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"A traveler without observation is a bird without wings."
~ Moslih Eddin Saadi (medieval Persian writer)

(Continued from Part 1)

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.


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 own advice!)

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 mountain avens.


Here are some of the alpine species that are blooming now between the basin and tree line (approximately 11,500 to 12,000+ feet):

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 certainty.


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,

and other yellow-to-gold colored flowersred, orange, and cream Indian paintbrush;

tiny red and yellow columbines;

larger blue columbines; wild blue flax; mountain bluebells;

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 flowering shrubs:

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.


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!

Happy trails,

"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, and Cody the Ultra Lab

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2010 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil