Manitou Incline

The Manitou Incline is a trail that climbs a bit over 2,000′ in less than a mile. The sign at the base of the trail tells us there are 2,744 steps to the top, but a marker on the top step tells us it is the 2,768th. Evidently, the count varies somewhat over time due to trail maintenance. It is, by far, the steepest trail I’m aware of. By contrast, in RMNP, the steepest sections of any trail that pack animals are allowed on climbs about 400′ in six-tenths of a mile (a kilometer). To climb two thousand feet at that slope would take three miles.

So many people want to subject themselves to this torture that reservations are required.

I had the mental image of somebody standing at the bottom of this hill a hundred years ago and saying to themselves, “I know: let’s make a hiking trail that starts here and goes straight up to the top. That would be fun!” This imaginative scenario is not correct. The somewhat more reasonable story is that the trail is the remains of a narrow-gauge funicular railway whose tracks washed out during a rock slide in 1990.

(A funicular is essentially a cable car. Two cars, actually, attached to the cable and used to counterweight each other. Cog railways also are used to climb steep slopes, but they don’t use cables. The Pikes Peak Cog railway starts just a few yards from the base of the Incline.)

They say one should allow two hours to get to the summit. The record is in the seventeen-minute range. Some folks seem to think doing it once isn’t enough, so they came up with the “Inclinathon”: 13 consecutive trips up and down the Incline in one day and has been completed in less than 12 hours.

I’ve been thinking of tackling this challenge for a number of years. Somehow it never really bubbled to the top of my to-do list. A couple of weeks ago, Chad reached out to me and asked if I wanted to join him.

Friday, April 8

Our reservations were in the 9:30-10:00 am slot, and we arrived in the area right on time. We found a parking lot with lots of open spaces, but it’s parking for the Barr Trail, and Incline hikers aren’t allowed to park here. Next, we found the lot for the Pikes Peak Cog Railway. No Incline parking here, either. We finally found the right place, which, naturally, adds a quarter of a mile and maybe 200′ of elevation we’d need to gain.

We couldn’t have asked for better weather. The forecast high was for the mid-60s and calm. At the start, it was still cool enough to wear a hoodie but with the bright sunshine and cloudless cerulean sky, we were soon down to shirtsleeves and getting out the sunscreen.

We hit the first step of the incline at 9:36, at the same time as a woman and her son who looked to be about six years old. An indication of my performance on this hike is that I only managed to beat this six-year-old to the top by a few minutes. Judging by the dirt on the seat of his pants, he spent a lot of time waiting for his mother (and us other slow hikers) to catch up to him.

It wasn’t my lung capacity that was the limiting factor here. It was my legs. Most of the steps are single railroad ties, but in the steeper parts, each step is two railroad ties. And in some places, the ties are so close together that the tread width of the step is shorter than my boot is long. (The Incline is famous for its steepness, with an average grade of 45% (24°) and as steep as 68% (34°) in places.)

Not far from the bottom, a small herd of deer browsed their way across the trail. They’re quite acclimated to people; several of them came within 8 or 10 feet of me. I think I might have been able to pet them, had I been so inclined. Sorry for the pun.

I didn’t see anybody running up, but quite a few ran down. I thought I saw somewhere that the Incline is one-way: climb up the Incline and take the Barr Trail back down. The hardcore group didn’t get enough agony on the trip up, they had to compound it by going back down the steps. No way I could have done it. We saw one guy who made two trips, and one gal we encountered was going down the steps backward. She said it was easier on the legs and falls wouldn’t be so bad. She said she would make a second ascent as soon as she got back to the base. At this point, I have no plans to do it a second time in my life, let alone a second time in a day.

There’s a marker on every hundredth step so you have a good idea of just how much torture still lies ahead of you. Or maybe I should say “above you”. I never bothered to count, so I don’t know how accurate these markers are. When we reached step 2000, I was a few steps above our intrepid 6-year-old. Naturally, he was unable to fight the need to start counting: “2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, …”.

At one point, I looked up and decided that I’d only need to take two more breaks before reaching the top. Seems I did this when looking at a bit of a “false summit”. I could see the top, but it didn’t look as far as it actually was, and a particularly steep section was obscured. I think I actually stopped five or six more times. Chad was a good sport about it and slowed his pace to stay with me. I have no doubt he’d have finished on the order of half an hour quicker than me.

Because I kept stopping to rest, I had plenty of opportunity to look at how the trail was made. For the most part, the timbers are flat, level, and square. They’re all attached with fittings to stout cables on each end, and the cables are anchored in concrete periodically up the slope. But, hikers and the weather have conspired to shift some of the ties so that they’re rotated a bit, or the soil behind them is starting to wash away. I imagine they need to constantly do a fair amount of work to keep the trail in good enough condition to support the traffic it gets.

We gained the summit at noon precisely. I had the forethought to pack a couple of beers. They were (amazingly) still cold. I didn’t set any records in climbing the Incline, but I did suck that beer down my gullet in pretty quick time.

The hike down the Barr Trail is quite pleasant in comparison to the Incline and doesn’t merit much description, other than that it’s fairly highly engineered (many retaining walls and fences) to handle the traffic.

I’m writing this the next day. My calves are quite sore. I’ll try to minimize my trips up and down the stairs today.

Transmission

We took the Elise out of service the first week of November.

All my adult life when it came to cars, I thought I was pretty kind to the equipment. I kept my cars longer than just about anybody I knew. My brakes, tires, and clutches didn’t wear out as fast as they did for most of my friends and acquaintances.

It’s no surprise, then, that I’ve been beating myself up a bit about the Elise. I’ve had suspension failures and a bad cam. I haven’t heard of anybody else having the hub carrier plinth bolt issue, and nobody thinks it’s a maintenance issue. But after having both sides fail, I’ll be replacing the bolts every few years. The bad cam seems to be the luck of the draw. I went about 60k miles before having the problem. I’ve heard many reports of it happening a lot sooner. Then there’s my “money shift”. Pure driver error on that one.

And, now, the third gear synchro. It started going out about a year ago. Before I decided it was the synchro, I worried that it was damage resulting from the money shift. I went into third instead of fifth. Did that break my third gear? But, no, not related. More likely due to my not rev-matching. I don’t know. Anyway, the transmission is replaced at 92k miles, so it started at about 87k and 50ish track days.

But let’s go back to November. We didn’t park it until then, but I had been looking for a solution. What I ended up doing was buying a rebuilt transmission off Lotus Talk. The seller was at one point part of the Lotus Service Exchange and in this role rebuilt about 65 Elise/Exige gearboxes. (This one has the LSD, so I’m replacing same for same.) Seller says, “It had 9000-11000 miles on it when it was pulled for a notchy third gear. I installed a new synchro and inspected the rest of the gears.”

My original thought was just to get mine repaired. Michael and I could take it out of the car to save some labor costs. I talked to a number of people. I was surprised nobody wanted to do the work. The closest I got to anything like a quote on the work was nearly twice what I ended up paying for the rebuilt one. So it was cheaper to put in a repaired one with about 10k miles on it than to have similar work done to my 92k mile one.

In all my looking around, I came to the conclusion that these transmissions are notorious for third gear synchro issues. In the Lotus at least. The guy I bought mine from had two others for sale, and the one I bought the most miles on it. Searching the forums and talking to people, nobody I’ve encountered who has had the third gear synchro fail had anywhere near the mileage or track days I’ve done.

So I guess, in spite of all my repairs, I’ll continue to suffer from cognitive dissonance and believe I’m kind to the equipment.

The transmission arrived nicely boxed up. He built a frame of 2x2s with a plywood base, strapped it in so it wouldn’t jostle about, and stapled corrugation to the exterior. Unfortunately, we destroyed the box when we took it out. I wasn’t thinking about what I’d do with the one we’re taking out. I’m pretty sure now that I’m going to build this type of box for both the transmission and the motor I took out last year. Boxed up, they’ll be much easier to both move and store. I could stack them!

The whole replacement operation took a bit longer than we anticipated. My original hope was to be back on the road by Christmas, so I could participate in HPR’s customer appreciation day. We weren’t even close, but so it goes. Other than not wanting very much to work in the garage when it was cold, and it seemed all our warm weather was during the week, we also ran into a couple of minor issues.

One was the replacement transmission with where a stud mounts. The threads were damaged. Michael borrowed a tap and die set from his work and the repair was fairly easy. So we have an oversized stud in there now.

The other “minor” issue didn’t cause us any delays. I had to buy a couple of bell housing bolts. When we dove into the job, we noticed we had a few fasteners missing. Two of the bell housing bolts were gone, and so was a nut on the driver’s side motor mount. I know the race car guys are always going over their cars making sure all the nuts and bolts are properly torqued. I never worried about it, but clearly, the solid motor mounts are just vibrating the thing apart. So I guess I need to take the clam off once a year and check all the nuts and bolts.

I did a time-lapse of the clam removal. I was thinking it might be cool, but, frankly, I’m underwhelmed. I didn’t mean to leave the timestamp on the camera, but it lets you know how long the process took. I have a “quick disconnect” kit so we don’t have to take the seats out. Oh, and you may notice Michael removing a broken passenger side rear side-marker light.

I’ve only driven it around the block (before we put the clam back on — that always gets some odd looks). Going around the block isn’t a real test, but at least I know I can select all the gears. I’m quite happy to have it back now that the weather is getting nice!

Haiyaha Ice

Thursday, March 3

With just about zero advance planning, Ed and I returned to Lake Haiyaha, where we had just visited less than two weeks ago. We arrived at the Bear Lake parking lot with no destination in mind, but with the warm temperature and (seemingly) calm winds, we decided it might actually be pleasant enough at Haiyaha that we wouldn’t freeze our fingers off if we tried to take pictures of the ice.

Our prediction was spot-on. I never took my gloves out of the pack. We spent about an hour at the lake, wandering around inspecting the endlessly fascinating ice, eating our picnic lunches, and occasionally chatting with other visitors to the lake. I even ran the GoPro, thinking the thin veil of high clouds would be both interesting and calming. Sadly, the camera fell on its back after about seven minutes, shooting straight up until the battery was exhausted. No timelapse video again this hike. So it goes.

I am left, then, trying to show what the ice looks like. I probably should just put these in a slide show and be done with it, but instead, I’ll blather on and on about each shot.

Here we see Ed working on getting some photographic evidence. Huddled around these rocks poking through the ice, we could occasionally hear a soft crack. The ice is constantly, slowly, dropping. It’s a mosaic of many pieces, large and not-so-large, and if you listen carefully (and the wind is calm, as it is today), you can hear it settle.

Where the rocks punch through the ice (which drops something like eight or ten or fifteen feet over the course of the winter, due to the lake having a leak) we can see the ice from the side. It’s a pale blue over most of the lake and filled with columns of tiny air bubbles.

Next to one of the larger boulders where the wind swirls madly, the ice is almost perfectly clear and has very few of the little bubbles we see in the light blue ice covering the rest of the lake. It’s sometimes difficult to figure out its shape, as it features no flat surfaces and lenses the light unpredictably. Most interesting here, I think, is where it at first looks like there’s some snow on top of the ice, with gaps in the snow like the holes in swiss cheese. But it’s not really snow, and it’s not on top of the ice, but a layer in the ice. Where the layer below this seeming snow is absent, I ran my finger along the under surface. Where it looks like snow, these are voids with the bottom of the ice, coated by tiny crystals that look like snow. Note the crack in the upper layer, curving from the lower left of the frame through the center.

I was unable to get a decent photo of the ripples on the absolutely clear ice, so I found a rippled area on the blue ice. I can’t help but wonder just how the ice gets to be this way. The water doesn’t flow here, and it certainly doesn’t freeze quickly enough to freeze any water waves. I can only conclude that these ripples are carved by the wind, blasted and polished by snow and small ice crystals.

Here I’m looking straight down into the ice. It’s probably a foot thick here. Again, there’s no snow here. The hole extends deeper than I can reach with my finger. Wherever it looks like snow in the ice it’s actually a void, with small crystals coating the bottom of the ice (or the top of the void, whichever way you want to look at it.)

I’m a big fan of variety. There is a wide variety of beautiful sights to take in in the Park. So my tendency is to want to visit places I haven’t been to before, or to revisit places I haven’t been to for quite some time. But Lake Haiyaha in winter always seems to provide me with something new to take in. Who knows? Maybe I’ll make another trip here before summer.

Lake Haiyaha

So, three months since I Iast posted. Not good.

I haven’t done a track day or a scenic drive pretty much since LOG. The car has been in various states of disassembly since the first of November. I’m happy to report that its current state of disassembly is “nearly reassembled”. I’ll have a full report on that when it’s done.

And yesterday was my first hike in ages.

Saturday, February 5

Chad reached out to me a while back offering to join me on my next hike. He doesn’t have snowshoes, though, so it meant sticking to the beaten path, or he could rent a pair. The third choice was to see if Ed wanted to take a walk with us: he has a spare pair of snowshoes. Ed, as usual, was up for a trip to Haiyaha.

Regular readers here know that I’ve been there many times. So there won’t be much to this report, as I don’t feel the need to repeat myself.

I woke up well in advance of my alarm and laid in bed listening to the wind rock the house. If it’s windy enough here to rock the house, I couldn’t help but wonder how bad it would be at our destination. I was thinking my day would be cold and miserable. I asked myself whose idea it was to go up there. Nobody to blame but me: it was my idea.

While I was awake well before my alarm, something went wrong with Chad’s. He called about the time he was expected here. I let Ed know we’d be a bit late. I was thinking we’d be 45 minutes late, but we made good time and got to the entrance station right at 8. This was perfect timing. Perfectly bad: if we’d been there a few minutes earlier, we’d have sailed right through. Instead, we were in a line of more than a dozen cars. Took us ten minutes to get through.

It was Chad’s first trip to Haiyaha, so every time Ed came to a picture spot, Chad took a picture. We had a bit of excitement when, at the second such spot, Chad realized his phone was missing. One of my snowshoes was coming off, so while I was fixing that, Ed and Chad backtracked. They found his phone pretty quickly. Luckily it didn’t hit the snow edge-on, as they may never have found it.

At the start, I told Chad that Ed knows every rock and tree in the area. He probably thought I was exaggerating. I’m not. When we exchanged greetings with the volunteers at the trailhead, Ed told them about a tree that had fallen. I guess it’s on the park trail from Haiyaha to Glacier Gorge Junction. He pointed it out to us when we got there.

You’d really need to know every tree in the area to know that a tree that’s on the ground in the middle of a forest is freshly fallen. The cool thing about this one is that when it fell, it “trimmed” a tree that it fell on. It looks like it fell directly on this other tree, or maybe an inch or two from dead-center: every branch and limb of this still-standing tree was torn off one side of the trunk, right at the trunk. Quite the pruning job.

The main attraction of Haiyaha, for me, is the ice. (Yes, I’m repeating earlier reports.) The lake has a leak. Ice forms on it, the water drains, and the ice drops several feet. Large rocks poke out like volcanoes, breaking the ice into large slabs. Given the luxury of moderate weather, you can spend a fair amount of time inspecting the ice: the different hues of blue in the different light, the columns of frozen bubbles, the wind-carved surface ripples.

Today, the weather was not moderate. It was quite nice in the forest, out of the wind. But, as usual in winter, the lake (and any other lake just below the Divide) is like the floor of a wind tunnel. I took a few pictures, but the conditions were a bit on the brutal side. I couldn’t keep my gloves off very long; they quickly got almost too cold to work the camera. I keep trying to get pictures that do the ice justice, but I’m just not that good.

We quickly decided to cross the lake and take our lunch break in a clump of trees on the other side. On our way, we watched some snowboarders make a short run. In the trees, mostly out of the wind, Ed showed us how to make a bench out of snow. We sat on the bench and ate. I usually like a leisurely meal, but not today. Even rushing it a bit, I was pretty quickly cold and wanting to get moving again. We all had our gloves off to eat, and my fingers were very cold by the time we got moving.

I had the GoPro with me, but on arrival at the lake the skies were clear and there wasn’t really any point in getting a time-lapse. Along the ridges, though, the wind was blowing so hard that the snow formed clouds along the ridges and the summit of Longs Peak.

It only took a few minutes of hiking to get me warmed back up, and I could feel my fingers again.

I don’t hike with trek poles. I bought a pair when I bought the snowshoes, used them once or twice, didn’t see the point and don’t really want to carry them around if I don’t find them worth it. I admit that on many hikes, there are occasions where I wish I had poles, but I always manage without. Today I figured I’d give poles another chance.

Two things I note: first, I experienced a bit of fatigue in muscles that I don’t normally exercise when I hike. Not a big deal, but by the time we got back to the car, I was tired of “carrying” them. Second, I found myself mesmerized by the sound they make in the snow as I pivot the pole. Not exactly the crunch of snow under a boot, but not far from it. Faint, but enough that I could feel the vibration in my hands. I really don’t know why I was so fascinated by it.

Back in my misspent youth, I hiked to Emerald Lake every Memorial Day every year for fifteen years or so. I don’t go there that often. Instead, it seems I’m now doing a mid-winter hike to Haiyaha. It’s not a bad trade.

LOG 40, Day 5

Tuesday, September 14

The route back was the same as the route there, with two exceptions. I drove to Heber City via I-80 and US 191 instead of the slow, scenic route through the park. And on the other end, I took US 40 from Kremmling to Granby and over Berthoud Pass rather than through Silverthorne and the Eisenhower tunnel.

When I was just about to Heber City, I realized that I’d left my LOG 35 cap in the hotel room. I can picture it exactly as I left it: right next to the room phone, with a cloth mask in it. I called the hotel when I got home, but they say housekeeping didn’t find anything.

Coming over Rabbit Ears Pass, I encountered a few cars that were running in the Colorado Grand. The first one was an early Porsche. I don’t know that I’d have spotted him if he hadn’t waved at me. Next was a red Ferrari. There was a yellow one, I didn’t get a good look at it, could have been a Morgan. Finally, a Mercedes I think was lost. He was at the stop sign at the junction with CO 14 and pulled out and followed me. All the other guys were going the other way. He turned around before he went too far.

The drive from Kremmling to Granby was new to me. Byers Canyon is nice, if a little short.

I was pleasantly surprised throughout the day that the truck traffic was considerably less than on Friday. Auto traffic was pretty bad from Granby to home, exacerbated by showers from Winter Park to Golden. I didn’t actually get rained on until Idaho Springs or so, but all of Berthoud Pass was wet, and the cars kicked up a lot of spray. I’d say it improved when I caught up to the rain, but then puddles made me a little nervous.

My trip home took about half an hour less than Friday’s drive.

So that’s the story.

Now, two final thoughts.

Where Did the Oil Go?

Michael figured it out right away when I told him what Dave and TJ said. Dave and TJ would have figured it out had I thought to tell them that we did an engine swap over the winter.

Of course, the cooler and lines drained when we pulled the old motor out. So they’re empty. When we filled the new engine with oil, it didn’t fill the cooler because the thermostat was closed. It doesn’t open until I put it under “track conditions”, whatever that means. When it opens, the cooler fills with oil and we’re suddenly two or two and a half quarts low.

The problem with that theory is that when I put one quart of oil into the car, I was able to run a 12 lap session and get 3 laps in another session before having the problem again. I guess that means there was an air bubble in the cooler that didn’t come out until the heat from the 12 lap session worked it out.

Which only leads to the next problem: this was not my first track day after the engine swap.

I’ve done 4 track days at HPR. Not a lot of laps: 90 laps over 12 sessions. One day was a Thursday Evening event, one was a half-day in April, one “session” was the RMVR Ticket to Ride. And the Ferrari day. How did I run 90 laps at HPR and not put it under “track conditions”?

Things that make you go “hmmmm”.

I have now put three quarts of oil in and all is good. If I was half a quart low when I left the house and the cooler uses two and a half, that’s the three. I’m reasonably certain I’m good to go now, but I won’t know until the next time I take it to the track. (And maybe not even then.)

I never put more than a quart in at a time to get the dipstick to read full or nearly full. I’m assuming that I went from full to a quart low in an instant on the track, when I could get on the high cam one moment but not the next. The distance driven at a quart low was fairly limited and at low revs.

I’ve done more than fifty track days and I’ve never had any need for brake fluid or motor oil. Needed both in one day.

LOG 40 Reflections

The pandemic took a bit of a toll on this LOG. It was supposed to happen last year, but we all know what happened. Some things just couldn’t be overcome, like the travel restrictions. I was looking forward to seeing the speakers live. I hoped to see the Evija and the Emira. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little disappointed.

I often get lazy and refer to “the Lotus club”. But really, the cars are the excuse to meet people. It’s not a club of cars, it’s a club of people who share a passion for cars.

I met quite a few really nice people. How’s that not a good time?

I repeat: I met quite a few really interesting, accomplished, nice people. I had a great time, even if it wasn’t perfect.

But I am bummed that I lost my LOG 35 cap.

LOG 40, Day 4

Monday, September 13

For me, today is it, the highlight of the trip.

I wouldn’t say that I attend LOG for the track day, but I can say I don’t think I’ll attend a LOG that doesn’t have a track day.

Utah Motorsports Campus is the seventeenth track I’ve driven, in the ninth different state.

The facilities are top-notch. Of the tracks I’ve been to, only COTA has better. In many ways, this is COTA but on a smaller scale. The garages are just as nice, only smaller. The meeting rooms are just as nice, but smaller and fewer. It has a go-kart track, an off-road track (with a giant jump). There’s a restaurant and a clubhouse. The parking lot is enormous.

As for the track, it has four configurations: East Course, West Course, Outer Course, and Full Course. We ran the Outer Course, which is 15 turns in just a bit over 3 miles. It’s not billiard table flat, but there’s not more than a couple of meters of elevation change. It’s fast: there are no second gear turns. For the most part, you don’t have to worry about hitting anything if you go off.

We were asked to arrive at the track by 8:00 so everybody could get checked in in time for an 8:45 drivers meeting. I left the hotel at 7 and was parked in the paddock promptly at 8.

I’ve been in a lot of drivers meetings. This one was perhaps the least polished. Polished or not, all the important information was covered. The four or five instructors introduced themselves then the lead instructor started running through the topics. At times, he’d falter a bit and one of the other instructors would jump in and complete the thought or provide something the others had missed.

There were a couple of things that were out of the ordinary. First, everybody got out on track and followed the instructors around a very slow lap. At the end of it, we parked in rows of three with the first row at the start/finish line. An interesting and unusual photo opportunity.

Another unusual facet for me was that we never really used the paddock. Typically, we all empty our cars, placing our things adjacent to our parking places in the paddock. Today, we all unloaded our stuff into one of the garages and parked our cars on pit road. We could park anywhere along here when not on the track as we didn’t need to park near our stuff. And it was quicker and easier to get on and off the track. The relatively small number of cars made this possible. I can’t see it working with 60 or more cars. (I didn’t get a car count, but it was only about three dozen, including the instructors’ cars.)

The advanced/intermediate group was out first. I found myself behind our ghost town drive leader, Speedy Gonzalez. Turns 5 and 6 are the slowest. Not 2nd gear slow, but nearly. Speedy Gonzalez got to turn 6 and spun out. I was saving my camera batteries for later in the day, so I didn’t get it on video. Back in the pits, I asked one of the guys what happened. This is “hearsay evidence”, so not admissible in court, but I’m told he said that he “ran out of talent” in turn 6 and blamed cold tires. You’d think, after racing Formula Fords for hundreds of hours, he’d come up with an excuse that wasn’t the crutch of novices.

I cut my first session short. I was getting a brake warning light in some of the left turns. I needed to top off my brake fluid. I asked around and found a gentleman from North Carolina who kindly donated some to me. I’m sorry I didn’t get his name, but I really appreciated it.

I also cut my second session short. After a few laps, I started getting the rev limiter at 6000 rpm. Back in the pits, I tracked down Dave Simkin and TJ, who hooked their laptop up to my car. They quickly ruled out two or three possibilities and theorized I was low on oil. TJ checked the dipstick: it was dry. The switchover to the high cam is activated by oil pressure. Insufficient oil, no cam. I checked my oil before I left the house and it was okay. How am I a quart (or more) low?

To remedy my problem, I needed to make a trip into town. There’s an auto parts store about ten miles away, so off I went. I bought a quart of oil, poured it in, and now the dipstick showed oil almost to the top mark.

On the way back to the track, I decided to stop at the gas station in town to top off the tank. The pump wouldn’t accept my Discover card so I tried a Visa. Still no joy. A bit frustrated, I hopped back in the car and left. When I got back to the track, I noticed that I hadn’t closed the fuel filler door. And saw that I didn’t have my gas cap. Clearly, in my frustration, I forgot to put it back on. I’d driven off with the cap sitting on top of the car. So off I went, back to town, to find my missing cap. Luckily, someone had found it and given it to the cashier. Each trip to town was about half an hour lost.

When I got back to the track, my group was already on the track, so I quickly put my helmet on and joined the session. Each session was supposed to be thirty minutes. As I had cut my first two sessions short, I still hadn’t seen a checkered flag. In this session, when I saw that I’d done 12 laps, I knew I was well over the half-hour session length. By the time I was back in the pits, I was 14 minutes late. I never saw a checkered flag (which would have been shown to me at three different places), so I’m guessing they weren’t that strict about who was on track when. I never did see the checkered flag all day. But I get ahead of myself.

Anyway, all was good. A few minutes after the hour, I went back out. After 4 or 5 laps, I began having the limiter problem again. When I stopped back in the pits, the dipstick was dry again. Where is all the oil going? I’m not burning it; I’m not putting out any smoke at all. I’m not leaking it; there’s never a fresh drop of anything under the car, and a quart of oil would certainly overflow the undertray. And it’s not getting in the coolant, as the overflow tank is its usual pinkish color. Where’s the oil going?

I had no choice but to call it quits.

The instructors were giving rides. There were four Evora GTs we could ride in, but I’ve already driven an Evora on the track. One guy, Jonathan, had his 2-Eleven there, so I asked if he’d give me a ride. I don’t know how heavily modified it is. He told me it puts out 330hp, so it’s not stock. The body also features a lot of carbon fiber. This made it interesting getting in and out, as it has no doors and you must climb over the top of the roll cage without stepping on any bodywork.

We got me all strapped in and started down pit road. At the entrance to the track, the steward reminded Jonathan that the novice session was on track and he should take appropriate care not to divebomb the newbies.

The car is pretty amazing. It’s not quite twice the horsepower of mine, and at least 400lbs lighter. He’s running slicks (Hoosier R7), naturally, and he’s done thousands of laps here. There weren’t many cars on track, so we had an open run. On our out lap, in turn 6, he missed the turn and we went wide. “OPR”, he said: other peoples’ rubber.

Next lap around, in turn 6 again, where we went straight the first time around (and where Speedy Gonzalez spun on his first lap), all hell broke loose. The engine stopped, which threw the car into a spin. Jonathan took his hands off the wheel (so he wouldn’t break a thumb), we went around twice and were in a cloud of tire smoke. He restarted and went a hundred yards down the track toward the next corner bunker, which was showing us the “meatball” flag. He pulled off the track and stopped the car. We were leaking oil. A lot of it. There was a slick from turn 6 to halfway between turns 7 and 8. There was oil inside the cockpit, in the right front wheel well, and all over the ground under the engine compartment.

The rescue truck was there very quickly and the tow truck was right on its heels. Jonathan described the incident to the rescue crew as they winched his car onto the flatbed. He rode in the towtruck, I went with the rescue crew. First, we went back to the site of the spin (driving the wrong way on the track, which I’ve never done before). Leaving there, we made our way back to the pits using some of the infield service roads. Oh, and this was the first (and hopefully last) time I got to ride in the rescue truck.

I felt bad for Jonathan. After having my day ended due to an oil issue, to be his passenger when he suffered a catastrophic oil failure, made me wonder if I was suffering some bad oil karma for some reason. I know his problem was in no way my fault, but I felt some guilt nonetheless.

The cleanup took 45 minutes. By the time the track was green again, there were only about a dozen cars left. Everybody still there got to run as much as they wanted in the last hour of the day as they stopped running by groups.

Just before I left, there was a bit more excitement. When they opened the track back up, a yellow Evora that had been parked for a couple of hours got started up. That produced a fairly big cloud of white smoke. It wasn’t clear to me if it was oil or coolant or something else.

I took this as a sign for me to make my exit and go back to the hotel.

I bought three more quarts of oil and put a quart and a half into the engine before the dipstick indicated it was full. Still no smoke, no drips, no contaminated coolant. Where did it go? I’ll just have to check the oil every time I make a stop on the way home.

Both there at the track and back in the hotel parking lot, I discussed my experience with several people. Everybody had a look under the car, both front and back (the oil cooler is in the front), checked out my coolant reservoir, and scratched their chins in wonder. Nobody had any ideas.

After dinner, I started packing the car with the idea of making an easier departure in the morning. While I was doing this, Dave and TJ came by and we discussed the situation. They said the oil coolers and lines held about two quarts, or maybe two and a half, they weren’t sure. They said the oil cooling system doesn’t operate except under track conditions. It sounded to me like they thought this would somehow explain it, but it still didn’t make sense to me.

I didn’t run enough laps to thoroughly learn the track; I know I could have picked up a few more seconds. Particularly, I know I can take turns 1 and 11 faster. That said, no Elise passed me. I did get passed by some Evoras, but most of those were instructor-driven. I got passed by the 2-Eleven and an instructor’s 911. And I got passed by a couple of Exiges and the V6 Cup car. I could only manage 118 on the long straight. It was so long I expected to be able to top 120. I am somewhat disappointed that I only ran half the number of laps I expected to, but so it goes. I think I acquitted myself well.

It was an interesting and unforgettable day, that’s for sure.

Tomorrow, hopefully, my trip home will not be so interesting.

LOG 40, Day 3

Sunday, September 12

Unless I want to leave the hotel, I’m pretty much limited to Starbucks. Luckily, they have more kinds of sandwiches than I’ll have mornings here, so no repeats are necessary. I sat down to eat my sandwich in front of the TV, which was showing the F1 race. I only missed the first ten laps. I’m so happy the cars have the halos. That halo saved Hamilton’s life, no doubt in my mind. The race kept me entertained until it was nearly time to meet for the guided group drive to the ghost town of Eureka City.

The fellow running the drive collected us in the lobby at 10. (I will refer to him from now on as Speedy Gonzales, SG for short.) He gave us a short description of Eureka City and talked about the historian who will meet us there. The museum is normally closed on Sundays, as is the restaurant, but both will be open for us. He then described the route. Somebody pointed out that his route doesn’t match the route that was published. Obviously, nobody was carrying paper and pencil, so nobody took notes. He told us, “You’ll just have to keep up.”

Exiting the hotel, I was near the end of the train, but at our first red light I switched from the center lane to the right lane. It wasn’t that I wanted to get to the front of the line but more that I didn’t want the line to be so long, people would miss the light. When the light turned green, I was third in line. A couple of miles later, we got on the interstate and were soon going quite fast. I use a speedometer app on my phone. It keeps track of driving time, total distance, average speed, and so on. It recorded a maximum speed of 98. This was on the interstate in south suburban SLC. I like to go fast, too, but that’s why I do the track day. I think we lost half the group within five minutes of leaving the hotel.

We exited the interstate and Bobbi pulled up next to me at the light. I hollered, “Does he know people are trying to follow him?” She replied, “I don’t think he gives a shit!” He didn’t make things any better when, shortly after getting on UT 68, he stopped for gas. The experienced drive leader will tell everybody to be gassed up when we meet or will arrange to meet at a gas station so folks can top off their tanks if needed. SG was the only one who needed to fill up, but I took advantage and made a comfort break and bought a beverage so it wasn’t a total waste.

When we were all ready to leave, a bunch of us LOCOs decided to make our own way and stayed at the gas station for a few minutes. Wayne was quite familiar with the area, so we put him in the lead. To our surprise, SG and the few cars that went with him were waiting for us on the side of the road not far from the station.

UT 68 goes south alongside the western shore of Utah Lake. It’s a fairly scenic drive, with a view of the lake and the Wasatch mountains behind it. I couldn’t help but wonder if it was a salt lake, too. (I learn later that it’s a freshwater lake that is a bit saline because two-fifths of its outflow is evaporation.) Unfortunately, we were again going at a pretty good clip, not as fast as before, but still too fast to enjoy the scenery. It’s not a curvy road, but there are some bunny-hops that add a little lightness.

We stopped at the junction with US 6. We pulled into the parking lot of a defunct gas station. SG had mentioned the rustic ruins of a station where he had taken pictures of his car, but this didn’t look that photogenic to me. And we were all jammed in together, so I’m not sure what sort of photo one could get. In any event, nobody got out of their cars. We got going again, heading west on US 6. (On the return trip I think I figured it out: the rustic station was on the other side of US 6 from where we parked.)

Not long after, we arrived in Eureka City. It’s not what I’d call a “ghost town”. It has a population of about 700, has a nice new post office, a couple of restaurants, a museum, and a high school. And, driving around, we saw quite a few new or nearly new houses. When I think ghost town, I think nobody lives there. This, to me, seemed more like Central City before the gambling, without the tourists. A ghost of its former self, but not a ghost town.

We met our local historian who launched into his spiel. About ten minutes later, the cars we lost back at the start of the drive showed up. With everybody assembled, after a brief introduction, we followed him up the hill to one of the mines. We were parked everywhere. One of the homeowners invited six of us to park in his driveway.

The mine itself is sealed, looks like an unpaved parking lot now. There’s a tall stake in the middle, with a series of painted markings. “That tells us if it’s sinking.” The EPA did quite a bit of work here. They took the top eighteen inches of topsoil of every lot in town (if you can call it “topsoil”). Many of the old mine buildings are still standing, and still full of derelict equipment. He took us through one, the hoist building.

This held the machinery that ran the lifts to get the miners in and out of the mine. It was dark inside, too dark to shoot pictures with the SLR. The floor was covered with debris, lots of broken glass. In one area, everything looked to be covered with feathers. I don’t think it was feathers, though, because I didn’t see or smell any bird shit. Mostly it was just dusty.

It was quite interesting, so, in spite of the problematic drive down there, it was good in the end.

After the mine “tour”, we headed to the restaurant. Somehow, I managed to get there almost last. I was the second to last to get served. I had a raspberry shake, which is strictly off the diet. It was tasty, and I only ate half. I sat at a table with three other folks, a nice couple from Scottsdale and a doctor who lives in New York but had worked for a while in Denver. Nice folks.

Most folks went to the museum after eating, but by the time I was done, it was getting pretty late and I elected to pass on the museum. I wasn’t alone – our little LOCO breakaway group was still there. We let Wayne lead us back to the hotel. We weren’t going a million miles an hour, so I enjoyed the drive a bit more. We were a small group now; the most common car was the Evora, and all three were yellow.

Tonight’s agenda at the hotel was a buffet dinner and a virtual tour through Classic Team Lotus.

The buffet was in the same room as last night’s banquet. I figured I’d just sit at the same table as last night, but the seating chart by the door was a bit different. I’m not sure it was the same chart. Did I miss seeing two of these things? My table from last night was full tonight, so I looked for another table that had some open slots. Again, I wasn’t carrying a writing utensil, so couldn’t write my name in the appropriate blank.

I found myself sitting next to Richard and his wife, Sandy, who I visited with last night. After I sat down, a couple came in and claimed two empty chairs and went off searching for food and/or drink. While they were gone, another couple came in. They were chagrined to find that there all the seats but one were taken. They had signed up on the chart to sit here. As I hadn’t, I told them to take my seat. They insisted that I remain where I was and they found another table. I felt a little bad.

The entertainment this evening was a virtual tour of Classic Team Lotus. Richard Parramint did the tour for us, which was quite kind of him, as it was about one in the morning his time. As is usual with these things, it took a few minutes to get through the technical difficulties, but once he got going, all was good. They’re working on quite an interesting bunch of cars at the moment. But then again, I’m sure they’re always working on an interesting bunch of cars.

This is the end of the festivities for most LOG attendees. I, however, have one more day: the track day at Utah Motorsports Campus.

To that end, we had a drivers meeting in one of the conference rooms after the buffet. It’s not the same sort of drivers meeting we get at the track and not a substitution for that meeting. Here, we were handed our tech forms, told when to arrive at the track, got a count of cars by group (novice, intermediate, advanced) and based on that data decided to combine advanced and intermediate. I applauded this move. With three groups, we’d be having 20-minute sessions. I much prefer 30-minute sessions as a much smaller portion of your time is spent on in and out laps.

Our friend Speedy Gonzales ran the meeting. He made a point to stress, repeatedly, that we shouldn’t try to impress the instructors. He told us he had hundreds of hours racing Formula Fords, and nothing we could do would impress him or the instructors, and may, in fact, just scare them. So we were supposed to be on our best behavior. I wasn’t too concerned with this topic, as I won’t be needing an instructor and I always try to be on my best behavior when I’m on the track.

The last thing we were told was to get a good night’s sleep. I’m down for that!

LOG 40, Day 2

Saturday, September 11

I began the day with a breakfast sandwich from the Starbucks in the hotel lobby, which I ate at a tableful of fellow LOCOs.

The first activity on today’s agenda was the group panoramic photo and Concours. We’d drive from the hotel to a local high school parking lot. But first, everybody was out cleaning up their cars. It rained yesterday evening, so it was mostly a matter of wiping the cars dry. My car, somehow, was already dry and still quite dirty. Is there something about my car that makes any water on it dry unnaturally quickly, leaving only the water spots?

I really don’t care that much if my car is dirty. I often joke that, whenever I take it to, say, Cars & Coffee, I’m always in the running for the Dirtiest Car in Show award. Half a dozen people must have asked me, “Aren’t you going to wash it?” Nope!

We independently headed for our photo at Cottonwood High School. Arriving there, we more or less randomly parked at the west end of the lot. This felt a lot like your typical Cars & Coffee, except that almost every car was a Lotus. While we wandered around, checking out the cars, asking the owners about their customizations, and deciding who gets our votes in the various classes, it started to rain lightly. My car was no longer noticeably dirtier than anybody else’s, and I’ll admit to experiencing a bit of schadenfreude in so many people wasting so much effort cleaning their cars.

After a fair amount of socializing, we were told to go to the east end of the lot, with the newer cars (Elise/Exige/Evora) in one line and the older cars in another. Many of us are independent thinkers and eschewed neat lines. Let’s just say it looked a lot like people trying to get out of a parking lot after a concert, and it took about as long.

During this operation, the rain really started coming down. A number of cars didn’t have tops; umbrellas were deployed. Some people looked pretty miserable. It was a quick shower, then gone.

As soon as we were all shifted, we were moved back to the west end of the parking lot, arranged by model in a big fan in front of a scissor lift. This took even longer than it took to make the first shift. The photographer, atop the lift, directed traffic. Once all the cars were in place, we took a picture with everybody standing behind their cars, and one with no people.

The photographer starts on his left and works around to his right. When he snapped the first shot, two guys up front start running behind the lift to the other side in an attempt to be in the picture twice. I’d have had trouble doing it but these guys never had a chance. It would have been nice if they’d pulled it off, though.

As I said, this was also the Concours. I don’t take these too seriously, it’s not really my thing. But some people are pretty into it. So I was somewhat amused at how many people spent so much time looking my car over. The odometer topped 91,000 miles on the way out here, and the more than fifty track days haven’t been kind to the finish. The nose is terribly pitted, paint is coming off the tow ring, I’ve worn holes through the fiberglass, in the back there’s the damage from the loose battery, and the big chunk taken out by the incident with the dolly.

More than one person said it adds character. One guy said he’d vote for it if he had a ballot (he didn’t have one, some issue when he checked in). I always figured I’d be the last car to get votes in a Concours, but I’m a bit curious if somebody voted for me because of all my battle scars.

Those 91k miles are well above the average for an Elise, but I have nowhere near the most. I talked to one guy from San Diego with a long commute (daily from San Diego to 29 Palms?) who has put more than 120k on his, and somebody told me there was a guy here from Michigan with 160k. I’d have liked to have chatted with him.

All morning I pondered which self-directed drive to take. The local chapter had devised about ten of them. I was thinking I’d like to head to Antelope Island. I asked several others where they were going, many were non-commital, and nobody seemed that interested in Antelope Island. In the end, I stayed in the high school parking lot until there were only a dozen or so cars left.

The agenda for the evening was a cash bar at 5, a banquet at 6. I got dressed up for it, wearing a sport coat for the first time since LOG 35. I had a couple of Lotus Lagers and struck up a rather lengthy conversation with Richard, a very pleasant man who laughed at all my jokes.

When it was time to have a seat in the banquet room, I saw that there was a seating chart. Evidently, I was supposed to pick my seat when I checked in yesterday. Nobody told me. Here it was, almost completely filled in. I found an empty seat at a table in the back, but I didn’t have a pen and didn’t put my name in the blank on the chart.

Due to various travel restrictions, the guests we had planned on having in the room couldn’t make it. Instead, we got a short video with Richard Parramint talking to two Lotus mechanics from the F1 glory days. They told some funny stories of the practical jokes they used to play on the other teams.

Next up was the awards ceremony. Ross got the task of announcing the names. This went well for about two minutes. Instead of announcing the names of the winners, they used their LOG registration numbers. To add to the confusion, they somehow cross-threaded the awards and classes. That is, they’d announce a Seven owner as the winning Elan. They managed to get it squared away eventually; names in their proper categories. Ross handled it as well as anybody could have.

I didn’t count, but it seemed to me that more than half the winners were LOCOs. I’m sure it wasn’t that many. We are particularly well-represented here this weekend, though, and Lotus Colorado took more than our share of trophies home. About the only ones we weren’t in the running for were longest drive and best personalized plate.

Tomorrow I think I’ll take the guided drive down to the ghost town.

LOG 40, Day 1

Every year, unless there’s a pandemic, anyway, Lotus Ltd, the national Lotus owners group, holds a Lotus Owners Gathering. These events are hosted by whatever local chapter wants to step up to the plate. The only LOG I’ve attended so far was the one we hosted in Colorado Springs. Most often, they’re deep in the Eastern time zone and I’ve been reluctant to make the drive. In 2020, the fine folks in Salt Lake City took on the challenge. COVID saw that challenge and said, “Not this year!” so it was postponed to 2021, where we begin our story.

I wasn’t the only one from Lotus Colorado, as you might expect. The LOCO gang is pretty devoted to group drives, so a two-day drive was organized for the trip to SLC and there was a choice of two drives for the return trip, one of which was several days and hits several national parks, including a visit to the north rim of the Grand Canyon. Unfortunately, I just started a new job and had to minimize time off, so I did the travel on my own.

Friday, September 10

I left the house at 6 am and headed up I-70 to Silverthorne. Yes, this is a violation of Rule #1. There is a fairly limited number of routes from Denver to Salt Lake City. Most people tend to use I-80. I-70 is another choice. Other than interstates, your choice is pretty much down to Trail Ridge Road and Poudre Canyon. Both are nice drives, but each would add a significant amount of time to the trip.

Between the two interstates, the next most obvious route is US 40. It covers the vast majority of miles between the two terminals, with a short stint on I-70 on the Denver end and I-80 on the SLC end. I drive the section of US 40 between its intersection with I-70 and the western end of Trail Ridge Road in Granby fairly often. A variation of this trip would be to forego Berthoud Pass and continue on I-70 to Silverthorne. From there, take CO 9 north to Kremmling. That’s a new road for me, so I went that way.

I stopped for breakfast at a bagel place in Silverthorne. There, I had a short visit with a couple visiting the area from Portland. They began the conversation by saying that they liked my car because it matches the colors of the University of Oregon.

From the top of Hoosier Pass south of Breckenridge to Kremmling, CO 9 runs downhill beside the Blue River, a tributary of the Colorado. There are two dams on the Blue, Dillon Reservoir and Green Mountain Reservoir, dividing the valley into thirds. The twenty miles from Silverthorne to Green Mountain Reservoir runs along a spectacular string of 12 and 13,000 peaks run to our left. After Green Mountain Reservoir, the valley flattens and widens. Here, trees are only growing on the slopes and the valley floor is fairly barren. North from Kremmling, we climb along Muddy Creek, which is dammed by Wolford Mountain Reservoir just a couple miles from town. Thirty miles up the road we reach Muddy Pass and the junction with CO 14.

John C. Frémont explored this area in 1844, crossing Muddy Pass, heading south. He wanted to search for the unknown source of the Colorado River but “a mob of Arapahoes in war paint” appeared from the east. His men swam their horses across the river and hustled up the Blue River to where Dillon Reservoir is. With Arapahoes everywhere in the woods now (who were actually looking to pick a fight with the Utes), they hurried up Hoosier Pass. Twelve years later, Frémont was the first Republican candidate for president.

Passing the junction with CO 14, we start to climb the eastern side of Rabbit Ears Pass. Typically, the top of a pass is a crest. Here it’s a plateau. The road runs nearly level at about 9,400′ for about four and a half miles. Drop down the west side of Rabbit Ears to Steamboat Springs, and onto the Colorado Plateau, which we’ll cross for most of the rest of the day.

Life Elevated

We follow US 40 west until Heber City, Utah. Traffic was about as light as I expected until I got to Vernal, where I had lunch. I was not terribly happy with the traffic from Vernal to Heber City. The road is nice enough: a good surface, with just about every significant climb having a passing lane. But the traffic west of Vernal was not to my liking. Lots of trucks running in both directions. I don’t know what they’re carrying, but they’re the ones that look like inverted cones, running in tandem, 38-wheelers.

Between Starvation State Park and Strawberry Reservoir, I just missed a rain squall. I’d have rather driven through the squall than missed it: the road was wet and the big trucks kicked up huge clouds of spray. So much for having a clean car.

At Heber City, Google wants me to go to I-80, but I’d rather not. Instead, I find a route through Wasatch Mountain State Park. I enjoyed this little trek: Pine Canyon Drive, S Guardsman Pass Road, and Big Cottonwood Canyon Road. Those first two were narrow, steep, and windy with no center stripe and a 15mph speed limit. Which is about right: I encountered a deer and a Bighorn Sheep ewe standing on the road.

I pulled into the hotel parking lot at 4:20 and was directed where to park: drive under the limbo pole, past the Evoras and Elans and Europas, into the upper part of the lot with the Exiges and finally my Elise brethren. I wasn’t the last to arrive, but nearly so. As usual, I have the dirtiest car in the group. Everybody who needed it washed their cars at the hotel. I barely had time to check into LOG and into the hotel before it was time for the Gathering of Lotus Owners.

Out in a tent on the back lawn, we had some food and a cash bar. Soft taco fixins, chips and various dips. A local brewery made a Lotus Lager available. I think it was more like an amber ale. I like amber ales, so I had two Lotus Lagers. Somehow, I managed to gather with other LOCOs, which I don’t have to drive 600 miles to do. I resolved to mingle as much as possible with people who haven’t already heard all my stories.

Crater Lakes

Monday, September 6

Back at the beginning of summer, I postulated that I could visit all the lakes in James Peak Wilderness in five hikes, which could easily be done in one hiking season. I also said I didn’t really plan on doing it. And, here we are, at my fifth hike in JPW. But, because it took me two hikes to get both Forest Lakes, I’m still (at least) one hike away from bagging all the lakes.

I picked Crater Lakes this time. I should be able to get to the highest Crater Lake without too much difficulty. The two lower lakes are only a 5.8-mile round trip, and adding the upper lake only extends the hike another eight tenths and about five hundred feet of elevation gain. Yeah, so the last section of trail is a bit steep…

On my Heart Lake hike, I chatted with a volunteer about getting to Clayton Lake. I asked about the no-longer-maintained trail up the outlet. He said he preferred to go via Crater Lakes. So I wanted to get a good look at any likely places to leave the Crater Lake trail in search of his route.

I got to the parking lot at 7:30 and there was still plenty of parking available. Being a holiday, I expected more people to be here. I entered my info into the logbook and put boots on the trail at 7:44. It’s about a mile and a half to the Crater Lakes trail junction, and I was there at 8:34. It was cool; I wore my hoodie. There was a young guy with an SLR who started only a couple of minutes ahead of me. Overall our pace was almost identical – he was walking faster but stopped often to take pictures. In the end, he arrived at upper Crater Lake only a few minutes before me.

It’s about a mile from the trail junction to the lower Crater Lakes, climbing about 550 feet. But about 450 of those 550 is in the first half-mile from the trail junction up the side of the canyon. That is to say, that half-mile is a bit of a bitch.

That 450-foot climb puts you on a shelf. There are three shelves here. This lower one holds a pond, fed by the lakes above. The middle one has two lakes, a rounder northern one and a thinner southern one. The lakes are separated by a lightly forested isthmus. The small, high shelf is inundated by the upper Crater Lake. The two lower shelves are separated by only a hundred feet of elevation, but reaching the upper lake requires climbing another four hundred feet.

I get ahead of myself. When the climb up from the trail along S. Boulder Creek started leveling off, gaining the shelf, I kept an eye out for anything that looked like an easy way around the ridge to Clayton. I stopped and studied the map a couple of times but drew no conclusions.

Before I knew it, the smaller lake was off to my left. Here the trail started to split. The whole area is laced with a network of social trails, many of which lead you directly into someone’s campsite. Here I encountered two young women, early twenties. They were going to the upper lake as well. In navigating around someone’s tent, I managed to veer more toward the northern lake rather than heading up the obvious trail to my west, where I spotted SLR guy. The young ladies and I bushwacked in his direction.

Here we find ourselves at the base of our last four-hundred-foot ascent. This one starts with a quite steep climb up a loose, sandy surface. I find this stuff treacherous. I slip a lot. I made it up without too much difficulty. I was concerned about the descent, though. I really detest this stuff. Just a few yards away is a stream. It is snow-fed. There is no snow on any of the surrounding mountains, so this stream was just a trickle. It looked like it might be easier for me to go down the dry streambed with much less trepidation than this sandy shit.

At the top of this treacherous bit, the slope of the trail moderates somewhat, and the footing is much improved. The trail, hopping rocks now and then, leads to a saddle above us. This is the apex of our climb. On the saddle, we’re maybe a hundred higher than the lake. Most of the descent down to the lake is rock-hopping.

There’s a prominent rock outcropping that commands a view of the upper lake, the continental divide above it, and the small pond below it. The women took that spot. It was quite windy, they could have it. I put my hoodie back on and tried to find a large rock to sit in the lee of. SLR guy went to the outlet. On a trail on the opposite bank, I spotted a guy walking west.

I sat there for about an hour, had my lunch, enjoyed my can of beer. I had the lake to myself. Well, almost. SLR guy and the young ladies left within twenty minutes or so. Nobody new had arrived. I kept looking for the guy I spotted on the other side of the lake. Never did spot him until he popped up on my left. It probably took him an hour to circumambulate the lake.

A few minutes into the hike down, we come to the crux: descending the treacherous steep slippery shit. I elected to go down the way I came up, thinking if I didn’t like it, I could always change my mind and go down the dry streambed. I took my time. There were quite a few people working their way up, so I had many excuses to pause. A few of them were more bothered by it than I was.

Each pause allowed me to take in the view. I found it particularly rewarding. It’s too bad we continue to suffer the extreme haze from the west coast wildfires. Looking straight up, the sky was almost its normal deep, deep blue. But looking toward the horizon, all is obscured by a brownish-yellow haze.

When I crossed the isthmus between the lakes on the way up, I didn’t appreciate how many trails there were. On the way down, I explored a little. There really are a lot of trails there. When I went to find the trail down, at least twice I thought I’d gotten onto the trail only to come across a bigger trail.

Finally back on the trail below the twin lakes, I resumed my search for likely routes to Clayton. I think there are a couple of possibilities. One of them caught my eye both times I passed it: I took a photo of it both on my way up and back down.

I’m glad I started as early as I did. It’s a relatively short hike. I made it to the upper lake a minute before 10. If parking wasn’t a consideration, I could arrive two hours later and be at the upper lake for a noon picnic. But it would have been a different experience. Instead of half an hour of solitude, I’d have been in a crowd of dozens.

I keep wondering how so many people are on the trails given the size of the parking lot. There was a lot of traffic on the Crater Lakes trail. I took a quick break at the trail junction and watched a parade of hikers go by. Below the junction with the Forest Lakes trail, it was very nearly a “conga-line hike”. And, back at the parking lot, there are plenty of empty spaces.

Almost forgot to mention: I pulled into my parking spot this morning just as a train emerged from the tunnel. First time I’ve seen one. I hear the exhaust fans on every hike, sometimes twice, and I sometimes hear a train whistle, but it was kind of cool to see one come out of the tunnel.

All in all, another glorious day along the Continental Divide.