Brainard Lake to Mount Audubon...almost, September 22, 2002

Having hiked Mount Bierstadt yesterday, I lazily stayed in bed this morning. Finally, I looked at the clock at 8:27am and said to myself, "You can stay in bed and by 2:00pm regret having done so, or you can get up, take a shower, be out the door by 9:00am and on the trail by 11:00am." I went with the latter, and I'm glad I did. I drove to the Brainard Lake Recreation Area, parked at the Mitchell Lake Trailhead (elevation 11,300) and hit the trail for Mount Audubon, four miles away.
This hike is in the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area.
The beginning of the trail is well groomed and in the trees. But it climbs steadily and I was above treeline in a half hour. Here is a view of Mitchell Lake from above.
Yours truly on the trail. It is already quite windy.
By the time I reached the intersection with the Beaver Creek Trail (1.5 miles?) it was very windy. I met two women coming down the trail who were not prepared for the cold. One complained of cold ears: she didn't have a hat so she had tied some clothing around her head. This hike would have been impossible without coat, hat and gloves.
The trail becomes steeper, rougher and more exposed beyond the Beaver Creek Trail.
Looking back...other hikers in the distance.
Can you see the trail through this boulder field? It is directly in front and center!
The wind was stronger and colder the higher I got. Having reached the saddle below Mount Audubon (saddle at 12,600 feet) I decided I would not hike the remaining quarter mile to the top (summit at 13,223 feet). Some hikers made the same decision, while others such as these two continued on.
I continued about 100 yards west of the saddle and was rewarded with this spectacular view.
Another unnamed lake visible from the saddle. According to the topo map, it is 1,600 feet below me, which should give you some idea of how steep the terrain is.
Longs Peak (center) in Rocky Mountain National Park as seen from the saddle.
Self portrait at the saddle. It was very difficult to stand in the strong, cold wind. I'm a big guy and I was almost blown over. Skipping the summit was the right choice for me.
Heading back. Can you see the trail in the center of this picture?
I took a short detour on the Beaver Creek Trail. Here is a view of Longs Peak (furthest) from that trail.
My hike lasted about five hours. I drove the Peak-to-Peak highway to Nederland as I made my way back to Denver. This was expected to be the best weekend for fall colors. Many people would pull over and park to view the colors. It reminded me of the spontaneous traffic jams which occur at Yellowstone National Park when tourists see wildlife!
Another shot of "Colorado Gold" just north of Nederland.
I really enjoyed this hike. The views from the saddle were breathtaking. But I was only there for about five minutes because of the extreme cold. So why do I do it? I know I am not the only hiker to ask himself this question. As the last two photos demonstrate, you can see many wonderful sights from the comfort of your car. But hiking has its own rewards. Having put forth the requisite energy, I think many hikers, upon seeing vistas such as I saw from the saddle, have a feeling of being rewarded; as if God was saying, "Here, you've earned the right to see this." It is a spiritual high. Thank you.
Copyright © 2002 by Bill Qualls. Last updated September 22, 2002.
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