Orange Agoseris (Agoseris aurantiaca), a close cousin of the Common Dandelion, can be found throughout western North America, and it also occurs disjunctly in small areas of the Canadian province of Quebec. Isn’t that weird? In Colorado, this wildflower can be found in the foothills, montane, and sub-alpine zones. While generally orange in color, it occasionally shows up in shades of lavender and pink.
With its bright magenta petals and little yellow “eye,” Parry’s Primrose (Primula parryi) is easy to spot in the subalpine and alpine zones of Colorado’s mountains. This is a plant that likes to get its feet wet, so it will generally be found along streams and in boggy areas. The whole plant is reported to exude a rather unpleasant, skunklike smell.
Parry’s Primrose was named after British-American botantist Charles Christopher Parry, who extensively studied the Colorado mountain flora in the 1860s. Mr. Parry has tons of flowers and trees named after him, as well as Parry Peak, one of Colorado’s 637 “thirteeners.”
I finally went on my first hike of the year last weekend – to Lost Lake in the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area. I don’t usually like to hike on weekends due to the crowds, but my hiking companion and I got an early enough start to miss much of the hiker traffic and to get a decent parking spot at the usually very crowded trailhead. We brought our snowshoes but didn’t end up using them as the snow on the trail was nicely packed.
The scenery along the way was quite lovely.
The destination of this hike is Lost Lake, which isn’t actually very lost at all. It’s one of the most accessible of all destinations in the Indian Peaks Wilderness.
This is another one of those hikes that I’m going to have to do again in the summer.
To view additional photos from this hike, click HERE.
One of the striking differences between my hike to the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area at the end July and my hike last week was the water level of Lake Isabelle. This is how Lake Isabelle looked in July:
And a mere two weeks later:
What happened?? Well, you see, the water rights to Lake Isabelle have been owned exclusively by an entity called the Left Hand Ditch Company (LHDC) since 1907. (For those of you not familiar with the American West, water rights are a very huge issue out here and the Rocky Mountains play a very major role in the fight). At some point in the past, the LHDC dug a tunnel from Lake Isabelle through the glacial moraine that forms the lake and every year round about the first of August, the tunnel gate is opened and the lake is drained. The water is gobbled by LHDC shareholders to irrigate parched crops in the Boulder Valley below. It sure makes Lake Isabelle rather unsightly, not to mention kind of smelly. Remind me not to hike to Lake Isabelle after August 1 anymore.
On the way back down the mountain from Pawnee Pass, I stopped to photograph the one little patch of mountain gentians that I saw along the way. I think this was the first time I’d seen mountain gentians. The wind wasn’t quite so fierce down that way so I was able to get a few shots.
The flowers along the creeks didn’t seem quite as stunning. They’re either past their prime or it was just the difference in the light. Or both, but they were still lovely and I don’t think the pink fireweed was there two weeks ago.
Speaking of lovely, check out one of my fellow hikers!
This little one was kind of cute too:
I didn’t take too many more photos the rest of the way back. I had briefly pondered taking the Jean Lunning Trail around the south side of Long Lake to see the profusion of wildflowers there again, but by the time I got to that particular junction in the trail, I was just too spent and all I wanted to do was sit down and take my boots off, so I opted for the quickest way back to my car.
Overall, it was an stupendous hike and I’m really glad I can cross that one off my list. I’m still working on the gallery for this hike, but you can take a peek at it HERE.
After huddling behind a large outcropping of rocks with a couple of fellow hikers at Pawnee Pass for a bit, the wind got to be too much and I decided to start heading back down.
Right around this point, it occurred to me that my knees were taking a serious beating from the rocky decline and I had to whip out the ol’ trekking poles. Of course, by the time excruciating pain has already set in, it’s a bit too late for the poles to do much good. And I still had about 3 1/2 miles to go.
What made the very long, strenuous and insanely windy Pawnee Pass hike worth every bit of the effort was the view to the west from the edge of the pass. If you walk just a little ways to the west from the sign, you can see Lake Granby, the Never Summer Range and beyond.
Looking over the edge to the other side is like peering into the abyss. That’s Pawnee Lake down there, 1,800 vertical feet and 26 switchbacks down.
Another plus of the hike was seeing one of my favorite alpine flowers, the arctic gentian. The pass was pretty much carpeted with them. I was glad that I took a lot of wildflower photos on my last hike to the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area because it was really too windy for really decent wildflower photography.
I took another stab at Pawnee Pass yesterday and I made it! Wow, what a trip! I started at 7:25am and finished at 5:24pm and my pedometer says I hiked 12.59 miles. All of the trip descriptions of this hike say that it’s 9.1 miles, so I’m not sure where the extra 3.49 miles came from. I do tend to wander a bit, I suppose.
The predominant theme of this hike was WIND. I have never in my life encountered wind of such magnitude. The blow-you-off-your-feet wind made staying at the pass for any length of time pretty much impossible, and it made me abandon my plans to summit Pawnee Peak, which is adjacent to the pass.
Above where I turned around last time, the trail switchbacks up and up and up until it reaches a large and mostly flat (at least compared to the rest of the hike) tundra bench with spectacular views of the surrounding peaks.
From the tundra bench, the trail switchbacks up the talus slope under the long, thin snowfield in the right third of the photo above. It was pretty daunting when viewed from below, but not quite so bad once you got up there. The trail was extremely rocky and treacherous, but not too terribly steep.
After reaching the top of the talus slope, there was another sort of flat area and then it was just a brief jaunt (if jaunting is possible in hurricane-force wind) to the Pawnee Pass sign. I set my camera on a rock and put it on the self-timer setting, but didn’t manage to actually get myself in any of those photos, so asked a nearby hiker to take a shot of me with the sign to prove that I really did make it.
Tomorrow: The view to the west from the pass, or why it was worth it.
FINALLY the August wallpaper! I know – it’s about time! I’m hoping that not too many of you have missed appointments due to not having the current month’s calendar on your computer’s desktop!
This photo of Long Lake with the Indian Peaks beyond doubles as the final post of my Lake Isabelle hike a week ago.
If you’re not sure how to set a photo as your desktop background, follow the instructions HERE.
If you need a different size for your background, email me at 39DegN@gmail.com and let me know what size you need.
Having made the decision that pushing for Pawnee Pass with ever-darkening clouds looming above was not a good idea, I began the trek back to the trailhead. I had my doubts, though, and turned back around no fewer than three times before I made my FINAL decision.
Here’s the view to the southeast, which was the direction I was heading:
It wasn’t until I was almost back to my car and started hearing thunder coming from up around the Pawnee Pass area that I finally felt like I had made the right choice. I got rained on just a wee bit on the way back down, but not even enough to break out the rain jacket.
For a little change of scenery on the hike back, I decided to take the Jean Lunning Trail that skirts around the south side of Long Lake. And I was awfully glad I did. I don’t think there are words to describe how incredible the wildflowers were on that side of the lake.
And who knew that Indian Paintbrush could even BE this color!
Tune in tomorrow for what just might be my final blog post for this hike! And MAYBE that wallpaper I’ve been promising you.