More hikes, more lakes

Before leaving the Steamboat area I wanted to sample the hiking so I headed out to Three Island Lake. It was a long drive and I set out early hoping to be on the trail by 7.30. But the last part of the drive was a gravel road and slow going. Then I took a wrong turn and ended up in the wrong place. The final kilometres of the correct road were in very bad condition, and the trail head was full of cars by the time I arrived at 8.30. Luckily it was a scenic drive, along the Elk River.

The trail started with a lot of climbing, through aspen and some fir trees, and lots of wildflowers. I could hear the Elk River sometimes in the distance but it was half an hour before the trail reached the river. It was very peaceful and green, and not too closed in, with occasional views of far distant mountains.

After crossing some trickles of minor river branches the trail came alongside the river, which was gushing fiercely. In places it flowed through narrow gorges and there were many lookouts over the frothy water.

Suddenly the river went quiet; it was wider and flowed through a green meadow. The lake was just beyond this meadow. This was a big lake surrounded by forested mountainsides. It was quite hard to work out where the three islands were as distinct from the mainland but I think I discerned them. The trail seemed to start going around the lake but then ended abruptly. I scrambled down to the water's edge a couple of times and sat for a while. There was virtually nobody else there.

On the way down I passed masses of hikers. Then I chatted with a park ranger who was checking the condition of the trail; she said the trail head had the most cars she had ever seen. It was an easy hike down and I had some short stops. 

I was anxious to get the dirt road part of the drive out of the way, partly because the trail was so busy that I expected lots of cars to be coming towards me and throw up a lot of dust, and I drove the first three miles fast; when I got to the junction at the end of this part of the drive I realised I had been driving on the wrong side of the road! It was good that not a single car had passed in the opposite direction.

After that hike I drove to Glenwood Springs. I went there in 1978 when I travelled America with a Greyhound pass. I stayed the first night of my trip in Denver and stayed at the youth hostel; the manager said I should definitely call in at Glenwood Springs so I duly went there. But I only had a very short time there (I was continuing overnight to San Francisco) and I have a dim recollection of going for a very short walk and spending a long time in a restaurant waiting for the bus.

Driving towards the town the amazing Glenwood Canyon was a revelation to me. The size of the cliffs was staggering and there was barely space in the canyon for the river and I-70.  This morning I returned to the canyon for a short hike, Hanging Lake.

I intended to hike the trail and then return to my hotel for a shower before checking out so I went early. I got to the trailhead at 6.45am and there were only two parking spots remaining out of about fifty. 

The trail was only about a mile and a half but it was steep and rocky. I sped past all the other walkers, rising rapidly alongside a creek surrounded by high cliffs. It was too early for the sun to reach inside the gorge so it was a bit dark but pleasantly cool.

Eventually the trail went up some high steps and I found myself by Hanging Lake. It was just wonderful, a smallish green lake with several waterfalls entering it off the cliff face. There were lots of logs in the lake. I sat for a while then climbed further up the trail, to another huge waterfall. You could walk behind this one, and then squeeze under two rocks to get to a good viewpoint. It was a great spot.

The descent was fast and the trail was packed. I was back at the trailhead car park at 8.15 and there was a long line of cars waiting for parking spots. It was obviously the place to go!


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