Yesterday evening on the Fowler Trail I didn’t realize that it was the last day of summer. Close to Boulder, the temperature was in the 70s.
Early this morning as I hiked to James Peak Lake against the wind coming over the Continental Divide, I knew that it was the first day of fall. Above the treeline at nearly 12,000 feet, if I had a thermometer, it would have register barely above freezing.
Up before 5, I wanted to get to the trailhead at first light.
I knew that the entire hike would be in the tundra, which I love. But I also had to male sure to get an early start in order to avoid the extreme danger of afternoon lightening where I’m the tallest object.
Until a week ago I didn’t know that James Peak Lake existing. Until I found Colorado Lake Hikes, none of my guidebooks mentioned it. The lake lies just below James Peak in the center of James Peak Wilderness.
Until recently I thought that James Peak was a prosaic name. But know I know that it takes the name of the explorer and botanist Edwin James, who was the first person to climb Pikes Peak. Another explorer, Zebulon Pike, tried and failed to climb the 14,110 foot mountain that towers above Colorado Springs. James Peak at 13,294 feet is the fifth highest summit in the Indian Peaks. A stark and dramatic one:
As I reached my destination, I came across this abandoned cabin that looks out onto James Peak Lake. Except for the absence of a door and window, the cabin remains in good shape. I certainly would have used it in a downpour.
I recognized today that I have some resentment to what mining did to parts of the mountain landscape. But when that thought came to the forefront of my mind, I realized that miners founded Colorado, including Boulder in particular. The miners too built almost all of the mountain trails that we hike.
Coming back from the lake with the wind behind me and the sun higher in the sky, I warmed up enough to stash my winter hood and gloves in my pack. At first the trail rose gently to the crest at 11,600 feet that I had crossed on the way to the lake.
Then, came the steep part of the trail through a rocky mountainside.
I drove 32 miles from Boulder including 5.4 miles on a rough four-wheel-drive track to reach the trailhead up Mammoth Gulch off of the Rollins Pass Road. I would never have attempted the poorly signed and rocky road without my new guidebook’s precise directions.
But then I misunderstood the trail mileage. I thought that it was just 2.5 miles. But the roundtrip distance was 5 miles. Still, I returned to my SUV at 12:30 and got back to Boulder by 2.
Now I mourn the glorious hikes of the summer past. But soon I will be using my snowshoes.