Today turned out to be a perfect day for a hike. I unexpectedly had a block of five hours mid-day, the right amount of time to drive to the trailhead of Brainard Lake in the Indian Peaks Wilderness area, hike several miles, and return home before late afternoon events.
The smokey air from the recent Cold Springs fire near Nederland had evaporated, leaving stunning blue skies. The thunderstorms forecast for later morning and into the afternoon held off, only puffy white clouds occasionally blocked the sun. The weather was temperate, after several hot days.
I discovered Indian Peaks Wilderness area several years ago; the relatively moderate hike from Brainard Lake to Mitchell Lake and onto Blue Lake at the base of Mount Toll (12, 979′) is lovely.
This year, the late spring snows and heavy rains contributed to colorful wildflowers, intense new green growth in the dense conifer forests, and heavy water run-off into the streams that spill into the lakes. The trail is packed dirt with some rocky areas, slightly rising from Brainard Lake to Mitchell Lake (with a log bridge crossing) and then a few steep, narrow areas, like giant stairs, up to Blue Lake.
The meadows were awash in flowers and butterflies and dotted with surely very cold ponds. The upper peaks of the surrounding mountains still had patches of snow, stark white against the grayish rock. The intensity of the cerulean skies contrasted with the greens and browns and grays of the earth. Not even pictures can convey this magic of being in the mountains.
To me, the serenity and peace and wildness of a place so close to civilization is wondrous and amazing. I wish we all could step back from our lives and soak in the quiet beauty of nature, especially in these chaotic, uncertain, and unknown times.
This hike was perfect: the right distance, not too hard, a break in my day, and unexpected but hoped for high-altitude flora and fauna!