Having driven up to Buena Vista, CO the day previously, my Dad and I got a relatively early start for our planned 8 mile hike to Kroenke Lake. The trail and destination were so gorgeous — just calling out to be explored and photographed — that we ended up doing around 9.1 miles.
Total distance: 9.1 mi, Total time: 6:30:43, Moving time: 4:18:57, Avg moving speed: 2.1 mi/h, Max speed: 5.1 mi/h, Avg moving pace: 28.4 min/mi, Max elev: 11565 ft, Min elev: 9882 ft, Elev gain: 2484 ft.
View Kroenke Lake Hike 6/20/2012 in a larger map
My Step-Mom, Leigh, set us up with a quick breakfast and packed us a protein-rich lunch while we got ready to leave. By the time we had driven up the dirt roads to the trail head it was only 8:10am or so. There were a lot of cars in the lot and the wind was gusting pretty good which had me a little worried as I had not packed a jacket or long pants. I never needed them though, as the weather the whole time was just about perfect. A family of hikers pulled up as we were leaving and passed us relatively early on the trail, and then we had things to ourselves pretty much the whole time.
The whole hike had a pretty steady elevation gain, but the first half or so was pretty mild, and the trail very easy. There were a lot of trees down in places though, which made things a little more challenging to get around, under, or over them. In one place a whole patch of forest with HUGE trees had been snapped like twigs by what was obviously a pretty intense micro-burst in the not too distant past. There were also a number of stream crossings. The first two had nice, permanent bridges, but later on there were a number of crossings that required balancing on logs or hop-scotching on rocks.
Needless to say I took a bunch of photos. I used my cell phone’s camera on the way up. Once we reached the vicinity of Kroenke Lake I broke out the SLR and started taking a lot more photos, including a few 360 photo shoots that I later digitally stitched into panoramic photos. We saw a few patches of snow near the lake, but as Dad mentioned, normally around this time of year we probably would not have been able to do the hike at all.
For high-res versions of these photos see this gallery on Picasa
The last half of the hike up was tougher, with steeper slopes, rockier trails and more tree and steam crossings. As we were arriving in the vicinity of the lake the trees became less and the views of the surrounding peaks really opened up. We saw the group that passed us at the beginning of the trail going down. Besides an apparently unoccupied tent, we had the lake all to ourselves. After taking a bunch of photos we found a big log in the meadow surrounding the lake and ate our lunch of peanut butter and bacon sandwiches… YUM! I had never had this protein/energy packed lunch. Obviously not the healthiest repast, but perfect fuel for a strenuous hike like this.
Click the panorama thumbnails below to zoom, then scroll right to see the whole panoramic view.
We took a brief break after eating to explore and take some more photos. It would have been nice to stay longer, but as tired as we were we knew we had a long, thankfully mostly downhill trek, back to our vehicle. Once again we saw other people only once on the way back just past the half-way point where a fork in the trail heads up to Harvard Peak. This encounter was a little surprising, as we were trotting along pretty quickly, when we turned a corner to see a large, apparently unattended German-Shepard like dog wearing his own packs in a saddle-bag-like arrangement. He checked us out and carried on his way, hardly breaking his stride. His human backpacking companions followed shortly later.
Photos of me on hike courtesy of Dad
Needless to say we were pretty beat when we got back to the car. While tiring, the hike was well worth it and it was a trip I won’t soon forget. Hopefully my Dad and I can take another serious hike this season. We discussed possibly returning to the start of this trail, and taking the branch that heads up to Bear Lake in a cirque above timberline surrounded by the 14,000 ft peaks of Mt. Harvard and Mt. Columbia on one side and the Continental Divide on the other. That hike however is a 10.5 mile hike without any exploring added on, so we need to keep training.