A backpacking weekend in the Eagles Nest Wilderness just outside of Silverthorne and Vail, Colorado.
At a certain point in the summer, there are signs that fall is on the way.
The ground covers starts showing a little red. Aspen trees here and there have the first bit of yellow on their leaves. A faint odor of decaying vegetation is smelled . The evenings and early mornings have a slight nip to the air.
The day may be warm. The summer wildflowers may still be carpeting the mountainsides.
But there is no doubt that fall is on its way.
This past weekend in the Colorado high country, there very much was a touch of autumn in the air.
Summer is receding. Autumn is about to begin.
The chosen route for this weekend would be in the Eagles Nest Wilderness .
Joining me on this trip would be my buddy Mark. Judy, his a past partner, graciously offered to meet us at the end of a one-way trip. This offer would expand our trip options.
The route would take us from the Surprise Lake trailhead, by some popular lakes, up and over the Elliot Ridge, down to the Big Piney drainage, up the valley and over an un-named (on the map) pass and down to the popular Booth Lake trail just outside of Vail. A nice little jaunt to welcome in the upcoming season.
The weekend started with a hearty breakfast at the highly recommended Mountain Lyon Cafe. A place that actually makes their own corn beef hash! A rare treat in the early 21st century. We both chowed down. Thus fortified with fat, carbs, protein and copious amounts of caffeine, the trip could start in earnest.
We drove to the trailhead, threw on the packs, and headed up the trail.
The first lake was reached. A good place for any easy backpacking trip. But our hike would take us further.
We continued up the trail and spotted the popular Kat Lake. Nearby was the upper Cataract Lake as well.
We soon reached Mirror Lake not far from the edge of treeline. Thunder clouds moved in, lightning started…and then the hail!
The tarp was quickly erected to shelter us from the onslaught for the next hour. Going beyond treeline in this weather did not seem wise.
Once the hail stopped and the weather cleared, we moved up the trail and into the alpine zone. Elliot Ridge was spotted. The big hump for the day.
We encountered more hail and dashed to some trees. The weather cleared again.
A planned side trip was up to the gentle summit of Meridian Peak. The mountain itself is not too jaw dropping. Just a wide summit at the end of the ridge. Old jeep track leads to the top of the mountain. The views, however, are quite incredible. Amazing views towards the jagged peaks that make up most of the Gore Range. And I’ve always seen mountain goats from this summit.
But the iffy weather and the about two-miles round trip hike nixed the idea. Some other time…
We dropped off the ridge and followed old jeep track that made up the trail in this part of the wilderness.
A great view was had in the cool night air.
A libation was enjoyed as well, too!
The following day, we made our way to the valley floor. The trail lead through an aspen forest.
The Big Piney meadow was reached with an extremely beautiful view towards the ridge we’d be hiking over.
We made our way up the trail, followed a popular use trail up the drainage and then ‘schwacked along another fork of the creek to a meadow. On the map, there was an un-named pass the look liked an obvious exit point.
The terrain proved this map reading to be correct.
I would later find out that this pass has a popular, if un-official name.
The views up to the pass were also astounding. The peaks were calling to be scrambled up and enjoyed. With the weather, however, that would have to wait for another time.
At the top of the pass, we enjoyed our hard work (while noticing the cloud build up urging us to not linger too long!)
We went down the other side of the pass and saw many late-season wildflowers.
Both sides of the pass were an amazingly beautiful area.
We followed the drainage and eventually stumbled upon a social trail.
The social trail lead to the popular Booth Lake trail just outside of Vail.
We made our way down; passing people heading up to the lake or finishing for the day.
The nature of trek had changed. A well-worn trail would lead back to the car.
One last view of late-season fireweed would be had first.
One of the last flowers to bloom before autumn truly comes to the high country.
We arrived back to the car. Judy was waiting, saw us and hinted perhaps we wanted to change before getting into the car? 😉
A post-hike beer and pizza was enjoyed, we drove back to my car at the first trailhead, I said goodbye to my friends and the drive was made back to Boulder.
Next week a past partner and I are exploring the Spanish Peaks. I am anticipating even more fall-like weather. In the mean time, I will savor the last bit of summer.
Though this route is partially off-trail, the route is reasonably obvious on the map. For the person comfortable reading a map, the brief description at the start of this article should do the trick.