"Haystack Mt Lake”
East Portal/Moffat Tunnel Trailhead
Sunday May 31, 2009
I set my watch for 4:00AM and laid around a little bit before getting up and making a quick breakfast of oatmeal and black coffee along with a quart of Gatorade. The weather was scattered clouds but lots of blue skies and it looked to be a perfect day to get out and shake-out the winter doldrums.
My plans (Plan A) were to climb Old Baldy in the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area on the Arapaho Glacier Trail. I drove to and through Boulder via Route 36, Baseline Rd, Broadway and then left up Boulder Canyon to Nederland. I then went North on Peak-to-peak highway to FR 298 where I turned left for Rainbow Lakes only to find the road gated shut, closed tight………….Suck!
It was still early as I drove back home and decided to switch to a fishing outing up on South Boulder Creek up by the Moffat Tunnel (Plan B). After a quick pit stop and grabbing my fly pole I drove out Route 93 and up Route 72 through Clear Creek and took a left to Rollinsville and a right on the good dirt road up to the Moffat Tunnel.
The river looked like a washing machine with clear rushing water making it impossible to fish right now…………..Suck! number 2.
Time for yet another plan (Plan C)………..Rogers Pass Lake or Heart Lake. I started on the trail at 8:25AM and up and around the tunnel portal and through some muddy sections to where I crossed the rushing creek on a firm wooden bridge.
This trail is well traveled and the route is unmistakable as it proceeds up into the James Peak Wilderness Area where it crosses a couple of meadows with some old cabin remains and then into the Roosevelt Nat Forest where the trail is 98% snow covered. The trail was now far less defined and following the footprints of previous hikers was the only true reference with an occasional spot on a tree showing the way. The weather was partly cloudy and the sun was now high in the sky making things a bit warm as I proceeded up through the forest on the softening snow. I could see where others had post-holed from the day before and the passage was a bit tedious as I found the best possible passage as things were quite wet and rather humid.
The footprints became less and less as I proceeded farther up the trail and soon the trail became a single track of footprints leading up and then back, single file up and out of the forest right near tree line.
The sun was shining bright above with fast moving clouds making shadows on the surrounding peaks. The snow was now downright slush and the post-holing revealed a nasty surprise with streams of rushing water directly underneath. After gaining some high ground outside the forest I was actually far left of both Rogers Pass Lake which I could see below and Heart Lake farther right beyond another rise.
I had apparently followed footprints that created a trail where there probably isn’t one when the snows are gone; the passage was good and I climbed higher to the left of Haystack Mt. and into a vast bowl with a small lake in the center with heavy snows and cornices with sections where small avalanches created slide areas high above……..absolutely beautiful.
I made my way through some more post-holing before taking up a spot on a rocky outcropping to rest and recover; it was 10:55AM. I hadn’t seen a single person the entire way up and I had the entire area all to myself.
The weather remained very good with plenty of sun, rolling clouds and pleasant temperatures as I took several photos, had some food & drink and took a long rest from the efforts of the snow covered “trail” which had been blazed by a previous unnamed hiker with the same size 12 shoe size as me where it lead me to this small unnamed lake which I then christened “Haystack Mt Lake”. I was glad I had made the choice to hike up here and open my 2009 season with a close-to-home venue. I figured the hike up to be approx 4.3 miles based on map reviews of TOPO when I got home………….nice!
I lathered-up with sun screen and started back down at 11:20 feeling refreshed as I knew that the snow would be even softer on the way down as in slippin’/sliddin’ and post-holing all the way. I wasn’t wrong and getting back into the shade of the forest offered some relief. I plunged through up to my crotch in a few places and my feet were positively soaked as I pushed down the trail and finally back down to the first meadow outside the forest. Here I again applied sun screen and took another brief rest. I saw a few people starting up the trail as I made my way back down to my truck at the TH at 1:00PM.
Despite some unforeseen problems early I had still managed to get a decent hike in on this fine day and was pleased with my overall performance to open the season; I was tired but felt pretty good…………Sweet!
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