Looking at the calendar and the weather forecast, I decided to take Friday, October 12th off from work because the weekend looked like it wasn't going to be very good weather to enjoy a leisurely hike.
Friday morning I drive up I-70 past Idaho Springs to the St. Marys exit and drive up to where the Continental Divide Trail crosses the Fall River Road. It is a chilly morning, the thermometer says it is only 33 degrees, but fortunately the sun is out and there is little wind. There are no other vehicles at the trailhead when I head out.
At first the trail heads east through the evergreen forest along a well defined trail. After about a half mile the trail switches back to the west (the trail looks like at one time it continued on east, but has been blocked with rocks and a couple of little logs to stop you from heading further east). In just very short distance I came to a trail junction, one trail heading off to west (left) and another heading to the northeast. The road to Loch Lomond is just to the north, I can see the road from the junction, so I head to the right and catch the road in less than 100 feet. There is a road closure barrier at this point, but the gate is wide open still. My map shows that the trail crosses the Lake Lomond road at the point of the closure, but clearly the map is not correct for the closure is further east than what the map shows. I start walking west along the road looking for where the trail heads north. Due north of the trailhead the trail that I didn't take comes up on the south side of the road, and crosses over. Now it is a steady climb through evergreen and aspen forest with some nice views of the mountains to the west. Eventually the trees get smaller and then no trees at all, just open meadows.
Loch Lomond is off to the west and further up is the saddle that separates James from Bancroft. To the northwest is my destination of James Peak. To the north and northeast are a few small rocky crags that break up the smooth, rolling mountain side. To the south there is a nice view of Mt. Evans. Now it just hiking along the well defined trail all the way to the summit. There are a couple of overlooks that allow for views of the small mountain lakes above Loch Lomond. Numerous cairns mark the trail, but unless there is snow on the ground there really isn't much need for those cairns for the trail is easy to follow without them. I get to a point shortly below the summit in which I have my first real opportunity to see off the the north, but what is more impressive is the sharp dropoff into Mammoth Gulch and the lakes below. Beautiful on this mostly cloudless day.
On the summit I can see Longs Peak to the north, Pikes Peak way to the south, and literally thousands of other peaks everywhere else. Winter Park ski area is just to the west, but there was no snow on the slopes over there, so I'm hoping that changes soon for I want to ski there soon. Over the previous week there has been some snow in the mountains, but on this day about the only snow I see is in the rock walled ring to hide from the wind on the summit. However the snow is so deep in there, that there would be no hiding from the wind - but there wasn't any wind to hide from. I spent about an hour on the summit before heading down.
I had the whole mountain myself this day for there wasn't another soul out, although there was another car at the trailhead when I got back.
Pictures of my hike are posted in the album under the Southeast Slopes via Continental Divide Trail route
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