I started the day with waffles at the lodge and then set out onto the gravel roads north of Pagosa Springs again, this time about 16 miles north to Fourmile Falls. Part of a 12.4 mile loop trail that reaches up into the mountains to Fourmile Lake, I took the first three-and-a-quarter miles or so of the loop which headed up to two waterfalls.
By 8:45 am I had driven to the end of the road at 9,225 feet and set out, with Eagle Mountain rising up to the east beyond the trees. Zooming in, the jagged peak to me resembles toes sticking up from a giant foot. Turning northwest, I could see Pagosa Peak looming overhead. It was slow going for me today, climbing up a total of over 1,600 feet (with a net gain of perhaps half of that) at elevations above 9,000 ft. Several hikers passed by me throughout my journey – I’ll pretend they were all Colorado natives, but who knows?
Eventually I had ascended far enough to catch my first glimpse of the Lower Falls to the side of Pagosa Peak, hurtling 300 feet down the mountainside. The trail wound below them and I spotted a bushwhack that allowed me to climb to the base of the falls, where I found two of the hikers that had passed me earlier perched on a rock, helpfully providing a sense of scale to the falls for my photo. I ascended to the rock face so that the misty spray could inundate me and cool me off, and then clambered down far enough to shoot a video of the falls, carefully crossing the rushing creek and giving the water repellent spray on my boots a workout. (Thankfully it worked.) Then I climbed back down to the main trail where, on my way back by here later, I’d see people high up against the falls, providing a nice sense of their scale from afar.
The path ahead wasn’t very clear here, but I opted for a very rocky trail leading upward, which turned out to be the correct one. It was a very steep slog, rising about 450 vertical feet in a short ways, but I knew there was a set of Upper Falls that would make the effort worthwhile. Eventually I could see off to the side the Upper Falls with their mountain backdrop.
I worked my way around to view them head-on and shot another video clip. Seeing gray clouds beginning to build overhead, I knew I could not go much farther safely. So I climbed up to get a view of the creek running down through the terrain from above the upper falls, where I sat down for an 11:00 snack. I had gone 3.28 miles by then and was feeling winded and tired and ready to head down.
On my descent, breaks in heavy clouds above Eagle Mountain highlighted a patch of snow that was holding on there in July. I wearily made it the rest of the way down, only pausing to capture a flower or…several. The drive back to Pagosa was accented by breaks in the clouds, dappling the beautiful landscape in sunlight. I shot one last panorama and called it a day.
It was 2:00 pm when I returned to town and I stopped at Chaco’s for a splendid, both in taste and size, fajita lunch. Stuffed to gills, I waddled to my car, too bloated to dodge the raindrops as I headed back to the lodge to edit and post my photos.
Given my weariness from today’s hike and the weather forecast, I’m changing my plans for tomorrow. Rather than drive over 50 miles from town for a long hike at an altitude of 11,000 to 12,000 ft, I will instead take things easier. If it is not too rainy, I’ll drive back out to the very end of Forest Road 640 off Piedra Road to hike up in the mountains along Williams Creek, perhaps three miles in and three miles back. But if thunderstorms make that seem dicey, I may just hike at the Reservoir Hill Mountain Park above downtown.