Saturday, June 16, 2012

Cony Lake and area via Finch Lake trail head.

This week brought me yet another long but rewarding hike deep into the heart of Wild Basin.  My ultimate goal was Cony Lake, but on the way there I wanted to get to all the destinations along the drainage.  I started from the Finch Lake trail head at 615 am on Saturday June 9th.  After summiting the moraine, I scared the Ptarmigan above.  
The first leg of this hike to Finch Lake is pretty fun and mellow, offering travel through different types of forest, as well as some of the 1978 forest fire area.  You get some really great views of Longs Peak and Mount Meeker to the north, as well as some of the higher peaks in Wild Basin to the north west.  There are some steeper parts to it, but overall this is not a bad hike despite its length.  
Finch Lake is unique because it has no permanent inlet or outlet.  At 9912 feet, it is also the lowest elevation lake in Wild Basin, with the except of Copeland Lake.  
St. Vrain Mountain seen from Finch Lake.
Momma and babies in Finch Lake.
The next leg of the hike up to Pear Lake is a bit harder: you gain around 1500 feet in 2 miles. 
 This small, unnamed, lily padded lake is east of Pear Lake right off the trail.  Stop and check it out!
The trail cuts through some thick and lush forest.
I encountered a little bit of snow right before arriving at Peak Lake, but it was easily navigable in hiking boots only.  Notice the moon setting over Elk Tooth.
Pear Lake is another of the high subalpine lakes that was dammed in the early 1900's to provide water for communities downhill.  An obvious ring shows you where the water level once was.  Oh, and there is Mount Copeland.
The official trail ends here, but there is an unofficial trail all the way up to Cony Lake, though the snow between Peak Lake and treeline made it hard to follow at times.  If you have a general sense of what direction you should be going, it is easy to find your way.
This unnamed lake sits above Pear Lake.  At first I thought this was Lower Hutcheson Lake. 
The real Lower Hutcheson Lake in panorama. 
It totally looks photoshopped, but I was actually here!
Cony Creek drainage between Lower and Middle Hutcheson Lakes.
Somewhere above Middle and Lower Hutcheson Lakes.
 Elk Tooth as seen from between Middle and Upper Hutcheson Lakes.
 Finally arriving at Upper Hutcheson Lake.  Time for lunch!
After sleeping three hours the night before I knew I would need some caffeine so I brought along two Red Bulls.  The cans had warmed up by the time I got here, but cooled down in about five minutes in the frigid water. 
The snowfield at the western end of the lake was easy to navigate without any additional equipment.  I brought along snowshoes just in case and never used them.  Note the small waterfall exit of Cony Creek. 
Cony Lake finally!  Still mostly frozen.  
I pulled this chunk of ice out of the water.  Though it was melting, the ice still on the lake appeared to be a foot or more thick.  Looks like it could cool off a glass of water quite quickly....
but it's as big as my backpack. 
Cony Pass from Cony Lake. 
Mount Copeland as seen from Cony Lake (click here to see Cony Lake from Copeland). 

Ogalalla Peak, the southern most 13er in RMNP as seen from Cony Lake.
Another Ptarmigan seen very far away from the place I saw the first one.  A little harder to spot also.
A standing glissade down the snowfield back to Upper Hutcheson was a ton of fun!
The camera does not do the sight of looking back up into the canyon justice.  This was a breathtaking view.
Getting back to Lower Hutcheson.
I was feeling pretty fatigued and stopped for another break at the lake uphill from Pear Lake.  While I was eating some food, the bird in the next several photos flew over and landed on a tree about fifteen feet away from me.  Then moved to a closer tree.  Then closer, as you can see, eying me up the whole way.  He ended up about two feet away from me and circled me 180 degrees in small hops before flying away.  It was pretty funny!
Fare well Mr. Bird.
About to descend to Pear Lake.  The north face of Copeland towers over it.
Less wind in the afternoon left me a more reflective Finch Lake. 
A nice picture to end the day, but it is still five miles back to the trail head from here. 
I got back to the car at 635 pm, giving me a 12+ hour hike.  I was exceptionally tired, and it felt great to sit down.  I slept very well that night as you may imagine!
This is a long and adventurous hike that could be done over a day or two if you were to camp at Pear Lake.  There are lots of great sights, and while it is long in distance, the total gain is not all that bad though there are some steep sections of trail here and there.  Once you get past Pear Lake you are likely to have the forest to yourself.  
Cony Lake via Finch Lake trail head: 9.2 miles one way, 3032 foot gain.  Strenuous minus due to distance.
Other destinations:
Hutcheson Lakes: 7.8 to 8.6 miles one way, 2372-2700 foot gain.  Moderate plus to strenuous minus depending on how far up you go.  The lower is not that much farther/higher than Pear Lake really.
Pear Lake: 7 miles one way, 2102 foot gain.  Moderate plus.
Finch Lake: 5 miles one way, 1432 foot gain.  Moderate.  A really good hike to do if you want something longer but not too difficult, though as I said, there are a few steep sections of trail here and there. 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Wildflowers in Rocky Mountain National Park.

I think the purpose of this post is pretty self explanatory: just to highlight the diverse and beautiful amount of wildflowers growing in RMNP.  I will add to this periodically.  Enjoy!
Seen near Finch Lake trailhead.
Seen near Upper Hutchenson Lake.
 Seen on Finch Lake trail.
If anyone happens to know the latin or familiar names of any of these, please comment below!