There are some places in the mountains that I've returned to many times. Places that are beautiful and stunning and always seems to call out to me.
Franconia Ridge in New Hampshire. The Wind River Range in Wyoming. The canyon country of Utah.
All places that are far from my current home. Places the require travel time and often vacation time.
But there is one place near my home that I always return. A place that is full of alpine views and lakes. Abundance of wildflowers in the summer and golden leafed aspen in the autumn. This place is in the Indian Peaks Wilderness. Or more specifically a two pass loop that encompasses going over to the Continental Divide and continuing on to the remote feeling Western side of the Indian Peaks.
After the enjoyable, if hectic, social backpack of last weekend, I again needed a "real" backpacking trip. More hiking and less camping. A chance to walk all day and really feel immersed in the mountains I love.
Originally, I was going to make this trip a solo one. However, I received an e-mail from d-low and he expressed interest in the trip. As it is one of my favorite loops, and one I love to share, I readily accepted the company of Wendy and d-low for the weekend.
The hike started on an already sultry Saturday morning in Boulder. I was glad to leave town and head into the mountains where it would be cooler.
The three of us drove to the already busy Brainard Lake recreation area and started our hike.
The hike to Lake Isabelle (with its commanding view of the divide and Isabelle Glacier) is a very popular one. It is easy to see why. With Gazing across the lake, looking at the divide with its permanent snowfield it looks like EXHIBIT A from an example of Colorado hiking. Simply stunning. It is an easy hike in as well.
We continued up the trail to the equally popular Pawnee Pass on the Continental Divide. The view is dramatic to say the least. Looking west, you see mountains that call out to be climbed and explored.
We enjoyed the view for a bit and climbed down the pass. We could see our lunch destination at Pawnee Lake.
Once on the western side of the divide. The crowds thinned out..and the wildflowers could not be believed. Bright reds and purples. Blue columbines everywhere. With all the snow in the mountains this year, the wildflower display we saw was beyond memorable.
The hike continued in this vein; much to our delight.
After a bit, we came to Cascade Falls. The rushing and cool water and the dramatic sights and sounds proved too good to pass up. We enjoyed sitting by the water and taking in the raw power of the falls.
After hiking a bit more, we came to the confluence of two creeks and spied a wonderful camspite down in the valley. It was sheltered by the trees and had a good view to the ridge above us. A small campfire, with a bit of wine, proved a great way to end the day.
The following morning we continued to make our way up to Buchanan Pass on the Continental Divide. The area is very remote feeling. No was around and we could see no sign of "civilization".
Fox Park proved to be stunning with fields of wildflowers and the ridge of the Continental Divide above us.
On top of Buchanan Pass, I enjoyed the views West and the solitude while waiting for Wendy and d-low. I knew once we crossed over to the Eastern side, the hike would change. Still gorgeous, but a bit more people. I always find it fascinating how the Continental Divide parts now only the waters, but the people as well. On one side is developed parking lots and many people flocking from town to enjoy the mountains. On other side, I can gaze to the mountains and see no around. Just me, the sound of the wind and the stark looking peaks.
We continued our climb down and made it Coney Flats where we had lunch. The distinctive view of Sawtooth was seen. I could see the pass from where we just hiked. I was reminded of my many ski tours in this area with this exact view. The warm sun reminded me it was August and not January, however!
After a bit, we started our climb up to the shoulder of the 13k+ ft Audubon. Unfortunately, I reached the high point of the shoulder just as a thunder and lightning storm moved in for the afternoon.
Normally, I wait at junctions for my friends. In this case, I made a quick beeline to the trees. The above tree line stretch was short..but I did not want to hang around too long!
Going down the trail, I had one last view towards the mountains. A reminder of what is waiting for me on future weekends.
I made it to the trailhead just as a monsoon (or so it seemed) moved in. Luckily, the thick tree cover kept me dry as I waited for Wendy and d-low. I had a little wine to help pass the time, too.
Once my friends showed up, we made our way to the car. Another weekend was finished. Another weekend spent in the mountains. Another weekend spent in a place I love.
All the photos
Curious about doing this loop the first week of June? How feasible would that be..
Too much snow until about July 1st. And if a snow dump happens in April or May, maybe not even until later.