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.
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.
Lower Cataract Lake as seen from the Eaglesmere Lakes trail.
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.
Elliot Ridge; a small glimpse of what I’d be hiking on top of the following day.
Eagles Nest Peak
Cat Lake with an even larger view of Elliot Ridge in the background.
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.
I found a nice little campsite with a permanent view of water. It was large enough for my tarptent, but not much more.
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.
Northern view of Cataract Lake
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.
Mirror Lake and Meridian Peak
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.
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.
Trail marker near the top of Elliot Ridge
Permanent snow fields and cornices line the eastern side of Elliot Ridge to Meridian Peak.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Looking across the drainage that I had just recently completed.
Soon to turn white