I’m focused on the trail ahead. With so many rocks akilter, I know if I’m not paying attention, I run the risk of turning my ankle and cutting my hike short. I come to a flatter part of the trail for about twenty feet and pause for a second on the trail.
Noises to my left awaken me from my daydreams. It sounds like someone walking through the brush. Maybe a hiker left the trail to go to the bathroom?
I glance over towards a small pond, and realize it’s not a human making the noise. A family of moose are happily munching on the willows alongside a pond. A colt-like, tan calf sticks closed to his mother’s hind quarters. His light brown color contrasts starkly with his mother’s dark chocolate shoulders.
A few feet away stands a male with a budding pair of velvety antlers. His antlers are relatively small belying his youth — probably the yearling calf from last year. Probably not quite confident enough to make it on his own, he’s hanging out with his mother and new baby sister.
Despite seeing moose regularly near our Nederland home, I’m still captivated watching them slosh through the pond, in search of more edibles.
The glimpse of the moose offered an unexpected treat, but I’m really looking forward to my desination. After hiking about an hour, the views appear. Rugged mountains on all sides — the massive, broad shoulders of Mt. Audubon to the north. To the south, the perfectly shaped arch of Mt. Toll. A cascading creek gushes over and under rocks as the frothing water runs down the hill.
It is the quintessential Colorado Rocky Mountain scene.
There are hundreds of hikes throughout Colorado that you can enjoy these panoramic view. But you will have to earn them by hiking six miles in, climbing thousands of feet to enjoy them.
King Lake is a worthy destination out of the Hessie trailhead. But you will need to walk miles through the green tunnel to get there. The same is true of Jasper Lake as well, climbing up miles along a very rocky old mining road.
But you don’t have to work too hard for the magnificent views you’ll get at Blue Lake. With a starting elevation of 10,000 feet, it’s not long before you break out of the woods and get above timberline.
Blue Lake is a mere 3-mile hike from the Mitchell Lake trail head at Brainard Lake Recreation Area. It’s moderate in terms of difficulty, ascending 1,400 feet. There’s much to keep you occupied along the way, including tranquil Mitchell Lake and the wildlife including moose, marmots and the petite pika. With all the snow and moisture, there’s also plenty of wildflowers to enjoy, including the blue and white of our state flower, the Columbine.
Blue Lake is aptly named with a brilliant aquamarine color. At the far western end, a waterfall zigs and zags through the rocks before spilling over a snowy cornice into the lake. As I munch on a granola bar, enjoying the alpine beauty, I chat with some visitors.
“This is one of the most idyllic places I’ve ever seen, it’s like heaven!” exclaims a petite woman with a southern accent.
I couldn’t have said it better myself.