Glacier Gorge, Black Lake, Blue Lake
July 12-13th, 1996
Roughly 10-12 miles over 2 days
Class 1 (trail the whole way, little class 2 exploring)
This was my first backpack trip this summer. Joining me were Frank and Tracy Baszler. We arrived around 2pm at Glacier Gorge Junction, and miraculously, managed to get a parking space!
The trail up was, of course, full of people. Just about every one of them pointed at us and said "boy, imagine carrying *that* pack!". By the time we reached Alberta Falls I was shedding layers of clothing like crazy. The day was overcast, luckily (it would have been very hot otherwise).
The hike around Mills and Jewel Lakes is a lot rockier than I remember, but then again, my last trip here was in the middle of the night. It was still cloudy, so looking into the depths of Glacier Gorge wasn't possible. We soon arrived at the camp site. Strangly enough, the site is pretty close to the river. We pitched tents, ate, and lounged around. Across the trail I found an area of open bedrock where views into Glacier Gorge were possible.
The next morning, I woke up alone, and headed up Glacier Gorge. My goal was Black Lake, and if I felt really into it, Pagoda (note, I didn't feel really into it). The trail disappeared in a few spots, and it amazes me that we made it down Thatchtop that night a few years back. I did see where we crossed the river.
Soon the area ahead of me became nothing but rising cliffs. I followed the outlet stream, past Ribbon Falls, and soon enough to Black Lake. The lake is spectacular, and entirely rimmed with cliffs several hundred feet high. I scrambled on some rocks at the outlet, and made my way along the eastern shore. I decided to visit Blue Lake, rather than try Pagoda. I found the one weakness in the cliffs above Black Lake: the inlet stream. The inlet stream was a little steep and very rocky, but passable. Finally I made it to the tundra slopes above Black Lake. Pointing myself in the general direction of Blue Lake, I started climbing up boulders and slabs, high up to a shelf containing the lake. And what a lake!
It was as if nobody had been there before. The lake was well in the shadow of Storm and Longs Peak, but the view from the lake was tremendous. Luckily, no clouds were about this morning. I could see the Stone Man, which does actually look like a stone man, wearing a hat and everything. I took bunches of pictures, ate, and relaxed. The lake is on a rocky shelf. The lake itself is small, but looking inside, it was very rocky. I looked down Glacier Gorge, towards Mills and Jewell lakes. Curiously, I could see waves rippling across Mills Lake, but Jewell lake was entirly clam, reflecting the trees around it. So far below! After a long stay, I left, climbing back down to Black Lake, and then back on the trail.
On the way back, I saw an elk grazing close to the trail. Then, down a bit further... slip! Fell in some mud. I looked up, just to see another elk looking back at me. Yes, I bungled my way into an elk herd. However, I made it back to camp without further incident.
After spending time packing and eating, as well as another trip up to the bedrock view point, we left. We visited the falls below Mills Lake, and headed out. On the way back, we heard sirens far below. An hour or so later, we found out why: somebody had collapsed on the trail above Alberta Falls. It was a *very* hot day out. Remember to drink your water, folks!