San Juans in the Smoke

Joan and I continue to explore a little to the east of us in the San Juan mountains of Colorado.

My favorite range, by far, in Colorado, and it is practically in our backyard.  When we go for two hours or so from us to the west, we are still in the high desert. A few hours in the other direction? It seems so much further away as we are in an area that is higher, cooler, and a completely different ecosystem.  We leave the Colorado Plateau and enter the Rockies.

We are close enough, where even a quick weekend trip does not require any specialized logistics. And for a short trip (25+ miles r/t this past weekend), we can even leave on a Saturday morning.

As I mentioned previously, I’d get in perhaps one trip to the San Juans every year or so as such a trip meant hours of driving. Not any more.

So we pull out our maps during the week, plot out a route, and see what looks promising for us to explore.

There’s a lake we both heard good things about and perfect for a weekend jaunt. And we could connect a loop with an old miners trail found on older maps.

Near sunset.

We fully expected to have to hike past the lake to camp as such areas are popular. And this lake is within striking distance of three 14ers. And we are in Colorado during the summer.

But much to my admitted surprise, we found a campsite tucked up above the main trail, away from people, with the lake in sight. Too good to pass up. I am still not sure why this spot had no one claiming it by early evening when we came upon it. But no complaints from me.  We rarely camp in such prominent places, but sometimes you have to break your self-imposed rules.

In the morning.

The following morning we worked our way up to a pass that serves as the crossroads where two routes up to a nearby 14er meet.

At the top of the 13k+ foot pass, we could see the effects of the two major fires in western Colorado. The haze reminded me of my experiences on the Great Divide Trail two summers ago. And a reminder that the so-called “new normal” is now, simply, normal.

Shortly after this point, we left the moderate amount of 14er traffic behind and moved along a faint, eroded, but obvious old miners path off the ridge down to the basin below.

At the site of the old mine buildings, the old path improved remarkably and easy enough to follow.

The trail did peter out a bit once we dropped down to the willows. However, not far from the main path. And easy enough to find our way.

Being back on single track and off the talus made some easy and scenic hiking.

We spent a leisurely amount of time at the trailhead once we completed the trip. A cooler full of cold drinks, fresh fruit, and yogurt waiting for us while taking in the scenery of the San Juans made for a relaxing end to another memorable weekend.

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