Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Shelf Lake Trail: Success!

Ten days after my epic fail trying to hike the Shelf Lake Trail, I decided to give it another shot.

An earlier start time was the first change to my approach.  At 9:20 a.m., the view from the trailhead had exactly the number of clouds I wanted to see -- none.

Wildflowers were in full bloom the whole length of the trail, like these heartleaf arnica.

The first third of the trail is a fairly steady ascent, and quickly gets you a great view back down the valley toward Guanella Pass Road.

The middle third is fairly level and heavily treed, with soft, spongy ground thanks to all the pine needles and a consistent view of what I believe is Revenue Mountain to the west.

The final third is the climb to the lake.  It was farther than I thought, as I constantly expected to see it just over the next rise and was wrong for quite a while.

For instance, I thought the lake was in the direction of this picture in the cirque at the base of that sheer slope.  Instead, it was off to the left and higher than I'd assumed.

Finally there it was.  By now clouds had started to roll in and prevented me from getting any really vibrant shots.

I'd never seen Columbine grow as thickly as I did on this trail.  I'm used to mostly seeing just individual flowers, but here there were whole patches of them.

Ginny can be a very accommodating subject when she's a little tired.

Chiming Bells grew thickly in some of the wetter areas.

Meadows were just bursting with color.

Did I mention there was a lot of Columbine?

And Indian Paintbrush, too.

I can't figure out exactly what these were.  Maybe another type of paintbrush?

For some reason I thought the trail was only about five miles round-trip, but everything I'm reading online now says it's actually 6.4.  That makes me feel a little better that it took us about 3:45 to get out and back, especially with the 2,000 feet of elevation gain.

Very glad I gave this trail another try.  Beautiful views, nicely varied terrain, solid workout and the lake at the end makes for a good payoff!


Unknown said...

Thanks for the detailed hike description and the beautiful wildflower pictures. Your pictures are so good I almost don't see any reason to actually hike. Almost...

SteveHarbula said...

Hey, thanks for the kind words about my pictures! But you should definitely do the hike yourself. The wildflowers are MUCH more beautiful in person. :)

Josh Jackson said...

Steve: I posted a comment on your other Shelf Lake post and didn't see this one until now. So, I guess you did hike it with success. My other question remains: Is AWD and high clearance needed? Thanks!

SteveHarbula said...

Josh - I have a 2002 Toyota RAV4 with 4WD that handled the road just fine. It's rough in spots, but not something you need high clearance for.

Josh Jackson said...

Hmmm, now you have me wondering if I should go ahead and take a chance even though I don't have AWD. Sorry to bother with another question, but can you give me an idea of what you mean when you say the road is "rough" in spots? I'm wondering if maybe there are some acceptable places to pull over and park if we can't drive all the way to the trail head (then walk the rest of the way to the trail head). What do you think?

SteveHarbula said...

The road has some deep ruts and big rocks, but I don't remember any really steep stretches where AWD was all that necessary. As long as you take your time and use the whole road to get around potential obstacles, you should be fine this time of the year. In the winter or spring when things are slicker, however, it might be another story.