On the trail: Exploring lake country in the upper Fryingpan
HOLY CROSS WILDERNESS – Nothing piques my interest like a hike to a place I’ve never been before, so when an Aspen Times colleague suggested an outing to Blodgett Lake on the north side of the upper Fryingpan River Valley, I was all for it.
Three of us set out early Monday for a little-used trail to Carter Lake – a steep shortcut beyond the well-marked trailhead to the lake, off Forest Road 501. The road, east of Basalt and Ruedi Reservoir, accesses several lakes I’ve been to previously – Lyle, Morman, Sellar and Savage lakes – but this was my first foray to the north, into the Holy Cross Wilderness.
Scott, the leader of this expedition, has long legs and is obnoxiously fit, unlike the two stragglers he had in tow. The first stretch, to a water diversion on Carter Creek, was ridiculously steep, with a lot of logs strewn across the trail for good measure. Thankfully, the climbing eased, and I think Scott slowed down, though he insisted otherwise. At any rate, I finally caught my breath. By the time we reached Carter Lake, after passing a few scenic waterfalls and gorgeous marsh, the trail had flattened into a meandering jaunt.
Above Carter, it was lake country. The valley opened up to reveal a commanding landscape. Unnamed bodies of water – some small and some surprisingly large – were everywhere, reflecting the passing clouds, blue skies and huge mounds of granite. We scanned the surface of each lake for evidence of rising trout but saw nothing.
Blodgett was a distant goal that we didn’t make, but no one seemed to mind. A short, steep climb up a ridge revealed yet another lake that we deemed the perfect lunch spot. A cold wind and gray clouds swept over the peaks and then departed as quickly as they’d arrived, leaving us to soak up the surroundings in welcome sunshine. We’d seen only one other person all day, a solo backpacker who’d spent the night at Carter Lake. We passed a couple of others on their way to Carter as we headed down.
It was wilderness the way it’s meant to be.
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