A local favorite backpacking spot of ours is around Heart Lake and Rodgers Lake in James Peak Wilderness for many reasons. It’s close to home (just about 45 minutes away), a short hike (4mi to the lakes), has next to no crowds, and above all.. it has breathtaking scenery. Located between Nederland and Winter Park, James Peak Wilderness offers plentiful opportunities for Ryan to fish and for me to set up in my hammock to read, nap, or play around with my camera.
Ryan and I were planning on backpacking this trail this weekend but we had a last minute change of plans after we found ourselves at the local Humane Society. Ryan and I have been looking to adopt a cat for a while now (while we would both love to have a dog, we don’t currently have a backyard or enough time to come home during the day to make it fair to the pup), and decided that instead of periodically window shopping on the Humane Society’s website, we should just go in and see the cats in person. One thing led to the next and we soon found ourselves in the adoption room with an adorable tuxedo cat. We couldn’t resist, and Ollie came home with us that evening.
Not wanting to leave him alone for the first ~24hrs in his new home, we were weighing other weekend options when two friends of ours expressed interest in hiking to Heart Lake and Rodgers Lake the next day. As an 8mi round-trip hike with minimal elevation gain, we didn’t expect that it would keep us away from Ollie for too long and excitedly made plans to meet for breakfast and head to the mountains!
It being the second weekend in August, this was the latest that Ryan and I had hiked this route. For once the trail was free from snow, and we were able to enjoy its winding path through the forest and ultimately up to our destination. At the beginning of the hike I was disappointed to see that the normally rushing rivers passing under and around the trail had slowed to a trickle– if at all. But as time went on and we gained elevation, I was soon met with the beautiful cascades and rivers once again. We took a few short breaks to allow our friends’ dog to take a drink while we enjoyed the cool mist and splashes coming from the water flow.
Once passing the rivers and waterfalls, we were soon met with the high alpine wildflowers that I love so much. Ryan and I were busy moving into a new home together for most of July so I was worried that I would miss peak wildflower season– this was certainly not the case! Blooming yellows, whites, and blues surrounded us on our ascent.
We finally reached the lakes! We were happy to put our packs down, take a seat on a rock, and enjoy our lunches in the sun. While there was the normal chilly alpine breeze, the sun made for an enjoyable time to sit out and watch as Ryan began suiting up in his fly fishing gear. Our friends were wanting to learn how to fly fish and Ryan was more than happy to help teach them (it being his passion, and all..), so I took off up the mountainside to take in some of my favorite views.
Once I had enough of my (arguably) favorite view, I headed back down to the group. I was just in time to see Ryan catch two cutthroat trout, as well! The fish in the lake were awfully skittish and not particularly hungry, but he finally was able to lure them in once he tied on a Royal Coachman. Those cutthroats put up a good fight, but that makes it all the more fun.
Once we had our fill of food, fish, and sun, we headed back down. I was feeling refreshed– time in the mountains is always good for me. A little sun and a lot of fresh air is the best cure for the stresses of daily life.
I would also feel confident in saying that our four-legged companion agrees!
I only went out for a walk, and finally concluded to stay out until sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.
— John Muir