One of the biggest issues for this hike is the 4 mile gated private road you have to walk on just to get to the actual basin trailhead, which is located in the old Monte Cristo townsite. Having been there before, I knew this, so I told my friends to bring mountain bikes, and that I would bring a lock (there is a bike rack in the town). So that was great, except for one small problem, the road washed out in 3 different spots, completely.
I knew there was extensive flood damage from this last winter, and this particular road was not immune. The camera was packed away for the ride, so I didnt get pictures, sorry, but rest assured that its bad, and in one spot there is a nothing but a treacherous log crossing (made harder by carrying a bike). But all things considered, it still made that leg of the trip a fraction of time it would take otherwise, so I highly recommend anyone going to Gothic Basin, Glacier Basin, Twin, Silver lakes, or just to Monte Cristo to take a bike, because the road is really not very interesting.
Once you get to the actual old mining townsite, you have to wander through it, see it once if you haven't yet, but most of the historic buildings were torn down years ago for safety reasons I guess, so its not spectacular. Then you come upon a hub of trailheads, with the trail to Silver and Twin lakes going one way, Glacier Basin another, and a place called Sunday falls in even another direction (theres actually one unmarked trail too, but I've heard there is still private property up in that area still). Onward.....
The trail itself fits the classic description of a miners trail, rocky, steep, and horrific....personally, I love it. It winds through the forest for a short distance, then opens up into a lovely alpine meadow and rockslide area, then immediately thereafter, you get to look straight uphill where you gain basically all the elevation (2200') within half a mile. And if that wasn't bad enough, its slick, sliding rocky stuff, with some good footing and some bad, with short trees and neddles surrounding the trail and catching your pack, threatening to drag you over backwards.
But it's worth it. Once you get past that, its a smooth, gentle incline following the creek that leaves the basin itself, and, while we had a lot of snow this time (with all the post-holing you could ever want), later in season its easy rock and dirt trail. Then you arrive:
The basin, with Monte Cristo Peak at the head
So, as a day hike, there are tons of big flat rocks to have lunch on before you start heading back. But we were doing overnight, and the weather today was great (forecast said mostly cloudy...BAH...worthless). We had discussed maybe climbing one of the many peaks accessible from the basin, with Cadet, Monte Cristo, and Kyes on the list. We decided to start going and decide how we felt when we got to them.
The basin proper is fairly small, but the some of the cliffs are shear faces, and the snow gets steep MUCH faster than one would like it to, much steeper in parts than seen here:
We got to the little saddle thing, where people usually approach some of the peaks, and honestly weren't feeling 100%, so we decided the saddle was a pretty big accomplishment in itself, and called it a day there. It did have great views regardless.
That's Blanca Lake covered in snow there, One of my higher rated pictures is that lake in later season, which is the lovely deep green color from the Glacial till from the Columbia Glacier, also seen in this picture. The prominent peak in the far background, left, is Mt Daniel.
Here is a panorama I made as an afterthought of our stopping point (read the note on the picture page before you attack me about the shoddy stitching).
Cadet peak on the left, Monte Cristo in center, and part of Kyes on the right
We decided the way we came up was way too scary to try to downclimb, since it was fairly exposed below the shocking steep snow. So we did a circuit of the basin and went down the other way.
This is a picture that somewhat encompasses the route we took to get up, if you look closely in the zoomed in size, you might be able to spot our tracks.
Columbia Peak on the left.
As we were nearing camp, I spotted this odd spider out in the middle of the snowfield we were crossing, probably just above 5000', the spider itself was bigger than a quarter. Any facts about this guy are appreciated, I've never seen a spider that size up that high before.
Sunset time. I went up a small ridge near our camp to try to get some sunset pictures. Just my luck, I had forgotten that it was the solstice, also known as the longest day of the year, so I promptly took a nap on a flat rock until the sun FINALLY started setting. Good view of Del Campo peak, one of my favorites, with Gothic Peak just left of it.
Now for the real sunset. Three fingers is easy to spot on the right.
I probably took 50 pictures of the sunset, thus it was difficult to choose which ones to upload here, but I feel I chose pretty good ones.
This was my first trip with my fancy new camera remote that allows me to take very, very long exposures. Which lead to my first successful foray into night photography. This one is Cadet Peak, you can see that its still somewhat twilight.
Monte Cristo Peak, note the cloudy band of the Milky Way actually showing up.
Show me the way to go home.
We awoke at dawn, to a basin filled to the brim with clouds, but according to Murphy's laws, since we were already sunburned, as soon as we finished packing (hurts with cold fingers), the sun burned through the clouds and it was scorching hot again.
A great stopover on either the way down or the way up, during the horrid steep part of the trail is this lovely waterfall, which blows amazing, freezing mist onto a big flat sitting rock....a moment of peace for a burned cookie such as myself.
After lingering there too long, we made our way down, made our knees a new kind of sore, and coveted the bike ride back.....
Ohhhh was it worth it! As the road is uphill to the townsite, thats right, its DOWNHILL, the whole way back (minus the river crossings). Which is absolutely glorious on a bike, and made our return trip the smallest fraction of the time it took to get there, and honestly, made the road something to look forward to, instead of something to dread.
That's about it, theres a great burger joint we stopped by in Granite Falls, with probably the best Peanut Butter Chocolate malt shake I've ever had, hits the spot when you're tired and hungry. Get out there, and be safe!