Blue Lake

September 6, 2020 · Raggeds Wilderness

The trek to Blue Lake in the Raggeds Wilderness inside the Gunnison National Forest was part of a two adventure just outside of Crested Butte. The weather on day-two was spectacular, a bug blue sky and a few scattered high-level clouds. This portion of the Raggeds Wilderness is made of layered mudstone, like that in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness. As such, the peaks and valleys are striking layered strata. However, this area has a lush green carpet of shrubs and grasses that create a unique visual effect in the mudstone strata.

The trail follows the Oh-be-Joyful creek through a wide U-shaped valley. The terraced mudstone range along the norther wall of the valley is part of a range that makes up Schuylkill Mountain. This wall of the valley is made up of the same geology as the iconic peaks of Maroon Bells but is covered in lush green grasses and shrubs. It is remarkably interesting and is constant view through this valley.

In a high meadow, just before where the Oh-be-joyful creek forks, there is a metal bent gate. There are no traces of a fence around it, just the gate. Perhaps an intentional accident, this gate in a high meadow overlooks the mudstone peaks of Handcock Peak, Oh-be-joyful Peak and Afley Peak that make up the Ruby Range. This bent metal gate in the middle of nowhere makes for a memorable milestone on this incredible trek.

The trail begins to turn South and a steep climb to Blue Lake comes into view. Blue Lake is in a high cirque surrounded by Afley Peak, Purple Peak and Carfield Peak. The lush green ground cover leading up to the bench that Blue Lake sits in is incredible, and this would make a perfect out-and-back multi-day trek right here. From here the slope of the trail increases dramatically. Additionally, there is some trail restoration going on, so the documented trail cannot be used to get to Blue Lake.

As it turns out, is a good thing. I had been bumping this trek off the list for some time because of the last pitch to Blue Lake; the documented trail looks brutal. However, this small leg of the trail is a heart-racer. Just before the final pitch to Blue Lake, there is one more split on the trail. The Daisy Pass trail runs North-South across the trail to Blue Lake. This was where I saw the first of the cows for the day. There was a cow and her calf on the trail heading North, the calf was feeding. The Southern leg of the Daisy Pass Trail continues over Daisy Pass, and creates a large multi-day loop, which is something I am considering for the next season.

Just below Blue Lake is a small meadow ringed with shrubs, and within this meadow were more cows, at least fifteen by my count. The were laying down basking in the sun just below 11,000 feet. The thought of laying down and basking in the sun was very appealing. Blue Lake is oblong in shape, and along the leading edge of the lake, there were a surprising number of people here, though spaced out enough to make the experience special. However, there was a couple that decided to pitch their tent on the opposite side of the lake, in plane view. Their yellow tent stuck out like a sore thumb. It took some creative maneuvering to find a location along the shoreline that obstructed their tent from view, but I did manage to find such a spot. Now it was perfect.

I had lunch here and did lay down and bask in the sun for a while. I could have easily fallen asleep here. As I was beginning to slip into a high-altitude nap a woman who was doing a multi-day trek along the Daisy Pass Loop came up and sat close to me and started talking to me. She was nice, and we talked for a long time - about the trail, the weather, and as it turns out, we apparently live close to each other. I did not get her name or any info to contact her, this was just a pleasant surprise conversation with a nice woman on the trail.

The brutal last pitch on the way down is quick but slick, as this portion of the rail is covered in loose scree. Making my way pas the group of cows, who were now all standing, perhaps getting ready to head back as well. When I got to the Oh-be-joyful cut off I met a Forest Ranger. There was a new trail sign at this junction, and he told me that last week he put that new sign in and this week he was going to go to Blue Lake.

I am always impressed with how Forest Rangers look when I meet them out on the trail. They are in long pants, either a long sleeve or short sleeve button-down shirt with a collar and a shirt underneath and their shirt and pants look like they have a freshly ironed crease in them. They look like they just walked out of a Smokey The Bear poster. Also, I have yet to see a Forest Ranger with a backpack, any visible water container, food or breaking a sweat. I do not know how they do it, they are out on the trail for days at a time.

The trek down out of the wide valley goes fast. This trek turned out to be a 14.1-mile roundtrip trek coming in just under eight hours on the trail. The weather was perfect, the company and conversation at the lake was very nice, the views are incredible, an excellent day on the trail.


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AREAS HIKED

Collegiate Peaks Wilderness9
Eagles Nest Wilderness10
Fossil Ridge Wilderness1
Fraser Experimental Forest1
Gunnison National Forest1
Holy Cross Wilderness12
Hunter-Fryingpan Wilderness3
Indian Peaks Wilderness17
James Peak Wilderness1
Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness2
Mount Evans Wilderness2
Mount Massive Wilderness2
Pike National Forest1
Raggeds Wilderness1
Rocky Mountain National Park41
San Isabel National Forest6
Sangre de Cristo Wilderness1
White River National Forest10
Zirkel Wilderness1

TRAILS BY MONTH

January3
February2
March2
April3
May5
June16
July26
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October5
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SEASONS ON THE TRAIL

2021

The 2021 Season has started. Though the pandemic created a challenging 2020 season, I am looking forward to building on the 2020 season to create an incredible 2021 season. The pandemic has taught me a few things about when and where to go hiking. As such planning for the 2021 se...

2020

The 2020 hiking season has been incredible, even in the face of adversity. The pandemic has made for a logistically challenging season. Somehow, I was still able to piece together an incredible 230+ miles on the trail this season and able to see some truly spectacular places. Enj...

2019

The 2019 hiking season was an interesting season, this was the first season that I started and ended the season snowshoeing and a full summer of hiking for a total of just under 225 miles on the trail. What this season has taught me is that it's winter in the mountains for a long...

2018

The 2018 Summer Hiking Season has come to an end. What a season, incredible views and just over 230 miles on the trail. Even with 230 miles, this season seems short to me, perhaps I'll add something to it during the winter season - snowshoeing perhaps. In the meantime, I hope you...

2017

The 2017 hiking season was interesting, I was able to explorer more of Colorado's National Forests and get in some camping, not as much camping as I would have liked, but hopefully next year I'll able to get in more multi-day hikes. This season came in just under 129 miles roundt...

2016

The 2016 hiking season was about spreading out and exploring more of Eagles Nest Wilderness, Indian Peaks Wilderness and touching on White River National Forest - and of course a few trips into Rocky Mountain National Park. These are amazing National treasures. This season came i...

2015

The 2015 hiking season was a big hiking season, I decided to do a fundraiser for The Red Cross (I learned a lot about fundraising - it was very interesting) with my pledge to hike over 200 miles for this season, I came in at 217 miles for the season; what a great time out on the ...

2014

The 2014 hiking season was almost all about exploring Rocky Mountain National Park, it really is a beautiful park. What I learned during the course of this hiking season is, although people may roll their eyes when you say you're going on a hike in RMNP, it really is spectacular ...

2013

2013 is the year this all started. The hike to Pitkin Lake started it all. Although it was a difficult trail, I was hooked immediately. However, I didn't have the right gear and the seasons were changing quickly. So, even though this season only brought two hikes, I new this was ...