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Salmon Lake, Eagle Nest Wilderness

Late last October, Radka came over for her fall semester mini-break. I originally planned a backpack across Pawnee Pass in the Indian Peaks, but due to the conditions I decided we would go for something easier. Eagle Nest Wilderness, northeast of Silverthorne and northwest of Vail, encompasses some of the most beutiful parts of the Gore Range, and since I have not hiked there much before, I wanted to explore it at least a little bit. A trip to Willow Lakes seemed like an interesting two day proposition.

We left Boulder in the afternoon, and arrived to Mesa Cortina trailhead at about four. We did not waste any time and got on the way - the sun was to set at about six... It is about seven miles from the Mesa Cortina trailhead (9,200ft) to either Willow Lakes or Salmon Lake (11,200ft). The first section is an endless traverse, up and down without much meaningful elevation gain, of the slopes of Red Mountain. It was hunting season. Fortunately, none of the hunters we met mistook us for deer. When we finally reached North Willow Creek, where the trail angles west and starts ascending along the creek, it was just about dark. We decided to push for the lakes nevertheless. As we picked up more elevation, we first came across some patchy snow that soon turned into all snow. We made slow but steady progress, and the moon and snow were doing their part in giving us some notion of the surrounding landscape. We finally arrived at Salmon Lake at about eleven.

I woke up early next morning and shot a few pictures of the icy Salmon Lake. Radka got off to a slower start an hour or two later when the sun finally hit the tent. We spent some time in the afternoon exploring Willow Lakes before heading back down. The trip back was long again, as we reached the car in the dark at about seven.


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Cold night Salmon Lake I Salmon Lake II Salmon Lake III Salmon Lake IV Salmon Lake V
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Unnamed thirteener Icy reflections Sunlit ridge Breakfast calling Good morning On the move

Last updated: March 17, 2002
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