Sunday, July 1, 2012

Gorgeous Wildflowers and Bright Blue Lakes

Well today's hike was probably one of the most beautiful I've done - soaring thirteen and fourteen thousand foot peaks, an abundance of wildflowers, and gorgeous turquoise blue lakes!

Description: Hike to Blue Lakes and an attempt at Blue Lakes Pass
Location: Near Ouray, Colorado
Date: July 1, 2012
Round Trip Distance: 10.6 Miles
Starting Elevation: 9,400 feet
Ending Elevation: about 12,500 feet

We made it to the trailhead just before 6:00am this morning ready to hike, at minimum, to the Lower Blue Lake with intentions of making it to the Upper Blue Lakes, and, if we could muster up the strength, all the way to Blue Lakes Pass. Now there are actually four total blue lakes - the lower being the easiest to get to at about 11,000 feet, and the upper three up an additional 500 or so feet. After you pass the Blue Lakes, you can continue on to Blue Lakes Pass, which brings you to about 13,000 feet. Then, if you're still not completely exhausted, you can actually connect to the trail leading to the summit of Mount Sneffels (14,150 feet).

Now, we definitely didn't have any intentions of getting to the top of Mount Sneffels (we would like to do this sometime, but there is a much shorter trail on the other side of the mountain), but we were hoping to maybe make it to Blue Lakes Pass which puts you at a saddle between Mount Sneffles and an additional peak. You can probably tell by my "description" above, but unfortunately we didn't quite make it there. So without further ado - here's what we did today:

We started off just after sunrise and did the first 3.3 miles fairly quickly, especially considering it was a constant uphill the majority of the way. 3.3 miles marked the lower blue lake, so we took a quick break here and got some pictures in:
Then we started another ascent towards the Upper Blue Lakes. Now, when we were doing our original research on this hike, we didn't quite realize just how much "Upper" they are. It was quite a bit more of a climb to finally reach the middle lake. The third lake was just a little farther, but not too bad (and you can see the forth lake, just barely - it's a tiny one directly above the larger one shown):
You can also probably see in this photo, the trail along the right side - this is the incredibly steep (and oh so fun) ascent up to Blue Lakes Pass. After we had a nice long rest at the Upper Lakes, we decided to attempt it. Now, this is an elevation change of about 1500 feet in a very short amount of trail. We made it to the 12th switchback, and then I got a little freaked out. After the 10th switchback, the lovely grassy area was gone, and we were on loose dirt and rock on a very steep edge. I tried my best to keep going, but I've determined from some of my last couple hikes, that this is probably one of my biggest fears. Not heights, no I can handle those, it's the lack of stability. Just knowing that one wrong foot placement and I could be sliding down a mountain kind of gets to me (but I'm completely fine looking over the edge of the Empire State Building). So nevertheless we did turn back, but not without one last picture of how much more we had to go - and I do think we were at least 3/4 of the way:
So we turned back from this point, just over 5.25 miles in, and started our descent back to the Blue Lakes. One cool thing about this hike, was that you were able to get some great views overlooking the lakes. It was from these viewpoints that they really looked gorgeous and bright, bright blue:
Once we made it back down to the Upper Blue Lakes, we also did a little exploring before we headed completely back. We walked up the little fourth blue lake and got some great views from up there as well. We also took some time to just really enjoy our surroundings. As I said at the beginning, this really was one of the most beautiful hikes I've done. It just felt secluded (which is a little strange considering we saw quite a few people on this one), but it did. I think it had something to do with the 360 degrees of mountain peaks surrounding us, with the beautiful green grass and wildflowers, and the lakes really were as bright as they are shown in my pictures (possibly even more so). It truly was gorgeous.

Now to sum up my post, here are some pictures of just a few of the many, many wildflowers we saw:

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