Jim is a little obsessed with Longs Peak. Granted, there are worse mountains to be smitten with, but every time he comes out here from the midwest, he jaunts up Longs. Or sometimes Pikes Peak, but usually Longs. This visit, I convinced him to try something different; not Longs and not even something in Rocky Mountain National Park. Honestly, the Indian Peaks Wilderness, in particular the Brainard Lake area, is equal to anything in the Park and I challenge anyone to find a more satisfying alpine setting as Blue Lake.
Blue Lake didn’t disappoint. We scrambled around the lake and up the scree slope to Mt. Toll, took in the stellar view from up there, then scampered down and across the saddle and up the less aesthetic, more snowy north face climb of Pawnee Peak before descending to the perpetually windy Pawnee Pass and down the trail. For a guy who’d flown in from Ohio 24 hours before, Jim did pretty well up there and was pretty amazed by the mountains, even though they weren’t Longs.
The views were stellar throughout and a dusting of snow from a week ago on the north faces made everything nicely frosted. Another highlight of the trip was the three moose we encountered at Mitchell Lake (mom and two adolescents), seven ptarmigan above Blue Lake in mottled mostly-white mode, and countless pikas stuffing themselves with last-minute calories before the snow shuts things down for the season up there.
The only down-note of the trip was that Lake Isabelle, equal to Blue Lake for alpine setting, has once again been mostly drained. Instead of the usual sapphire lake in a setting of toothy, glaciered mountains, it was a barren travesty. Boo! Seriously, this is a Wilderness Area. Why is this allowed, even in water-hungry Colorado?
It was an unqualified great day in the late-season mountains and my first in over a month. I don’t know when the first big snow will shut things down for good up there, but that may well have been my last non-winter-mode trip. If so, it was a great finish to the season.