Twin Lakes and Sandbeach Lake

Sunday, October 26

A couple weeks ago I met Gale on the trail to Lawn Lake and we exchanged emails. This week, she asked if she could tag along, if I was planning on a hike on Sunday. Well, I had no plans when she asked but that was easy to remedy.

A couple years ago I followed Foster’s directions in an attempt to find Twin Lakes in Wild Basin. She says “finding these lakes is a bit of an orienteering challenge”. I fell short of that challenge and figured it was about time I made a second attempt. I studied the map for a while, finally suggesting that Gale accompany me on my second assault. Over three or four days, my plan evolved a few times with my final idea being after we visit Twin Lakes, we cross the ridge, bushwhack up to Sandbeach Lake and hike out on that trail.

We met at the Sandbeach Lake trailhead shortly after eight. I left my car there and she drove us to the Thunder Lake trailhead. We put boots on the trail before eight thirty. It was sunny and mostly clear; the only clouds were hanging over the Divide. It was also windy. I think I used the phrase “a bit breezy.” What I really meant was more like “it was savagely windy.” But the hike would be through forest the whole way; the only time I expected to deal with the wind was when we were hanging out at the lakes.

Rather than follow Foster’s directions this time, my plan was to hike up the Thunder Lake trail until we reached about 9800′ elevation, then contour east along the slope to the lakes. I’m generally low tech when I’m hiking. I don’t carry a GPS unit with me. I do carry a smart phone, though. I use a speedometer app when I’m in the car because the car can’t be trusted to tell me how fast I’m going. This app also shows the elevation, which can be handy in cases like this.

Shortly after regaining the main trail after the campground shortcut, we arrived at a couple of switchbacks. The eastern end of one of these was conveniently close to our target elevation so we headed off trail there. As is usual when off trail, we couldn’t go in a straight line. I kept thinking we were going downhill, but every time I checked our elevation we were still on target. It was in here I saw the only wildlife on the hike: I spooked a very large rabbit who made very good speed in spite of his girth.

We weren’t making great time, what with finding the best route past rock outcrops or through dense pockets of trees. But it didn’t take too long to arrive at the larger of the Twin Lakes. This is the westernmost, larger one. These lakes are snow fed, neither has an inlet or outlet stream. They’re pretty shallow and, again, I’ve been to larger unnamed ponds in the park. But the view to the west from this lake was very nice. As expected, the wind was quite strong here. At times the wind gusts were so strong they kicked spray up ten or fifteen feet above the water.

We found a place more or less out of the wind and I set up the SLR to do the time lapse. We sat and ate part of our lunches and watched the world go by for about a half hour. Upon retrieving the camera I saw that I neglected to use my usual settings. There are a number of things I have to change from my usual shooting – turn off auto-focus, turn off stability, set it on full manual and set the proper exposure, configure the timer. And change it from storing raw images with large, fine JPG to a smaller image. This is the first time I’ve managed to forget this part. So I filled the memory card pretty quickly. Oops. I’ve been meaning to buy a bigger card; perhaps this error will be the impetus for me to get it done.

Between the two lakes is a small aspen grove. A beaver has been busy here, cutting down several trees.

After getting our gear together, we headed the short distance to the other Twin Lake. It’s just a few yards away, and up a few feet of elevation. We passed through a little aspen grove. This one turned out to be perhaps the most interesting aspen grove I’ve walked through. Some beaver had been busy here, gnawing through dozens of trees. Some had been downed, chewed through completely. Others were still works in progress. The wood chips looked fairly fresh; I doubt this work was abandoned, but what do I know?

I didn’t see anything like a beaver lodge in either lake, and there are no streams here. The beaver must be in one of the lakes, though. These were pretty big trees; there was no other possible body of water this lumber could be taken to, unless that beaver has access to a helicopter or something. Which probably means I wouldn’t recognize a beaver lodge if I was standing on it.

There is almost no view at the smaller of the two lakes, so we didn’t dally there long. From here, we headed almost straight up slope. We only needed to gain about two hundred feet to top the ridge. We passed a couple of cairns and came across what I think is a wildlife trail. After topping the ridge, a small unnamed pond was next, just below us. The pond sits, as is common, surrounded by marshy grass. Being nearly November, it was mostly dried out.

Sandbeach Creek feeds this pond. The map also shows a gully a bit to the west of the creek. We found ourselves ascending this gully rather than the creek. The gully is clearly a flowing stream during spring and summer; now it’s dry but verdant, filled with moss covered rocks, darkly green in the shade of the forest. In places, it looks like there is dried mud covering some of the rocks. It’s not mud, but a dried fibrous sheet a couple millimeters thick.

The gully opened into a clearing where we hopped up a pile of rocks about thirty feet high before returning to another mossy section. Here I decided we needed to head a bit more towards the east. “Just over this next rise we’ll find the lake.” It wasn’t the first time I said it, but I was finally correct. We emerged on the shore of Sandbeach Lake just a few yards to the west of the outlet stream.

It was calm here on the lee shore. It was also mostly devoid of an interesting view, so we circled counter clockwise toward the trail. The wind was quite intense on the east side of the lake. And because this used to be a reservoir like Lawn Lake, there aren’t any trees along the shore to provide shelter. We retreated into the forest, found a nice rock to sit on, and ate more of our lunches. I decided not to set up either camera as I figured neither would be able to sit still in this wind. So it goes. It’s unlikely I have enough footage to bother with a video this time.

There were a few other hikers there. We talked to two guys who spent the night there. They had heard there was an alternate route back to the trailhead. I got my map out and showed them a route I considered for this hike. And, as we no longer needed it, I gave them the map.

The hike out was uneventful. The wind seemed to be dying down a bit, and the skies remained clear overhead. Crossing Hunters Creek, I wondered if there was a bridge there that was washed away last September. There are just sawn logs there now. Perhaps I’m just misremembering. We arrived at my car a few minutes before three, still feeling fresh and in agreement that it was a fun hike. The off trail excursion was pleasant and the beaver activity at the lakes was unusual and quite interesting.

On a final note… I regularly wonder how often my car shows up on Instagram or Facebook. People are always taking pictures when I’m at stop lights or in parking lots. This evening, my son found my car on Facebook. It’s a picture taken today, at the trailhead. Too funny.

Lawn Lake Time Lapse

As I suspected, the SLR was moved around by the wind. But it turns out not to be that big of a loss, as I had it facing too far east. Most of the clouds were dissipated before making it much past the left side of the image. In spite of these difficulties, I included a few seconds of that view anyway.

Having put the Lawn Lake time lapse to bed, I must be ready to take another hike.

Lawn Lake

October 11

Wednesday I started thinking about where to hike next. At first I was thinking it might be a good time to try Spectacle Lakes. You either climb steep slabs or climb straight up the stream. This late in the season, that stream will be as dry as ever. Then I searched the message boards for trip reports. The consensus is you should have a hiking partner. So Spectacle Lakes is a no go, for now. Still, I haven’t been up towards Ypsilon Lake in a while so I decided Fay Lakes would be a good destination. I could bag three more lakes on one shot, and it’s not a terribly long hike.

The forecast for Denver was good weather, with a high in the low seventies. It rained Thursday night, snowed above nine thousand feet, or so the weather wonks said. Should be a gorgeous day for a hike.

I arrived at the Lawn Lake trailhead about eight and was kitted up and on the trail a few minutes later. It was a brisk, clear morning. Lots of tourists were already in the park, lining the roads watching the herds of elk. Only a few cars were at the trailhead, though.

About thirty five minutes into the hike, I reached the Ypsilon trail junction. I met the two hikers who hit the trail as I was putting my boots on. “You probably already know the bridge is out.” I didn’t. I scouted it out anyway. There were a couple of logs laid across the water. Old, gray, dead logs. I put a foot on them and they moved under my partial weight. And they were covered with frost. I decided Lawn Lake would be a nice enough place for a picnic, so back I went to the main trail.

IMG_0206sThe trail was undercut in a few places by the flooding last September. A few more short stretches of trail have disappeared into the abyss. Other than that, and the bridge, there really isn’t much damage from last year’s floods.

I caught Gail and Glen a bit farther up the trail. We hiked together for a while, chatting. Before long we started seeing traces of snow on the ground. They stopped for a break and I continued. The snow was deeper after a while; not more than an inch, and not entirely covering the trail. There were some boot prints and after a bit I saw the first animal print.

At first I thought it might be a mountain lion. There was just the one print. A few yards along there were a couple more. Claws prominent with each print, so not a cat. Dogs are not allowed in the park and I don’t think we have wolves. These prints followed the trail for two miles or so, never short cutting the switchbacks, never stepping off the trail.IMG_0209fIt struck me as odd until I thought about it. I’ve run into all sorts of animals using the trails. I met a lame moose on the trail near Verna Lake. He wouldn’t get off the trail, I had so shoo him along. Last spring I met that bear sitting in the middle of the trail. And I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen various sorts of animal pooh. Obviously, animals use the trails too. Trails make travel easier, why wouldn’t animals use them?

Having spotted these nice tracks I began to wonder when the beastie put them down. It had to have been Friday evening. The snow was fairly soft when the prints were made. Many of them were quite well formed. Even at nine thirty the snow on the trail was still quite solid, refrozen overnight. So they had to be put down some time late afternoon or early evening.

I made it to Lawn Lake shortly after eleven. It is clearly no longer summer here at 11,000′. It is clear directly overhead, and to the east. Some gray clouds are sitting on the divide. The wind is shredding the clouds, tearing chunks off and sending them eastward and evaporating them. It happens with such ferocity It doesn’t take a time lapse video to see it.

With it so windy a couple thousand feet overhead, it’s no surprise it’s windy at the lake as well. And there are no trees within a hundred yards of the water. The lake covered a much larger area when it was dammed and even in thirty two years, no trees have filled the void.

Mummy Mtn

I set the cameras up and took refuge on the southeast side of the only large boulder near the outlet. I put the GoPro nearly in the water, right up against the bank and as far out of the wind as possible. I put the SLR on the tripod to the lee side of a rock, but none of the rocks were that big. The camera was still in the breeze. I haven’t looked at the pictures yet, so I don’t know how much the camera moved.

It has always been the case until now that I sat on my rock or log and watched the same sky the cameras were filming. My wind sheltering boulder blocked my sight of everything north and west so I watched mostly to the south. The only gray cloud in the sky was behind me, sitting over the Saddle. Although it was clear overhead, I occasionally had snow fall on me. Not flakes, little pellets. But not quite graupel.

Lawn Lake

It was a bit on the cool side but not bad if you stayed both out of the wind and in the sun. I sat there about forty five minutes, which was long enough for me to be ready to get moving again. Before leaving, I wandered over to the breach in the dam and checked things out. At the other reclaimed reservoirs, there really isn’t much sign that they were ever dammed. At Pear and Bluebird there’s the obvious bathtub ring, but that’s it. Same for Sandbeach. I guess the earthen berm here is too large to bother with.

Heading down the trail I started running into people. I didn’t see Gail and Glen again, but chatted with a couple who said “Are you Dave? We just met Gail and Glen.” The next hikers were headed to Crystal Lakes. I said it was a bit breezy. “Breezy or windy?” They said they didn’t want to fight the wind. I wished them luck; they might get weather in addition to wind.

IMG_1184sOn the way down I couldn’t help but notice how quickly the snow was melting. I’m guessing the snow line raised a thousand feet or so between nine and one. The coyote prints were still there, mixed in with several times as many boot prints as before. I’d been wearing my windbreaker the whole day, finally took it off half way back to the car.

I stopped for a fruit break where I had a nice view of Longs Peak and considered shooting a few more minutes of time lapse, but I didn’t have enough free memory to make it worthwhile. I just need to go out and get a bigger memory card and be done with it.

I made it back to the car before three and headed home. Before leaving the park, I stopped at one of the many overlooks and got a picture of the clouds over the Bear Lake area. When I got back in the car, there was an older guy there admiring it. I said hello, but he just nodded and smiled. I’m guessing he didn’t speak much English.

I keep falling farther behind in putting the videos together. I’d hoped to have the one for Tourmaline Lake done by now. I’m real close, really. So now I “owe” two videos. Stay tuned!



Up Down
Trailhead 08:08 AM 02:46 PM
Lawn Lake 11:10 AM 11:55 AM

Tourmaline Lake

September 27, 2014

This is the second time I hike to Tourmaline Lake. Last year I hiked here from the Fern Lake trailhead. This time I started at Bear Lake. It’s a bit shorter this way, and downhill a bit as well between Lake Helene and Odessa Lake.

As seems to be the general case, I got a bit of a late start. It was another free day in the park, and traffic was a bit worse than I was expecting. By the time I got to Bear Lake road, the signs indicated the parking lot was full and visitors should use the park and ride. It’s been a while since I used the shuttle and while the route hasn’t changed, there are more stops than I was used to. It was a few minutes after nine before I hit the trail.

A calm, clear morning

The morning was calm and clear. Expecting a touch of fall in the air, I wore jeans rather than shorts. I wasn’t uncomfortable in jeans, but would have been happier in shorts. So it goes. Getting a bit of a late start, I made an effort to make some good time. It’s about four miles to Odessa Lake and I felt I should be able to cover that ground in two hours and arrive by 11:07. Well, let’s just round that down and target Odessa Lake by 11:00.

The trail was pretty busy. I had a trail runner pass me before I arrived at the junction with the Bierstadt trail. At the Flattop junction, I passed a group of five or six hikers headed to the Fern Lake trailhead. A bit later on, it was a guy with fishing gear and his companion who where headed to Fern Lake. I met many others as well, and most people were going from Bear Lake to Fern Lake trailhead.

Just before reaching Odessa Lake, I ran into the trail runner again. He had made it to Fern Lake and was on his way back. I asked how quick a pace he was able to maintain and he said he was doing eight and a half or nine minute miles. Not bad on a rocky and root crossed trail.

I arrived at Odessa Lake ahead of schedule. By now the sky was no longer cloudless – small puffy white clouds were in action, and contrary to normal were moving roughly east to west. I didn’t even pause at Odessa and headed straight up Tourmaline Creek. At the risk of repeating myself, the route from here is more or less straight up the creek. It’s pretty steep at first, mellows out a bit in the middle, then gets steep again. For the top half of the climb, the creek is mostly invisible but burbling vibrantly under rocks and boulders. With no sign of trail or cairns, just rock hop up the creek. It took me about fifty minutes to get from Odessa to Tourmaline, a climb of 560′ in six tenths of a mile.

Knobtop Mountain and Tourmaline Lake

Tourmaline Lake isn’t much of a lake. I’ve been to several unnamed ponds in the park that are bigger. What it lacks in size it more than makes up in setting. It is surrounded by dramatic rock walls, some with interesting spires. Although it wasn’t windy, it’s clear that high winds are a normal aspect of the place. All the trees around my picnic spot were one-sided, having no branches on their west sides.

While I was eating my lunch I heard somebody yell out. I think whoever it was just wanted to hear their voice echo. I responded with my own yell. A short while later I thought I heard voices quite a bit nearer to me but I never did see anybody. On these off trail hikes in solitude I often think I hear people talking. Sometimes I wonder if it’s a trick of the imagination.

It was a very pleasant day and I enjoyed sitting there by this small lake for the better part of an hour. Ate my sandwich and a plum, and a cookie that was in several pieces, chocolate chips beginning to melt slightly. There was never more than a slight breeze, and no pesky insects. The clouds, unusually, went from east to west.

The outlet stream is fairly flat exiting the cirque, going northeast before making a right turn and tumbling steeply downhill. The flank of Flattop is to the right, with Joe Mills Mtn directly in front. I can’t help but think it wasn’t this steep on the way up, but everything looks steeper to me on the way down. There is much less water flowing now than when I hiked in late June, making for easier hiking.

Before returning to Odessa I refill the water bottle and ponder which way to return. I didn’t give it any thought when I decided to go to Tourmaline, I guess my assumption was that I’d hike back to Bear Lake. I got to thinking that because I was parked at the park and ride rather than Bear Lake, I could hike out to the Fern Lake bus stop instead. Of course, I could have done that even had I parked at Bear Lake. Sure, it’s something like 1.7 miles farther, but it’s all downhill.

I decided to make the one way trip. This would be the third time I’ve done it, but the first adding the spur to Tourmaline. And this time, even with the late start and the extra lake, I’d probably get to the car at about the same time as the other times.

At Fern Lake I chatted again with the fisherman and his wife/girlfriend. They were heading back to Bear Lake. Near Fern Falls I ran into the group I met at the Flattop trail junction. Nearer the Pool, I felt the fire damage wasn’t as dramatic as it was last spring, but there’s a good sized landslide there now as well.

Hiking out from the Pool always seems like drudgery to me, I’m tired, it’s usually warm, the trail is crowded. It always seems to take forever. This time, though, it was over quicker than I expected. I covered the eight tenths of a mile from the trailhead to the bus stop in thirteen minutes, which nearly equals the pace of my walks around home. I felt real good.  Then I nearly dozed off on the (36 minute!) bus ride back to the car.

All in all, a very satisfying hike.

I’m still working on the time lapse. Seems each one takes longer than the previous one.

Portland Trip: Time Lapse and Timed Laps

It seems like it’s taken forever, but it’s been only (only?) four weeks. Perhaps I took the wrong path, but I wanted to post all the videos in one shot. And here it is.

Deschutes River

The skies were a clear blue for almost the entire float down the river, so if I wanted to do a time lapse I’d have to get creative. Mark suggested that it might be interesting to see the shadows move on the canyon wall, which I thought was worth a try. The challenge was in the timing. I didn’t know if the movement of the shadows of the rocks would be interesting, so I wanted to also get the shadow of the opposite wall climbing to the sky as the sun set. If I started too early, I’d run out of memory on the SD card. If I started too late, I’d only get part of the picture.

I’m pleased with the result. I did have a technical glitch, though. After a while I noticed that the camera was no longer shooting. The display showed Err: 999, whatever that is. I turned it off and back on and kept an eagle eye on it in case it happened again. It did, but the second time I caught it pretty quickly. So there’s only one significant discontinuity.

The Ridge

For some reason, I can’t get DashWare to use the location data for these sessions. It’s in the file but no joy with the software. That had the side effect of making it very difficult to sync with the video. Because I expect to run faster laps at the end of the day, I save my favorite angle for last – topless center mount.

Portland International Raceway

At PIR, when I launched RaceChrono it gave me a message that my demo copy had expired and telemetry would only last five minutes. But DashWare handled the position data this time, so the map is back and it was easy to sync but no RPM or throttle data. At PIR I had a carried a passenger for my final final session. I think I was driving better, finally putting two and three turns together each lap. Not my fastest time, though – the passenger is nearly a ten percent weight disadvantage.

Oregon Raceway Park

Clearly, I have a setup issue. The telemetry from the OBD-II is working but the position isn’t working. Perhaps it’s a metadata issue. I’d have liked to been able to make two videos for the ORP day, one for each direction. Good data and video from the morning. In the afternoon the lap counter wasn’t working for two sessions and I forgot to start the camera on the third. So it’s just the counter-clockwise lap.

I’m trying to figure out how to make DashWare work. I don’t like the green gauges, but I’m sure I’ll try a lot of things I may not like. I’d like to have the RPM gauge indicate the second cam.

Mt. Hood

Nice clouds on this one. Almost looked like the volcano was steaming at one point. Both cameras pretty much had no choice but to film the same thing, and placement problems for the GoPro to boot.

Grand Tetons

I like the way this one came out, in spite of the exposure issues.

Portland Trip: Day 15 – Grand Tetons to Denver

September 6, 2014

Immediately on exiting the park I made a wrong turn. On the map, it looked to me like I needed to make a right and within a few miles I’d make a left. Clearly, I was deranged. I stopped at one of the many scenic pullouts for a picture and to ask which way to US 287. A biker had come from where I was headed, but he was unable to tell me where to go. He was from St. Louis, and he was so enthralled by the mountains he didn’t really know where he was or where he was headed.

I got my navigation straightened out. Here, US 287 and US 26 are conjoined, By now, US 26 was an old friend. And, in theory, I could take US 287 to within a few miles of my house. The road in the first 30 miles or so east of the Tetons is quite interesting and scenic. But we are in Wyoming, where most of the interesting bits are on the borders. The terrain quickly transitions to high desert.

The speed limits in Wyoming are a bit higher than in Idaho, but I didn’t really want to chance another ticket so I kept to my 5-8 mph over the limit strategy. Soon a big diesel pickup towing a Wells Cargo trailer passed me, so I sped up and followed him at a respectful distance. We made good time until a construction zone where they were essentially rebuilding the road. I was at the end of a line where we waited for a pilot car. A few miles later we arrived at the junction where US 287 headed south and US 26 continued east. Obviously, I’d be in Riverton well before dark and wouldn’t be stopping there. So the argument could be made that I should have followed 287 to Lander. But the pickup stayed on 26 and I followed him.

I stopped for an early dinner at the Arby’s in Riverton. There was a high school girls athletic team still ordering, so I had a long wait. That’s okay, it was time to figure out my navigation. I didn’t want to backtrack to Lander and didn’t want to follow US 26 to Casper and I-25. So I brought the atlas in from the car. That led to a conversation with a farmer from South Dakota. The unfortunate fellow was in Riverton with his wife when she had to go to the hospital. That left him in Riverton with a few days to kill. We talked about a number of things, but I was curious what he planted, how he decided what to plant, and so on. He has corn and beans now, and rotates his crops with peas or whatever the canner will give him a good price for.


Seismic Crew Ahead

I decided WY 135 was the way to go. Fuel was the next stop after food, and at the gas station I talked with a local. I asked him if WY 135 was a good road. He said yes, and directed me: right at end of Main St., go across the bridge, make a left turn at the green sign, keep to the right at the junction with WY 136. At the junction with US 287 there’s a rest stop. His directions were spot on, and it was as good a road as he said. It was well travelled but not crowded and passed through some interesting landscapes.

After a few minutes at the rest stop, I continued east and south on US 287. I went slightly under speed limit until a faster guy came along. I tried to keep a good distance from him, a quarter mile or so. We made good time. After a while another car came up from behind, going about five miles per hour faster than me. She wouldn’t pass until I slowed down to about 60, then she sped up to 75 again. Now I’ve lost my pace truck, so I went back to slightly under the limit. To the east, several thunderstorms were in progress, maybe 20 miles away this way, perhaps 25 that way. Not real active, but throwing a nice lightning bolt every few minutes.


I soon caught up to the last car to pass me. She had caught a truck and was unwilling to pass. I passed them both, and she followed me past the truck. I knew she’d be on my tail for a while as she wanted to go faster but seemed to have difficulty passing people. Luckily I caught another truck and managed to peel her off. The car is so low, tailgaters are particularly annoying after dark.

I arrived in Rawlins not long after dark. I was not tired at all. The drive has been pleasant, interesting to watch, and with little traffic. I won’t stop for the night here and head to Laramie where I’ll again decide whether to stop or continue.

It’s I-80 from Rawlins to Laramie. Now that it’s dark, I don’t mind the interstate so much. I know there’s not much to see, and I already saw it two weeks ago. I find night driving less tiring on the super slab than on two lane roads. There were two 10 mile stretches of construction where we were down to one lane, but otherwise easy. Those stretches were tough, though, as the pavement was so dark as to be invisible.

At Laramie I was still feeling great. I grabbed some munchies to eat while I drive, which I generally don’t do. I could have taken US 287 south to Ft. Collins but decided to stay on I-80. I didn’t want to drive any two lane road at night and if I got tired, there was no place to stop. (Don’t confuse me with the facts that 287 is four lanes much of the way).

Staying on I-80, my next decision point was Cheyenne. There were two more construction zones between Laramie and Cheyenne, also quite black. I was still going strong at Cheyenne, so I kept going. Next stop: home. Sitting on the beach at Leigh Lake, I had guessed that I could be home by midnight if I left the park by two. That turned out to be a pretty danged good guess. I pulled into my driveway at 12:06.

The whole trip was fantastic. I had one day where the weather interfered, but I can’t really complain about one bad day in a two week trip. This will be a hard trip to top. I drove a bit over four thousand miles, had a fantastic time for three days on the Deschutes River, enjoyed the challenge of learning three race tracks in four days, made three very interesting hikes, and even managed to get in a few days at the office.

Next I’ll put together three time lapse videos and at least one video from each track day. I hope to get all this done and posted by next weekend.

Wow. What a blast.