The Lost Lake area, including the lakes above, was an area of Rocky Mountain National Park that Suzy really wanted to explore this summer. We calculated that it would be a 25 to 30 mile round trip though, so at 8 AM Wednesday, July 31st, 2013, from the Dunraven Trailhead, we lugged heavy packs up to the Upper Lost Lake Camp Area, for a four day / three night trip.
An hour and a half up the trail, we stopped for a short rest at the Deserted Village. While the history of this place is pretty interesting, there’s not much left to photograph. As I was stretching, rangers came by with a pack train - I think to bring out a trail maintenance crew we met further up, working above the Lost Falls Camp Area. Suzy offered her credit card to the lead ranger but couldn’t catch a ride.
Now pushing 10:30 AM, the trail was getting a little steeper, and the heavy packs were getting heavier; so, we stopped for another break. While I was getting some water, a couple of interesting birds landed 10 yards away. I reached for my camera but missed the shot. Luckily though, Quick Draw McGraw (AKA Suzy) managed to get one before they flew off. I tried to identify it later, but gave up.
At about 3:30 PM, we dropped our packs - literally - at campsite #1 at the Upper Lost Lake Camp area. We would have liked a short rest, but the weather looked threatening, so we threw up the tent as mosquitoes ate away at us. Suzy, kneeling down next to the tent, tried on a bug netting head cover she picked up somewhere. It seemed to be working fine, but I don't think she liked it, and it came back off a few minutes later.
The stats for the day were: 9.6 miles (trailhead to campsite), with 2,410 feet of total elevation gain (this includes all elevation regained after downhill slopes).
For our hike from Lost Lake, we were going up to the lakes above and just spend the day exploring. Leaving camp, I stopped for a minute along the south bank of Lost Lake to get this shot of whatever bird this is. I have not identified it yet.
There isn’t much of a trail above Lost Lake, so we picked our way through the trees and eventually started gaining altitude, as seen here looking back at Lost Lake. Note: it was overcast much of the day, so some of our shots have a slightly gloomy look. Suzy was suffering though - possibly from an overdose of bug repellant fumes the prior evening - and nearly turned back for the day. She stuck it out though, and had a great time in spite of it.
It was 30 minutes or less when we stood at Lake Husted. The overcast made my shot blan, but Suzy's looked kind of cool. It was here where Suzy said she wasn't feeling well and considered turning back. We continued on, slowly though, hoping the fresh air would help.
We hiked southwest from Lake Husted toward some unnamed ponds, on our way up to Lake Dunraven. In this photo, the mountains are (right to left) Little No Name, Middle No Name, and Gibraltar Mountain.
On the west side of the unnamed ponds, we were faced with crossing the North Fork of the Big Thompson River through the brush or working further up hoping to find a better crossing. Right then I heard a deep grunt and stepped back to see around some trees. About 20 yards away, there was a female moose grazing in the brush. We took some shots, and Suzy commented that we were lucky she didn't have a calf, which could have made her aggressive if she had felt that we were a threat.
Leaving the moose to herself, we scrambled up the rock on the north side of the river for a bit. I stopped to get a shot of a beautiful waterfall, but then Suzy suddenly pulled me around to look back at the moose now 30 or 40 yards down the slope. She did have a calf, and it was looking right at us. Mom also had a nasty looking rip in her right ear.
I finally turned back to the falls to get the picture I had initially started out to take. Then came our river crossing which turned out to be somewhat of a disorganized blunder. I went back down a little and crossed by hanging from a tree trunk to reach a stepping stone, while Suzy continued up. I worked up to where I thought she would be, but eventually spotted her back down below the falls. I went down again and found a way back across to her, but as we reversed my moves, I slipped and soaked my right foot. Anyway, we were across.
We made it up to Lake Dunraven and ate a quick lunch before moving on. At the south end of the lake, I took this shot looking up at the North Fork of the Big Thompson cascading down from Whiskey Lake.
As we worked up through some easy scrambling on the rocky slope along the east side of the river, I turned to get this picture of Lake Dunraven with the lower face of Little No Name on the left (west) side.
Whiskey Lake was pretty, but the weather appeared to be trying to put together an afternoon storm, so we stopped for just a minute, took a few pictures and continued on up.
At 1:15 PM, we arrived at Scotch Lake (I think someone needed a drink when these last two lakes were named). The lake was beautiful sitting under the face of Gibraltar Mountain. I would have loved to have ascended the mountain if the weather had been at all encouraging. At home, we had considered hiking all the way up to Rowe Glacier, which was still another mile up, but the trail looked much rougher (steep sloped boulder hoping), so we decided to make this our turn around point.
We were back down to the slope leading down from Lake Dunraven to the unnamed ponds at 2:00 PM when I got my customary trip photo of one of the local marmots. It looked like this one was still carrying most of its winter coat, which really made it look fat!
Back at the unnamed ponds, we tried to find a better way across the river, but we didn’t find it. We got across, but it was more of a hassle than the morning’s crossing was. Crossing below the falls just does not seem to be the way to go. When we got back to Lake Husted, the guided fishing group we had met on the way in the day before was there catching fish after fish. They seemed to be enjoying a feeding frenzy.
The stats for day 2 were: 5.45 miles round trip, and a total elevation gain of 2,084 feet, with the highest elevation reached being 11,694 feet.
Waking up on our third day out, Suzy still felt bad and was planning to spend the day relaxing around camp. I had decided the night before to bag some peaks if Suzy wasn't going out, but the wind was really strong. We hadn’t seen Lake Louise the day before, so I headed off in that direction - getting there in only 45 minutes. It was frustrating to have such a beautiful day, but with so much wind. I wanted to head up Icefield Pass (seen to the right and back in this shot) and then south to hit the peaks of the two No Names and Gibraltar Mountain, but knowing the wind would be even worse above the pass caused me to wimp out.
I was back at camp about noon, and with a lot of time to pass still, I talked Suzy into a leisurely hike around Lost Lake. On the northwest side of the lake, we stopped to get some pictures of a couple of woodpeckers. This was more challenging than I expected. Every time I tried to get a shot, they would start pounding away at the tree, and their heads would blur. This is the only good shot I was able to get.
The stats for day 3 were: 3.5 miles round trip, and a total elevation gain of 1,514 feet, with the highest elevation reached being 11,350 feet.
Day 4 was uneventful and I didn't get any photos worth posting. We packed up and hiked out, getting just enough of a light rain a couple miles from the trailhead to cool us down. We didn't even put on rainjackets.
The stats for day 4 were: 9.77 miles, with a total elevation gain of 430 feet, and the highest elevation reached being 10,802 feet which was probably right at the camp site, since it was pretty much all down hill to the trailhead.
The stats for all four days were: 28.31 miles round trip, with a total elevation gain of 6,438 feet.
The following thumbnails are some of the better wildflower and butterfly photos we took during the four day trip. Unfortunately, I somehow lost a handfull of photos during the transfer from the camera to the computer - __it happens.
National Park Service - Climbing and Mountaineering in Rocky Mountain National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park: The High Peaks
U.S. National Parks Net - Rocky Mountain National Park Hiking Guide