Colorado Continued… Columbine Lake Trail & Durango

I’ve decided to break Colorado up into a few posts. Given that my own attention span for long blog posts can sometimes wane, I may have realized some of my own posts were a bit too verbose. And super time consuming to write and add photos to. Therefore, I decided to take a play from myself, and mimic my height… short. Anyway, after that digression, back to hiking in the beautiful mountainous state. Hubs longed to complete a challenging hike during our trip, and promptly discovered the Columbine Lake hike, and it was definitely difficult, as advertised. With a 2900 foot elevation gain to finish at 12,685 feet, the lake is a brilliant blue, even on Google satellite. It features 16 switchbacks, followed by a steep meandering incline up the face a mountain, before hugging a bare mountainside for what feels like forever, and finally dumps you at a scintillating azul lake. Intriguing. After a minor heart attack when I thought I was going to plummet down the side of the mountain, we completed the hike and were rewarded with a mostly frozen lake nestled between mountain peaks. Totally worth the next two days of jello legs!  Time for details…

After driving just passed Silverton, a tiny little town higher up from where we were staying that I can only describe as diminutive, we parked in a deserted, dirt “parking lot” off the Million Dollar Highway. I think this is the place? Research showed we should not actually try to drive right to the trailhead unless we had a good 4×4.  Don’t be lazy… just walk. Good advice… our little Nissan sedan definitely would not have made it up the road to the trail. God bless hiking poles for this one. I’m not sure how anyone accomplishes this hike without the little buggers. The trailhead is marked by a wooden marker with “509” on it.  It’s a little ways down the road.  Don’t listen to your husband when he insists Google shows it earlier, and you start climbing up a steep incline with no discernible trail. So once you see 509, start heading up!

The sixteen steep switchbacks, many of which have little to no footing, pass through the forest to culminate on a steep, treeless mountain side with breathtaking views.  Let the climb continue!  The path weaves up the side of the mountain, veers back to the left, before crossing back to the right towards the saddle.  This part is STEEP, and rocky.  The saddle can be tricky to traverse and challenging if you have any issues with heights or ledges.  Guardrails not included.

Once over the saddle, the hardest is behind you.  We hiked this next part in snow (the snow the weeks prior hadn’t melted on this side of the mountain), so just follow the trail or the foot prints in the snow like we did. Once you hear running water… keep going, you’re almost there!

FINALLY!!!! We were met with a profound silence and a pristine reservoir. Columbine Lake is nestled below the steepest peaks of Lookout Peak/Mountain.  Look for Columbine Lake on Google Maps satellite view – it’s an insanely brilliant blue, even half frozen and from that high in the sky!  As research showed, it was definitely worth the HARD hike.  It’s about four-ish miles one way, and took about five and a half hours there and back, to include and eerily silent lunch at the lake.  When not frozen, the lake is occupied by trout, and apparently, one can fish for a tasty trout dinner. Camping is also permitted, but care should be taken due to the fragile tundra surrounding the lake.

We were the only people seated around the half frozen pond, munching on sandwiches. Plus, we passed a whopping two people along this “heavily traveled” path. COVID approved!

Please, enjoy some more astounding pictures from this jaunt through the forest… And some handstands, because… it’s my thing!

And now I’ll explain my minor heart attack… I’m fine with heights – I’ve been skydiving many times, I’ve done a handstand on the edge of a cliff in Ireland, and I can stand at the very brink of a precipice the plummets into the Atlantic Ocean. Apparently, hiking on a narrow trail that has very little footing and can result in me sliding down the side of a mountain bothers me. The switchbacks had no grip, were insanely steep, and messed with my mind. However, my stubbornness and determination won out, and I pushed through them. I conquered that damned trail!

Hubs and I opted to take the next day off after that hike. Our legs were rather displeased with us. Instead, we drove to Durango, which as since become one of our favorite larger towns, where we plopped our rears down on stools in the local winery. Delightful little establishment… Four Leaves Winery. The lone proprietor was manning the bar that afternoon… Dean Fagner. He wandered on over to our table, and gave us the run down on the “flights” of wine. Being me, I desired tastes of several of the reds. Hubs elected for a couple of whites thrown in the mix. Another bottle later, we bonded with Dean. He collects challenge coins from various agencies and law enforcement professions, and proudly displays them on the wall behind the bar. I like this place even more. We chatted with him all afternoon, and made sure to purchase a couple bottles of his delicious wines, and promised to send him one of our own challenge coins to add to his collection.

Durango’s main drag, Main Street (shocking, I know), is lined with outdoorsy shops and stores. Along with boutique book stores, distinctive coffee shops that pair your caffeine beverage with whiskey (awesomeness I can certainly get on board with), and a smattering of jewelry stores and galleries, the quintessential downtown is nestled amongst the many peaks of the Rocky Mountains.

Much like on my last post, I shall have to add Durango photos at a later date. Technology is neglecting to obey my demands to upload images again, and therefore, I cannot access them to display them on here.

Next up, Purgatory Flats hike!

Leave a Reply