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Fitness and Photography for Fun - A blog on staying fit by hiking and doing photography by David Mendosa

Arapaho Pass Trail

July 19th, 2008 · No Comments

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This year the wildflowers are later than usual. So I made one of my favorite hikes later than usual.

Last year I hiked to Arapaho Pass on July 18. This year I waited until July 19.

This was the view last year from the pass, which is on the Continental Divide at 11,906 feet:

At Arapaho Pass Last Year

At Arapaho Pass Last Year

I’ve changed in a year and a day. I no longer use my trekking poles except for snowshoeing and backpacking and scaling mountains. I don’t need them for balance any more.

I weighed 185 pounds in that photograph. This morning I weighed 154 in this new one:

At Arapaho Pass This Year

At Arapaho Pass This Year

Another View from the Pass (That\'s Caribou Lake at the Left)

Another View from the Pass (That's Caribou Lake at the Left)

Besides the wildflowers blooming later this year, the other reason why I waited until today to climb to the high country is the weather. With the temperature in Boulder predicted to be the hottest day of the year so far — 101 degrees — I knew that I had to climb to coolness.

This is the Continental Divide. In fact, this year I hiked even further than I did last year. Then, I didn’t feel strong enough to go the additional half-mile each way to Lake Dorothy at 12,061 feet. This year I did. And more.

Above 11,500 feet Colorado has no trees. This is tundra — alpine vegetation. Everything grows low to the ground so as not to get blown away.

Lake Dorothy is the highest lake in the Indian Peaks Wilderness.

Lake Dorothy and Mount Neva

Lake Dorothy and Mount Neva

I not only hiked to Lake Dorothy this year but hiked well beyond it on the Caribou Pass Trail. I kept looking beyond the next bend to see if I could get a better view of Grand Lake at the other side of Rocky Mountain National Park. In fact, I hiked that trail until I came to a snow drift too deep to consider crossing.

I think often about last year’s hike to Arapaho Pass because the wildflowers were so many, so beautiful, and so varied. I date my extreme flower consciousness to that hike. This year, as I know even more about wildflowers, I am even more impressed by their profusion on this trail.

This year I got to the Fourth of July Trailhead, elevation 10,100 feet, by 7. I made sure to arrive early, because I wanted to make sure that I got a parking place at the small parking lot. I also wanted to take advantage of the early morning light for the best photographs. The trailhead takes its name from the Fourth of July Mine, which is two miles straight up the trail.

It was cold all morning. By the time I reached Arapaho Pass about noon it had warmed up some, probably to about 65 degrees. But the almost constant wind at the pass meant that the wild-chill factor was lower. The morning was absolutely cloudless.

The afternoon warmed up, particularly as I descended back toward civilization. It clouded over too, but the clouds didn’t come between me and my sun until the very end of the hike as I was going back into a forested area anyway.

When I set out this morning, I wanted to accomplish three things. I wanted someone to take a picture of my at the top of Arapaho Pass in the same spot that someone shot me last year. I wanted to climb all the way to Lake Dorothy/ And I wanted to see a wildflower called elephant head. I accomplished all three.

An Elephant Head

An Elephant Head

I saw myriad other species of wildflowers too. I don’t think that I ever saw several of them before, including these beauties, which I haven’t been able to identify in any of my wildflower books.

A Rare Blue Flower

A Rare Blue Flower

Avalanche Lilies

Avalanche Lilies

This Butterfly Lives at 12,000 feet on the Continental Divide

This Butterfly Lives at 12,000 feet on the Continental Divide

It was almost 5 p.m. by the time I got back to Susie, making it almost a 10-hour hike. Although it’s only about 6.5 miles to Lake Dorothy and back, I hiked almost 10 miles looking for wildflowers and the other beauties of nature.

I certainly found a lot of beauty today. This was one of my best hikes ever.


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Posted in: Mountain Climbing

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