Hiking Spruce Creek to Mohawk Lakes CO (2011)
From my home in Boulder, there is no good transit access to the Wooly Mammoth Park-n-Ride just west of Denver. This is a curiosity, as this Park-n-Ride is a common place for adventurers – particularly skiers – to carpool to adventures in Colorado. And Boulder is home to quite a few adventurers. It is also puzzling because Denver and Boulder have a well-deserved reputation for relatively high-quality transit.
The unfortunate aspect for me is that many adventures I am interested in depart from this Park-n-Ride, and I generally must decide against such adventures as I am proudly car-free and have no reasonable way to get to the Park-n-Ride.
A “Grey Wolves” meetup group, in early July, proposes an attractive hike near Breckenridge. I sign up, even though the group intends to carpool from the Park-n-Ride. Fortunately, I ask for and am granted a ride to the Park-n-Ride by someone in the group. Perhaps appropriately, however, my ride unintentionally passes the Park-n-Ride, so we instead just drive straight to the trailhead.
The trailhead is found a few miles south of the Breckenridge Town Center. For the first few miles, the trail is relatively easy and flat, with a smooth, reasonably wide track. For most of this distance, we hear the roaring Spruce Creek – filled to the brim with rushing spring runoff from an unsually large snowpack from the previous winter – near us on the left or right.
We pass a secondary trail parking lot, where a diversion structure for Spruce Creek has been built. Soon, we reach a trail junction. To our right, the trail spur leads to the small Mayflower Lake, which is flanked by impressive, snow-capped mountains. To the left, the main trail leads us toward the Mohawk Lakes and Continental Divide.
Soon, we come upon a number of steep yet relatively short sections of the trail. Patches of snow start appearing despite our hike taking place in early July. But the late winter weather this year has delayed the wildflower show, so the flowers are less profuse than they would ordinarily be at this time of year.
Eventually, we reach an area where several log cabin ruins are found. One trail in this area leads to the impressive Lower Mohawk Falls.
Up a rather steep slope, we arrive at the remnants of a wood and cable structure, which appears to be a device used long ago for mining in this area.
The views of the Breckenridge valley are magnificent and extend for miles and miles in the distance as we ascend and look back in awe behind us.
At Lower Mohawk Lake, we stop to eat lunch and rest. I have noticed myself gasping for air – more so than I am used to for this level of exertion. Since the trail has taken us well over 11,000 feet at this point, the gasping is to be expected. The gasping is also undoubtebly due to the breathtaking views all around us.While there, we hear the familiar, distinctly loud chirps of picas, the large rodents found at higher elevations in the Rockies. I look down two rock crevases and each time spot a very cute pica at the bottom, looking up and chirping as if he thinks he will scare me away.
Toward the Continental Divide and the rocky shelf, we decide the trail and elevation gain is moderate enough for us to ascend to Upper Mohawk Lake. It is well worth the time and effort. Upper Mohawk is impressive, as it is surrounded by looming mountains (including the 13,950-foot Pacific Peak) and remarkable snowfields.
Once there, we again decide to ascend to the NEXT perched lake up the mountain slopes from Upper Mohawk. As we passed by Upper Mohawk, we start hearing a loud rumble. Scanning the rock wall, we spot a narrow avalanche of rock, snow and water pummeting down the face. Quite a rare, impressive sight.
At these unnamed lakes, we see what appears to be still more perched lakes higher up, but we decide to turn back. We are, here, at 12,450 feet. We are on top of the world.
The elevation gain from the trail head to unnamed lakes just upslope from Upper Mohawk Lake is 1,800 feet. Roundtrip distance is 8 miles.
This YouTube link shows a photo movie from our hike: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WhzOEtqPSBc
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