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Thursday, August 2, 2012

A Rendezvous With Ice Lake, and Hip, Hip, Hip, Hooray For Kathy

The Road To Ice Lake.
The plan was to gradually add distance and elevation as our RV hiking group became acclimated, saving the best hike for last. But "plans" are like RV curse words to footloose vagabonds; "Here today, gone tomorrow." Dang, I ended up saving the best eye candy a little bit too long. Scamps, and Jim and Gayle departed The Crevice a few days ago, along with Debbie and Wonder Dog Elliot. John Q is long gone, now hanging near Crested Butte and dreading the long flatland drive home to Indiana. I guess the sweetest hike will have to wait till next year for you guys. But not for us.

We are down to Boonie and Marathon Man, Leonard, for potential hike-mates. Having just come off a taxing hike to Upper Cascade Falls the day before, Boonie had a preference to do something local and shorter for his last hike. He departs The Crevice on Thursday. I wanted to blackmail him with the promise of "eye candy," but realized that would be futile and let him go his own way (sigh). It was down to Bobbie, Leonard and me. I told Leonard to not bother wearing any socks on this hike because the "pretties" would just knock them off.

Ice Lake lies just beyond the flowers... in a basin, hemmed with surreal mountains.

There is a story to go along with the Ice Lake hike. Meet Kathy, and her little dog Maggie. 

Maggie and Kathy

First I met Kathy's Dog, Maggie, tripping along the trail down from Ice Lake. I was grunting out the final hundred yards up... huffing like a two pack smoker, puffing like a steam engine, and sweating like Lucifer. I think I frightened the poor little dog; it stopped dead in its tracks and waited for reinforcements. Kathy eventually caught up and struck a conversation, remarking how beautiful the day was and so, too, this garden basin. 

Kathy mentioned that she and her husband winter in southern New Mexico but come to Colorado to "summer" and camp host at various campgrounds in the area. "A great life," she mused, then blurted, "It's my sixty eighth birthday today, you know." Maggie was glued to my boot, sniffing God-knows what scent. I congratulated Kathy on her birthday, and her wise choice on how to celebrate it. 

She told me she had been hiking to Ice Lake for five years, because it was the most beautiful place on earth. "And," she continued, "this is my 68th hike in that five years!" Wow, 68 pilgrimages to Ice Lakes in five years, and number 68 on her sixty eighth birthday. But wait, there's more!

It turns out Kathy has had, not one, not two, but three hip replacements. The doctor told her to forget about hiking to Ice Lake when a tumor forced a third hip replacement. She told me she looked that doctor in the eye and said, "Don't tell me I can't do something or else I'm bound to do it just to prove you wrong." Evidently she is doing just thatI told her she was an inspiration... a good example for others to follow.

I think there is something we boomers can learn from Kathy... her refusal to allow life's challenges to shorten her "leash." It's going to take more than a measly tumor and three hip replacements to reign her in to the Lazy Boy. I offered to meet her at Ice Lake on her next birthday and help her celebrate. It seemed to touch her, so I intend to make good on that promise. She deserves it. 
We piled into Sue Bee and headed out early due to a dire forecast... lightning and thunderstorms, starting as early as 8 AM. But reality found us hiking in perfect conditions, under partly puffy-clouded skies. Damn weathermen. Don't they know people make plans around their inaccurate prognostications... postpone events, even cancel vacations? Thank God Bobbie prodded me into ignoring the doom and gloom, because "it was one of those days." 

You might say Ice Lake is solar powered; it needs sunlight to electrify its blue neon light. Without sun it's just like any ordinary lake in an eye catching basin. Our sun hid behind a stubborn cloud as we arrived upon what appeared to be a dull lake. I'm sure Leonard wondered at my big build up. His socks were still in place. Then, ever so slowly, the cloud moved along, taking its ground shadow with it. It was as if someone had their hand on a dimmer switch and was cranking up the juice. Ice Lake began to shimmer and glow with all the luminosity of a transparent turquoise gemstone. Jaws dropped; hearts soared; "Oh my's" tumbled from lips... reality questioned; eyes teared; atheists knelt. I looked at Leonard, waiting for the impact... three, two, one— "This can't be real!" He slumped down on a rock and began removing his socks. 

Blue sky, white clouds, red mountains, aqua lake, green tundra... sprinkle in some flowers and you got Ice Lake.

You see, the thing about Leonard is he can't resist a good cold-plunge. He ignored my warning, that there was a damn good reason this sky blue water was named Ice Lake. But no, he wouldn't listen. Next thing I know he's stripped down to his skivvies and wading in... deeper, deeper, deeper... until he was standing on the edge of a submerged ledge. Waist deep in a Hamms beer commercial, studying the aqua blue abyss, he deliberated for a moment. Then, Geronimo... he dove in, a squiggly cartoon figure under the surface. His reemergence was marked with gasps and squeals of either delight, or pain. "Yahoo!"
Crazy... just, crazy. 

In the face of eye to eye coercion, double dog Texan dares, and intimations about my Manhood... or lack thereof... I held firm to my convictions and common sense, and did not set so much as a little toe in Ice Lake. 
Because it would have killed me.

Stripping down

Leonard approaches the edge of the ledge and prepares to dive in to the blue abyss

In shadow, Ice Lake's "light" goes out.

Check back for the Ice Lakes video... 
and more photos of our hike.

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Thank you all!!!

And a special thanks to Chris and Mindy 
for taking us out to the Western Hotel
and feeding us 
Pizza and Beer!


  1. Beautiful photos, as usual. :)

    Wish I could've joined you, but fate has me tied to the hip with Moab right now (not a bad place to be, even though hot).

    I hiked Ice Lakes a few years back and the columbine were gorgeous. Went on up to the upper lake and lolligagged around a bit, then on the way down passed a bunch of Outward Bound types wearing big packs and looking miserable. I felt kind of sorry for them, being in such a cool place and yet feeling tortured. Then it started snowing, of course, to add to their misery (this was in late August). But I sure enjoyed it.

  2. Mark, Your pictures these past few weeks have been outstanding....have really enjoyed them. You can't know what they mean to old folk like me who cannot see the scenes in person.

    Many,many thanks..

    A loyal Texas fan

  3. Makes me want to turn around and head back to Ouray just so we can hike this. Great photos as usual. Leonard makes me laugh! Miss you guys. Scamp M

  4. Mark...As I read it, your post elicited a veritable smorgasbord of emotions. First I was bummed that we weren't still there, then a bit jealous, then on to being glad to have met not only you and Bobbie, but Leonard, John Q, and the Scamps, being overwhelmed (understatement) by the scenery, humbled by Kathy, and finally amazed and amused by Leonard's version of the polar bear plunge. I feel drained..but in a good way...thanks! Debbie (and Elliot)

  5. Oh. My. Lord. What a beautiful spot! Thank you so much for the pictures. I will be back one day.

  6. Mark, just say the word and we'll be back in a heartbeat to hike that trail with you! If only we had place to stay...
    The story about Kathy was definitely inspirational. And who else but crazy Leonard would go for a swim in ice Lake.
    Wonderful photos as usual. We're jealous!

  7. Mark, The views and beauty of Ice Lake is as I remember it from our hike in 2009. Absolutely beautiful. But taking a dip in that ice water suitable to mix with Crown Royal.... No way. Even if I actually took the step in, there is not enough insulating fat to protect me from immediate hypothermia. I shiver with the thought!

  8. You may have lost a few hikers, this year, but meeting Kathy more than makes up for it. That Leonard is crazy, or at least part polar bear. Ice Lake is most gorgeous.

  9. Spotted Dog,
    Moab is sooo cool, but yikes, not in summer time. But you are only a couple hours away from Lovely Ouray if you want to cool off. Of course the La Sals are closer :)

    We met several backpacker coming down as we were going up and they said it rained all night up in the basin... and lightninged. It's humbling to be camped in a little tent above timberline when lightning is bouncing off the walls. Thanks for your comment and good luck with your new e book. Got to down load the kindle versions soon.

    Loyal Texas Fan,
    That is music to my ears. I appreciate knowing that the BCB is reaching the hearts of "someone." It has been great run lately... good light, good skies, good clouds, good friends. Glad we could take you with us in spirit.

    Maybe next time... we're always up for a hike to Ice Lake. Grand Mesa looks great on your Facebook page, but I'm suspicious at your claim of "no misquotes." :0
    Travel on... keep us posted... and consider a trip to Zion come November.

    "Bummed, jealous, glad, humbled, amazed and drained..." Wow, that is a "smorgasbord" of adjectives!!! Just think if you had been there :)).
    Leonard is an endearing old soul... in a crazy sort of way. I hope you guys enjoy the rest of summer... it will begin to wane here in The Crevice soon. As it does my thoughts will turn to Ms Autumn, and her Golden Fleece. Thanks for commenting...

    Al and Karen,
    Look us up when you return... Travel well, and thanks.

    Jim and Gayle,
    Departing Lovely Ouray is like marrying off children: You miss them so much, but then realize you will see them again. The hike to Ice Lake is under six miles, but there are a lot of psychological "almost there" bends in the road to endure. If Kathy can do it, anybody can, right? Can't wait to show you the way, thanks for dropping by and sharing our hikes.

    Wandrin Lloyd,
    It is an unforgettable hike, and the "Light" was on the day we trekked to Ice Lake. Maybe just a knee deep dip next time :)).

    Thanks. Your Lighning shots at the Grand Canyon are wonderful, too. Check Gaelyns link folks...

    thanks all! Mark.

  10. Post Script:
    Stay tuned for the release of my latest Youtube Video with "IceMan Leonard" wading into Ice Lake.
    Probably tomorrow morning, if the gods of upload favor Dwellers of The Crevice.
    Box Canyon Mark :)

  11. ever think about a, b n b such a beautiful place,i would like to rent that house you have for sale,for a week or two in the summer.gary


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