|Back in the day, there used to be trail mileage markers on trees. This one made sense, but later we saw an 8 that was confusing.|
We attained Clear Creek Reservoir at nine in the evening, far past when I like to be still hiking, and it was apparent that nobody had camped here in decades either. Finally wedging the tent in to the only space we found, we settled in for a night interrupted by the chorus of frogs.
|This is a fresno, a shovel for moving rocks. There's lots of old equipment from the 1900s scattered around this lake.|
The next day we planned an ambitious route: another downfall-choked climb to Melhorn Reservoir, then hiking up on the slopes of Sugarloaf Mountain and across the ridgeline, hoping to intersect with another ancient trail that led back down to Clear Creek. I had my doubts about this, but I wasn't solo, we had plenty of daylight and snacks, and it was country I hadn't seen before. After Melhorn, the traveling became easier and the views spectacular. Ridge walking is one of my favorites.
It was clear that the landscape had changed dramatically with the fires, and the forest is still recovering, thirty years later. Very few people come here, and on the Fourth of July weekend, we saw more elk than I had seen in years. While we were gone for two nights, a bear clawed the truck. This is wild country still, and it gives me hope, when the lakes on the other side get more and more crowded.
After twelve miles we started looking for a way down. We could see the reservoir far below us, but it was surrounded by cliffs. There was no sign of any trail. We carefully picked our way down the least fear-inducing slope, finally finding the old trail just as we gained the shores of the lake. It, too, was covered in downed trees. Soon these trails will vanish completely, but I can't say I am too sad about that. It's good to have some wildness left.
|Camp guard dogs.|
On the way out, we encountered our only person of the trip. A young guy, he was happily biking along, unaware that his day was about to change. We warned him about the hike-a-bike coming up, but he seemed unfazed and up for the challenge.
This is an unlikely place, not where I would have gone on my own. I probably won't be back--there are plenty of other places to go. But the thrill of discovering something new took the sting out of being stuck in one county for what feels like could be a long, long time.
|We stumbled upon a small pond. You don't find things like this on the beaten path.|