Rain and snow last night cleared the air. Lower levels were wet with rain. As I climbed higher, I saw more and more fresh snow beside the trail.
But today was clear and still, and no snow stayed on the trail to block my ascent. I climbed from 9,200 feet to 11,035 feet to the Crater Lakes in the James Peak Wilderness. Out and back was about seven miles.
I saw two beautiful lakes for the first time, inspired by my new guidebook to Colorado Lake Hikes, which is the first of my guidebooks to even mention the Crater Lakes. ”Of the many lakes in this area,” writes Dave Muller, “the Crater Lakes provide the best hike.”
I agree. In the past two years I’ve hiked three of the other four trails in the area. The climb last year to Rogers Peak Lake, Heart Lake, and Rogers Pass was one of the two hardest I’ve ever attempted. Climbing to Lower Forest Lake late last year in the snow was scary. So too was the long, lonely drive to reach Upper Forest Lake a month or two ago. The only lake in the area remaining for me to explore is Arapaho Lake, a short spur trail off the Lower Forest Lake Trail. Next year.
Today’s hike was much more pleasant that my earlier hikes in the area. Today’s weather was cold enough that I wore my gloves all day, but getting an early start made all the difference.
I was the first on the mountain today, even before the sun. Only at 8 a.m., an hour after I reached the trailhead, did the sun hit the trail. Another three-fourths of an hour later, when I reached an overlook to Haystack Mountain, the site was worth a stop.
Just another three-fourths of an hour later at 9:30 I reached the Upper Crater Lake.
But at 10 a.m. the clouds rolled in just after I took these shots. I left.
On the return trip I bushwacked to Lower Crater Lake, which I had bypassed on the way up. Even though clouds covered the sky and threatened rain, I’m glad that I did.
I had been disappointed that I got to Lower Crater Lake too late to see it in the sun. But this moody shot is my favorite of all that I took today.