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Eaglesmere Trailhead

A crisp and gorgeous bluebird sky during fall; the changing of the aspens in the mountains is a hard place to beat. The fragrance of autumn put a smile on my face as I inhaled deeply.

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I attempted to let the present feeling soak in, as this perhaps could be my last proper backpacking trip in the mountains for the remainder of the year.

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Lower Cataract Lake as seen from the Eaglesmere Lakes trail.

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 Grouse feather

Just as I turned south at the trail junction for Eaglesmere Lake, people disappeared. I had barely managed to squeeze my car in at the over-crowded trailhead around an hour prior. I had seen more backpackers on the trail than any of the other trips I had done in Colorado this summer. I passed a wide range, from folks going solo, to one particular group of ten; big smiles on nearly everyone’s face including mine.

I didn’t come here expecting solitude. I could see a full Surprise Lake trailhead from below. I had indeed driven towards Denver on a perfect Saturday morning.

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Elliot Ridge; a small glimpse of what I’d be hiking on top of the following day.

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Eagles Nest Peak

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Cat Lake with an even larger view of Elliot Ridge in the background.

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Upper Cataract Lake

I had planned to see this site up close last year during my trip to the ridge above, but bailed at Dora Lake.

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I found a nice little campsite with a permanent view of water. It was large enough for my tarptent, but not much more.

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For the second straight trip, all I caught were fun little brook trout. Coincidentally after this photo was taken, I set my little P/S camera down, then accidentally proceeded to step on it. This caused an unforgiving crack in my LCD screen. From here on out I was taking photos nearly blind.

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Northern view of Cataract Lake

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Southern view the following morning

The rain forecasted for the day prior never came to fruition. As I surveyed the early morning sky I could tell things today were going to be different. I got an early jump on the trail and made a quick pace to Mirror Lake.

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Mirror Lake and Meridian Peak

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The hike to Elliot Ridge on the Mirror Lake trail was as impressive as beautiful. I underestimated how cool this above-treeline approach would be and surprised to follow a prominent tread to the ridge.

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By noon dark clouds had accomplished their take over of the higher peaks of the range. From here I stood and scouted lines for bigger plans next summer.

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Trail marker near the top of Elliot Ridge

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Permanent snow fields and cornices line the eastern side of Elliot Ridge to Meridian Peak.

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An old 4 x 4 track follows the entire length of the ridge all the way to the summit of Meridian Peak. I had, for a short while contemplated going to the top. I eventually decided against the idea and became glad that I had when rain clouds made the summit disappear.

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Terrain became familiar as I looked out west towards the Eagle River valley. From here I could see some of my favorite runs at Beaver Creek ski area. The wind pushed against me and heavy rain clouds blocked the view towards the Flat Tops.

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I continued north on Elliot Ridge until about the point of the Wilderness boundary. From there I dropped off-trail and to the Mahan Lake road and the eventual Mahan trail. The Gore Range trail marks the end of Mahan, and from here it is approximately a mile and half hike through dense hardwood forest to Eaglesmere Lakes.

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My obligatory bear scat photo on the Gore Range trail.

The weather forecast for this particular day promised heavy showers for the remainder of the evening. Once I experienced the forecast to be accurate, while standing on the bank of Eaglesmere Lakes and my planned camp, I decided to finish out my loop  late into that afternoon.

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Looking across the drainage that I had just recently completed.

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Soon to turn white