This was NOT a backpack trip; the purpose being to attend the NOLS 50th Anniversary celebration in Lander, Wyoming October 8-10 and visit my daughter and grandkids in Durango Colorado. I did manage to squeeze in two overnight backpacks, described below.
After a visit with friends in SLC, I drove to South Pass and then took the dirt Louis Lake Road, reaching the Christina Lake trailhead at 3PM on Oct 7. The NOLS event did not start until 1PM on Oct 8, so I decided that I had just enough time to sneak in an overnight backpack. Although I hoped to reach Thumb Lake in Silas Canyon, I stopped at Island Lake (5 miles, 1200 feet gain), about half an hour below Thumb Lake, giving myself time to set up tent in the last rays of sunshine and cook a quick dinner. Temperatures quickly dropped once in the shadows and I retreated into the tent to listen to music. I wore my hunter orange expecting to see hunters, but only passed a group of day-hikers. It lightly froze at night. Luckily, early sun hit my campsite. I got up just in time for a beautiful sunrise. After a quick breakfast I headed up to Thumb Lake to take photos along the northeast shoreline. On the way back I detoured to two unnamed lakes just above Island Lake, returning along the drainage to Island Lake. I then packed up and returned to my car and drove into Lander.
Camp at Island Lake and sunrise at Island Lake
The NOLS even was a splendid celebration with over 700 alumni attending. I bumped into several people I had not seen in 45 years! After three days of happy hours, BBQ lunches, dinners, fly fishing lessons, 5-mile run/walk, dedications, lectures and tours I was ready for some solitude.
I drove up to the Stough Creek Trailhead at Worthen Meadows; again I wore hunter orange but was the only car in the parking lot. My objective was to locate and document the main trail to Leg Lake and check out the saddle over Roaring Fork Mountain that was the pass to Stough Creek Lakes. By 1PM I had achieved these objectives and was really tempted to drop into beautiful Stough Creek Lakes, but having told my friends in town that I was going to camp at Boulder Lake, I stuck to that route. The cross-country travel to Boulder Lake became progressively difficult. Soon I was trapped in huge boulders embedded in scrub trees and head-high willows. To complicate matters navigation was very difficult since one could not see far. Although I knew the drainage was the worst place to be, I followed the creek upward simply because I knew I would not get lost as long as I could hear the stream. I ascended a talus gully ending up at the small lake to the east, with very difficult boulders, now car-sized, between me and the main lake. At 4PM I found a very small campsite nestled among huge boulders in trees. My tent just barely fit. I cooked dinner, walked along the shore a bit and then retreated for the night. There are fish in Boulder Lake, but other than that, getting there is more difficult than justified simply for the scenery. Again, it lightly froze at night.
Meadow along the lower Roaring Fork
Upper Meadow (end of distinct trail that goes to Leg Lake)
Looking towards the upper lakes of the Roaring Fork from the route to pass to Stough Creek Lakes
Next morning I circled Boulder Lake finding that the opposite shore had the better campsites. I knew there was an old use-trail, and I found it off and on as I descended towards Spruce Lake. The use-trail stayed well west of the drainage. I was happy to get to the outlet of Spruce Lake because I had been there before and knew there was a good use-trail. Rather than continue on the use-trail down Roaring Fork Creek, I wanted to see if there was a use-trail that connected to the main trail that I had come up the previous day. It was hit-and-miss, but more or less there is a trail. Again, I hurried because I told friends that I would be back in town by noon and did not want to worry them. I made it to my car at 1PM. My overnight jaunt in the Roaring Fork was about 14 miles and 2,000 feet gain.
Outlet of Spruce Lake
I decided to take two days to reach Durango Colorado with an overnight stop at the Colorado National Monument at the fine campground. I regret not hiking a few of the trails. In Durango, my daughter and I managed one short hike. Then it started raining and continued to rain the rest of my visit. I returned via Moab (pouring down rain!) and along I-70 (amazing scenery). After a brief visit with my brother in Delta Utah, I returned on Hwy 50.
Ute Canyon, Colorado National Monument
Colorado National Monument
View along I-70 in Utah
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