Today I discovered another way to avoid Rocky Mountain National Park tourists – hiking at Wild Basin. Wild Basin is the southeastern entrance to RMNP and provides a completely different experience than hiking at the main park. On another positive note, Wild Basin is about 20 minutes closer to Denver than the main park. Anyway, I decided to hike to Bluebird Lake, my longest hike yet at 12.6 miles roundtrip.
The trail starts off along a nice creek for the first mile or so, but I couldn’t enjoy it very much initially since there were bugs everywhere. The Wild Basin Trailhead starts at about 8,500 feet, which is more or less 1,000 feet below the main RMNP trailheads, and the flora and fauna is completely different because of this change in altitude. From the helpful sign at the beginning of the trail, I learned that the Wild Basin area is categorized as a subalpine forest. Just in case you were wondering. Luckily the bugs lessened as the trail climbed higher, and by the time I reached the first major landmark, Calypso Cascades, the hike was perfectly pleasant.
The next major landmark was less than a mile away and was another set of waterfalls, Ouzel Falls. The picture that I took did not turn out that well, so I’ll just leave it to your imagination. It was a pretty mountain waterfall. After Ouzel Falls, the trail changed significantly, as it began to wander through a recovering area of the forest. In 1978, lightning struck a tree and started the Ouzel Lake Fire. Nearly 30 years later, the forest is still recuperating, and it was kind of eery to be walking through a half charred forest all by myself. Arriving at 7 a.m. at the Wild Basin had definitely ensured that I had the trails completely to myself, which I almost regretted while hiking through the deserted forest.
Finally, the trail started making the final ascent to Bluebird Lake. The trail became impossible to follow at this point, due to the large snow fields, and I continued climbing up rocks and making my way up. Every once in awhile I ran into a stone cairn, which was reassuring. But as always, Bluebird Lake was worth the hike. One of my favorite parts of hiking is the final climb to the destination, when you first get a glimpse of the lake, waterfall, or summit that you have been working towards. In this case, my first glimpse of Bluebird Lake was extremely rewarding.
The water in Bluebird Lake was legitimately blue. The picture shows it a little bit, but it is so much more impressive in person. I took a lunch break and climbed around the shore for awhile, just enjoying the setting. Apparently there are two more lakes beyond Bluebird Lake, and I will be trying to find them in the future. I didn’t want to go exploring too far off the beaten path today though, since I was hiking alone.
The hike down was pretty uneventful. Well, except for the fact that I took a minor detour on a trail to a campsite. No big deal, I just wanted to make my hike longer. Why hike 12.6 miles when you can hike 13.6 miles? That’s my motto.
In other exciting news, today was the first day that I used the fancy Osprey backpack that my brother gave me for graduation. Since my hike was longer today, I thought it merited a real hiking backpack. It was awesome, I don’t know why I haven’t been using it all along. Thanks Derek!