ilanarama: profile of me backpacking.  Woo. (hiking)
[personal profile] ilanarama
I was looking through my journal for one of our backpacking trips last year, and realized that I somehow never got around to posting photos/stories about quite a few of our great excursions. I'm determined not to repeat this error, in part because it's so dang fun re-reading my past adventures, so even though our backpacking trip this weekend was just a short overnight you get to read about it and see a ridiculous number of photos. ;-)

Verde basin and Elk Creek

It's been super hot here in town, with temperatures in the lower 90s, so the prospect of getting up into the mountains was extremely tempting. We also had recently bought a new backpacking tent, and wanted to test it out on a shorter trip; in addition, we'd had some transmission work done on our Sportsmobile, and wanted to check it out on a jeep road. We decided to drive to Silverton on Friday night (about an hour) and then go three miles up the Kendall Mountain jeep road to the Deer Park spur road, and find a place to camp in the van just below 11,000 feet.


The van handled the very rough, very steep road just fine - a lot better than I will next month, I'm sure, as this road is the Kendall Mountain Race course! We had a pleasant dinner of elk burritos cooked on our van stove and salad I'd prepared at home, washed down with a couple of glasses of wine, and slept in cooler temperatures than we'd been in in weeks. The next morning we set out up the much gentler Deer Park road for about a mile, to the trailhead at the Montana Mine. To get there we had to cross the Deer Park Creek, which wasn't too bad, fortunately, because I hate river crossings. It was certainly cold enough to remind me that it had been snow not long ago...

Crossing Deer Park creek

This particular trail, called Whitehead Trail on the map (as it traverses the slopes above Whitehead Gulch) was mostly unmaintained and abandoned, though fortunately the posts that marked it above treeline were still standing. Otherwise it would have been difficult to follow, especially since there was still quite a bit of snow. Mostly we just tromped across the snow, which was fortunately solid enough that we only sank in at the margins, but if it was convenient to avoid - or dangerous to cross - we would leave the trail and go around.

Crossing snow trail

The snow wasn't the only white stuff on the ground. At one point we saw, snagged on willows and rocks, the telltale tufts of wool that indicate the presence of mountain goats. "They probably just look like white spots from here," Britt said, looking around.

"Like those white spots?" I pointed to the top of a cliff which was dotted with white on the skyline. For a while we weren't sure if they were actually mountain goats or just weird piles of snow, because they didn't move, but as we got closer we could make out their shapes. After a while, they got up and moved back to the far side of the cliff, but as that was where we were going, we got an even better view of them when we went around the corner.

Goats onna ridge Mountain goats!

We also saw quite a lot of elk and deer sign - hoofprints, scat, and the squished areas of vegetation where they had bedded down - but other than one deer back at our van camp, we saw no actual elk or deer.

The trail contoured around a fairly gentle mountain shoulder, but it was slow going, partly because of the numerous snow fields, and partly because we were mostly between 12,000-12,500 feet where there is a distinct lack of oxygen molecules. Any leftover breath was taken away by the breathtaking(!) views:

Pointy peaks

The two distinct peaks in the center are Vestal on the left, which has a famous rock climb on it, and Arrow on the right, which we climbed some years ago and is the mountain in my mountain icon.

Finally we rounded a final shoulder and descended to Lost Lake, which at just under 12,200' still had quite a bit of snow and ice on it:

Lost Lake is kinda frozen

This was not our first visit to this lake. We had camped here in 2004, though we'd approached from a different trailhead and a better, more frequently-used trail. On that trip, we'd taken a short dayhike on the trail we were now on, just to get a little higher and see what there was to see, but we had turned back when it started to snow. (Did I mention it was the 4th of July? The saying is that you know you're a Coloradoan when you've been snowed on in every month of the year...)

We set up our new tent and relaxed for the rest of the afternoon. It got quite cold at night - in the morning we could see where new ice had formed on the lake - but we were cozy in our sleeping bags, and the sun hit the camp nice and early and warmed us up. We packed up and headed out along the trail to the Verde Lakes. This was the route we had taken in 2004, but it took us a while to find it under the snow and willow growth - not a lot of people come to Lost Lake, which is probably why it's "Lost". We did finally see the first human footprints (and also dog pawprints!) of the weekend - it looked as though they had tried to make it to Lost Lake but given up at some point - but we never did see the person and dog they belonged to. In fact we saw nobody but each other the entire weekend, and we are not complaining one bit about that!

On trail between Lost Lake and Verde Lakes

We did, however, see some more wildlife. Can you spot the ptarmigan?

Can you spot the ptarmigan?

(Here is the ptarmigan!)

We stopped for a snack at the Verde Lakes, where Britt did a little fly-fishing and I looked at the scenery:

View across Verde

Then we hiked around the lakes and up another mostly-abandoned trail, which brought us above the Highland Mary Lakes. The trailhead for these lakes is an easy dirt-road drive - that's the trailhead we used in 2004 - and they are a very popular destination. Well, at least they are in full summer; there might have been a few people there this weekend, but we didn't see them.

Highland Mary Lakes

We crossed the rolling tundra saddle at just under 13,000', our highest point of the weekend, and had lunch, then dropped down a draw to rejoin the Whitehead Trail, closing our lollipop loop. From there it was only a couple more hours back to the trailhead, and then to our van and the drive home to Durango.

on the trail on the trail

23 photos [these and more] at Flickr, none of the rambling

(no subject)

Date: 2017-06-28 06:55 pm (UTC)
traveller42: (Default)
From: [personal profile] traveller42
Yay Trek Report!!!

For the record, I found the ptarmigan before I saw the version with the circle.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-06-28 07:58 pm (UTC)
mrkinch: vampire Viggo (Default)
From: [personal profile] mrkinch
Mountain goats! Ptarmigan! Awesome scenery! There are so many lakes up there, but I found Lost Lake and some of your trails, though not the unmaintained ones, I think. Thank you for vicarious mountains.:)

(no subject)

Date: 2017-06-28 08:41 pm (UTC)
luzula: a Luzula pilosa, or hairy wood-rush (Default)
From: [personal profile] luzula
12000 feet, that's 3650 meters. Damn, you are high up, and that's not even on the peaks! The highest mountain in Sweden is just 2000 meters...but then again we are much farther north.

I'd probably love that hiking trail.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-06-28 09:51 pm (UTC)
luzula: a Luzula pilosa, or hairy wood-rush (Default)
From: [personal profile] luzula
Not only that, my house is four meters higher than the highest mountain in Sweden!

Whaaat? That is so crazy...but I guess latitude makes all the difference, because I assume your house does not have snow year-round and nothing grows there. : )

You would totally love that hiking trail. You should come visit and go hiking with me!

I would, if I hadn't resolved to stop flying for climate reasons. *sigh*

(no subject)

Date: 2017-06-29 03:25 am (UTC)
riverlight: A rainbow and birds. (Default)
From: [personal profile] riverlight

(no subject)

Date: 2017-06-30 08:18 pm (UTC)
hamsterwoman: (Default)
From: [personal profile] hamsterwoman
Such amazing views! Thank you for sharing these!


ilanarama: me, The Other Half, Moab UT 2009 (Default)

August 2017

131415 16171819
20212223 242526

My running PRs:

5K: 21:03 (downhill) 21:43 (loop)
10K: 43:06 (downhill)
10M: 1:12:59
13.1M: 1:35:55
26.2M: 3:23:31

You can reach me by email at heyheyilana @


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