I am joined by my friend, David, who has summited all the Colorado 14ers (before he was 40). David is also a distance bicyclist, finishing Ride The Rockies this summer, where we met while I was volunteering. David is a great person, is very kind, has backpacking experience, and has taken me under his wing on these backpacking trips. He also carries and shares the tastiest trail snacks you could ever eat in the outdoors. I tease David about how light weight my ultralight backpack and gear is, but he just blows by me with his traditional pack and gear, smiling.
|Breakfast at Ned's|
|The path in to the trailhead is to the right of the often flooded rocky road.|
|More cabins used to be here, mostly one rooms with outhouses out back|
The first part of the trail runs through the mostly abandoned ghost town of Hessie, after following a rough dirt road with a stream running down it. I have been here 3 times before on different day hikes, and there were more houses in Hessie then. I only went as far those times as Lost Lake, less than a quarter of the distance we will hike today.
|Another Hessie home site|
|Students measuring the stream|
|And more getting water samples|
|The old sign|
|The South Fork of Middle Boulder Creek will be our guide all day|
|An unofficial campsite by the creek|
|Family Photo Op|
|South Fork of Middle Boulder Creek|
|Yet another view|
|My friend David pausing at the bridge|
|Quite the volume of water and a popular photo spot|
|The trees were removed for the photo op|
|A black woolly bug, cold weather soon?|
|Sign at Lost Lake, just a short uphill hike to the lake from here|
|The wildflowers begin with Indian Paintbrush|
|David walking ahead, Woodland Mountain to the right|
|The two log bridge|
|And the meadow beyond|
Brian Mountain is in our view southerly through the trees, with Woodland Mountain rising on our right. Mountain top and cirque views to the west are hidden by the trees. We meander in and out of heavy tree cover and a beautiful layout of Colorado wildflowers.
|Entering the actual Indian Peaks Wilderness Area|
|The King Lake Trail|
|A beetle kill area|
|Nice grassy areas the trail runs through|
|Brian Mountain to the south and west|
|Old growth pine trees|
David is waiting for me, sitting under a thick trunk beside the trail, out of the rain. We sit and eat and drink. David hands me an apple he bought this morning, the sweetness of the apple tasting wonderful in the clear, clean, rain washed air. I estimate we are now at about 11,000 feet. With miles to go before I sleep, we continue walking uphill. Those 2 day hiking women from earlier pass us on the way back down.
|The sky clouds up and sprinkles on us until evening|
|The view through the forest|
|My first Columbine of this trip|
|Note Moffat's Twin Trestles on the ridge above. This was the route used in 1906 to cross |
into the Colorado Rockies going over Rollins Pass, and later the reason for the Moffat Tunnel
|And more wildflowers|
|And even more wildflowers|
As I turn left at the trail junction to King Lake, I reach a stream crossing where the rocks to cross it are not spaced evenly or level enough for me to safely attempt, especially while wet. I rolled up my nylon pants, un-cliped my packs waist belt and sternum strap, and stepped into the ice-cold water. That was cold! While crossing the stream, I did slip on a submerged branch. I kept my balance, only getting one leg of my pants soaked, which I wrung out when I crossed the stream. I continued uphill, realizing the lake right in front of me was not King Lake, it was further ahead. David was ahead of me and once we caught up with each other, we searched for a camp site near King Lake.
|Wildflowers to the right...|
|...and to the left of me. Yes, that's snow up there on the divide|
|Last sign before King Lake|
|The view east, back along the way we came, krumholtz close|
|Wildflowers along the paths of our camp site|
|Filtering with the Sawyer at the lake|
|Setting sun, view east|
|Dinner in the cozy for 15 minutes, sipping my tea|
|Sunset on the mountain as the clouds lift|
Dinner was Knorr's noodles with Alfredo sauce and tuna. The noodles simmered about 5 minutes in my pot on the stove, then went into my pot cozy for 15 minutes along with the tuna. We split the hot steaming food and were both full. The ice cold water washed it all down. My wife had baked us oatmeal cookies with raisins for dessert. Get the noodle recipe HERE and scroll down. While not as healthy as some of my organic camping meals, it was very filling, and eaten at 11,440 feet above sea level, it was a good dinner and a fine end to a long day of hiking uphill.
I awoke before sunrise, watching the sun come up from inside my tent. It was windy outside, and the tent vibrated with the air flow. I got dressed and walked around the campsite area, taking photos in the morning light. When David arose, we made coffee using the Starbucks Via packages he brought and ate lemon Laura Bars and fruit. We cleaned up and started back downhill the same way we came in, meeting a snow boarder and a hiker with his dog, both enjoying the mountain early.
|Sunrise from the inside|
|Slightly northwest along the Continental Divide, lots of snow|
|West, King Lake is below the scrub|
|My REI Quarterdome 1|
|David's REI dome tent to the south, he is still asleep|
|More sunrise southeast|
|Tundra everywhere underfoot|
|Krumholtz with huge trunks, much bigger around than my leg|
|More tundra by the cooking area|
|And by the lake outflow where we filtered water|
|Beside my tent|
|By where I sat|
|Last views of King Lake and the trail up to the CDT|
|Reflections of snow in August|
|Columbine bunch on the downhill march|
I realize we could have made a loop hike out by climbing to the pass above us, then following the CDT north to Devils Thumb Pass, and following the Devils Thumb Trail back down to Lost Lake, but that would have taken maybe 2-3 more hours than we had initially expected to and would have made a 16-17 mile backpacking trip. You could also hike the Moffat Trail over Rollins Pass and spend much time investigating the other high lakes and campsites in the area plus Lost Lake with all its gold mining sites. As it is, we hiked 12 miles over 2 days, with 2800 feet of elevation gain and had a very pleasant Colorado Rocky Mountain backpacking trip. Get maps and permit forms HERE.
|Wildflowers and mountains all around|
|The tree in the middle is 5 times larger than I can reach around with both arms|
|David lakeside at our Lost Lake side trip|
|The rough rock road back down|
|Last look back as we near Hessie|
Getting there: From Castle Rock it will take at least 90 minutes to drive the mountainous 75 miles, more in rush hour. Go north on US 85 (Santa Fe Trail), then go west on E-470, crossing I-70. Exit 470 to the left to go north on US 6 through Golden. 6 becomes CO 93. Follow CO 93 straight at the intersection north toward Boulder, turning left onto CO 72, Coal Creek Canyon Road. At CO 119 Peak To Peak Highway, turn right, north to Nederland. Turn left onto Eldora Road towards the Ski Area, but stay right at the Ski intersection, continuing on to Eldora. Watch your speed in this small community. When the pavement ends, continue to where the dirt road splits, the Hessie Trailhead is one mile to your left. Portalets were stationed there today. Take care parking along the road, making sure you are between the signs where parking is approved. A typical 2 wheel drive car in good weather is fine to the Hessie turnoff. Or bring your high clearance 4 wheel drive vehicle and continue down the rough dirt road to the left and follow past Hessie to the creek bridge, where there is limited parking.
You can get a campsite permit at the Ace Hardware in Nederland. Instead of turning left to Eldora, just continue straight into town and look for the Ace on the left. The food is good here at the restaurants just past the Ace, across the creek and on the left. The B & F Mountain Market grocery store and an outfitter are on the right just before the creek.
I would plan not to backpack here during the weekends as it is very busy, unless I could be on the trail before 6 am, which means getting the camping permits earlier.