From the summer trailhead in Wild
Basin, Rocky Mt. Natl. Park, it is only a 0.3 mi. walk to Copland Falls, a long series of
cascades -- beautiful water and water sounds, too. I passed golden
Aspen in early October, and on the forest floor, stands of bracken in
a paler gold. As I walked, I had a steady musical accompaniment, off
to the left -- the bubble, rush, and gurgle of St. Vrain Creek.
About a mile in, I came to a bridge
just downstream of another cascade, and I crossed to the south side
of the creek. Another half mile brought me to Calypso Cascades.
Here, we learn that these waters contain native greenback cutthroat
trout -- with green, bright yellow or orange sides, and with red at
the throat. The trout was thought to be extinct back in 1939, given all the
dam construction, water diversion, overfishing, and competition with
introduced, non-native species, but it was rediscovered in Como Creek
in the 1960s, and it's coming back. We're taking out the rainbow,
brown, and brook trout and some of the dams, and fishing is better
controlled. There are an estimated 147 lakes and 421 miles of cold
streams with rapids and falls in the Park. The greenback cutthroat is
being restocked and is now the state fish of Colorado.
At 2.1 mi., I came to Ouzel Falls. It's
not huge, but it does fall free for 15 feet or so and it sparkles and
dances. From a little farther on, there are wide views over the St.
Vrain valley with little spots of bright gold against the green-black
of the pines and firs.
I passed the intersection with the
trail north and west to Lion and Thunder Lakes and continued more due
west. There is a section here through the 1978 Ouzel Lake fire zone.
It was a lightening strike in August that ignited it and, being
"natural," it was allowed to burn for a month or more. When
Allenspark was threatened, hundreds of folk did fight it, but it
wasn't declared out until December, and over 1,000 acres had burned.
Grasses have come back, but mostly you notice burned trunks standing,
burned logs like pick-up-sticks, and exposed rock -- like the flesh
has been burned off the bones. In the summer, this is still a hot,
bright, exposed, dusty trek.
There are certainly good views -- of
Mt. Copeland to the south and Mt. Orton and Mt. Meeker to the north.
I curved around a bit to the WSW and looked up the Ouzel-Bluebird
valley to Ouzel Peak on the Divide. At 4.4 mi. I turned south toward Ouzel Lake and walked back into unburned
forest. This is a 0.5
mi. side trail down to Ouzel Creek (with trout) and to the secluded
I bushwhacked across wet meadow and back up to the Bluebird
Lake trail and on west. Here, the trail rises steeply among rocks,
cliffs, and stunted fir and pine. At 5.9 mi., I emerged high above
the banks of Bluebird Lake. There were two old snowbanks across the
water and against the Continental Divide. I love the great cliffs and
It was with a certain amount of longing that I gazed at the cirques on either side of Ouzel Peak. I knew that there was a lake in each one, high up and far away -- Junco Lake to the south of the peak and Pipit Lake to the north -- and I wanted to climb up there and admire them. I wanted to climb the peak, for that matter, but I couldn't do it. I contented myself with the slate-blue waters of Bluebird, rippling in the sun, the heather patches along the banks, the rock and talus, and the quiet solitude. I listened carefully. There was wind, but nothing else -- lunch time.
At the bridge
The old burn area and Mt. Copeland
Bluebird Lake and Ouzel Peak
From Boulder, take route 36 north to Lyons and route 7
west and north through Allenspark. Cross the North St. Vrain
Creek at mile marker 13, pass a sign for the Wild Basin Area, and turn left onto CR 84 W. Pass the
Wild Basin Lodge on the left and turn right into the Rocky Mt. National
Park Wild Basin entrance station, 0.4 mi.
from the highway. Drive 2.6 mi. to the trailhead at the end of a dirt road.
Click on the thrumbnails above for photos of my trail maps. A good trail map for all of Boulder County is available from the Boulder Area Trails Coalition (link on home page).
|© Harold and Meredith Sears, Boulder, CO, firstname.lastname@example.org. All rights reserved.|