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Blue Lakes Trail to Blue Lakes Pass
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mini location map2011-07-21
46 by photographer avatarskatchkins
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Blue Lakes Trail to Blue Lakes PassWest, CO
West, CO
Hiking avatar Jul 21 2011
Hiking2.60 Miles 1,500 AEG
Hiking2.60 Miles
1,500 ft AEG
 no routes
1st trip
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Hands down the best trip of the trip.

I really tried to squeeze everything I could into our 1 week CO trip leading 15 of my friends and their 8 vehicles. Each day was planned out by the hour. Thursday was no exception and after we competed Imogene (one Jeep pretty much without a transmission), we ate a late lunch on Yankee Boy, then had the non-hikers drop off the whittled 4 of us at the end of the road. I chose the Blue Lakes Area as our second backpacking leg of the trip for its documented photo beauty. I also used the "highly rated" Ouray Hiking Guide by Kelvin Kent. I personally don't recommend the book. Almost all his listed trails contain no maps (and I love maps); he'd rather fill up the page with directional words.

I couldn't find tracks for the hike so to play it safe, I drew over the mostly visible hiking path in Google Earth, saved it, converted it, and loaded it up on the GPS. I was worried about being on the 13,000" pass too late or if there was any bad weather looming around, but we began with what I thought was enough time to make it to my proposed camp spot on Lower Blue Lake.

We made decent time on the way up. We ran into 5-6 snow patches we had to hike on top of.
When we reached the pass, the freezing wind tearing over it kept us from dallying too long. It also began to sprinkle which really worried me now that I saw the path down that we were up against. 1200" feet of elevation in .8 miles of one foot in front of the other switchbacks of loose scree awaited us. It was a bit unnerving at times. Every time I looked through my camera view finder for a quick pic, it took me a little while after to regain my bearings and balance. If you slip at all here, the bad news is you won't make it back to where you fell- the good news is that perhaps you'll be able to stop yourself on the next switchback below you. Needless to say we buddied up and took our time. At a couple spots we actually had to anticipate slippage and hike a few feet higher than the trail to ensure we landed back on it.

You could clearly see where the rocky switchbacks ended and the 10 green switchbacks began near the hill bottom. The perception problem was that we were so high up we kept asking aloud, why are those switchbacks even there, surely you can just cut across them- the zig-zag looked to be only on a horizontal plane from or viewpoint.

We joyously reached the green to find three things, the switchbacks were still very much needed, the ground was finally stable, and this section offered the best wildflowers we had seen on the entire trip (much better than touristy American Basin).

We continued on snapping pics along the way, passing by the big Upper Blue Lakes that had seemed puddle sized from the pass. As we began the decent to the lower basin we scared up a deer and then our breath left us as we saw Lower Blue Lake. It was wildly the most beautiful view yet. Every photo of it looks faked, every color incomprehensible. On the way down we saw the second best wildflowers of the trip on the switchbacks overlooking the lake there. We crossed a few streams and reached the waters edge and began looking to set up camp. Jonathan scouted then reported the best spots were on the west side of the lake but they were all taken so we set up shop in a nice spot with no neighbors near the north shore. It is a wilderness so there was no fire that night.

Before it began to get dark, Jonathan and Dana cleaned up a bit in the creek but something got a hold of me and I set my sights on the lake itself. Without thinking too much I stripped down to my skivs and ran and jumped in the water to the astonishment of the few nature lookers on the other shore. I used some camp soap and then jumped back in a couple more times for good measure. 100x better than coffee :)

The next morning, I woke early and hiked back up to the upper lakes and then lay near the trout filled lake stream outlet and awaited the sun. As soon as it came into view the layers came off and it was t-shirt weather again. I stuck around for a little while then came back down just in time to put the pack back on for our exit. We left via the trail that comes in from the north on CR 7 to meet up at 1:00 with a couple of the Jeeps that would take us back into town.

This route was much easier but the views weren't anything to shout about. Mostly 3.25 miles of shaded forest on a gradual decline. Where we saw so one on the Pass hike, we saw tons of people coming up against us. This path is the easy way in for sure.

We made it back to the Jeep pick-up, then back to the whole group and on to the Hot Springs in Ouray.
wildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observation
Wildflowers Observation Extreme
May he guide you through the wilderness : protect you through the storm;
May he bring you home rejoicing : at the wonders he has shown you;
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