June 19, 2012
Having done moderately well above 10,000 feet for part of the previous day, I agreed to meet my friends the Hendersons for lunch at Crested Butte on Day 6 of Operation Junebug. I worked on my blog posts in the morning until about 11 a.m. and then drove up to Crested Butte.
Downtown Crested Butte
That big lump reaches 12,160 feet at its pinnacle but thankfully the main town of about 1,500 permanent residents is only 8,900 feet above sea level. I parked downtown, with the mountain looming to the east, and walked the main drag of Elk Avenue. I was surprised by a banner proclaiming “Urinetown” at the old city hall. Urinetown is a musical comedy, it turns out.
There were scads of restaurants and a few hippie stores, but thankfully no truly tacky tourist shops. I liked the Old Rock Community Library building’s exterior, built as a school back in 1883.
Upper Loop Trail
The Hendersons called and I had a bit of time left before they arrived from Taylor Park Reservoir, so I drove up to Mount Crested Butte and took Hunter Hill road to an overlook which serves as the trailhead for the Upper Loop trail, which winds along the mountainside through aspen groves down to a subdivision.
The southwestward panorama from the overlook was sweeping. From left to right in the panorama are Crested Butte, Red Mountain, Whetstone Mountain, and Mount Emmons. The last one is the place of continuing controversy over attempted development of a molybdenum mine, thus far fought off by Crested Butte.
Below me I could see the little ski town and ahead and left of the trail was the mountain itself. The trail made a steep but short ascent as it headed southeast and then descended into the aspens, with occasional wildflowers. A Tiger Swallowtail butterfly alighted and I was enjoying the aspens when the Hendersons called and I had to return to town for lunch. We had a tasty pizza at the Brick Oven and Betty and John posed on a cute bench out front. Then John drove us west about 19 miles to the Lost Lake Slough.
Three Lakes Trail
John had camped with a buddy here over 20 years ago when they were elk hunting, and wanted to hike up to the waterfall at Lost Lake. We set forth on Trail #843, the Three Lakes Trail, climbing through groves of tall trees and aspens.
We soon arrived at Lost Lake with East Beckwith Mountain rising beyond. There was a significant logjam near the trail. John led us around the lake and we bushwhacked through a meadow with a few wildflowers. We rejoined the trail and made our way to the waterfalls.
Lost Lake Waterfalls
Next we headed over to the third lake, Dollar. Along the way another Tiger Swallowtail was enjoying a field of wildflowers. The Anthracite Range to the southeast still sported a bit of snow. The nearest slope of East Beckwith looked like it would be a dreadful climb, being a huge rubble field.
We were all feeling the effects of the altitude on our stamina and glad to head downhill back to Lost Lake Slough. We again saw shifts from pines to aspens and back again, with the aspens rustling in the wind as we walked. When Lost Lake Slough was in sight, we could see a couple out in an inflatable boat. They floated out across the lake as we descended.
A large beaver lodge was also visible on the lake. There were more wildflowers along the path such as scarlet trumpet phlox. The view of the slough was quite beautiful in the late afternoon sun. The peaks resembled a snowy saddle. I closed out my photography for the day with a panorama.
We returned to Crested Butte to eat dinner at the Wooden Nickel, worn out from a mere three mile hike. But we had been hiking at elevations between 9,600 and 10,000 feet. As we left the restaurant, Betty commented on how John and I were walking. I said we were swaggerin’, but John admitted we were really hobblin’.
We parted ways, with plans to join up again in two days. The Hendersons have never been to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park and my pass was good for a week, so I would be taking them over there. But before that there was a boat ride I wanted to take…