Friday, June 25, 2010

Eaglesmere Lakes (Almost)

Distance: 7.2 miles round trip
Elevation: 8,727 ft - 10,400 ft
Elevation Gain: 1,673 ft
Dogs: Off Leash before the Wilderness Boundary at 2.34 miles

Eagles Nest Mountain (13,432 ft) viewed from the Eaglesmere Lakes Trail

The trail to Eaglesmere Lakes in Summit County is lovely trail filled with vistas, rock formations, and Aspens. It is near the popular Cataract Lake and so is probably a mob scene in the summer, but on Memorial Day weekend, we were the only people on the trail.

The hiker travels through Aspens all the way to the ridge. Here, the leaves rustled in a slight breeze and birds sang their homage to spring. The warm sun and solitude were cathartic after our abysmal winter.

The trail became very narrow after the Wilderness Boundary

The route to the trailhead is tricky, once you depart Highway 9 out of Silverthorne and onto Forest Road 1275. The road around Green Mountain Reservoir is a dirt road cut into a hill side. While not particularly treacherous, but it is one-lane in places and twisty. Your passenger car can make it, but you should go slow and keep an eye out for others.

Cataract Lake, viewed from the trail

Ute Peak (12,303 ft) and the Willams Fork Range dominate the view to the west

(On the left: The intersection with the Gore Range Trail). Eaglesmere does have its own trailhead. This is not as obvious on the National Geo map, which make it look like you start out at Cataract Lake. This is not true. Follow the signs to Eaglesmere Trailhead and you'll be fine.

The trail starts off in an expansive Aspen grove, which stays with the trail all the way to the top of the ridge. As the trail climbs, views of Cataract Lake come into view. A constant companion is Eagles Nest Mountain (13,432 ft), which dominates the view to the south. Near the top of the ridge, Sage Brush take over and the rocky outcrops through which Cataract Falls travel are clearly visible.

The intersection with the Gore Range Trail). At 1.64 miles the flora changes from Aspens to Conifers. At 2.34 miles, the trail crosses into the Eagles Nest Wilderness. Shortly thereafter one can glimpse Tipperary Lake across the gorge. At 3.34 miles was the intersection with the Gore Range Trail.

The snow was not everywhere but seemed perversely attracted to where we needed to go. We post holed at every step, usually up to our knees and occasionally up to our waists. I finally had to put on pants legs to keep my skin from being sliced by the ice crystals.

Even though the trail was hot, we ran into snow around 3 miles in, and by the intersection of the Gore Range Trail, we were seriously post holing. After struggling onwards for only another tenth of a mile and 100 ft of elevation gain, we decided to turn around. I could see the lakes on the GPS map, but it was taking us a half hour for every 10th of a mile. At times we were sinking up to our waists. I really hate not reaching a destination, but it was already late in the day and the going would be just as slow coming down. I liked this trail enough that I know I will return and get a photo of the lakes. I'll update this post at that time. I am thinking fall might just be the time of year to do this trail. The Aspens really are lovely.

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