July 27th has become the traditional day to explore a trackless valley near well-known trails. This year’s edition was the Storm Lake drainage lying between Jasper Peak and Jasper Lake. I’ve been past Jasper Lake many times and up the Peak twice, but the valley in between always seemed intriguing.
My conditioning is poor this year, so I didn’t aim for anything terribly ambitious. Plus the weather was ominous with a moderately-high chance of lightning. I made slow time up to Jasper Lake before heading up some faint trails around the southeast shore.
The trail became rock slabs and intermittent snowfields (clearly remnants of pretty impressive snow in-season). A few more rocky terraces brought me to Storm Lake.
Above Storm Lake, going got rough with numerous willow patches to thrash through (some of them shoulder-deep), streams to cross, and rock steps to overcome. I tried futiley to keep my shoes dry, then bowed to the inevitable and found the path much easier to follow. On thing this valley does not lack for is wildflowers and waterfalls. And probably unicorns as well. It was pretty incredible.
Upper Storm Lake was, like most of these lakes at about 12k, still frozen and a bit of a bleak end to the exploration. The weather still hadn’t turned bad, but it definitely didn’t look favorable. Nor were my knees feeling too good.
Instead of another 500′ of climbing to the Divide (and at least an hour or two until I was safe from lightning), I elected to go back down the valley. Rather than retrace my steps, I traversed talus on the high side of the valley and ended up dropping down to the established trail midway between Jasper and Devils Thumb Lakes. Weather was still fine, so I took the half-mile detour up to Devil’s Thumb Lake to see the flowers.
The weather never did turn, though my ankles did and my knees definitely feel less-than-healthy. The remainder of the season of mountain running seems a bit doubtful now, but at least I got one undeniably gorgeous bit of exploration into terra incognita this truncated season.
Oh, and on the way out, at one more waterfall, I saw a pair of water ouzels! Cool!