With most of the Southern back country of RMNP booked solid, we took the suggestion of the ranger to head up to Lost Lake, 9.7 miles in from the Dunraven Trail Head.
The first four or five miles of the trail are in National Forest land, and we enjoyed clear skies and frequent mounds of horse poop and we made a few river crossings and climbed steadily around 2mph.
We hit the Halfway Campsite around noon. With dark clouds looming overhead, thunder booming, and droplets splattering, we threw on our rain gear and continued, quite pleased with the opportunity to cool off. Within five minutes, we heard a “plink plink plink” sound on the trail. It started to hail!
The novelty of this wore off in approximately 2 minutes after the first hail stone beamed me in the face. The merciless stones ranged in size from medium to extra-large blueberries and really did a number on my shoulders. I tried as best as I could to hunch into a turtle-like position and find any tree that had lower branches to hide beneath. At tree #4, I glanced right and saw a giant showshoe hare try to hide underneath a fallen log. “Mr. Bunny,” I whimpered “be strong! Or come hang out here with me and snuggle!”
Parts of the trail quickly turned into trail soup, a mixture of muddy water and iced buckshot that you didn’t want your foot to sink into. I freaked out for six minutes before my very calm, very sensible boyfriend convinced me to keep going up the trail until we found the next site, set up the tent, and change out of my thin t-shirt and pants and into wool. It was painful, freezing, and a whined a little bit. It took me an exaggeratedly long time to change my clothes since my fingers felt like they were working at a third of their usual speed. We forgot to bring gloves. Pro Tip: Bring gloves in the event of hail or snow in the middle of July. Clouds don’t mess around at 10,000 feet.
About an hour after the storm started, the hail stopped and the rain calmed down. We repacked all of our wet stuff and hiked the remainder of the way to Lost Lake. The final two miles are always the worst, but I knew that hot, highly-processed instant potatoes were waiting for me at camp!
The lake didn’t look this nice when we arrived — everything was swathed in a kind of grey sludge — but ice fields were visible along with a hint of lakes further up the canyon. The lake is home to lots of birds, butterflies, and mosquito which always seem to prefer me to my boyfriend. Chilly and exhausted, we ate dinner and got into the tent at 6pm. At 6:18pm, wrapped up in my sleeping bag, I noticed that my butt was still uncomfortably cold. The culprit was none other than cotton underpants! Even four hours after the storm, they were still cold and wet. Cotton is the worst thing to take into the backcountry. Pro Tip: Patagonia or ExOfficio brands are terrific. Always pack extra underpants!
We had originally hoped to spend two nights coming back to the trail head so that we could have some time to explore the upper lakes. I’d had a little bit of a sore throat on the hike in but it didn’t seem like a big deal. The next morning, it was difficult to talk and I couldn’t swallow very well. In case of strep (there was some gross stuff in the back of my throat), we set back out for the trail head.
The hike out went quickly (4 hours) and we got to see some wildlife – a beautiful mule deer doe, a showshoe hair (my friend from yesterday?) and two snakes slithering along the trail. Despite some loud, looming thunderheads, we didn’t encounter any storms on the way out.
We’re hoping to do a hike in this area again!