I had a big grin on my face this whole hike. It just doesn't get
much better than this!
The views of the
South Fork Mineral Creek valley and surrounding mountains and
basins are magnificent
on a clear day like today. Here are more photos I took on the
way down the mountain from Clear Lake today, plus
pictures of some of the numerous flowers we saw.
A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE IN REVERSE
One of the things I encourage trail runners and hikers to do on
a point-to-point trek is to look backwards occasionally to see
what views they're missing behind them. Of course, that's
easier to do when you're going out and back like I did today.
When Cody and I started back down from about 12,000 feet at Clear Lake this morning we first followed
the creek flowing from the eastern end of the lake until it met
back up with the road.
I just love all the marsh marigolds and
other alpine flowers through this drainage area, which
only recently emerged from their winter's hibernation under many
feet of snow:
Clear Lake becomes Clear Creek right about
here . . .
A look back upstream (sometimes I actually take my
Continuing downstream past the pond and back onto the road:
Marsh Marigold Central; there are also
several colors of tiny alpine phlox,
blue alpine forget-me-nots,
and bright pinkish-purple Parry's primrose
at the 12,000+ foot level.
Will all this snow melt before we leave in
mid-July? Maybe not!
< sigh > I really hated leaving the beauty of the lush
basin but I couldn't stay up there forever.
Fortunately, I had other interesting diversions on the way down the mountain:
those expansive views into the South Mineral Creek valley
and up into the Upper Ice Lake Basin again . . .
. . . and even more varieties of flowers than we saw
blooming in the Clear Lake Basin.
In fact, there are many more flowers blooming here in the San
Juan Mountains at all elevations than we saw in the Bighorns this year! The San Juans are higher than the Bighorns but they are so much
farther south that we're more into late spring or early summer bloom here than
the early spring bloom in northern Wyoming.
However, we're still in our Dandelion Time Warp. Some of the
dandelions along Clear Lake Road and South Mineral Creek Road
are very tall and robust. These are well over a foot tall:
There are dandelions all the way up to almost the 12,000-foot level
along Clear Lake Road. Some of those yellow flowers in the Ice
Lake photo (two pictures up) are dandelions. The others are
Here are some of the alpine species that are blooming now
between the basin and tree line (approximately 11,500 to 12,000+
Yellow mountain (alpine) avens and reddish-brown
King's Crown sedum (roseroot)
Purple fringe, alpine avens, mountain
sunflowers, even dandelions!
An alpine variety of clover
An alpine variety of asters
A pretty blue elongated cluster type of
flower -- and more dandelions!
Also blooming in this area above the tree line are yellow alpine
wallflowers, mountain bluebells with less foliage than the ones
at lower elevations, bright pink alpine shooting stars, various
colors of low-growing phlox, and
several other kinds of wildflowers I can't identify with
I'm always interested in watching the types of plants morph from
one eco-zone to the next. The array of wildflowers expands along
Clear Creek Road after dropping below timberline at about 11,500 feet.
As the road switchbacks down, the views of
the mountains up ahead are different, too.
Pine trees dominate the forest at the upper elevations of the
sub-alpine zone (about 10,800 to 11,500 feet), interspersed with
aspens below that. Numerous wildflowers and shrubs are blooming
now, including several types of perky yellow daisies and asters, spring gold,
other yellow-to-gold colored flowers; red, orange,
and cream Indian paintbrush;
tiny red and yellow
larger blue columbines; wild blue flax; mountain
a pretty little blue flower that prefers shade;
pinkish-purple sweet vetch; white
and pink wild geraniums; many kinds of white wildflowers,
from short mounded ones that look like candytuft, to taller
clustered ones like this bedstraw,
to tall spears; and
several different white
You won't believe how many flower (and scenery) pictures I took coming back
down when I was alone with Cody! It's a wonder I'm not still out
there. I was mesmerized by the floral fantasyland.
WELL, THERE'S A FRIEND!
About a mile from the bottom of Clear Lake Road I ran into Bill
Heldenbrand, who was sitting in the shade on a stump by the side of the road,
reading a book on his new Kindle electronic apparatus. It's
small enough that he can read while he walks, as long as the
surface of the road or trail isn't too rough. I think Bill
enjoys running and walking on this road as much as we do.
Bill walked the rest
of the way down to South Mineral Creek Road with me, conversing
and being very tolerant as I continued snapping photos:
Bet these aspens are beautiful in the fall
when the leaves turn golden!
Almost back down to South Mineral Creek
Road (below right, but invisible here)
Jim enjoyed several trips up and down
Clear Lake Road during our three-week visit here. Occasionally
he ran into the inevitable thunderstorms that pop up quickly and are very
localized in the San Juans, forcing him to retreat before
reaching the basin and lake at the end of the road.
Other times he got to enjoy the pretty lake and surrounding
mountains on drop-dead gorgeous days like today. The day I took these
pictures was my only trip up to Clear Lake this summer.
Next entry: Can the views get any better? They do in
the nearby Upper Ice Lake Basin!
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
and Cody the Ultra Lab
© 2010 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil