Monday, August 18, 2008

Pawnee Pass in the Summer (or was it Winter?)

After a long heat streak without any rain, the weather finally gave us a respite here in Colorado. Well, maybe not a respite...

It went from dry and in the 90's to rainy and in the low 50's, just like that. We enjoyed three blissful days of cool temps and rain. When I lived in Cleveland, this was not an unusual weather pattern, and I got tired of it. But here in sunny Colorado, it a nice change of pace.

On Sunday we had planned to take Strelka up to Johnny Park for a mountain bike ride, but with all the rain, the trails were going to be too wet and muddy. Not good for the trails. So, we made a Plan B and took her for a hike up in the Brainard Lake Recreation Area. I love this area! It's a short drive from Boulder and the terrain is magnificent, as pretty as Rocky Mountain National Park, which it basically abuts. You can bring dogs to Brainard Lake, as opposed to RMNP, which does not allow dogs on the trails. So, I go there a fair bit.

We opted to head up toward Pawnee Pass. The trailhead starts out at about 10,000 feet and goes to well over 12,000 feet. At this elevation, we fully expected to encounter snow from the previous days of cool temps and precip. Fresh snow you ask, in mid-August. You betcha!

The trail first travels through the trees along side the South Saint Vrain Creek, Long Lake and then Lake Isabelle. Then it heads up to the pass between Pawnee Peak and Shoshoni Peak, snaking steeply up rocky switchbacks. Our goal was to make it to the pass and a little beyond it to see the views down to Pawnee Lake. Jesper and I have gone down the other side (a camping trip with Mushka a couple years ago), and we knew it to be simply stunning.

I ran up this trail with Strelka on July 6th. While there was no fresh snow then on the peaks, there were many large snowfields that still overlapped the trail. That was before the afore-mentioned heat streak. This time around, a month and a half later, most of the snow fields were gone, but there was a fresh dusting of new snow. Up near the pass, the dusting was almost 6 inches deep!

However, the clouds were also starting to look ominous. Jesper and I began to wonder if we should continue all the way up and to the other side of the pass. It was very pretty where we were, but we knew the other side was also beautiful. Jesper stopped to take some pictures, since he had brought the big camera along.

Then, probably about a quarter mile from our goal, we rook one final look at the building clouds and turned back.

We were bummed to have to turn back, but we desperately wanted to make it back to the trailhead without getting drenched. Not to mention if the storms turned electrical.

The hike down took longer than we expected, probably because we were hungry! All we could think about was BBQ at the Smokehouse Grill and Brewery in Nederland. However, Strelka was still interetsed in exploring and checking out the sounds and smells.

We finally made it back down to the lakes, through the forest and then to the car, where we had one tired pup!

Check out more of my pics here.

Check out Jesper's write up and pics here (warning - stunning photographs!!!)

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