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.
The 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.It 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.
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.
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.
On 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!