Rainy hike to King Lake

57° this evening and breezy. Back to a work cycle tomorrow so it's evening writing. Enjoying the dining area, and the big open windows. Decided to light a camping style lantern for ambience tonight. The chimes are ringing, and the wind can be heard rustling through trees on the mountainside above, almost reminding me of the crashing rhythm of the ocean at my parents place on the coast. 

It rained for most of the afternoon, which made it fortuitous that we decided to hike early. Noticing that the weather forecast called for "heavy rain" after 2 pm, we decided to head up from the cabin to King Lake. King Lake sits right below the divide underneath the old railroad crossing at Rollins Pass. 

A lay of the land update. To our east lies an open valley that eventually heads into the foothills and plains. It's the main access route to Happy Valley, and the way we go when mountain biking to work. It's the most sane of the four cardinal directions. To our south is Spencer Mountain, which is the gateway to Eldora Ski Area. Spencer is my place for a quick morning dog walk or run. It's a good little climb with a nice overlook of the town. To our due north is a vertical wall that quickly rises 1,000 feet. It's very steep and rocky. We've dabbled up here some, but haven't found a great route yet. There is a popular mountain bike route that heads up to the Caribou plateau above us on this side, cut by insane miners a century ago.

To our west is the gateway to the high peaks. As the crow flies, the Continental Divide is about five miles and 3,000 vertical feet from where I'm writing tonight. From the west, there are three main drainages that flow into our valley. The northernmost heads down from 4th July Campground, Arapaho Pass and some great spring skiing peaks. There is a rough dirt road that heads up to about 10,000 feet and from here nice trails head up. It's quicker access to the high peaks. The next two drainages turn off about a mile up the road from our home at an old mining town known as Hessie. The middle fork heads up to Devils Thumb and the Storm Lake, while the southern fork heads to Rollins Pass and King, Bob and Betty Lakes. 

P1100744Stella prowls the banks of King Lake. 

Today we decided on King Lake because it's the most sheltered of the routes and big lightning storms were predicted. The trail crosses through Lodgepole and Douglas Pine, as well as lots of sub-alpine firs. It's moist up here, and the canopy is covered with rotting pine, moss and mushrooms. Heading up about four miles, the trail pops above timberline, into a wonderland of grass meadows, wildflowers, flowing mountain creeks, tiny lakes and leftover snowfields (in the winter, this area might as well be the North Pole…it's brutal). In the summer it's a nice place.

We were feeling much more spry today, and we made good time to the lake. The final mile or so steepens noticeably, and in all it's about 2,500 vertical feet of climbing from home. Tons of varieties of the Indian Paint Brush up there, ranging from blood reds to sunset purples. We hung out at the lake for a bit and watched the storm clouds build and roll in. It was time to start heading down. Unlike the climb, where we saw lots of folks, we hardly saw anybody on the return trip. Nearing the trailhead, the thunder started to rumble and the rain, and then hail, started to fall. No worries – we were a mere mile from home and a warm shower. The temperatures cooled noticeably, and the walking was enjoyable. Near the end of the road a couple asked us if we needed a ride – we must have looked a sorry lot – but we declined, not so much out of pride but because it was a beautiful walk and a great start to a day that included lots of purging of old stuff and emptying boxes from the move. 

What a great evening. Pizza for dinner and marshmallows dipped in chocolate fondue for desert. That fondue plate was a great X-mas gift. It's getting well used – last night it was bread and cheese fondue. Meanwhile, off in the distance a fox sends off a shrieking cry, echoing off the valley walls. The wind is picking up and the smell of pine and rain is coming through the window. I'm quickly falling in love with this place. It feels more wild here. 


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