Sunday, July 20, 2014

Three Lakes

(This is the fifth in a series of posts about our Colorado vacation)

On the Monday after Bike MS, we bid a fond farewell to Snowcatcher and the Lizard, packed up our bikes and bags, and headed down the road to Boulder to spend a few days with my favourite nephew and his wife.

On Wednesday we went hiking. Potential routes were discussed: "We could do Mitchell Lake," said Nevvy. "It's a 2-mile round trip. Or we could continue on to Blue Lake - that would be a 5-mile round trip." "I can do 5 miles," I said. (What the heck was I thinking? Is there something in the Colorado air that inspires ludicrous over-confidence in my own physical stamina?)

Mr. M, who knows his limits, wisely stayed behind to sit on the patio in the sun and catch up on some work-related reading. Meanwhile, we three headed up gloriously scenic Highway 119, on our way to Roosevelt National Forest and the Brainard Lake Recreation Area.

~ ~ ~

The parking lot closest to our chosen trailhead is inaccessible, so we park as far in as we can and "hike to the hike" (as Nevvy's Wife puts it).

Nevvy and I setting off across the parking lot, backpacks laden with water and snacks:

Photo courtesy of Nevvy's Wife

I feel dizzy and breathless, overwhelmed by elevation (or possibly the spectacular views):

Photo courtesy of Nevvy's Wife

After gasping quietly for 20 minutes or so, the dizziness clears and breathing becomes easier. Still, I welcome any excuse to stop and pose for a photo:

Photo courtesy of Nevvy's Wife

Eventually we reach the trailhead and begin the hike proper.

Words cannot do justice to the beauty of this area; even the best photos fall short. But that doesn't stop me from snapping away:

Who can resist the magical rush and tumble of a mountain stream? Impossible to capture the true charm of its dancing foam....

The gal at the park entrance has warned us of snow on the trail. Though dry at first, the path soon becomes a trickling downhill stream, which then turns to squelchy mud and rock ... and then the snowy bits begin. Rather large snowy bits - perhaps banks would be a better word - of all sorts and conditions of snow. Soft snow, packed snow, ridged snow, piled snow: sometimes barring our way, often obscuring it completely. (Luckily Nevvy's Wife has snapped a photo of the trail map.)

I slither along, doing my best to keep up with my companions, who kindly moderate their pace for my  middle-aged benefit. "Hiking", to me, has always meant a reasonably groomed - or at least visible - trail, with the occasional log or rocks to negotiate; this arduous scramble over and along a series of miniature alps is something else. (My twist-prone ankles don't like it at all.)

"It's another quarter of a mile to Mitchell Lake," says Nevvy. "Are you okay, or do you want to turn back?" "I can make it to Mitchell Lake," I reply. "But I'm afraid Blue Lake is out of the question."

More scrambling and sliding along the snow-packed trail, and then we've reached it:

Mitchell Lake, the reward for our labour. Definitely worth the climb:

Photo courtesy of nevvy's wife

Mitchell Lake lies serenely under Mt. Audubon, a 13,223-foot summit in the Indian Peaks wilderness.

Nevvy and his wife sit down for a snack, while I prowl around spying out wildflowers near the lake's edge. These tiny pink buds are less than 1/4" long:

There's also a small and fascinating black-headed grass:

When everyone is fed and rested, we head back down the trail, passing yet more glorious views:

Back at the trailhead we turn right, then walk across to Long Lake.

Long Lake offers a spectacular panorama of the Indian Peaks, but there are also smaller beauties nearer to hand:

The out-and-back Long Lake trail is blocked by both snow and a sign that reads "Closed for Revegetation". So after a few photos...

Photo courtesy of Nevvy's Wife

...we turn back and follow the path to Brainard Lake, though our progress is rather slow. "I brake for wildflowers," I tell my companions.

And there are some lovely specimens here. This looks to me like a kind of buttercup:

And these, like pearly everlasting:

These unidentified lavender beauties are tiny and breathtakingly lovely:

Here's the black-headed grass again, open this time:

A very rare Rocky Mountain Dandelion (ahem):

No idea what these are (other than gorgeous):

More of the buttercup-ish blossoms, with Nevvy and his wife in the background:

I am out of my depth here. Toadflax perhaps? It comes in both cream...

...and purple.

Really, these wildflowers deserve a post of their own.

Soon we are back at Brainard Lake, where we started. What a glorious spot.

Nevvy's Wife looks at a watchlike thing on her wrist (here I reveal my technological ignorance), and announces we've walked 4.59 miles.

Not quite 5 miles, but pretty close!

~ ~ ~

Two days later our Colorado vacation had ended; we set off on the road for Wisconsin and home.

It seemed ironic to take a vacation that involved so much strenuous physical activity. (My usual ideal of relaxation involves sitting around reading or crocheting.) But here, in the space of seven days, I rode, walked, and hiked farther and higher than I've ever done before. And, apart from some painful moments on the bike, it was wonderful. Voluntary hard exercise, especially in such beautiful surroundings, certainly has a way of clearing the mental cobwebs and reducing everyday problems to their proper proportion. (And if you're lucky, it shaves a few pounds off the waist and hips. I was lucky.)  :)

A very good vacation.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


  1. What a wonderful hike with splendid views all around and so many unusual flowers too!

  2. Gosh, what a stunningly beautiful spot. It must have been very special to have been there in person. I bet you slept well that night!
    I wonder if the black grass is a kind of sedge, it looks pretty like one in the 2nd photo? If so it will have a triangular stem.....bit late to tell now! Hope you're settling in back home after your trip. Juliex

  3. I remember when we first moved to Colorado Springs how we had trouble adjusting to the altitude. Then when we went to Bryce Canyon in Utah this spring we did a 1 mile walk at a bit over 10,000 feet and frequently felt a bit dizzy.
    Loved all your photos, how blue and clean the sky looks.

  4. Oh my goodness you have visited some amazing places on this trip. Your photos are so beautiful, I can only imagine what it looks like in person. Well done Sue and welcome home.

  5. beautiful pictures! You really did have a physically challenging vacation. I am glad that over all you enjoyed it. You are awesome.

  6. Amazing scenery and beautiful photo's, certainly a holiday to remember, Thanks for sharing it with us. :)

  7. Oh what beautiful pictures! That place is awesome. So inspiring. I bet you've got tons of pattern ideas racing around your head now. What a lovely vacation, thanks for sharing it with all of us.

  8. What an amazing adventure. I love to hike but have never done much at such high elevation. I'm sure it was incredible. Your photos are really beautiful, and so many interesting wildflowers to see. Thanks for sharing.

  9. What a beautiful walk! Your pictures are lovely, I particularly like the one of the elusive Rocky Mountain dandelion. :) It's sad to have a vacation be over, but now you get to relax and crochet again! Thank you for sharing it with us.

  10. Gorgeous photos. It looks beautiful. Congratulations for your cycling achievements whilst in Colorado too - what a fantastic holiday. I remember feeling the effects of altitude when we visited Denver, it only got worse when we went on to Telluride, still not as high as where you were though. I remember I had to resort to painkillers to get rid of the headaches and nausea - they worked, thankfully!

  11. Kuule Beanz! Beautiful pics! I'm glad you got to visit that area while you were here.

  12. great summary great images. I huffed an dpuffed with you ! That elevation stuff is serious.
    happy homecoming

  13. This is an extra-special post for me, Sue, because I had the joy of living in Nederland, CO, for two and a half years 1981-83. Your beautiful photos remind me how spectacular the scenery around us was. I'm so glad you had a safe if ambitious hike near there. Our two sons were very young when we lived there and they brought me bouquets of wildflowers from time to time. Precious times you and I have had in the area :) xx

  14. Wow, what an amazing place you hiked! That one shot of the mountains and the clear lake bottom nearest the camera was SPECTACULAR!! We're heading to a high mountain lake in 2 weeks for a 10 day family reunion camp-out. Great photos you took! ((hugs)), Teresa :-)

  15. I take my hat off to you Sue, what amazing feats you have accomplished, and all in one week! Congratulations! It was wonderful to share in your photo delights, such fantastic scenery and those gorgeous wild flowers …. stunning; the black-headed grass is different to anything I've ever seen and I'm wondering if it's native only to that particular area? I wish you a restful week, xoJoy

  16. I am completely out of breath! You are a wonder and such beauty here.
    Welcome home.

  17. Beautiful country captured in your photos.
    Please consider riding Wyoming one day. With the magnificent Tetons in the background you are truly in God's country!

  18. The Rocky(?) mountains are truly spectacular, I am humming some John Denver now! It is so true that being in the beautiful great outdoors helps clear our minds and restores perspective. Quite humbling. Thanks for sharing all your beautiful pictures . Chris

  19. What a beautiful place to travel. The photos that you took are stunning, Sue.

  20. How did I miss this post?!? Guess I had my head in the clouds. Or buried at work...

    The bright pink flower, you'll love this name, is fairy primrose! The scalloped cream and purple flowers are pentstemmon; I have those in my yard, too! Your yellow flowers may indeed be buttercups, but they could also be cinquefoil. Your lavender beauties are polemonium, also known as Jacob's Ladder, which I also have growing in my garden, one of my favorites! The white flower with the bushy yellow center is an alpine aven. The top white one with narrow leaves is a marsh marigold.

    So glad you got to see so much here and that you are now well on your way to recovering from that 81-mile high altitude oven! :)


I love comments! Speak on....