Sunday, September 16, 2012

Expedition Colorado: Blue Lakes Pass

The first time I remember looking at the clock, after falling asleep that first night, was 10:36 pm.  I thought to myself, "are you kidding me!?"  "Is it really only 10:30!?"  I felt like I had been asleep for hours, but unfortunately it appears that I had only taken a nap.  I did some research on sleeping after a big night of drinking some time back.  I noticed that I only slept for a very short time on those nights.  What I learned was that, following consumption of excess alcohol, the body falls immediately into deep sleep.  All of the much needed REM sleep is completely bypassed and that's why one wakes up early and feeling quite fatigued.  I imagine it was much the same reason that I had only been asleep for a few hours.  Following that hike in, I was so tired that I passed out into immediate deep sleep.

As I lay there on my back, in that tent, I started thinking.  I was mostly thinking about going back to sleep and my inability to achieve that goal.  I stepped out of the tent to walk around a bit.  Places like that are where stars are really seen.  There is no ambient light to drown them out.  I looked up in amazement at the arms of the Milky Way above my head.  I watched as satellites traversed the cosmos above me.  Seeing the stars like this conjured up the images of the few times  I have had such clear viewing as this.  The two times that came to mind were only a few months apart.  The first time was in March of 2005 while I was camping out in Del Rio, Texas at Devil's River State Park.  The fact that the park is so far from anything coupled with the clear desert sky, makes for some amazing star gazing.  The second time was in August of 2005 following Hurricane Katrina.  It is the only time I have seen the stars like that at home.  Without any power, there was nothing to drown them out.

I eventually fell back asleep off and on until the sun was finally shining in through the thin walls of the tent.  When I crawled out of the tent I could truly feel, for the first time, the extent of my leg soreness.  Apparently walking up a mountain is tough on the legs!  (please take heed to my sarcasm here)  I brewed a little bit of coffee and ate a bit of breakfast to try and motivate myself to get going that morning.  The plan, on this day, was to climb the three miles up toward the blue lakes pass and upper lakes then decide what we want to do from there.  

The trail to the Blue Lakes Pass turns immediately uphill soon after leaving the lower lake.  My legs were so tight that I didn't have much motivation, at this point, to do much of anything.  We stopped for a few minutes to stretch and I began to feel a little bit better.  

The views heading up the trail increased with the altitude.  The pure blue of the lower lake was intensely amplified from above.  I looked down and picked our tent out of the the trees near the shore of the lake.  

Apparently I decided to try and camouflage myself with the color of the lake!

The views only get better with the elevation.  It gave us a decent excuse to stop and catch our breath.  We would say, "we are just taking in the views!"  It was better than decent, it was a great excuse.  Looking across that mountain range was astonishing.  Where does something this huge even come from?  

We got our pace down to a science winding in and out of the trees headed up to the middle lake.  When I would start to get winded I would tell myself, "just slow down."  It's as easy as that.  When winded, just slow down.  When we broke the tree line we started guessing when we would encounter the next lake.  

The view back across the middle lake.

After another step up and a little more time on the trail we finally reached the upper lake.  The upper lake is situated at 11,720 ft.  Every step on the trail I find myself reaching the highest altitude my lungs have ever encountered.  

Myself sitting at the upper lake.  The blue lakes pass switches up the grassy 
patch beyond the lake.

As we looked up the pass we already had a bit of doubt.  It was high, steep, and intimidating, but we were willing to give it a shot.  We could see fellow climbers high up on the pass.  We did it like anything else, one switch at a time.  Higher and higher we climbed.  Eventually we got above the grass and that's where it got a little bit sketchy.  The switches stretched out with the increased steepness.  Without anymore vegetation the trail got loose.  Then what was once a level trail began to angle off down the mountain.  With tired legs I found myself unsure of my footing, but we pressed on.  At the top of one of the switches we took a break sitting on a big rock waiting for some of the descending climbers to pass.  Brandon looked over and said, "I'm not going to make it."  With the weight he was carrying and the fatigue in his legs, he wasn't willing to risk a fall.  He told me to press on and he would meet me back down at the lake.  About this time a group from Tennessee, that we had been passing back and forth all day, passed us again and let us know how much worse the trail is from here.  They turned back at the next switch.  I'm smarter than attempting a climb alone and headed back down the mountain with Brandon.  

Looking back across the two upper lakes from the pass.

Myself high up on the pass

Looking back up the pass.  If you enlarge this pic and look closely you can pick Brandon
out high on the pass.  Near the center of the photograph, above and to the left of where the 
grass ends, the little black dot is Brandon.  He had to head back up to find his sunglasses.

On the way back down to the campsite we started formulating new plans.  We didn't want to head back up the pass again the next day because we wanted to see new areas.  We decided that we were going to pack back out the next morning and head around to the other side of Mt. Sneffels Wilderness.  We would hike in from that side to see the land from a different angle, but this day wasn't over yet.

While we were hiking above the campsite we could see a smooth white patch in the rock slide beside the lake.  Brandon was convinced that it was "sand."  I wasn't so convinced.  I believed, or at least wanted to believe, that it was snow that was still hanging around from the prior year.  When we finally reached the campsite, we dropped our gear and started heading that way.  We picked through all the loose rocks, around the lake, and carefully made our way in the direction we thought the mysterious white patch was.  I'll just let the pictures explain who was right and who was wrong!

The mysterious white patch as see from above. (to the left)

What's the verdict Brandon?

That looks like snow to me!

Of course the guy from Mississippi would make snow angels!

It was a great way to end that day.  We stayed there and literally played in that snow for probably half an hour.  We looked like a couple of kids out there.  This is the closest I have been to anything resembling snow in a LONG time. We headed back to the campsite once we had our fill and called it a day early again.  

This day was over, but not the trip.

To be continued.

Until Next Time,

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1 comment:

Misti said...

That resembles a bit of our hike to the Enchantment Lakes---not such a high elevation, but a steep climb and then lakes!

LOL at the sand!