Friday, October 29, 2010

Skinny Fish Lake Hike

Distance: 5 miles round trip
Elevation: 9,269 ft - 10,269 ft
Elevation Gain: 1,000 ft (net), 1,432 ft (cumulative)
Dogs: Voice and Sight Control (Flat Tops Wilderness)

The right-hand side of Skinny Fish Lake. There was one tent on the far end but not another soul around.

Skinny Fish Lake is a short (but not nearly as short as the Forest Service advertises) trip to a scenic lake surrounded by the infamous Chinese Wall, a unique geologic formation in the Flat Tops Wilderness. We chose this trail because we thought it was really short (advertised distance is 3 miles round trip) and we just wanted to stretch our legs after driving the Flat Tops Scenic Byway.

Looking south from the parking area

Looking up the drainage from the parking area

The trailhead for this hike is located on Trappers Lake Road in the Flat Tops Wilderness. It is clearly marked on the map and the parking area is quite obvious.

The initial pitch. The sky is still blue, but storm clouds are brewing to our left.

The lower portion of the trail winds through Aspens. The forest was damp and earthy, just what I want in the fall.

The trail begins by heading up a steep hill filled with Aspens. On this rainy fall day, they were in full color. At 0.9 miles is the junction with the Lost Lake Trail. Lost Lake is on the other side of the wall and this trail goes around it reach the lake. After crossing a small stream (nice bridge), the trail enters a broad, grassy meadow. Here the eastern portion of the wall comes quickly into view. Its stair-stepped features are both interesting and intimidating. This is one large hunk of rock. At 2.11 miles is the intersection between the Skinny Fish and McGinnis Lakes.

Even the undergrowth was putting on a show

Looking back down the drainage. The sky is getting more threatening

Since our time was short, we chose to head towards Skinny Fish Lake since we guessed that it would not be totally in the trees. This turned out to be a good choice. The lake is surrounded on 2 sides by the Chinese Wall. It is broad and welcoming. I can not report what McGinnis Lake looks like, but if you go all the way to Skinny Fish, you might as well pop over to McGinnis.

Our first glimpse of the effects of the Big Fish Fire

A scenic creek. It is raining by now.

A good portion of the trail traverses the 2002 Big Fish Fire area. This lighting sparked fire burned over 17K acres of prime wilderness. The skeletal remains of Aspen and Lodgepole stand as a stark reminder to the transience of Nature. Nothing is permanent.

Fall willows and dead trees make a startling contrast

The Chinese Wall comes into view. This picture does nothing to capture the scale. The wall dominates the valley and seems to loom over everything.

This trail held another surprise for me. In the Flat Tops Wilderness, dogs do not have to be on leash if they are under voice control. I guess it is only the crowded Front Range Wilderness Areas where the leash law is mandatory.

Looking back towards the trailhead from the middle of the meadow.

Looking straight across Skinny Fish Lake to the Chinese Wall beyond. Blue skies return. Such is Colorado and why we always carry rain gear.

On this trip, this was the only hike we did in the Trappers Lake area. There may be others that are more scenic, but for us, this trail hit the spot. It got our legs moving and we got close to the Chinese Wall, which was another objective. Little did we know that the following day we would climb to the top of the wall on our harrowing trip to the Devil's Causeway.

1 comment:

Woot! said...

thanks for the review and pics