Saturday, September 17, 2016

The Gable, Cub Lake, Cub Creek Beaver Ponds, Thousand Falls, and Cascade Lake.

Another day in RMNP- unfortunately, my longer plans got cut short by weather, but this gave me some time to visit a few things I hadn't planned on.
According to the description in Fosters book, I had previously visited The Gable with my friend Dan.  But some more research on LoJ made me realize I hadn't!  We'd visited the highest point at the end of the ridge extending out from Gabletop, which is actually Gable Gate.  Foster does not distinguish between the two.  The Gable is actually slightly lower in elevation, lying just below 11000 feet, and a marked step up in difficulty- class 4 versus class 2.  Thus, a return trip was in order.
I started from the Fern Lake trailhead at a more reasonable time, just as the sun was rising.  I was able to make quick upward progress, and neared Fern Lake in an hour.  Rather than take the trail up to Spruce Lake and beyond before heading up, I stayed on this trail until the campsites, took this branch, and headed up through forest and over rock to make a more direct approach.  This approach worked just fine, though it is important to stay more north on the ridge.  On the way down, I went a bit too far east and faced a few more difficult sections of down climbing.
The movement was steep, over dead fall, rock, and through brush, and it took me one more hour to reach the base of the short pinnacle.  Now, how to get to the top?
It took me alot of time to find the best route.  Many looked like they would go, but I backed off when things got too steep and handholds got too bad.  In the end, and after several attempts, I ended up going east to stay between The Gable and the shorter prominence east.  I made my way up a rocky gully, and then turned west to stay on the ridge.  It brings some exciting exposure, and make sure you are wearing shoes you have confidence in- a delicate smear is required to make it to the top. 
The summit of The Gable, looking east.
Looking west toward Gable Gate.
And a unique and possibly vertigo inducing perspective on Odessa Lake.
This was a nice little summit perch, with room for just a few, and great views of the area.  I had planned to continue west to the continental divide, but...
I saw these clouds to the north, and decided it was wise to head down and stay below treeline.  This proved to be the right call.
The summit of The Gable, with increasing clouds behind.
The Gable from below.  While I went to the left here to find an easier way to the top, this side would certainly go.  It was beyond my comfort zone to solo, but would be a fun climb with gear.
Notchtop from near The Gable.  This is the only summit in the area I have left to do!
I headed back down to Fern Lake.  As I mentioned above, I got a bit too far east and faced some more difficult terrain and down climbing.  I made it back to the trail and started down to The Pool.
Since I start early and go far in, I am not used to seeing as many people as I saw on this day, but everyone seemed to be in good spirits.
At The Pool, I turned left to head to Cub Lake.  With the location of this lake, it seems odd that I haven't visited it yet.  Well, I'd been saving it as a possible last, a thing to finish this project on.  But I've decided on something else, so it felt like a good time to visit the lake.
Above the lily padded Cub Lake.  There was quite a crowd here.
This is one of two lakes that holds a bunch of lily pads, with the other being Nymph Lake, which is also quite accessible.  I continued down the Cub Lake trail, passing by Cub Creek Beaver Ponds.  
A very pretty meadow, with grass starting to turn all shades of ocher.
Looking to one of the ponds.
I did hear some thunder over the day, so the right call was made on descending.  I also got rained on a little bit- just enough to have me get out my rain jacket once or twice.  But it wasn't long before it stopped.
The weather did bring some interesting clouds.
I stayed on the road and headed back to the parking, walking by several people I saw going the other direction.  Back at the car, I took a look at the topo.  It was early enough that I still had plenty of time to do something else, so why not?
I decided to head for the last waterfall I had to visit in RMNP, and in Fosters book, Thousand Falls.  While close to a trailhead, it definitely takes some work to get to it.  And like many other falls in the park, it is less of a distinct fall and more of a series of cascades.
I headed back toward Horseshoe Park, and then took a left to take Old Fall River Road to Endovalley.  You'll want to drive to the back of the parking area and find a space.  Find a thin trail that leaves from the western most parking space in this area, and follow it as it moves along Fall River.
But, a note here- Sundance Creek is actually farther west than show on the topo.  The easiest way to find it is to cross Fall River as soon as you can, and then head west along it until you reach the creek, then head up.  Fortunately, you'll only have to gain about 300 feet, as the going is tough.  Foster mentions an old trail on the east side of the creek- I did not find any trail.  Make your way up over lots of dead fall and over some rock.
The base of the falls, with elevation GPS verified. 
Another look up.
Back at Fall River.
It was easier going back down, though still time consuming due to the terrain.  I crossed Fall River, and headed back to the car.  One more thing to go....
I started heading east on 34 towards Estes Park.  I wanted to visit an anomaly of sorts.  Both the National Geographic topo and USGS topo show a lake that was not mentioned in Fosters book.  The USFS topo shows no lake in the area, but it still shows the name of the lake on the map.  If you haven't guessed by now, it's Cascade Lake!
To add to the mystery, I took a close look at several different satellite photos, and it certainly looked like there was no longer a lake in the area.  But, I had to go see for myself of course!
I parked at the last paved pullout on the right before 34 starts to loose elevation and takes a sharp turn to the north.  I moved over to Fall River, and followed a thin trail downstream.  I kept looking at my GPS unit, until I reached a point where I was "in" the lake.  Here is what I found...
Looking upstream from this point.
Looking downstream, where you can see some man made construction in the river downstream.  This is also visible in satellite photos.
Perhaps this lake was wiped out in the Lawn Lake flood.  But I can confirm it no longer exists.
A few minutes later I was back at the car and on the way home.  While not the day that I planned, this was yet another fun and rewarding day in the park.  And I actually got to see a few people!  That doesn't seem to happen all that often.
Link to hike map on Caltopo.
The Gable, Cub Lake, Cub Creek Beaver Ponds, Thousand Falls, and Cascade Lake (distances as part of the hike when applicable):
The Gable, 10940 feet: 5.9 miles, 2729 foot gain.  Fourth class.  Moderate+.
Cub Lake, 8620 feet: 11.3 miles, 470 foot gain.  Easy.
Cub Creek Beaver Ponds, 8120 feet: 13.3 miles, -30 foot gain*.  Easy-.
This leg of the hike covered 15.7 miles with 4075 feet of elevation gain in up to fourth class terrain.  Moderate+.
Thousand Falls, 9160 feet at the base of the falls: 1.75 miles round trip, 679 foot gain.  Moderate-.
The area formerly known as Cascade Lake, 8463 feet: .55 miles round trip, 102 foot gain.  Easy-.
*= This destination will have about 40 feet of gain from the Cub Lake th, but the Fern Lake th starts higher.

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