The first time I looked at a topographic map of the Gore Range and the Eagle's Nest Wilderness, one thought rang like a bell in my head: Hey, there are lakes back there. Lots of them.
It was like a revelation. What had once seemed an imposing wall stretching out behind my home in Wildernest became a doorway. I was drawn to them - ice-cold bodies of water, mysteriously trapped high in the mountains near treeline. And once I had seen Upper Cataract Lake, west of Heeney, revelation became epiphany: "I must see them all." I didn't come even close, of course, but I did cover more than 40 miles of trails and 30,000 total vertical feet this summer in select spots from Copper Mountain to Elliot Ridge at the very northern tip of Summit County.
Unfortunately, I picked a very challenging summer to do it, especially since my purpose was to capture images of these lakes and peaks. When you're carrying an extra 10 to 15 pounds of camera gear (and you've asked your backpacking partners to carry some, too), daily rainstorms can test your patience and faith. It rained on us every day on the trail except one. But for a few windows of sunshine, all of my pictures would have been gray and dreary.
I still found strength to smile, though: Red Buffalo Pass, the lowest natural crossing between Summit and Eagle counties through the Gore Range (accessible by hiking up the South Willow Creek trail between Buffalo and Red mountains) was almost the route chosen for Interstate 70. Even in the rain and cold, I'll take wilderness over highways.
Reid Williams can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 237 or firstname.lastname@example.org.