Just a short little hike. Some rendition of these words might be appropriate to put on my headstone. I’ve uttered them a substantial number of times and for the most part (ok, some might disagree) they have been true. At least I always had good intentions even though there was that scope-creep factor that seemed to sneak in. Anyway, I digress…we set out on a short little hike today. I had talked with one of the Rangers when we first got there and he advised against several routes as they were a bit rigorous for our current “physical condition”. He suggested the hike along Mosquito Lake which initially seemed like an OK idea but after having been plagued by mosquitoes from a nearby bog for several days I thought twice about hiking along “Mosquito Lake”.
I got out the forest map I had purchased and saw that a 4WD road (906) near the dam on the reservoir went up a little ways and dead-ended at a trailhead. The trail continued along East Coal Creek and looked like it would be about our speed with no major changes in elevation. Hiking along a mountain stream is usually enjoyable and so we loaded up our daypacks, hiking poles, the dog, and motored on over.
The 4WD road and the creek started off in the same place but the road immediately diverged from the creek and began a rather steep uphill climb which seemed to go on forever. This impression was reinforced by the very slow pace we were forced to take as the road was really quite rough. We persevered through some tough spots where the trucks high ground clearance was much appreciated and ultimately arrived at the trailhead which did in fact turn out to be reasonably close to the creek again.
It was an absolutely beautiful day to be hiking up in the alpine meadows. The weather was cool, sunny skies, and nice fluffy clouds. The trailhead is at 10,100 FT elevation and once we got started the trail quickly opened up into a splendid valley replete with many beaver ponds and wildflowers. The trail started off as an old road but soon disappeared underfoot and became somewhat difficult to follow. Eventually, we gave up and simply started following animal trails in the general direction we wanted to go. This took us away from the creek and we began to ascend the hill to the east. After some time it became apparent the trail was going to follow a diagonal up the slope towards a high rock outcropping.
Hmm…decision point. We’ve already gone close to 2 miles and should probably head back. But that outcropping really isn’t that much higher and what a view from up there. Since we had our hiking poles we decided to make the extra effort and make the ascent. We ascended the hillside following the animal track and made it to the top (11,500 FT) where we found a greeting committee (Marmot)! The view was as anticipated…spectacular with the Flat Tops in the foreground and the Continental Divide visible in the background although a bit hazy. We had a spot of lunch while taking in the panorama and then an uneventful return. So, altogether around 4.5 miles…that is still more or less “short” isn’t it?