Posts Tagged With: parry primrose

Finding Wildflower Frenzy!

 

It’s true our Rocky Mountain summer started out hot and dry.  Now in August, the dryness has been moderated by seasonal monsoonal thunderstorms and occasional day long drenches, but temperatures are still higher than normal. Wildflowers in the Rockies can be awesome.  The displays mimic the current climatic conditions, of course.  There are feast and famine years, so typical of the intermountain west.  We can have totally different climatic features east and west of the Continental Divide, as well.  This year, east of the Divide, we had decent snows until spring, when it turned unseasonably hot.  West of the Divide, it has been terribly dry since autumn.  As a result, finding mountain wildflower meadows has been a challenge this summer.  The blooming season began a full month early, and now, by August, it is suddenly green, but still fall-like in the high country.

We had been amazed and excited to find the flowery fields of Loch Lomand (see my previous entry).  As a result, I wanted to hike in the same general area the very next week in early July.  We chose a drainage just one over from the Loch Lomand glacial valley:  the valley of Chinns, Sherwin and Slater Lakes.  Normally, hiking to the highest lake would be a deep snow post-hole experience in early July.  Slater Lake, in particular, generally has its best wildflower show fairly late in August.  Not this year.  The second week of July was peak!

I hiked in with a friend and her son and our Samoyeds.  Our goal was to add packing points to our dogs’ working certificates, to photograph the dogs, and to photograph water and wildflowers.  The “trail” is actually an old water storage road used to build and maintain the diversion dams on the upper Fall River drainage.  4-wheelers use these roads to get in for fishing and car camping, primarily.  As a result, the roads are in terrible shape, only really advisable for high clearance, 4-wheel drive vehicles.  My little Rav4 made it in a ways.  When I was sure I’d lose my oil pan, we stopped and parked, and hiked on up the road.  We had a couple of miles on loose rock road, until getting to Sherwin Lake, where the trail begins upward to Slater Lake, the true destination of the trip.

The following photos show the details of our journey:

First lake is Chinns Lake, a lake dammed for water diversion. The dry summer demanded a draw-down, and the lake shore is very low. An old log cabin is usually near the shoreline.

Colorado blue columbine at Chinns Lake. Columbine is a relatively early blooming flower. Along with it, late-blooming fireweed was beginning to blossom! What a mixed-up season!

Our four dogs, all outfitted with their well-loaded packs, pose in the scarlet paintbrush found in a meadow near Slater Lake.

Hiking companions above Slater Lake.

Spirit, MJ & Avie walk through an incredible meadow of scarlet paintbrush, tansy asters and small yellow composites.

Happy hikers!

Marsh marigolds……early bloomers, and pink parry primrose grace the cascades that tumble into Slater Lake.

Categories: The High Country | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Lakes of Loch Lomond

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On the 4th of July I drove up the Fall River Road from the Fall River exit on I-70, just past Idaho Springs with some favorite hiking companions.  The road winds up the river valley and trends right at the junction of Rainbow Road.  We turned left onto Alice Road. . . .  Alice: …”Gold was found here in the 1880’s in the valley below St. Mary’s glacier. Alice was one of many camps on the Fall River that boomed and died just as quickly. About $50,000 was taken out of the mines in the first few months and by 1889, the town and mines closed. There are still ruins of the cabins scattered among the pines and the area is one of the few where there is enough snow to permit year round skiing. There has been a little activity in the area since the late 1890’s, but not much. “ –http://www.ghosttowns.com/states/co/alice.html.  At the end of Alice Road, the pavement ends at Stewart Road.  We parked by the pictured trail sign and began our hike 2.3 miles from Loch Lomond.

    • USGS Topo Map of the Loch Lomond area with our route highlighted in red.  It shows we gained 1189’  in elevation throughout the hike, and we hiked a distance of 6.58 miles from the beginning of Stewart Road to our high point at Ohman Lake.
    • With us were two young dogs:  “Mollie” the golden retriever, and “Spirit, my year old Samoyed who was on his first long backcountry hike.  We enjoy our canine companions in areas where dogs are allowed on the Colorado high country trails.  On the Loch Lomond trail, there are no restrictions on dogs and no leash regulations.  Still, we tried to be as courteous as possible with our packing companions.  On his very first hike, “Spirit” was cautious, and fairly well-behaved.  He even posed for pictures among the abundant wildflowers along Stewart Road, and on the Loch Lomond trail, as you see in the attached slide show.
    • The wildflower of the day was the fuscia-colored, yellow-centered, Parry primrose.  It is one of the showiest of Colorado wildflowers, usually growing in small groups in marshy soils along alpine streams.    Obviously,  2012 is a banner year for this species on the Front Range, as they were growing in much larger than “small groups” this season!  We found them in abundance both along Stewart 4-WD road as it reached above treeline and met the north fork of the Fall River.  Another flower in abundance the summer of 2012 is the Colorado Blue Columbine.  This delicate blue and white blossom is a favorite of many, and always a delight to find along the trail.
    • As we came to the shores of Loch Lomond we paused, but followed the lake to its far inlet. Loch Lomond is special because of the stream cascading down the slope from the outlet of Reynolds and Stewart Lakes above.  Not only is the inlet of the lake spectacular, but the meadows there beside the lake are laden with colorful blossoms that only get more colorful as the season advances.  We back-tracked to a trail that led up a side stream flowing into Loch Lomond.  The fairly steep and rocky trail traversed meadows of Scarlet Paintbrush, white American Bistort, and blue Greenleaf Chimingbells – flowers fit for a 4th of July celebration!  The fairly steep trail climbs between Loch Lomond and Reynold’s Lake, the second in the “paternoster” chain of five glacially-carved lakes in the Loch Lomond basin.  These lakes, viewed from the slopes above, are reminiscent of the beads of a rosary, and hence, the name:  Paternoster Lakes.
    • It was a relief to gain the shore of Reynolds Lake.  The lake is a pretty bowl situated at the foot of a ridge off 13,250′ Mt. Bancroft.  Just beyond the lake, the trail crosses a cement dam between Reynolds and Stewart Lakes. Many Colorado high country lakes have been enlarged by man-made dams used to impound water for measured use on the dry eastern Colorado plains. The outflow from the dam is the top of the beautiful waterfall that flows into Loch Lomond.
    • At Stewart Lake, one of my hiking companions decided to stay for a peaceful rest on a rock at the lake’s shore.  We pushed on towards the fourth lake in the chain:  Ohman Lake, hiking among the rocks and cliffs between Stewart and Ohman. As we came upon a full meadow of Colorado blue columbine beside the lake, I suspected the name “Ohman” Lake might have been used because of the exclamation made when coming upon it:  “Oh MAN!”   With those words in mind, we were tempted to make the last steep rock and shelf track to the highest lake, Ice Lake, at 12,000′ and another half mile along the trail.  The highest lake beckoned with its refreshing name, and its enviable position high in a glacial cirque between 13er’s, Mt. Bancroft and James Peak.  But our companion was waiting back at Stewart Lake, and the day was getting late, so we turned and retraced our steps.
    • We re-passed  the glorious scenery in reverse, discovered a butterfly moth (white-lined sphinx moth) feeding at a stand of Parry primrose, and took a last look at beautiful Loch Lomond before taking off down the trail. What a great hike!  Beautiful streams and abundant wildflowers, four lakes along the trail, with a fifth lake left to explore at another time, all made for a wonderful 4th of July. We were so lucky to have enjoyed every aspect of a spectacular and wonderful backcountry experience.
Categories: The High Country | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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