Mark and I arrived in Colorado on June 7th, the fifth day of our roadtrip. The flat expanses of Kansas transitioned into grassy hills, then snow-covered mountains.
We stayed with a friend in Loveland, CO on the first night, then made a quick stop in Fort Collins the next morning. It’s funny, when you think of of Colorado, what comes to mind is the state’s beautiful landscapes and legal marijuana, both of which certainly do have their appeal (especially the former), but Fort Collins was a very interesting scene. Mountain culture was everywhere: Jeep-driving 20-somethings at every stoplight, muddy mountain bikes at every bike rack, and coffee shops and boutique outdoor apparel companies for blocks.
We jumped into Alley Cat Coffee, a “chill, always-open coffee & tea spot” perfectly accessorized with dedicated spots for filling your bike tires and a water station designed for a Nalgene water bottle.
After Fort Collins the landscape really began to change. We drove through forests for hours at a time, then would suddenly emerge above the mountains on sharp cliff-side roads.
We were making our way toward Silverton, Colorado, a scenic tourist town nestled between the Rockies. Just a few miles down the road was our real destination: South Mineral Campground. This camp sits directly below the trail leading to Ice Lake, a picturesque body of cerulean spring water (during warm seasons).
Camping at South Mineral ended up being comically difficult. It was a perfect example of how hilariously naive tourists can be. See how nice this spot is in the picture above? Ravaged by wind and impossible to stay at.
We ended up taking a much less breathtaking spot with tree cover. Also let it be known that it’s cold at night in the Rockies. Pro-tip.
The morning after our first night camping at South Mineral we set out on the Ice Lake trail. It’s a 7.4-mile trail. Should be easy, right?
The beginning of the trail starts at 9,845 feet with a per-mile elevation of 657 feet. That puts us at about 14,000 feet at the summit. Was it hard to breathe? Yes.
I run every day and have a little experience on more challenging trails, and Ice Lake trail kicked my ass. Our reward for ludicrous elevation gain was frequent patches of snow three feet deep. We fell through constantly, but we weren’t alone. We were briefly joined by the man in the picture below and bumped into a handful of young couples.
When we arrived at the ice lake summit and, true to its name, it was frozen over. You could make out the blue color at the edges of the ice, but that was it. Apparently the lake melts later in the season. The more you know.
Hiking back down came with its own challenges. Our feet were soaked from the snow, and Mark wasn’t wearing wool socks. About a third of the way down his feet went completely numb and we had to stop.
Eventually we made it down. With our legs feeling like spaghetti, we piled back into the Subaru. The next day we left for Utah.
While you wait for TGAR: Utah, check out this time lapse: