Monday, September 19, 2011

Wet and Wild Basin: RMNP Bluebird Lake Trail

~14 miles (Bluebird plus Ouzel lakes)
Things looked optimistic enough when I turned into the Wild Basin TH:

But the rest of the morning was more rain than sun.

I decided to head up to the Wild Basin trail in RMNP, despite generally crappy, cold, and wet weather. I heard similar reports in Steamboat, Longs, Quandary, and the San Juans, so there weren't really any good options anywhere, it seems. Still, a chance to explore.

I planned on heading to Bluebird and Ouzel Lake, and scoping out the peaks surrounding it. Namely, Mahana and Desolation Peaks, as well as a view of Copeland Mountain and Ouzel Peak.

Without further ado, here is a picture of the glorious Bluebird Lake cirque:

Should you desire a specific view of Mahana and Desolation, here you go:

Now, the clouds/rain/snow did clear enough occasionally to get better views of some of the mountains (never all 3 at the same time), but the above pictures best capture the general idea. Ironically, I spent a winter day a few years ago making my way up to Thunder Lake on skis, breaking trail past the Ouzel/Bluebird junction, only to have even less of a view. Wild Basin owes me a nice day!

Still, it's an interesting and runnable trail, for the most part. On this day, due to the recent rain and snow, the trail was muddy and slick, with running water on top of the trail in places. The last 1.5 miles or so to Bluebird was a slower hike due to very slick rock. Additionally, some of the trail has been rerouted on downed trees, and there's thick growth on either side of the trail. Brushing against it made my pants soaking wet, instantly. I certainly could use a better solution for waterproof over-trousers! I otherwise wore all of my layers: on top, this was 5(!), which I didn't think I'd honestly need...

By the time I reached the lake, the weather was getting worse, and the wind was picking up. My hands were frozen in wet gloves, so I took some time out of the wind and tucked my hands under my clothes, waiting for that uncomfortable moment where bloodflow returns but the fingers throb intensely. After about 10 minutes, I began to feel better, and contemplated what to do next. Copeland looked like the easiest climb, maybe an hours worth or so to get over and up there, but would begin with a bushwhack that would likely get me even more wet. I watched the clouds for a bit: moving quickly up high, but with a small potential for blowing through and dissipating. Then I realized the whole thing was foolish, that even beyond the wind, rain, and wet rock, the only reward would be an abstract geographic location with no view whatsoever.

So I took my time and headed over to check out Ouzel Lake, before heading back down the main trail. I kept looking over my shoulder, as every once in awhile a small patch of blue sky would appear, before clouds swirled in to fill the void. This is foolish, I should come back another day. Anyway, I certainly should like to come back. Mahana and Desolation would still be two of my top picks, but I found Copeland Mtn. to be more inspiring than I was led to believe: it's generally a bulbous blob of a mountain, but the north face vantage shows interesting spikes and turrets that make it look more like a legitimate mountain. A loop from Pear Lake might be an interesting day. Beyond these easier Class 3 peaks are opportunities for Ogallala, Ouzel, and Elk Tooth.

But all of this would have to wait for another day, and I headed back down the trail. The rain stopped and temperature warmed up a bit, so I enjoyed some of the surroundings more. I can't believe how many wildflowers are left this late in the year; and, I was able to enjoy wild raspberries in late September!

Besides wildflowers and raspberries, what is all this water good for?

Super Mario mushrooms?

Lily pads?


Can't take that stuff for granted, either.
Still, I look forward to coming back on a "bluebird" day instead!


  1. There were a lot of uncomfortable outings this weekend! So far I've read yours, Dakota's, Brendan Trimboli's. Brrr!

    Still looks fun though. That basin is spectacular. I last went on a partly cloudy day (flat light), and I'd really like to get up there on a totally clear day.

    You really get great views on the upper trail spur from Allenspark. You can do a loop up there from Calypso Falls, and take a left back down into the valley to the the Wild Basin lot.

    I was amazed at how long it took since I was hiking that day. It took me hours to do a round trip to Ouzel Falls and I don't think I got even halfway down the valley. The basin is huge.

  2. Can you please stop? I mean all the posts between you and Mtnrunner2 and HappyTrails. "Went someplace epic. Ran. Saw the face of God. Was inspired so I ran more."


    Can't you comment at length on how people suck or something?

  3. GZ - Good one. So sayeth the guy with the runnable peak paradise 15 minutes away.

    Hey, do you know how hard it is to NOT say bad things? It's the malcontent's version of an ultra.

  4. Malcontent's version of an ultra ... awesome. It is all mental man.

  5. Yup, it was wet and cold everywhere it seems.
    And GZ, you surely have great opportunities nearby! So too does FC and Lakewood -- which I was able to appreciate even more when trapped in Aurora!

    "I went to the [mountains] because I wished to live deliberately" -- the morning jaunts are intended to beat the misanthropy out of me. Ha! I've heard many other runners say the same. I think it works, because I was in a talkative mood with the college/hometown/sports team sweater-wearing tourists in the bottom 2 miles of the trail. That lasted until I stopped in Estes and became overwhelmed with the crowds as usual.

    Mostly, though, as InsideTrail put it, I expect this blog to remain one of the 200 or so happy/sunshiny blogs out there.