Well, I just returned from my first solo backpacking trip up in the San Juan Mountains the other day. When I first moved to this area almost two years ago, I figured that I would've done many of these by now. Unfortunately, physical ailments hounded me all last summer so I barely did any hiking at all. This trip was just a quick overnighter to a high alpine lake, Crater Lake, along the West Needles subrange of the San Juans.
While it was only a six mile journey to the lake, it turned out to be a bit more than I bargained for. This is still the spring season up in the high country and, while most of the snow has melted, everything is still very wet up there. What this translates to is muddy trails...miles and miles of muddy trails. It made for very slow going which was only exacerbated by the blowdown area I encountered about a mile from the lake. This consisted of a large section of downed pines (and I mean big pines) from a storm last winter and the swath of destruction was about a quarter to half mile wide. They obliterated the trail and forced me to navigate my own way through the mess and on to the lake as I wasn't able to relocate the trail once I got through it. Thank god for my GPS! That section wasn't fun at all with a balance interfering 40lb backpack strapped on.
The end result of my slow progress to the lake was that I arrived only a half hour before sunset and had no time to relax or eat before pulling out the camera gear. But what a sunset it turned out to be!
North Twilight Peak Reflected in Crater Lake at Sunset
I can certainly deal with a few hardships if I know it'll result in witnessing marvelous scenes like the one above.
After a rather sleepless night (I never sleep well when camping), I decided to pack up and leave shortly after my sunrise shoot as thunderstorms were predicted to be widespread by the late morning/early afternoon hours. My sunrise shoot, while beautiful, was very typical of most any Colorado high country sunrise scene....a nicely glowing mountain reflected in a high alpine lake under a clear morning sky.
Crater Lake at Sunrise
I was hoping for an interesting sky or more pronounced early morning mist/fog to set it apart a bit more, but it wasn't meant to be. After the previous night's sunset, I wasn't gonna complain! As it turned out, my earlier than planned departure turned out to be a wise choice as I was surrounded by threatening skies by the time I got back to the trailhead. It was a memorable first backpacking trip, that's for sure!