Saturday, September 4, 2010

Go Take a Hike: CT from Little Molas lake

Colorado is the state for people who like to be outdoors.  Not only is the scenery spectacular wherever you go, but trails are everywhere.  And not the sad excuses for "trails" that continually disappointed me in CT, where they cross roads, playgrounds and pass right up against people's backyards, where traffic sounds and other human-caused noise were never far away and having to be concerned about loose dogs from someone's adjacent property chasing you was always an issue.  Plus, there was never a "destination" - it was just hiking through the same deciduous forests along trails with no view, to some other point that essentially looked the same.

Not so here in CO.  This state takes its recreational responsibilities seriously, as well as the importance of preserving land as "wilderness areas".  For those not familiar with what a wilderness area designation, it means:  1) no human development (buildings, roads, etc.);  2) no vehicles of any kind, including bicycles.  Hikers, equestrians, nordic skiing, snowshoeing - those are all good.  Two long trails traverse a good section of this state:  the Continental Divide trail, which goes from the Mexican to Canadian border across 5 states, and the Colorado Trail (CT), a more modest 500 mile trek going from Durango to Denver.

Plus, there are mountains, so the trails here almost always lead to a view, even if they start out in a pine or fir forest.  Sometimes, it's a bit of work to get to it, but it's always worth it.

Needless to say, after 3 1/2 years e wasted no time getting back into hiking after moving here.   In southwestern CO, the mountain range is the San Juans, which are part of the Rocky Mountains.  However, unlike the front range and northern Rockies, which were formed as a result of plate tectonics that occurred 45-70 million years ago during what is known as the Laramide orogenic event,  the San Juans are primarily volcanic in origin.  This makes for atypical shapes, erosion patterns and colors of the rock, and amazing views, even driving along the state highways.

This series of photos was taken along a section of the CT near Molas Pass, which is about a 45 min. drive north of Durango on Hwy 550, and heading in the direction towards Durango.  Some of these photos were taken with my Olympus p&s camera before I had the 18-70mm for my Nikon, so the limitations of its sensor are apparent by the limited dynamic range (aka "blown out skies").

Trail winding through spruce and fir approximately 1/2 mile from trailhead

A field of colorful fireweed is right off the trail, while a monsoon storm builds to the west.  Wildflowers were abundant on this hike, and included various Aster species (daisies), Western Paintbrush, Pearly Everlasting and other species I couldn't identify.

View back to the east shows Little Molas Lake (the same elevation as the trailhead), and a view of the Grenadier Range of the San Juans.  Despite what the photo shows, the skies were quite dark due to storms forming from the east and west.

The sculpted form of a long-dead tree makes up the foreground for this shot of a peak to the west.  Note the varying colors and forms of the strata that are visible.  

Cumulonimbus over Engineer Peak.  Engineer is one of those landmarks that everyone knows about.  On an earlier trip we made to Durango in '06, we hiked/climbed to within a few hundred feet of its summit (~12,900').

Pano shot of Sultan Mountain (center) and Grand Turk (right).  Not much further up the trail, we opted to turn around due to the impending thunderstorms; getting caught in a storm with lightning above timberline is a Bad Idea.

We ended up hiking about 5 miles, and got back to the car without getting caught in rain.  We drove to Silverton (~8 miles to the north) for some coffee, and that's when it began to rain.  


  1. Looks beautiful. Seems you have found your home.

  2. Glad you enjoyed The Colorado Trail. Our grassroots nonprofit, The Colorado Trail Foundation, maintains the CT and we're grateful that you value your excursions on it. Don't hesitate to connect with us; we try our best to help deliver CT info and coordinate all the volunteer efforts.

    Bill Manning, CTF Mg Dir
    The Colorado Trail Foundation

  3. Thanks, Liz! Yes, it's wonderful to have such beautiful country essentially in our backyard.

    Bill - thanks for stopping by and providing contact information on the CT and CTF. I'd definitely be interested in doing volunteer work and helping out with trail maintenance in the future.

  4. Very beautifull photographs on this blog!

  5. Hi will-Art,

    Thank you for stopping by and your comments on my photos and paintings; I checked out your blog and I see you're a cloud aficionado like myself :).


Your thoughtful comments add value to this blog - thank you so much for taking the time to leave them!

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