High on the High Lonesome Trail- Sept. 2011

The trail started in the town of Hessie (which has seen more profitable days) , some .5 miles from where I felt comfortable driving my car. That little add-on made my hike 16 miles which made for a nice, long fall trip. The King Lake-High lonesome Trail (Continental Divide Trail)-Devils Thumb) Trail in the Indian Peaks Wilderness is one of my favorite loops and I hadn't done it in several years.

There was definitely a fall nip in the air with the temps were in the 40's when I started at 7:30 am. The forecast called for a slight chance of thundershowers and I wanted to be off of the Divide before noon. I had more than 3000' in elevation to gain and almost ten miles to cover before then.

The first couple of hours are in the subalpine forest and meadows. The views opened up as I approached King Lake.

The marmot families are putting on their winter weight in anticipation of their long winter hibernation.

King Lake is surrounded by permanent snowfields. I didn't visit it this summer. But due to our late snowpack, I suspect that it had melted out just recently. Summers in the high country can be very short.

A view of this same sscene from late July of 2009.

But yesterday King Lake was gloriously sunny and the trail was snow-free, even after the dusting we had last week in the high country.

Fifteen minutes from the lake, I reached the Divide where it was considerably windy. But the views conpensated for the discomfort.

The High Lonesome Trail is shared with the Continental Divide Trail  (an over 3000 mile trail from Mexico to Cannda) at this point.

In the distance, I could see James Peak, a 13,000' mountain that my friends and I had come tantalizingly close to summiting a few wekks ago before thunderstorms drove us down. It held more of last week's snow.

Now, for my favorite portion of the trail- almost five miles of alpine strolling along the Divide at over 12,000'. The rustly fall grasses replacing the summer wildflowers.

Views in all directions.

As I neared the Devils Thunb Trail, I had to dip into a valley a bit as the trail contoured below the talus flows. When I hiked this trail before, I went off-trail on a higher line across the talus in an effort to avoid losing elevation. Because I was hiking alone, I opted to stay on trail for safety. I decided that losing elevation and regaining it but staying on trail was easier and faster than my previous picking my way through the talus route.

The entrance into the Devils Thumb Lake valley is very dramatic and steep. When I hiked it before, It was covered with snow and I took a slightly different route because I didn't have an ice ax with me. Yesteday, it was completely dry as I knew from talking to someone who had recently done this trail.

 

The dark clouds seemd to be thickening so I was glad to be coming off of the Divide and it was just after noon so my timing was on target with my plans. After a steep downhill, the trail levels off and becomes more rollong as it passes Devils Lake.

The rest of the trail was basically a walk through the woods with a few specail features such as a mini-waterfall near Jasper Lake.

I didn't see anyone else for the first 12 miles of the hike which was really nice. Then I saw three different solo hikers going up to Jasper to camp. Two young men and a young woman. And one runner who was probably doing my loop in reverse and in about three hours!

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