(Michigan Lakes)

Location: Colorado State Forest
Maps: USGS 7.5' Quads: Mt Richtofen, Clark Peak; Trails Illustrated 1:40K: Cameron Pass #112
Access: From Ted's Place at the Poudre Canyon entrance, drive 60.1 miles west on Hwy 14 to the Crags/Lake Agnes turnoff just past Cameron Pass. At the first road fork, go left. Trailhead is at dead end of road. Driving time from Ft Collins is around 1:45.
Trailhead: NAD83 zone 13 425153e 4484122n  Elev: 9838'
Fees: $5/vehicle/day; $2/hiker/day if no car
Trail: 4 miles one-way. Elevation gain of about 1400 ft. Starts in wooded area, ends in alpine tundra.
Dog Regulations: 6' leash control
Weather: Current and recent conditions from your friends at the NOAA      National Weather Service Forecast

Andra, Frank and I took a leisurely stroll up to the two lakes called the American Lakes in late September 2000. The terminology is confusing. One of the lakes is also known as Snow Lake, so really there is only one American Lake. The Colorado State Forest also calls them the Michigan Lakes, despite the fact that Michigan Lake is up the road about 10 miles. Who knows? Who cares? What we call the lakes is of no importance to anyone as we crunch the gravel of the trail under stiff-soled hiking boots.

Looking east from Snow Lake (distant peak on the left is Iron Mountain)
Frank handles reconnaisance, and roves from side to side in large, 50 meter sweeps with his nose to the ground. We are the only hikers on the trail that morning, and the peaceful, cool forest is most inviting. A collapsed logging shack serves as our lunch venue, mostly because it is in the sun. The fall air is cool, and the mid-morning sun is warm, providing that delicous dichotomy of warmth on the sunside and chill on the shade side. We walk without speed or any discernable purpose to the outside observer. The trail leads us on up the valley towards the destination, although the hike is more of the purpose rather than the lake. Still, before noon we reach the lakes, deep blue pools of water barely held back by a slim, insignificant slate of grass.
at the old lumber shack
part of the Nokhu Crags across Snow LakeThe upper lake is much higher than the lower one, and is a strenuous hike to reach. Andra decides to remain by the lower lake and read while I take a quick trip up with Frank. The upper lake is barren, completely lacking in plant life of any kind. It's shores are a maze of sharp rocks and boulders, unstable and wobbly underfoot. While seated at its shores, no green is visible. The only sign of life is the profusion of lichens attached tenaciously to the rocks, and two talkative ravens hoarsely cawing from the cliffs on the far shore. These cliffs are the Nokhu Crags, a splendid formation consisting of sharp, unwholesomely barren and jagged pinnacles pointing sharply toward the sky. From the upper lake's shores, they are but a few hunderd feet above me, and I consider trying to make it to the top. For on the other side, over a thousand feet below, are the deep blue waters of Lake Agnes. In the end, I opt to merely sit and listen to the brisk wind howl among the rocks.

Frankie watches the water ripple, and seems very content to be a dog on this day. Dogs need a life, and Frank lives well, I think. Back at the lower lake some time later, Andra and I throw rocks for Frankie to chase, a favorite activity sinse frisbee became off-limits. Andra finds a thick stick and tosses it just into the lake. Frank cautiously walks in, then goes completely under as he falls off the shelf and into the deep abyss. He spastically splashes his way to the stick and executes a tight u-turn in mid water before paddling back to shore. We throw the stick a few more times, and he seems to enjoy the swimming. His short hair dries quickly on the walk back, although for him the walk back is a constant state of loping along in the wind-blown grass, searching for uncatchable critters.

Frank at Snow Lake
The sun is low on the horizon this time of year, and the yellow mountain mahogany signals winter's approach. Deep shadows harbor cold breezes, and the air is crisp and light. A certain mournfulness hangs in the air. Puffy cumulonimbus clouds which bring powerful summer thunderstorms have already given way to the high sweeping thin cirrus clouds of winter.

One week after we hiked this trail, it was buried under snow for the winter.

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Page Created December 14, 2000
Updated December 25, 2001