots of fog. I knew my chance of seeing views was 50/50 but since I’d need to reach the pass from the other side eventually to complete the segment I was willing to take the chance. This was a 7-mile out and back hike gaining/losing 2,600 feet with the high point about 12,000 feet.

The trail crosses Silver Creek on this sturdy bridge before beginning the climb, up, up and more up. It was a mix of reasonable and unreasonable grade.

It had rained hard the previous night. Droplets on the columbine were a treat, so much better than dust.

No wishes to be made from this dandelion seed ball.

I felt like I was hiking in the Pacific Northwest.

This California gal was so confused.

I found an old cabin.

And some very wet Dr. Seuss flowers.

Oh look a sign that includes PEAKS.

My legs were fried by the time I got to the pass but the guidebook said I needed to hike up this hill for best views.

YES it was worth it! I stayed about an hour watching the fog swirl about.

Mount Yale

You can see a bit of a trail up Mount Yale. Much of the mountain is hidden in the fog.

Mount Princeton
Mount Columbia

The flowers tried to steal the show.

Wandering around the tundra I found this bloom. It looks a bit like Forget Me Nots.

Bino Bob for comparison. He’s 1.25″ tall.

On the way back I got a hint of what I missed.

Avalanche Trailhead

Segment 13 – Avalanche Trailhead to South Cottonwood Trailhead

I needed a day with less climbing. This small section was perfect although I could tell my muscles were tired as I struggled even with this minimal elevation gain.

It was a lovely walk along Cottonwood Creek.

The trail was lined with red columbine but I found one pink columbine, although it photographed more purple.

Another special find was coralroot orchids.

This view shows Mount Yale in the background to the right, and a visualization of the climb to the pass.

Segment 13 – Avalanche Trailhead to Mount Yale Pass

I wasn’t looking forward to the climb and would have liked one more rest day, but the weather forecast indicated this was to be the last bluebird day for a while. It was 7 miles round trip with 2,700 feet elevation gain/loss. There were many areas with grade beyond my comfort zone, but if I wanted to complete this segment I needed to buck up and get it done.

You are almost immediately welcomed to the wilderness and provided a view of the pass.

Soon enough I was back up the pass and up the hill to the viewpoint. What a difference from the day I hiked up from the other side and found the mountain surrounded by fog.

Mount Yale

I saw one person headed up this path on Mount Yale.

I couldn’t help exploring all the alpine tundra plants. I read it can take a century for these matted plants to spread a foot in diameter.

South Cottonwood Trailhead

Segment 13 – South Cottonwood Trailhead to Mount Princeton Pass

I hiked south before reversing course on this 9.4 mile 1,200 foot elevation gain/loss round trip jaunt.

I said goodbye to Mount Yale and kept it in my rearview mirror as I made my way south toward 14,197′ Mount Princeton.

I was ecstatic to find several blue columbine blooms, the Colorado State flower, along the early part of the trail where it paralleled the river before climbing up to the pass though a nice forest with occasional views.

A few other blooms caught my eye as well.

And then it was finally time to say hello to Mount Princeton.

Mount Princeton Trailhead

Segment 13 – Mount Princeton Trailhead to Mount Princeton Pass

This 8.25 mile 1,300 feet elevation gain/loss round trip hike was in general a kind and gentle forest walk.

This section began with a one-mile road walk.

Since I wasn’t planning on hiking road sections I considered driving up the road to where the trail connects. In hindsight I was glad I chose to walk as it’s steeper than my car likes and there’s no parking. I didn’t hike the southern 5.5 mile road walk section of this segment.

There wasn’t much remarkable about this hike. You glimpsed views of Mount Princeton.

These lovely pink roses were the most prevalent bloom in Segment 13 so since I hadn’t previously shared, they’ll be showcased on this day.

Tent caterpillars had hatched and were dropping from the trees quickly becoming unwanted hitchhikers. I was glad to be wearing my hat. I don’t know if this is the same type of caterpillar but he wanted a free ride also.

This outhouse might be a cuteness award winner.

Clear Creek Trailhead

Segment 12 – Clear Creek Trailhead to Waverly Mountain Ridge

Was I saving the best for last? I wasn’t looking forward to this climb. I knew it would test my fitness so I first took a day off after 9 straight days of hiking these segments. This was a 10-mile, 2,800 foot round trip. I hiked south before reversing direction after reaching the ridge.

There wasn’t any exciting trailhead signage to mark Segment 12 or 11. It’s also a little odd as you first head for the creek and then veer left through a campground where there’s a bridge to cross the creek.

I really like this penstemon.

Soon it will be berry season.

It would be easy to be fooled about the upcoming climb.

But the views make the climb worth it! It was great to see Mount Harvard again.

Mount Oxford (14,157) is the pointy peak to the right and Emerald Peak is in the middle (13,885′)

Emerald Peak
Mount Harvard 14,420′


  • This was a fuel efficient way to section hike these segments as I took advantage of nearby dispersed camping.
  • Buena Vista was a great place to hang out between hikes. I often spent the afternoon using free WiFi available in the park to upload my photos and work on my blog. The markets were sufficient and I found a couple great restaurants. There are showers and laundry available also.
  • These are considered hard segments due to the ascending and descending. Segment 12 is 18.5 miles and going south has 4,866′ of ascending and 4,364 of descending. Segment 13 is 22.8 miles with 4,296′ ascending and 5,343′ descending. That’s 223 feet per mile.
  • Would I recommend as an out and back? Probably not unless (1) you are a glutton for punishment, (2) you want a quick weight loss fitness program, (3) you don’t have access to a two vehicle shuttle, or (4) you don’t want to pay for a shuttle or hitch between trailheads.
  • The Guthook/Far Out App and Colorado Trail Association Guidebook and Databook are helpful. I also used Gaia with the Colorado Trail Nat Geo layer.


WA – Mount Rainier National Park, Paradise (July 2021)

After a couple days at Stevens Canyon (link) it was impossible to ignore the pull of the mountain. So on a Sunday, yes a Sunday, during peak summer tourist season, two crowd-adverse gals decided to test the waters. Joan and I left our campsite at 5:30am for optimal crowd-avoidance strategy. It worked! We got our pick of a parking spot in the main area at Paradise.

After a stop at Reflection Lake, we decided “sub alpine” filled with hordes of skeeters was less appealing than hordes of people at alpine. I was reminded of my hike around Mt Rainier on the Wonderland Trail in 2014 (link).

Reflection Lake

Skyline Trail

We couldn’t ignore a calling to the Skyline Trail. With much trepidation about my knee and body performance, we began our hike. The views kept me smiling. It was my kind of WOW per mile. So many views and wildflowers. I felt like I could touch the mountain. How lucky to have beautiful blue skies devoid of smoke and fires. Temperatures were warm but with plenty of water and snow we stayed comfortable. At the end of the day, I was thrilled with my recovery and performance. The long steep downhill tested my body but my hips complained more than my knee so I figured this meant I’d moved on from knee rehab to rebuilding general fitness.

The first section of the Skyline Trail is paved which really helps with dust and erosion given it’s high use. Notice the marmot laying on the big rock in foreground.

The marmots are such portrait hams.

This was a flower power tour.

The lupine smelled strongly of grape jelly.

We had a few snow patches to hike through and were wishing we’d carried our microspikes.

This is the Nisqually Glacier. Notice the waterfall.  There are 25 major glaciers on Mount Rainier and numerous unnamed snow or ice patches, which cover about 35 square miles.

Nothing like Glacier Lilies to accompany the Nisqually Glacier.

Trail reality . . . we definitely weren’t alone. Funny this viewpoint is of the Goat Rock wilderness where Joan had hiked the PCT the previous week (link), and where I’ve hiked two times previously.

I was thrilled to find Sky Pilots (Jacob’s Ladder).

Water water everywhere, fields of green and loads of floral color.

This was my third day in a row to hike. I was beyond excited about my performance and recovery.

DATE(S) HIKED: July 25, 2021


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

CA – Lassen Volcanic National Park, Paradise Meadows (June 2021)

What happens when you don’t use your resources like maps and books to plan a trip? Well you might end up making it harder than necessary. This wasn’t my first time to visit Paradise Meadows which is connected by two trailheads. The Hat Lake trailhead starts at 6,400′ while the Terrace Lake trailhead starts at 8,000′. Paradise Meadows sits about 7,000′. For me I’d rather hike the uphill on the way than in reverse. So you can guess the “mistake” I made on this day.

If I wasn’t still recovering from knee surgery and feeling tubby and out of shape, it wouldn’t have been such a big deal.

According to my guidebook, “Paradise Meadow(s) is one of the supreme wildflower gardens in the park. . . . ablaze with color from a host of wildflowers, which typically reach the height of bloom from late July to early August.” Once again a little advance reading might have been helpful because this is the meadow I found in mid June.

I found a few blooms like these bright paintbrush.

The bees were quite happy.

Bog orchid and paintbrush.

I found purple and white varieties of monk’s hood.


I’m going to call this the highlight of my day as I don’t think I’ve seen previously. According to my Seek app, this is California Jacob’s Ladder aka Sky Pilot, Polemonium californicum.

Notice the bee flying away in previous shot.

Look at those details.

Just above Paradise Meadow is this view of Badger Mountain, West Prospect Peak and Prospect Peak.

You also get some different views of Lassen Peak along the upper trail.

Reading Peak is also visible.

Lupine was the predominant bloom along the trail.

I believe this is Cobwebby paintbrush.

I was grateful for these snow patches as I got quite warm ascending those 1,000 feet in less than 2 miles.

A friend shared photos she took on her recent jaunt so I was expecting to find the same. I was a little disappointed in my finds, but looking back at photos I feel more accomplished.

Nevertheless I decided to stop at King’s Creek Picnic area to explore the wet areas near the creek. I was pleased to find a nice collection of fawn lilies, even if they were at end of life.

There were mass displays of mountain heather.

First of the season Lassen Paintbrush, Castilleja lassenensis. This was the only group I saw blooming.

Just remember pick your poison. If you prefer hiking uphill first then use the Hat Lake trailhead; if down first is your preference then start at the Terrace Lake trailhead. The bonus is a stop at the end for a swim in Terrace or Shadow Lakes. As for Hat Lake, it’s just a mirage of days gone by and you’ll be disappointed if you count on that option for an end-of-hike swim. Of course for those a bit more ambitious I recommend starting at the Hat Lake trailhead, visiting Paradise Meadows and then at least Terrace and Shadow Lakes before reversing direction or coordinating with a second vehicle.

Other nearby jaunts:

CA – Russian/Marble Mountain Wildernesses, a PCT Wildflower Jaunt

In addition to the debut of a PCT Swimmer’s Route (blog link), there were plenty of wildflowers to be found between swimming destinations. These photos were taken on a 35-mile section between Carter Summit and Man Eaten Lake.

Collomia grandiflora (Large-flowered collomia)

My book calls the blue in the center pollen; I assumed it was stamen. It’s been a few years since I’ve seen these so I was excited to find them along the trail. I’ve never seen them in groups or patches, always solo with maybe one companion. Hey, that describes me.


I should have taken more photos. These plants were so whimsical.

Lewisia cotyledon, Siskiyou lewisia

These beauties were fairly plentiful along this section of the trail.

Polemonium ? Jacob’s Ladder ?

I wasn’t able to easily identify these. These blooms were a rare sighting on the trail.

Penstemon and Paintbrush

There were multiple varieties of penstemon along the trail and it probably the most plentiful bloom on this trip.

There were several varieties of yellow flowers along the trail. They added a nice punch of color.

In wet areas I found Leopard Lily. Tigers have stripes, leopards have spots. At least that’s what I was told by a local botanist. 

Western Pasqueflower aka Anemone occidentalis

The first of the season Dr. Seuss mop heads. It was still a bit too early to find the best messy hair versions.

Pyrola crypta (Pine-drops)

This was by far my most exciting find. I had yet to see blooming pine-drops.

Lilium rubescens, Chaparral Lily, Redwood Lily

Not positive on the ID, but loved smelling these lilies before seeing them. They were just starting to bloom. I saw a lot more buds than blooms. Such showstoppers!

And a few more just because I can never get enough.

Adventure Date(s):

  • July 8-14, 2020

Hike Details:

This is my one-way track from Carter Summit to Man Eaten Lake. It includes the lakes I visited as I hiked north but not the ones from the southbound trip. I’d say it’d be fair it was around 85 miles with 13,000 feet of elevation gain and loss.


  • Order your map in advance or call the ranger station to see if they have available.
  • Obtain your California campfire permit online in advance (it’s required for your backpacking stove).
  • Mileage in Art’s book were quite different than those I obtained from my Gaia track and noted above.
  • Guthook/Atlas app is great for viewing current water conditions.



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.