Roadtrip to the Rockies: Crater Lake

Trail:  Crater Lake
Location: East Portal Moffat Tunnel near Rollinsville
Fees: Free
Elevation: 9,200-10,600-7,600 feet
Distance: 6 miles roundtrip

Another Saturday, another hike.  We have been fortunate to enjoy decent weather the last few weekends.  Today Ross and I headed toward the East Portal near Rollinsville (not far from Nederland).  Our original plan was to hike to Clayton Lake, a 5.8 mile trek noted as moderate to strenuous.  I forgot to print out the description of the hike and I couldn’t remember all the details I read.  I knew it was steep but didn’t recall the hike followed an unmarked path for a portion of the trek.

Since no signs directed us toward Clayton Lake, we altered course to hike Crater Lakes.  I had read the description of this hike too and knew it was about the same length, 6 miles to the lower lakes.  I sort of wanted to save this hike for the summer as there is a scramble to the upper lakes which adds two miles that I didn’t want to do in the snow.

Today the weather wasn’t great.  The forecast called for cloudy skies which was an understatement when we started as light (not pretty) snow was falling.  Fortunately, the weathermen got the temperature right, so we enjoyed a warm 40 degrees and shed layers quickly as we made our way through the evergreen forest.

The path at the beginning of the trail was icy.  We decided it rained and promptly froze.  As we continued alongside the creek we glided over a soft layer of fresh snow.  Soon we reached a trail junction where we turned right and followed switchbacks up the mountain.  This was a steep climb that warranted removing another layer!

With the elevation gain came deeper snow, but only a few inches which we easily handled traction devices.  This mile climb felt like it took forever, though I think most of the 1,300 feet we gained from the trailhead to the lake took place during the last mile.

Upon reaching the lake, located at 10,600 feet, we lost the wind protection from the trees and cooled down considerably.  We added hats and gloves quickly and didn’t stay too long to admire the frozen lake and surrounding frozen tundra.  Pine trees, grasses, and the remains of wildflowers were blanketed in a thin layer of ice.

Overall, the hike was very nice.  I’m trying to embrace the winter.  I think as long as the temperature hovers around forty and the wind isn’t bad, I’ll be hiking, spiking, or snowshoeing this winter!  ETB


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Roadtrip to the Rockies: Como, Alma, and South Park City

My aunt Jennifer and uncle John like to go on different outings, and they inspired me to stop at a variety of old mining towns that I generally pass by on the way to my next hike.


My first stop of the day was in Como.  Como owes its existence to the railroad and mines.  Gold, discovered nearby in 1859, lured miners and later ranchers to area.  Soon coal was discovered too.  For trains, which ran on coal, this was the first source of coal after leaving Denver.  As such, in 1881, the Denver, South Park & Pacific Railway built a roundhouse and depot in Como.  This once thriving town, named by Italian miners from Lake Como, met its demise after multiple railroad reorgs and a final removal of tracks in 1938.

Regardless, there are still cool buildings in the town including the roundhouse, the depot, an old hotel, an old Catholic church, and an old school house.  I got lucky and arrived when a gentleman had just finished giving a tour of the otherwise closed roundhouse.  He let me walk around the property and then unlocked the door to let me in to see an old locomotive and printing equipment!


My next stop was Alma, the highest incorporated municipality (town not city) in North America.  There wasn’t much to see in this small town, though it is possible to grab a beer at the highest bar, South Park Saloon.  Alma is a good portal to bag a few peaks.  The Decalibron Loop is a popular nearby hike that helps peak baggers mark off four fourteeners: Democrat, Cameron, Lincoln and Bross!


From Alma, I continued on to South Park City, a historical area next to Fairplay which is supported by the South Park Historical Foundation.  South Park City is a collection of old buildings, some on their original site and some moved to this now museum.  Inside the buildings are all sorts of collections of rocks, minerals, irons, and period items.

I personally loved the mining mill, the doctor’s office, the school house, the blacksmith shop, the bank, the general store, and the drugstore.  The variety of tools, drugs, compressors, lunch boxes, and medical supplies were simply fantastic.  At first I thought the $10 entry fee was a bit steep, but after visiting, it was worth every penny.  I probably spent at least an hour, maybe two, wandering around the 40 buildings!


Finally, I just took a drive down Lost Park Road.  I had been there before to hike Segment 5 of the Colorado Trail, but several back roads connect to it that I have never explored.  And what a time to explore, during the fall and changing colors.  What a nice day!  ETB