In Bloom: Creekside view
July 7, 2005
First, an apology to last week’s readers who went to the Hay Park trail looking for corn lilies, aspen groves and solitude and found none of the above. In a well-meaning attempt to clarify my confusing directions, an editor sent you to the wrong trailhead, at the base of Mount Sopris. To get to the other and much quieter end of the Hay Park trail, drive 6.5 miles southwest from the intersection of Snowmass and Capitol Creek roads in Old Snowmass and turn right into the parking area. Speaking of directions, they will be key to be finding this week’s hike, which starts at an unmarked trailhead in the Fryingpan River Valley. The Carter Lake/Savage Lakes loop, which provides intimate creekside flower viewing, begins at 9,800 feet in a spruce-fir forest. If the flowers seem sparse here, it’s because the firs block the sun, horde the moisture and turn the soil acidic with their decomposing needles. The real flower action begins when you hit Carter Creek. Here you will see two white, water-loving buttercups, globeflowers and marsh marigolds. Trollius laxus and Caltha leptosepala can be distinguished by their leaves: Globeflowers are maple-like (in scientific parlance, “palmately divided,” like fingers spreading from your palm), and marsh marigolds’ are spade-shaped with no divisions (“simple”). Neither flower has any petals – the white petal-like parts you see are actually sepals, modified leaves that on most flowers are green and surround the petals.When you reach the concrete diversion that sends part of Carter Creek to Denver, cross the headgate and pick up the trail just to the right of the creek. In another 15 minutes you will reach Carter Lake. Enjoy its magnificent setting for a few seconds (the mosquitoes are unrelenting here), then retrace your steps 20 yards until you see a trail breaking off uphill that will take you to the two Savage Lakes.The trail here is lined with purple violets, Viola adunca, whose color some scientists consider the most evolved of the flower colors. The other violet you’ll see, Viola canadensis (or Canada violet), which ranges in color from white to light lavender, may be in the process of evolving from white to purple. Both have dark purple lines on their lower petals, guiding insects whose ultraviolet-sensing eyes see the lines more clearly than we do.Getting there: From the intersection of Two Rivers Road and Midland Avenue in downtown Basalt, drive 26.4 miles up the Fryingpan past Ruedi Reservoir; take a left on County Road 501; reset your odometer and drive 7.4 miles (staying left at the fork at mile 4.5) until you see Carter Creek on your left; the trailhead is 100 feet to the right of the creek.