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When you invite friends in from out of state to hike, you hope for good weather. It was therefore with chagrin that our two-car caravan pulled into the TH along the road to Mohawk Lake in a steady hard rain. Mike had driven up from southern Colorado the evening before, while Nolan and Mandy had flown in on a red eye from Fort Worth. We had all met up at the Starbucks in Idaho Springs and Nolan had ridden with Andra and I through Breckenridge and to the trailhead. We had already bagged our plans of backpacking just two days prior due to the miserable forecast, and now we were simply trying to salvage some kind of hiking. I slid into my rainpants and jacket in the car, laced up my leather boots and stepped out of the car into the rain. I raised up the hatch on the Forester, and stood underneath it to keep dry while pulling out lunch foods I had envisioned would be eaten by all under the shade of a large spruce tree beside a sun-drenched meadow.
Always in good spirits, Nolan entertained us all. Recently having lost more than 70 pounds and aiming for more, he was still wearing the pants that fit him when his waist was 10” larger, held up by a belt with all the extra fabric scrunched together in behind him. Mike and Mandy donned their rain gear and we all snacked on berries, granola, sausage and cheese at the back of the Forester, kind of like a mobile buffet line. Around noon we left the car and trudged up the sodden road to the south. We could have continued on in the Forester, but the road does get increasingly rough the closer to the actual TH you get, and there were several large puddles of unknown depth that would have given me some heartburn trying to cross.
The trailhead was situated at the end of a diversion structure access road, and it began climbing at a steady pace as soon as it began. The route led through a dense spruce/fir forest, and even after the rain stopped the needles collected water and sent down large, fat drops of cold water. We passed by an old mining cabin that looked as if it could fall down at any moment. Naturally, we went inside, and found an array of old junk and old garbage. It appeared as if some folks had utilized the cabin as a shelter for camping and an open fire. The weather would have to pretty bad out for me to prefer this to the open air. We continued on and after a switchback, headed up a steep hill. A rusted cable ran down the slope along Spruce Creek, and we left the trail and picked our way uphill near the water that was gushing down a very steep, rocky channel, frothing and foaming as it crashed from ledge to ledge in a continual waterfall. At the top of the slope, a large pulley block is slowly falling apart, and rusted cables and tidbits of iron litter the ground all around. The view is quite nice to the east and north, and Nolan stood on top of the dilapidated works surveying the scene.
Pressing on, we reached Lower Mohawk Lake a few minutes later. Wet clouds hung low over Mt Helen to the north. We filtered water and then Nolan and I hiked up the short distance between the two lakes. It was cloudy and wet, but the air seemed to have warmed a lot and the hiking was pleasant. Nolan scraped up a handful of remnant snow and formed a snowball, a novelty when you come from Texas where it might snow an inch every four or five years. The upper lake was larger and deeper than the lower, and we could see dozens of cutthroat trout right at the outlet of the stream. Three men were camping higher up on the slope to the east and in good weather the sites they had chosen would be very pleasant. However, the clear threat of rain and damp air would’ve certainly lead me to reconsider such an exposed, treeless site.
We tromped around on the rocks above the lake, which allow unobstructed views both up the valley where more lakes lie, and down the mountain to the Blue River valley below and the peaks beyond. We returned to the lower lake via the well-trod trail. We all gathered up our gear and struck off down the trail back to the car. We drove into Breckenridge where I was shocked and dismayed to discover the last location of my favorite restaurant, Rasta Pasta, was gone.
The falls below Lower Mohawk Lake