Hiking to Crater Lake

A couple of days after arriving at Maroon Bells, my good friend Adam Jack (aka @wildobs, for all you Twitter followers) joined me for a couple of days. We had a blast, hiking around Maroon Bells Lake and hiking through some of the area meadows/woodlands, as we searched out interesting wildlife. But our highlight was a hike, up into the mountains, to a very beautiful place, Crater Lake. For anyone not familiar with the area, this is a trail that winds up, into the mountains (and pretty steep in places) for almost 2 miles. To be frank, I wasn’t sure how I’d do on that trip … I had several things going against me. Would my Achilles tendon carry me the 3.6 mile roundtrip distance (I tore my left Achilles tendon in 2007 and it has not been the same since, often flaring up)? Would the high altitude (10,076 feet … a long ways from the flatlands of Missouri!) affect the climb? Would my photo backpack slow me down?

Well, I’m happy to say that everything went fine on the trip. I was careful to stretch out my Achilles tendon before/after the climb, and it actually felt like “the old me”. The altitude did affect my oxygen intake a bit, but frequent rest stops remedied that! And I pared down the equipment in my backpack, taking only “the essentials”, which included 2 camera bodies, 2 wide angle lenses and my 100-400mm lens. And Adam, being the sport he is, insisted that he would help the old man by carrying my water and rain clothing in his backpack … thanks, Adam!!!

We set our alarms for 5:00am, as we wanted to get an early start up the mountain. This is a highly popular location and the trail can be very busy. Coupled with the ever-present possibility of early afternoon mountain showers, we wanted to try to get to Crater Lake and back before any rain could catch us. When we reached the trailhead, we were the first to hit the trail to Crater Lake! But after several rest stops, we were passed by a couple of younger hikers. But we did manage to reach Crater Lake without anyone else passing us!

We saw a lot of wildlife during our hike to Crater Lake, but today’s post will feature some of the beautiful scenery we encountered; don’t worry, wildlife posts will follow :o) So, sit back and enjoy the scenery as we headed to Crater Lake. This first image was made as we climbed above Maroon Lake, heading to Crater Lake:

 

Maroon Lake, viewed from Crater Lake hiking trail

If you saw my original post of Maroon Lake (“Morning in the Bells”), this image was made from the mountain on the right of those images, as we hiked upward, towards Crater Lake.

Not far from the above image, a large stand of aspen trees was growing along the trail:

 

Aspen trees

For those not familiar with aspen trees, an entire grove of aspens commonly develops from a single tree’s root system. That means that a large grove of aspens can essentially be “one organism” growing … how unique!

We continued our hike upwards, finally plateauing on a “kinda level” trail. Within a short distance, we heard and saw a couple of mountainside waterfalls, as water cascaded down the side of the mountain near where Crater Lake was located:

 

Mountain waterfalls, high above Crater Lake, Colorado

 

And within another few minutes, we could see Crater Lake emerging from behind the vast, rocky hillside:

 

 

Crater Lake

 

After walking through a thick stand of aspens, we finally emerged at Crater Lake. The sight was beautiful … a glossy, still lake that was nestled in the valley, surrounded by mountains. Here is an overall view of Crater Lake:

 

Reflections in Crater Lake

 

And the reflections were so intriguing that I just had to make more images!

 

Reflections in Crater Lake

 

I think you will agree that this was a hike well worth taking! Adam and I both enjoyed the hike and all the scenery, but as outrageous as the scenery was, we encountered a lot of wildlife, which I will begin featuring in tomorrow’s post.

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