Brian and I did the classic High Lonesome Loop, but with a couple modifications of my own design. Both of us forgot cameras, so no pictures for you! The weather was crappy anyway, so you’re not missing much. The usual loop starts from Hessie, runs up to Jasper and Devil’s Thumb Lake, then two glorious miles along the Divide before a pell-mell descent down the King Lake Trail back to Hessie.
Modification #1 was following an obvious trail to the left immediately past the trailhead, and crossing the creek at a nice waterfall, then paralleling the creek on the south side up to nearly the Lost Lake turnoff. Very nice. Recommended to avoid the longer, looser, more touristy main trail.
Modification #2 was to divert to Lost Lake and beyond up the slopes of Bryan Mountain (aka, Eldora Ski Area). The trail petered out pretty quickly past an old mine SE of the lake, but we followed a drainage most of the way up before thrashing around in the surprisingly lush forest atop the Bryan/Guinn Mtn saddle. Eventually we found the linear clear cut I’d seen in the aerial photos… which turned out to be a natural gas pipeline. We ran/hiked this past the charming Arestua Hut, over the bald summit of Guinn Mountain, and down across the really nifty knife edge ridge above Yankee Doodle Lake before a steep climb up to the Rollins Pass Road. From there, it was a simple matter of running the trestles up to Rollins Pass and rejoining the usual High Lonesome Loop (though in reverse of the usual anti-clockwise direction).
Modification #3 was going to be continuing north on the Divide past Devils Thumb and up to the summit of Mt. Jasper, descending to Jasper Lake via Upper and Lower Storm Lakes. However, the weather was bordering on malevolent and neither one of us was feeling all that spunky. Instead, we descended to Devils Thumb Lake the normal way and came out on trail.
Ah well. Except for the bushwhacking part up Bryan Mountain, it was entirely runnable and a nice variation from the usual, highly-trafficked route. Despite the questionable weather and personally energy levels, it was a good time. Ironically, “Higher Lonesome” is the first big mountain trip I’ve done since January that wasn’t a solo affair! Many thanks to Brian for making it social and fun and keeping me semi-honest on the running/hiking thing.