The Colorado Trail lets you choose between the Middle East or the West. The trail splits for 80 kilometers in the Collegiate Peaks.
We hiked the east side. It’s closer to towns and easier camping. Much of it is below the tree line and near streams. This is an important consideration when the thunderstorms rolled in at 2pm and sometimes hit us multiple times until 7pm.
The west is mostly above the tree line, often with less water (most years – it’s all flowing this year) and much farther from towns. But the views are spectacular. Because you are above the treeline for so much, you can see so much.
Not So Lost Lake
Our goal was to hike from Cottonwood Pass to a side trail to Lost Lake. Reviews said the side trail was “steep but doable”. The lake had a cute little island in the middle and was 3 miles away. What could be more perfect?
Turns out a lot of other people agree with me. There is a much shorter side trail from the road to this very Instagramable lake. As we sat on the cliff overlooking the lake for lunch, we watched people and their dogs explore the lake below. At any one time, there were a dozen people running around.
Since I didn’t want to camp at what looked like a tourist attraction, we went to plan B. Walk to the next water and find a place to camp. Along the way we saw another (even cooler?) lake that looked like it had a tree in the middle.
Speaking of a tree in the middle, that’s all I had for eye cover from other hikers. It can be hard enough to get your period on the trail (which is why there was no Mount Yale attempt 2), but then throwing a fully exposed trail? You hide behind the only tree you find.
We had to balance our stops to look at marmots, flowers, and the view as we made our way over the ridge before the storms arrived. And go up the ridge. It was amazing to see where the trail went for miles, but there were very steep drop-offs with nothing to stop you rolling the whole way.
We made it and up the ridge at 2pm as dark clouds swirled around us – they never seem to actually move. And to camp at 4 p.m., just when the first splashes started. The rain cleared up enough that we could cook dinner and the mosquitoes came out. They weren’t the most aggressive or smartest (one landed on my thumbnail), but they were so thick they swarmed like gnats through the air. John put on his net while I used the hood-hat-hood option.
It’s very different when you’re hiding in your tent at night listening to the coyotes, knowing you’re the only person, than when you’re out in the woods with the illusion that others might be camping just down the trail. Here you know you are alone because you can see the whole mountain.
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