Sunday, July 17, 2011

Heart Lake/Rogers Pass-Sort Of

I've been wanting to try this hike for some time now and it turned out to be nothing like I thought it would be.  Somehow I thought it would be mostly exposed with dramatic mountain views.  It starts out at the East Portal of the Moffat Tunnel, which goes through the Continental Divide to Winter Park.  There are some crazy sirens going off at the tunnel and creepy voices over a loudspeaker warning intruders to leave, the authorities have been notified, etc. in a loop of different languages.  Thankfully there seem to be no terrorists that we can see so Jonny and I decide to press forward.

The trail starts off promising with a pretty meadow of wildflowers.

Finally the Columbines are blooming.

But soon you're in a dark musty forest next to a raging creek.  The forest is so dense that you don't get any mountain views.  It's also so damp from the still melting snow that there's moss hanging from the trees.  In Colorado!  Crazy.  The trail goes on and on and ON through the woods, not too steep, not too interesting, forever and a day.  The woods are pretty and all but I prefer hikes with mountain views.  Then we start to run into snow banks.  They're small and far apart at first but then the trail gets super steep and the snowbanks get longer and closer together.  Until we run into this after almost 2 hours.

The snow at the other side of the bridge is the trail. It's still another mile or so to Heart Lake with a steep 250 foot climb before the lake and even farther to Rogers Pass.  So we called it a day.  We could have hiked in the snow but we've both been there done that and neither of us like it very much.  It's already a steep challenging hike at that part of the trail without the snow and slipping and sliding around, post holing in places is not my idea of a fun afternoon.  Plus it's noon and time to head back anyway before the afternoon storms hit.  We have a lot of mud, snow, roots and creek crossings to get through to get back and I don't want to deal with them in a hail storm.

The falls at our turn around point

Closest thing we saw to a mountain view the whole hike

The hike back is pleasant enough but it feels a little short (6 1/2 miles and 3 1/2 hours or so) and I feel a little cheated at missing out on my views.  We turn around at an elevation of 10,774 feet and for some reason the altitude is bothering me a bit today, making me woozy.  Normally I'm o.k. with high altitudes but today I'm struggling a bit and I was yesterday as well on my bike ride.  Weird.  Towards the bottom of the hike Jonny's fingers swell up but he has no symptoms of altitude sickness.  Also weird.

We can hear the sirens still blaring at the Moffat Tunnel along with some other loud roaring mechanical noise for the last 1/2 mile or so of the hike but we can't see anything going on there when we get back to the parking lot.  That place is so weird, like the X-Files or something.  Just as we pull out of the parking lot it starts to rain and then hail.  I manage to snap a quick photo of the mountains in the hail storm.

We saw a fat little baby coyote cross the road and his mama on the side of the road on the way up but of course my camera was buried in my pack and they were nowhere to be seen on the way back down.

Jonny wants to go back in a few weeks when the snow has melted to finally make it to the lake but I don't know, the long trek through the dark damp woods was tedious.  I do want to see the lake though and maybe even make it up the pass.  So many other beautiful hikes though, maybe it'll have to wait for another year.


  1. Just beautiful!!!

  2. It is still beautiful, but your narrative lends it a Blair Witch Project sort of feel, or any horror sort of film, all the dark & disturbing portents, very odd indeed. Thanks for the slightly different tour!

  3. Oh, and you're got another "no no, that's not in Colorado" place name: Heart Lake! I lived for a couple of years at Adirondak Loj in upstate New York, which sat on the bank of Heart Lake.

    Which is yet another place name (like Black Mountain or Bear Mountain) that occurs left & right. I went to Wikipedia to find the one in Colorado & it wasn't there, so I googled it and added it to the list of Heart Lakes. You're welcome. :-)

  4. Yeah, there are lots of Heart Lakes in Colorado alone. Crater Lake in another common one.

    You might want to double check or maybe further clarify which Heart Lake you mean because I'm pretty sure the one I was shooting for is in Roosevelt National Forest/James Peak Wilderness Area, not Arapaho National Forest though it is near the border. However there could very well be one or more Heart Lakes in Arapaho National Forest so it might not be exactly wrong.

    We have a Bear Peak in Boulder. All the cool kids have one.

  5. The woods themselves weren't creepy, just the start of the trailhead at the Moffat Tunnel/railroad compound. The railroads are some of the most paranoid companies around. I used to have to get a security badge and special elevator code just to be able to get off the elevator at the floor that housed a big railroad company's offices when I had to deliver paperwork to them for work and that was about 10 years before 911.

  6. It's still a very pretty route but I can see how the sirens and all would add to the creepy factor!

  7. Yeah, now I'm seeing 'em everywhere. I changed the wikpedia (unlinked) entry to refer spcifically to arapaho.