Thursday, January 14, 2010

Crag Crest

Distance: 10 mile loop
Elevation: 10,152 ft - 11,189 ft
Elevation Gain: 1,037 ft
Bathroom at Trailhead: Yes
Dogs: Off leash
Date Hiked: 1 July 2005

(On left: Butts Lake viewed from the top of the Crag Crest ridge)

Crag Crest is located atop Grand Mesa, one of the largest flat-topped mountains in the world. Grand Mesa is clearly visible from I-70 but its scope must be appreciated up close. There are over 300 lakes on top of Grand Mesa, each one teaming with blood-thirsty mosquitoes ready to drain you to within an inch of your life. While the denizens of Minnesota or Alaska may yawn with ennui at such a declaration, I can assure you, that to a Coloradoan, Grand Mesa is a horrifyingly primeval place. I actually pitched a full-blown girlie fit 5 minutes up the trail and went screaming back to the car in search of DEET and a flame thrower. It was not my finest moment. I wish I could say it was PTSD from all those attempted hikes in the piny woods of Mississippi but the reality is was shear neurosis with a capital N.

To make matters worse, I attempted this trail on a 4th of July weekend (2005), and there was so much tree fall to traverse and so much snow on the route that I had to content myself with an out and back scramble. The potential of the trail was obvious, however. From the top of the crest are stunning views. Whiplash is a hazard as you gaze back and forth between the lakes on the mesa and the rolling hills in the distance.

Upper Eagleston Lake
Bullfinch Reservoir

There are two trailheads for this loop. I started at the east trailhead near Eagleston Lake. There is a campground there but it looked more like a war zone with all the downed trees and pine bows strewn everywhere. It was quite the outward bound adventure to climb over and under the fallen logs while at the same time slapping mosquitoes to the syncopated rhythm of my breathing.

A slushy snowfield on the route up. The dogs liked it more than I did.
The trail, when it was visible was well maintained.

The trip was pre-blog, so I took no careful notes of the route and only a few pictures. Take this post as an incomplete introduction to the area. To date I could not find any other detailed trip reports, so my recollections are better than nothing.

Another view of Butts Lake

The trail does ascend through the trees past Upper Eagleston Lake, a very scenic spot and continues on to Bullfinch Reservoir, which was filled with tree stumps. Beyond this point the trail ascends more sharply up a series of switch backs, some snow covered, to a narrow rocky crest. The trail continues for another 3 miles along this formation. I stopped for lunch near the top. Since I knew the route was blocked at the western end, I turned around about 3.5 miles lamenting the fact that in Colorado July does not always equal summer.

Looking to the north into a narrow but enticing valley
Looking out over another lake
Crag Crest is a classic and I hope to return someday to complete the route. I am sure that with a little more pre-planning and a set of steel lined skivvies it would be a wonderful experience. There are cabins and campgrounds galore on top of Grand Mesa that are worth checking out in their own right.

Looking northeast
Glacier Lilies by the shore of Upper Eagleston Lake.  Note all the snow in the trees.


MyLifeOutdoors said...

Beautiful pictures. And a great wright up..,even if it was all recolection.

Elizabeth said...

I just hiked this trail yesterday. Upper Eagleston Lake is one of the most beautiful lakes I have ever seen. It was so pristine and quiet up there. I hope to do the whole loop soon. I could have spent hours up there (if I had on long pants and a mosquito net).

Thanks for your great blog. I just moved to the area and hope to do many of these hikes soon.