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Sunday, August 18, 2019

Two Tickets To Paradise

"The love of wilderness is more than a hunger for what is always beyond reach; it is also an expression of loyalty to the earth, the earth which bore us and sustains us, the only paradise we shall ever know, the only paradise we ever need, if only we had the eyes to see."  Edward Abbey   

On the Silverton side of Red Mountain Pass we hung a near U-turn right on a winding, but sedan-passable, dirt road. Less than 4 miles later Bobbie and I were on the trail to Paradise, from all appearances little known and seldom used.

Barely visible, the trail to Paradise...with a view North at rugged Lookout Mountain—with its colorful sub-peaks and ridge line.  Columbine Lake, perhaps Colorado's "bluest" lake of all, nestles in a glacial-carved basin the other side of Lookout's ragged ridge line.
It is said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, that one man's 1947 Cheval Blanc is another man's bilgewater. But Paradise Basin is such a magical place, a cirque, crowned with such seductive spires and intrigue that one would be hard pressed to find a single soul who could dispute its deserving moniker.

Paradise Basin lies at the foot of that rocky ridge line in the distance

The trail comes and goes, like the day's puffy clouds that go from threatening, to benign, and back to threatening. 

Somewhere along the ridge line in the above photo, we will attempt to breach its defenses...just to see what's on the other side. 

It has become a "game" of sorts, to ascend into basins above timberline, pick a random saddle, and try to guess what's on the other side...without reference to a map or app, of course, just based on our growing collection of "dots." 

The saddle in the above photo was one we climbed on our last trip to Paradise Basin. With some tricky maneuvering, we were able to look down on Crystal Lake, Ophir Pass, the little mountain town of Ophir, and then westward, all the way to the La Sal Mountains in Utah. 

So on this trip to Paradise, we needed some new "dots," a "surprise view."  We chose the south ridge line (see red dot below entitled" Our Ridge Line Goal). As usual, it turned out to be steeper than it looked, but, as usual, well worth the struggle.

Google Earth image of Paradise Basin, and the close proximity of goal-worthy explorations
From the uppermost basin, a small lake still clings to winter with a shrinking iceberg floating dead-center.
We made our way cross-country from the large patch of snow at the base of a 13er mountain...

We breach the first line of our objective's defenses by navigating a through a scree of tipsy boulders, then followed a staircase of tundra that, from below, appeared to be our best route to gain a ridge line saddle.
A pause to look back at a vast moraine and catch breath...

Four wheel drive is engaged far above "Iceberg Lake."

Of course the tundra steepens, just enough to make the climb more interesting.

Almost there...

Back to two-wheel drive...

Light and shadow frolic across the landscape. Wildflowers proliferate.

Just before cresting our saddle objective, I asked Bobbie what she thought we would see on the other side. She guessed, Clear Lake. I had no idea. Sure enough, there was Clear Lake. 

With previous posts in mind, take moment to take another look at the Google Map several photos up. It gives you an idea of how close, yet how completely different, each individual basins can be. Within the innumerable basins are multiple ridge lines and saddles that offer contrasting views and perspectives, not to mention rewards for curios wanderers... ideas for further exploration and "dot" connecting. 

Our ridge line saddle...pretty nice.

Just beyond/below the rust-colored gap to the right side of the above photo is Island and Ice Lakes...according to mapographer Bobbie's calculations

Now Bobbie checks the map looking for new dots to connect

In spite of the "clear all day" forecast, dark clouds and a rumble of thunder sneaks up behind us. 

Panorama: Scroll  →

Paradise was always over there, a day’s "sail" away. But it’s a funny thing, escapism. You can go far and wide and you can keep moving on and on through places and years, but you never escape your own life.”  J. Maarten Troost

Indeed: Wherever you go, there you are...baggage in tow. On this day, at least, we had Paradise all to ourselves. It was a unique perspective, to be able to see Clear Lake from the top down instead of at eye level. 
Feeling small in Paradise... 

mark and bobbie...on a constant search for just the right place to spread our ashes. :)
Peace Out!


  1. What a magnificent spot... well worth the trek

  2. What a marvelous place. Thanks for taking us there.

  3. Such glorious scenery! I love your dot connecting explorations!

  4. You guys are really doing the right thing by getting out there and connecting those endless dots. Now is the time to be in the high country, the leaves will be turning before you know it! Chris

  5. That's some steep stuff you were climbing. Beautiful photos. Interesting how that thunder and dark clouds come out of nowhere in the mountains. I have that almost every day now that I have moved from Indiana to SE Arizona. You got me out of my chair and into daily biking and hiking. Thank you.

  6. You are on an absolute roll with these blog posts! I have been so uninspired.

  7. So many lakes and every one a jewel. Don't suppose you could see all of them in a days outing?

    What a Planet.


  8. Love Clear Lake! It doesn't look too busy when you were there as it sometimes can be. Last year we talked to 2 hikers who had hiked down from your route and were planning on camping overnight before heading further south. They were expecting a pretty chilly night!


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