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"Those who desire to give up freedom in order to gain security
will not have, nor do they deserve, either one."
~ Benjamin Franklin
What better way to celebrate our independence than a somewhat unconventional hike up to Clear Lake? It just fit my mood better than watching another parade through Silverton.

Been there, done that.

Not only was I curious to see how much snow has melted since I was up there eight days ago, I also figured most folks would be in town watching the parade this morning so maybe I'd have the place almost to myself again. The more people driving up and down the four-mile road to the high alpine basin in which the lake sits, the more hassle it is to walk up and down the road.

The last mile to the Clear Lake basin was impassable by 4WD vehicles just one week ago. Now it's open.

Although there was more traffic today than a week ago -- because the Forest Service has since  plowed the snow all the way up to the lake -- there weren't as many vehicles coming and going as other times I've been up to the lake.

Too bad Jim's knee hurt too much to accompany us today because he would have enjoyed the exercise and the views. As soon as some of the holiday traffic is gone he'll be going out for longer bike rides again. I'll suggest he ride up to Clear Lake.


This was an almost-perfect day for the holiday parade in downtown Silverton, the Rhubarb Festival, and any other outdoor activities folks chose. Temperatures reached the 70s and it was sunny until mid-afternoon, when the inevitable clouds rolled in. Although the chance of thunderstorms was 50% today, we got only a few sprinkles around suppertime in the Silverton area.

Early glimpse of the Upper Ice Lake Basin from Clear Lake Road

Jim dropped Cody and me off at the base of the road up to Clear Lake a little after 9 AM. That way he had use of the truck during the day. He went into town for the parade but didn't find anyone we know.

He was unable to park anywhere near the park where the rhubarb festival is held after. His knee was too sore to walk that far so he didn't attend the festival.

View of Upper Ice Lake Basin and a waterfall from higher up Clear Lake Rd.

Still a lot of snow in the Upper Ice Lake Basin but a bunch of it has melted in the last week

Cody and I had more fun this morning than Jim did!

We spent about 4½ hours hiking a little over ten miles total. We walked up CR 815 AKA Clear Lake Road from South Mineral Creek Road to the far end of the lake and wandered all over the basin before coming back down. 

It was interesting to compare the views from our trek up here eight days ago. While there is still more  snow than we usually see this time of year above 12,000 feet a lot of it has melted.

Above and below:  views west along South Mineral Creek Rd. from Clear Lake Rd.

The next photo shows Rolling Mountain and the pass I was unable to reach on the Colorado Trail three days ago. The shortest way up to that pass is from the Rico-Silverton Trail at the end of S. Mineral Creek Rd., also shown below. The Colorado Trail approaches it from the left (east) on the other side of Bear Mtn. and the Twin Sisters:

I was at about the same elevation as that basin when I took some of these photos from Clear Lake Rd.

I enjoyed my hike very much, despite all the vehicles on the road – trucks, SUVs, Jeeps, ATVs, a motorbike, and a young woman on a bike with a pointer-type dog running alongside. The drivers were considerate and there wasn’t any dust until the last half mile coming down; yesterday’s rain helped a lot.

Small parking area at the mine; even Jeeps couldn't get up this high a week ago.

Entrance to the old mine

Everyone with 4WD was able to make it up to the lake today. The forest service plowed through the snow on the switchbacks and the rough part of the road near the lake. Most of the snow has melted at the lower lake/marsh where I had to traverse over snow two weeks ago.

I leap-frogged on the way up with a tour guide who carried four passengers in his Jeep. At the waterfall he offered to take my picture:

On the way back down I leap-frogged with a bunch of Texans in a group of six ATVs. They passed me on the way up and saw me wandering all over the lake area while we were all up there. On the way back down the mountain they marveled at how I’d gotten all the way up there on foot and was partly running down -- seemed pretty normal to me!

Another young man also complimented me on how fast I was descending (I was mostly just walking fast).

Group of ATVers at Clear Lake today

Meanwhile, I was marveling at the young woman who rode her bike all the way up!! That would have been more difficult for me than walking up. The grade isn’t too bad most of the way but there is a lot of loose rock and mud right now, plus larger rocks and water above the mine to negotiate. She said her dog goes uphill faster than she can pedal but she has to wait for him to catch up going back down.

Maybe I should take Cody on a run alongside my bike!

I enjoyed seeing all the differences with the snow, creek, waterfall, lakes, and flowers. Some of the creek is still under snow. Most of the waterfall is free of its snow cover now:

This waterfall was hidden under snow a week ago.

The snow is still 8-10 feet deep along the slope where it was plowed at the mine:

The next photos are from that point up to the lake:

Above the waterfall the creek is still partly under snow.

Last glimpse of the Upper Ice Lake Basin before a mountain obscures it

There are lots of flowers in the lower part of the Clear Creek Basin
where the snow has melted. I'll show more of them on another page.

The marsh area doesn’t have nearly as much snow or ice as it did eight days ago:

Above and below:  marsh marigolds blanket the ground as soon as the snow melts.


This whole area was mostly covered with snow eight days ago.


This marsh lake was also covered with ice and snow when I was up here recently.

I love the reflections on the ice and water.

Last time the road and lake in the photo below were covered with snow. I followed footprints to the far side of the "lake" and crossed my fingers that I didn't fall into any water because I wasn't sure if I was on top of the road or the lake:

Farther along, the road between the marsh and Clear Lake was full of run-off today but easy to walk. That's where I stopped last week, just short of Clear Lake:

This view looks east, back at the marsh area:

The road is on the far left. That is more water and snow than I've usually seen here in late June, let alone in July. Isn't it pretty?

Continued on the next page: so what does Clear Lake look like???

Happy trails,

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

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© 2011 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil