Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Upper Blue Lake Unhike

Member Marilyn Raff joined by several other CMC friends recalls a brilliant hike filled with native plants, high-mountain wildlife and impressive mountain peaks. Raff is the author of 4 books, her most recent is a poetry collection called: In the Palm of the Land, all available through Amazon.

On August 11, a sizzling hot day in Denver, I, along with five club members, Lori Giesecke, Joan Schwarz, Gesa Robeson, Sally Boyson, and Dawn Mitchell, headed up to cooler terrain, several miles past Breckenridge. We met early at the Stegosaurus parking lot, off I-70, to carpool to the mountains and catch gentians and other wildflowers in bloom. Dawn created these unhikes several years back for hikers wishing less vigorous treks, with minimal walking. But still, we all wished to see lush flowers and impressive scenery.

As one of two drivers, in a rather old 1999 Toyota, I followed Dawn up to 11,100 feet, as she weaved up several rocky dirt roads. My heart melted as I viewed fireweed, in blazing reddish purple, along the roadside; it brought back fond memories of when I gardened day and night on my small plot of land.

Several miles out of town, Dawn found wide-open flat space for parking, as well as good rocks for leaning on with the puffy cushions she brought along. She hauled lawn chairs up here, too, for those of us who wanted near-total comfort. As our bodies begged for food and a chilled drink, some people started eating their sack lunches, while others roamed hungrily for wildflowers—a peachy time for all! I wandered along and soon chatted with a man from New Mexico, a former Coloradan, who called the area we stood on, “Upper Blue Lake.”

Mountain peaks, lakes, trickling waterfalls and hordes of verdant trees and plants surrounded us, in spite of the destruction caused by the Mountain Pine Beetle.

On our wanderings, we saw dozens of high mountain plants, as we called to each other to name these eye-catching gems. We viewed monkshood, darling blue chiming bells, as well as wild roses. Various gentians welcomed us, such as Gentiana algida, G. cruciata, G.parryi, and Gentianella amarella var. acuta. Silvery pussytoes clung to rocks, while I smiled when bunches of campanulas stood at my feet. In my home garden I always loved to grow various forms of silenes, and among the rocks, at 11,000 feet, I encountered what I think was Silene alba. Naturally many sedums and king’s crown caught my eye; anemones, too, looked breathtaking under the warm sun.

However, aside from the beautiful hillsides and native plants in their natural habitats, all of us joyfully cheered when we saw wildlife! In particular, a family of seven mountain goats and a yellow-bellied marmot, also known as a ground squirrel, came across our paths. The mountain goats, three nannies and four kids, slowly walked the pebbled land, ignorant of us and other hikers who carefully observed them at a safe distance. Although, once, one hiker slowly approached the goats and a nanny, momentarily, stomped and scratched her hoof on the ground, as a warning, she’s out to protect her kids, so stay back! After a short stop at Georgetown for ice cream, we soon arrived at the parking lot, said our fond good-byes, and looked forward to more plant (and animal) excursions, along with a good dose of friendly visiting, next year!

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