Jasper Lake 6/29/19 #Journey #Hiking

Jasper Peak as seen from Jasper Lake / Photo by Jason A. Muckley © 2019

Trails traveled: Devil’s Thumb Bypass Trail, Difficulty: Blue, (Moderate)
Out-and-back, 10.8 mile round-trip, 2,011ft elevation gain
Time: 4 hours, 45 minutes
Weather: Partly Cloudy

  • Wet
  • Rocky
  • Rivers
  • Waterfalls
  • Rapids
  • Snow
  • Mountains
  • Wildflowers
  • Butterflies
  • Snake
  • Deer
  • Moose

This hike kicked my butt. Besides some stuff closer to me, that feels more like walks instead of hikes, I haven’t been on a good hike for most of June. This was a “good” hike.

I got a late start this morning and didn’t get to the trailhead until almost 11:00am, only to find that this trailhead is very busy and the parking is limited. There were signs to go back into the town of Nederland to pick up a free shuttle to the trailhead. I drove back to find that there was an outdoor art show and road bike race going on in town. Welcome to Colorado.

After circling the parking lot at the Park N Ride, I was able to get a spot and hop on the shuttle as it was exiting. It was another 15 minute ride or so back to the trailhead and I was finally ready to start. My original plan was to hike to the Lost Lake, which would have been a much shorter hike, but probably similar views and beauty to observe. The trail to get to that lake is the same until a bridge about 3 miles in.

Hessie Trail Crossroads
Hessie Trail Crossroads / Photo by Jason A. Muckley © 2019

At that point I could have crossed the bridge and gone to the Lost Lake, or go take a completely new course of action and check on Jasper Lake. I have done this in the past and it didn’t work out well changing my mind without “planning” ahead or figuring out what might be store for me. Well, it was still a good hike.

The trail to Jasper Lake was wet. With the snow runoff from the surrounding peaks, there was a lot of water everywhere. The rivers were overflowing into very intense rapids cascading over rocks into waterfalls. The sights were beautiful. However, to get down the mountain into the rivers, the water went sometimes over the trail flooding it, sometimes along the trails for a few hundred feet or more, and then the higher you went the snow was still on parts of the trail and next to it. This is not uncommon in Colorado at higher elevations.

Again, my problem was not planning for it.

If I had brought my heavy-duty, waterproof hiking boots with my wool socks (and the extra pair), hiking pants, a long-sleeved shirt like most of the other hikers I encountered, then I would have been better off. Really what I needed on this hike was my waterproof boots. Instead, I wore my trail running sneakers, which worked out okay. I dodged most of the water on the trail on the way up and stayed mostly dry.

Until the snow. The problem with the snow is postholing. That’s when the melting snow gives way and your shoes/boots go in to your upper thigh in the snow. Then your “dry” sneakers get wet. Fast. Thankfully the snow on the trail was only for the last mile or so before the lake. I think my boots would have done better than my sneakers in the snow.

I really did have an amazing hike despite being “ill-prepared.” I never let any of the challenges get me down, and I kept pushing onward. I am so glad I did. I wrote lots of new poems, saw some beautiful butterflies and wildflowers. I saw a deer dart out in front of me at one point and at the very end, where you start, a mama moose and her calf were eating on the shore opposite of me with some 3+ foot deep water between us. It was amazing!

Jasper Lake was beautiful especially with the snow not fully melted and large sheets of ice floating around in it. The 360°-panoramic view of the mountains enclosing the lake was breathtaking.

I made the decision to change course kind of on a whim because I wasn’t ready to finish hiking. My decision was cemented when I asked a woman coming back from the lake how it was.

She said, “Far… but good.” It wasn’t what she said that convinced me. It was the bright smile that lit up her face.

Yeah, this hike was like that.

– Jason

Moose with her calf / Photo by Jason A. Muckley © 2019


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