Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Hike to Lake Isabelle

Lake IsabelleAfter a day back in Denver to catch up on things, I did a solo dayhike to Lake Isabelle. The hike is listed in 100 Classic Hikes in Colorado and for good reason. It's not, as far as Colorado goes, a strenuously killer hike, but the rewards are tremendous.

The trailhead lot was full, so after paying my $10 entrance fee I had to park at the day use area. I walked the long way around Brainerd Lake to the Niwot Cutoff Trail to catch the trail to Lake Isabelle. Along the way, I passed the north side of Long Lake; the trail offered many scenic glimpses of the lake. Past Long Lake, the trail climbed above a waterfall to Lake Isabelle, shown in the photo - an incredible beautiful lake with steep mountains rising on three sides. I continued on the trail until it started to climb away from the lake.

On my return, I took the Jean Lunning Trail south of Long Lake. It was considerably wetter than the north side, with more wildflowers as well as boardwalks through marshy areas. Finally, when I got off the Niwot Connector Trail, I elected to walk the short way back to my car, which was an excellent choice - four moose were grazing just a few feet off of the trail. Moose!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Rustler's Gulch hike

HikingThe hike to Rustler's Gulch was supposed to be our big wildflower hike, but previous day's hike to Ice Lake had already blown our minds. Rustler's Gulch was certainly pretty, and it had more wildflowers, but less variety.

We started off on an old jeep road. If you have a high clearance vehicle, you can park at the actual trailhead, but that was not us. This was also the steepest part of the hike, although overall it wasn't nearly as steep as either of the previous two days' expeditions.

Also working against the hike was that we were a little tired, as this was our fourth day of hiking; it was hotter than it had been, and the hike had little shade; and the number of bees, which anyone who has hiked with me can attest to my, er, lack of fondness for.

In spite of that, it was a very nice hike. We saw a field of ice lilies and several nice century plants, and the ground was veritably carpeted in yellow and purple. This photo is representative of most of the hike: long vistas with a profusion of flowers.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Ice Lake and Island Lake hike

SceneThis hike was highly recommended by my friends, and it actually exceeded their expectations.

It started off promising when we were still in the parking lot, with hills rising up on all sides. From there, the trail headed uphill and entered the woods. The woods were very nice, but the first major attraction was the waterfall pictured at left. From there, the trail went in and out of woods, with rocky hills rising up around us. An old mine (of course) was a slight diversion, as were the abundant wildflowers we encountered. The trail emerged from the woods into a valley, where we crossed and re-crossed an unusually white stream. The stream pours out of Ice Lake, both deriving their colors from minerals.

PinkAfter a brief respite in the valley, the trail headed up again on slopes too steep for trees. We kept pausing to take wildflower flowers along the way, but eventually we reached the cirque with Ice Lake.

After a break, we decided to head on to Island Lake. You can also reach nearby Fuller Lake, but Friend C said it wasn't particularly exciting. Island Lake turned out to be very worthwhile. It has the same turquoise color as Ice lake, with, as you might expect, a small island in the middle. There were abundant pink flowers growing by it that perfumed the air. From there, we reluctantly turned around and headed back down.

FlowersThe hike was 4.2 miles one-way, with significant elevation gain; it was the highest I had ever hiked, above 12,000 feet. It was well worth it, though. This hike checked off nearly every box for a great hike: waterfalls, mountains, scenic vistas, lakes, dramatic rocks, and wildflowers. The wildflowers in particular were a surprise, as my friends weren't anticipating them in such abundance and variety. We also discovered the existence of the hummingbird moth, which is exactly what it sounds like; picture a hummingbird with antennae, and you've got the hummingbird moth. Overall, it definitely rated as one of the best hikes I've done.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Perimeter Trail to Cascade Falls

Cascade FallsThis one was so short, it doesn't quite qualify as a hike. I even did it in flip-flops. Neverthless ...

After dinner on day two, Friend D and I elected to go see Cascade Falls. A sign on Main Street pointed the way, and the trail was supposedly only a quarter mile. In this case, our hike to the hike was longer than the hike itself! The hike was probably not even a quarter mile. To the base of the falls was just a hop and a skip from the parking spot; we then followed the Perimeter Trail as it switchbacked to about halfway up the falls. From there, the trail turned away from the falls, so we headed back down.

If you aren't really a hiker, you could do this hike - even with various mobility issues, short of a wheelchair, at least up to the base of the falls. And it is an impressive drop.