As soon I decided to go to the Forest Lakes in the James Peak Wilderness today my dominant emotion was anxiety. The drive – not the hike — made me fearful.
The first 35 miles from home through Nederland and Rollinsville weren’t scary. I had driven them several times before.
But all that I knew about the last 12 miles was that the road wasn’t suitable for low clearance vehicles, according to one source, and had “a rocky native surface,” according to another. This “Moffat Road” was the original “hill route” over the Continental Divide at Rollins Pass (elevation 11,660 feet) that David Moffat built in 1903. It starts at 9,200 and nowadays ends at about 11,000 near the upper trailhead for the Forest Lakes.
Since leaving Africa, I haven’t ever driven such a miserable road. While Suzy has high clearance and four-wheel drive, any minor problem would have left me stranded in the middle of nowhere. So I drove slowly and carefully, and those 12 miles took me two hours each way, while the first 35 miles of the trip took just an hour.
While the deeply rutted road itself was miserable, the scenery was grand. I passed two lakes en route to the trailhead. The road circles three-fourths of the way around this beautiful lake:
When I got to the trailhead, I was still anxious. I hadn’t seen a person or a vehicle all the way there. I tend to appreciate people more when there are fewer of them.
I relaxed a bit on the hike down to the Upper Forest Lake and walked around it as far as I could on either side. The mountain wall marks the Continental Divide, just a mile or two away:
A mile down the trail from Upper Forest Lake is Lower Forest Lake. That was my destination, because I had been there once before on November 16 last year. That time I had hiked up to it from the lower road. And that time the road was fine but the trail was miserable. I hiked in snow the whole way.
Today the late was lovely:
On the shore of the lake I brunched on sardines. My only companion was this inquisitive bug:
Then, I pulled myself away and climbed the hill back up to Suzy. Just after I started to drive back, I encountered a couple in a pick-up truck coming up the road. We were so delighted to see someone else that we stopped our vehicles on the road and talked. It seems that I fear being away from people much more than I fear being with them.