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Twenty-eight

Started: 2008-09-09 21:27:16

Submitted: 2008-09-09 22:47:54

Visibility: World-readable

After returning from Megafest 7.1 (which I still need to document), I looked at the calendar and realized I had only four good weekends left of summer before snow starts to fall on the mountains I spent so much time enjoying this year. (At any point during the summer, snow is possible above ten thousand feet, though not until late September or early October can snowfall portend the end of the season.) While backpacking through Never Summer Wilderness in July, I decided I liked hiking along high ridges, especially along the Continental Divide. Shortly before leaving Lincoln last Monday, inspiration struck: Start at the East Portal of the Moffat Tunnel and hike a giant loop from Rollins Pass to Rogers Pass. I measured the distance in my mapping software and estimated, generously, that it must be at least sixteen miles.

Rollins and Rogers Passes

I approved the expedition and set out a bit later than I should have on Saturday morning, 6 September. I reached the East Portal at 1100 and headed into James Peak Wilderness on the South Boulder Creek Trail. A mile from the trailhead, I turned north onto the Forest Lakes Trail, climbing the valley wall towards the pair of lakes near timberline. I passed the lakes and exited the wilderness onto the Rollins Pass Road. I followed the historic railroad grade as it snaked around the mountain, through the gate preventing motor vehicles from passing. I climbed around the now-closed Needle's Eye Tunnel and turned west on the final approach to Rollins Pass. I crossed the hundred-year-old railroad trestles a thousand feet above the South Fork of the Middle Boulder Creek and the King Lake Trail. The wind kicked up as I finally reached Rollins Pass at 1400. I dropped my pack at an interpretive sign and headed half a kilometer to the trail junction above King Lake, where I descended from my fifteen-mile Devil's Thumb Loop last summer.

Northern opening of the Needle Eye Tunnel
Northern opening of the Needle Eye Tunnel
Rollins Pass Road trestle
Rollins Pass Road trestle
Final approach to Rollins Pass
Final approach to Rollins Pass

I returned to my pack, ate a bit of lunch, put on my fleece and gloves to protect against the bitter wind, and headed south along the Continental Divide Trail. For the next six miles south to Rogers Pass, the tread was non-existent; I connected the dots between the broadly-spaced cairns tracing a path along the crest of the ridge. Like much of the Continental Divide in northern Colorado, the eastern approach was steep and rocky and the western approach was broad and gentle. After leaving Rollins Pass, I saw two people following roughly the same trail I was and didn't see anyone else until I descended below Rogers Pass.

Iceberg Lakes, James Peak Wilderness
Iceberg Lakes, James Peak Wilderness

I reached Rogers Pass late in the afternoon, as the sun shone brightly on the broad north slope of James Peak. I managed to resist the urge to climb the mountain again; I still intend to climb from Rogers Pass to James Peak, but I didn't have enough time to do it this time. I descended towards Heart Lake, quickly dropping below treeline for the first time in hours. I returned to the East Portal as evening fell; I reached my car before sunset but the sun did set as I was stuck in Boulder Canyon behind a slow-moving out-of-state minivan.

James Peak, Mt Bancroft, and Parry Peak
James Peak, Mt Bancroft, and Parry Peak

Ouzel Lake

Kiesa and I headed up to Wild Basin in Rocky Mountain National Park to take advantage of my annual park pass and the early fall weather. We hiked past Calypso Cascades and Ouzel Falls (both of which I've been to before, though this time I actually went off the trail a few meters to see the falls itself) towards our final destination, Ouzel Lake, which I haven't actually visited yet. We hiked through the area burned by the 1978 Ouzel Fire before reaching the lake itself. We ate lunch on the south shore and looped around the lake (which involved a bit more bush-whacking than I first thought) before heading back to the trailhead.

We returned home in time to head into Boulder for my birthday dinner. We went to Hapa Sushi, a trendy sushi place on Pearl Street in downtown Boulder. (I've walked past it dozens of times but never actually visited it.) They didn't actually have any vegetarian entrees, so we stuck with appetizers and maki rolls. (Kiesa was pleased to see that they had seaweed salad.) I was impressed by the variety of vegetarian maki rolls, though -- with the notable exception of a strange plum-with-some-strange-leaf roll -- seemed a bit under-flavored. I did enjoy the meal, and the general experience of pouring over the menu wondering exactly what everything was.

Having turned twenty-eight, it now occurs to me that I've been an adult for a decade, and -- somewhat more daunting -- I started college ten years ago.

Our target coordinates, sunken gardens. Neelix relinquished
any Strange pleasure. Show up with difficult; in class.
- jwz's dadadodo, from Jaeger's journal entries