A Lost Weekend at Lost Lake (And Beyond)
July 26-28th, 1996
Roughly 25-30 miles over 3 days
Class 1 (trail the whole way, little class 2 exploring)
This was my attempt at exploring the North Fork (Big Thompson River) drainage. The idea was to pack in 9.7 miles, spend two nights at Lost Lake, then pack back out. Of course, my companion's schedules changed things a bit...
The new plan was to hike in alone, and meet up with my companion (this time hiker Chris Demas) at Lost Lake. Since I was leaving earlier, I got the honor of carrying fun things like the tent and stove...
The hike is rather long. However, the first half of it is also rather flat and easy-going. Around the Deserted Village area (which is the ruins of a turn of the century resort closed after a disentary outbreak), the heavens unleashed a furious rainstorm, hail and all (I was later told that the weather back on the plains was even worse). I stopped in a sheltered area and donned my rain gear. Somewhere along the way I saw a snake quickly slither across the trail.
After the Lost Falls backcountry camp site area (maybe 6 miles from the trailhead), the trail got *steep*. Steeper than I like. I took frequent rests. All the way I could hear Lost Falls. Unfortunately, I couldn't see it from the trail. The hike to the falls (trailess) looked a bit too rugged to try with a full pack on!
After more tiring hiking, I arrived in Lost Meadows. What a site! You can see Icefield Pass, the Rowes, Sugarload Mountain... and a ton of flowers! Soon, however, the meadows become willows, and then forest again. A half mile or so further, and I was at Lost Lake (note, they have a horse hitching post here...).
I had my pick of the 4 campsites, since nobody else seemed to be around. In order to make it easy for Chris to find me, I took one of the "upper" sites, which are visible from the trail (later that night, I could hear some tent- stake pounding from the lower sites). I pitched the tent, cooked dinner, and relaxed at the lake's edge. What a place! You truly feel like you are in the middle of nowhere. As the sun went down, the lake's surface became calm, and I was able to take pictures of the sunset over the Rowes. Lost Lake was jam packed *full* of tadpoles. On my way back to the tent, I managed to find a frog resting on the trail.
The night was uneventful, except for some coyote calls every now and again. They appeared to be coming from the area of the lower sites.
I awoke early the next morning (Saturday), ate a quick breakfast, and headed off to explore the base of Rowe. I half-heartedly wanted to climb the Rowes, but realistically decided against it. Luckily, the basin above Lost Lake is full of lakes, waterfalls and dramatic views. I would not be bored or disappointed.
I could not see the "trail" that was supposed to go past Lost Lake, so I went backcountry. A hill rises directly to the west of the lake, and the top of this hill became my immediate goal. I hopped up some boulders, crossed a meadow or two, and walked along the side of a large snowbank. Ten or so feet from the top, I found the trail... and the trail ended at the top. For that matter, so did the trees. Icefield Pass became visible again, along with seemingly endless rolling tundra and flowers. My next goal was to climb up another gentle slope for 50ft or so to Lake Husted (roughly 1/2 to 1 mile from Lost Lake).
Lake Husted lies just below the steep slopes of Sugarloaf Mountain. The lake is a rather large, "C"-shaped lake. I went to the shore and took a few pictures. Then, off to explore some more.
Next I visited Lake Louise. In fact, I had to descend to the lake, which lay below the massive Rowes. I crossed the outlet (which was marshy) and reached the shore. Then, I decided to head up towards Lake Dunraven. However, according to my guidebook I was too far west for the "easiest" route. Heck with it, I tried anyways. I scrambled a bit up towards the shelf holding Lake Dunraven. I tromped through bushes and small trees. Unfortunately, I got stuck by a gorge where Lake Dunraven's outlet flowed. I climbed down, crossed the river (just below a neat unnamed waterfall), and climbed back up. Soon I was on grassy tundra again, and soon I descended down to Lake Dunraven.
Lake Dunraven is probably the largest lake in the area. To the west, the Rowes (Rowe Peak and Rowe Mountain) vertically rise, creating an awesome backdrop. To the east, the gentle Dunraven Mountain rose, and to the south, Mummy Mountain could be seen. With a sore ankle starting I decided not to venture onward. However, on the way down I decided to visit some small, unnamed lakes visible from the hilltop above Lost Lake. I ate a small lunch and departed.
I took a slightly different way down than the guidebook suggested, and ended up stuck in some nasty krummholz and bushes. I did reach the base of a second waterfall, however, and soon reached the small lakes. There are 3-4 lakes here, and surprisingly, nobody has named them. I visited all of them, even though I got stuck in willows near the outlet of one of them. Then, it was back up to the tundra, and over the top of the hill towards Lost Lake. This time I took the trail back. Funnily enough, the trail doesn't stem from Lost Lake... rather, it stems from the privy by the upper camp sites! I guess the guidebooks messed that one up (they claimed the trail starts at the lake shore).
I returned to camp for a rest, and two more backpackers arrived. They were from Chicago, had spent the previous night at the Kettle Tarn site, and the night before that driving non-stop. Needless to say, they looked tired.
Soon enough, Chris arrived, in the accompany of a park ranger. I spoke with the ranger for a while. He had been up this way the previous winter, under several feet of snow. I bet that was a site!
Chris and myself spent the rest of the day exploring around Lost Lake. We followed the outlet stream (which used to be dammed), and found an intersting gnarled aspen tree. Chris then (the man who never gets tired) took off and explored the lakes I explored that morning. Then it was off to bed.
I awoke early, packed and hiked out. On the way out my knee pretty much died (around the Kettle Tarn site, 1/2 way up!). I bandaged it, and that did the trick. I saw nobody until the Deserted Village, at which point I saw tons of folks. It took me 6 hours to hike in, but only 4-5 hours to hike out. Not bad!
Side note: the pop machine at Drake has lemonade. It took me only 2 or 3 seconds to down the first can... I have returned many times after hikes since...
- Michael Dallin