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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

White Dog, Blue Lakes, and A Fish Tale

Meet Aspen. That's her taking in a gorgeous far view on the trail to Blue Lakes. Ok, it was a chipmunk that actually stole her gaze, but you can't see the little rodent so I made up the "far view" part. Aspen is a good solid Colorado name for a white dog of the female gender, if you're one to look to trees as namesakes. 

I like to put off naming a pet until their personality begins to blossom. That's how our high strung kitty came by his name, Jitters. A light sleeper, spooked by the slightest noise, Jitters always seemed like he was strung out on caffeine. Even his name scared him, if you said it to loud. Fraidy cats do not make good mousers.

Aspen, as you probably figured out by now, got her name due to her resemblance in color to the bark of her namesake tree (that Aspen the dog and aspen the tree both have "bark" is merely coincidental). This is the time of year we seek out Aspen forests... to bask in the filtered light of their cadmium orange and yellow canopies... out of reach canopies of leaves that shimmer and "quake" in the breeze and seemingly sit atop tall white telephone poles as if in competition for sunlight. Aspen forests are dispersed and well lit, thus more inviting to me than the deep obnoxious darkness of spruce and fir. I love the species of aspen that has white bark... their human-esque punctuations of "eyes" and "lips" that remind me of a... uh, a totem pole snowman, for lack of a better description; literally hundreds of "faces" on every tree. I digress. 

Aspen's mom and dad were kind enough to invite us along on a hike to Blue Lakes. It's a favorite area of ours as the lakes reside in the lap of our local 14'er, Mount Sneffels. There are three Blue Lakes to temp eye and lure... a staircase of Lower, Middle and Highest. Lower Blue is near timberline, some 11,000 feet, while Middle and High Blue are set at a lofty 12,000 and 13,000. All offer views of peaks, ridge lines, moraines and tundra. Cutthroat Trout await anglers patient enough to ply line and fly to the sparkling surface all three Blue Lakes. I have proof a little further down page.

As Lovely Ouray's crazy seasonal invasion of tourists finally begins to wind down, Main Street entrepreneurs Bruce and Tamara have more time to break away from their Mountain Fever store. You can find almost anything and everything in there if you look long and hard enough... out of the ordinary items, too. Be sure to stop in and say hello next time you're in town. You might even run into Bobbie, refolding T shirts, dusting, and putting things back in order for the next wave of souvenir seeking shoppers.

It's about 3.3 miles to Lower Blue Lake, with an elevation gain of 1500 feet. Timber begins to thin out at Lower Blue, leaving unencumbered views of Sneffels backside and lone teton. Some 35 years ago I set a camp amongst a few trees at the edge of Lower Blue. I'd get up at the crack of dawn in order to be casting a line on the Middle Blue at first light. It's one of those exceptional memories... of being alone in a place so grandiose that it rendered the act of fishing more important than catching

As in Robert Redford's movie, A River Runs Through It, there is something inexplicably affective about the art of a perfectly cast line... when one lands a dry fly smack in the epicenter of a recurrent rings where cutthroat nibble at breakfast. There is also something emotionally rich and thunderous about the ear-ring of absolute silence. Talk about an "endangered species." 

I was psychologically tranquilized by the sweet aromatic blend of alpine air and tundra... a transplanted city boy all by his lonesome on the shores of a lake bluer than sky, a human sponge, absorbing all the sublime outdoor glory that went missing from a treadmill life Monday morning through Friday afternoon. I eventually succumbed to the addiction of an outdoor life. It's what got me through. It's how I survived. It's why I'm here, and here. I am compelled by a force I don't fully understand... to seek out extraordinary places where I can immerse my empty vessel, replenish, and repeat as necessary... which is often. 

I caught and released several trout on that backpacking trip to Blue Lakes, taking home only images on a roll of Fugi Ectachrome slide film... iso 200. I would share them with you if I could find them. But they are buried in storage... a few slides hidden amongst ten thousand other slides... snapshots of younger days, smooth skin, and full heads of hair that ring with the same old singular theme and purpose as today... wild country. 

35 years later Blue Lakes hasn't changed a bit. Their waters still reflect blue sky... bleeding gilled Cutthroat Trout still swam at my feet, seemingly unfazed by Aspen and me stomping around in their breakfast bar... and I could almost, almost, reach down and snatch them up by hand. 

There are no rivers that run though places as high and lonesome as Blue Lakes. But there are bottomless moraine carved lakes that collect a brook's babble... and reflect like a mirror the wonder of 14,000 foot peaks. 
Redford has his places; I have mine. 

Look for a movie link at photos end. 

For those with a limited data card and lack of a speedy connection, click the top video in the right hand video bar for a smaller version.

Have a great week! We're going to go work on Goldie's rear lounge remodel now :))
Mark and Bobbie


  1. Good writing, Mark, and another good tale from the past.

  2. Sure enjoyed your photos and video. That Aspen is almost as pretty as the scenery!!


  3. Wonderful photos, how lucky you are to live in such a spectacular area.

  4. Donna K,
    Aspen is very photogenic... if she came in a model about half the size I think we'd have a new doggy.

    Jean and Skip,
    Yes, thanks for reminding me :)) Must not take Lovely Ouray for granted...
    thanks for the comments

  5. Looks like a beautiful hike. Cute dog, too!
    Anxiously awaiting photos of Goldie's new look.

  6. jim and Gayle
    Goldie photos will come... I hope to begin in ernest today :))

  7. what,no fishy no more?

  8. Awesome post Mark and great photos, as usual. Took me back. Tried to climb Sneffels from the Blue Lakes side and got into a big lightning storm at the upper lake - took three different tries to climb it. LOL. I've always loved the glaciated blues in the lakes. Just stunning country.

  9. Spotted Dog,
    We got off course trying to climb that route. Never saw so many rocks and boulders... big as a house. It makes a long day too. Congrats.

  10. Great writing, Mark! Thank you for showing off our beautiful Aspen and even more importantly, sharing your and Bobbie's day with us. Bruce and I, and especially Aspen, really enjoyed it. She needed a nap after that hike. Your blog made me smile. Pics are great. Thanks again! Looking forward to the next adventure!

  11. Tamara,
    Thanks for your comment. We had a great day, and you can't go wrong with doggy pics. :))


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