we'd hiked fifty one weeks ago en route to Mt. Ida. I remember looking down at Timber Lake and Julian Lake from there and how beautiful it was.
I basically went through the campsite and continued uphill. There were a fair number of animal trails, and I stuck to them in places. Eventually I topped out a plateau.
I headed back down via the beautiful and lush gorge between the two summits, following animal trails and a small creek in the general direction of Timber Lake. I met back up with the trail and saw the first people of the day, who'd spent the night at one of the higher campgrounds. Near Timber Lake I saw another couple, who must've camped as well.
Remember those low clouds I talked about? I essentially climbed into one. At the top of the saddle I could not see a clear way down to Julian Lake. In fact, I couldn't see the lake at all! I waited for a few minutes and looked around. I found a way to stay on rock slightly west of the steep snowfield on the north side of the saddle.
The route I took down was solidly in the third class, and a little bit exposed at times. But it went, and I soon found myself in a large talus field with the lake at the end.
After taking some time to take it all in, I started back up directly west of the lake, keeping north of the sharp ridge of rock running down from above.
topo map, you'll see a creek heading down that starts almost directly west of Julian Ridge. The meadows essentially followed this creek. When there weren't meadows, I was able to make use of animal trails. In reality, it didn't take me too long at all to get down to Long Meadows.
Though some maps show a distinct trail running through the meadow, I didn't cross one as I headed up to Gray Jay Mountain.
Spruce Canyon last year, and Forest Canyon the year before that, everything else has gotten easier. Which is to say those two were so bad I can't imagine anything more difficult. Here there was some dead fall to move over and around, but that was about it. I was again able to follow animal trails at times. Thankfully animals are lazy (or efficient) and don't create pointless switchbacks and generally go around any difficulties. The trails are often quite easy to follow.
As I neared the summit, the terrain changed and became less treed and a little bit more open.
I crossed Timber Creek on a downed tree and made my way up. In what felt like a short time, I hit the Timber Creek Trail. Someone was coming down and I asked him if we were above the landslide. He confirmed that we were. I mentioned that I'd dropped sunglasses in the morning and asked him to pick them up if he found them. He said he would and leave them at the sign at the trail head. I ate some food and then headed down.
I got to the landslide area and tried to retrace my footsteps from the morning. I had little luck and figured the glasses were gone forever. I was angry with myself because I didn't stow them properly, and now I needed to buy new ones.
But farther down the trail I ran into the same guy who was taking a break. He'd found them! He handed them over to me. That really made my day!
There was a ranger back at the trailhead. I talked to her and the two guys with her for a little bit. I ate a snack and ended up giving the guy who found my glasses a ride back to the Timber Creek Campground. Sorry I don't remember your name now, but thank you again.
It took me about half an hour longer to drive home than it did to drive out. It was mostly Elk related traffic in RMNP.
This was a great day in the park, and I am actually coming to like (as much as I can) bushwhacking. At least that virtually guarantees you will have a summit to yourself. Timber Lake is obviously the easiest of these destinations to get to, as the trail goes right to it. The peaks probably see a few summits a year. I'd guess Julian Lake sees maybe ten people a year at most. Like some of the other lakes that are high up, the difficulty in getting there likely keeps most people away. I did find this cool trip report from 1996 which is worth a look.
Though it might not be any easier, I could see starting from Milner Pass and descending from Mt. Ida to the saddle between Timber and Julian Lakes as a possible method to get to Julian Lake. For some easier terrain, you could also stay on Julian Ridge until you end up south of Julian Lake and have a much easier hike down to the lake on grassy slopes.
Link to Caltopo map of hike.
Lake Irene, Jackstraw Mountain, Timber Lake, Julian Lake, and Gray Jay Mountain:
All distances given are as part of the hike.
Lake Irene, 10600 feet: .5 miles each way, -60 foot gain. Easy.
Jackstraw Mountain, 11704 feet: 4.8 miles each way, 2644 foot gain. Second class. Moderate+.
Timber Lake, 11060 feet: 6.2 miles each way, 2000 foot gain. Moderate+.
Julian Lake, 11100 feet: 7.2 miles each way, 2040 foot gain. Up to third class. Strenuous.
Julian Ridge, 11880+ feet: 7.5 miles each way, 2820 foot gain. Second class. Strenuous.
Long Meadows, 10330ish feet: 9.1 miles each way, 1270 foot gain. Strenuous.*
Gray Jay Mountain, 10965 feet: 9.6 miles each way, 1905 foot gain. Strenuous.*
As a whole, this hike covered approximately 13 miles with 5800 feet of elevation gain. Strenuous.
*= it would obviously be somewhat shorter and easier to go directly for these from the trail head. The elevation of Long Meadows could be anywhere between 10400 at the north upper side and 10200 at the south and lower side.