May 24, 2016
I was never one for the cold or snow, which was a big reason why I left Minnesota. So, I never thought I would be doing an 8 mile hike at 12,000 feet in the snow and have it be one of the best experiences ever. I had read reviews about hiking to Ice Lake and Island Lake. I saw the beautiful green and blue pictures of the lake and was like, okay it’s worth the strenuous hike up. Again, not being around snow for the past 10 years I didn’t even think that snow would be an issue. So we got up Tuesday morning, put on our normal hiking gear got the dogs ready and headed to the trail head near where we were boondocking.
There is a small (free) parking lot across from a campground to park in. You can’t miss the lot and the trail head. All the trail heads that we have been at or seen have log books so you can enter your party size and where you are hiking to.
As soon as we parked we were excited, but then we looked over at the girls getting ready and they had snow gear and snow shoes. We were like hmmm, what are we getting ourselves into?! We decided to give it a shot, knowing that we could turn around whenever we needed to.
A short way in we came to the first crossing at the bottom of a waterfall. There were icicles hanging from the logs we were supposed to cross. That didn’t deter us though! I just slid across on my butt.
We came across two guys that were coming back from the hike. They asked if it was our first time and we said, “yes!” They looked at each other and warned us to be careful, the trail is covered in snow so you will have to look for foot prints to keep going. They said when we get to the big opening, look left and that is the way you should go. We didn’t even think to ask if the lake was open. They just said that they got there and good luck to us. How hard can it be to find footprints in some snow? So, onward!
There wasn’t much snow after that so we were feeling good about the hike. We came up to a view point of the waterfall. Not all the way to the top, but close with a spectacular view!
Again, the frozen grass didn’t deter us.
Shortly after the waterfall Kevin spotted an abandoned mine. I love this sort of thing so we wandered around, careful not to fall into any covered tunnels.
After a handful of switchbacks we came to the opening where the guys told us we needed to look to the left to find the trail. Do not continue up the meadow, instead head for the trees. At this point everything was covered in snow, but eventually we found some footprints and took a leap of faith that they were the right ones and headed left. Little did we know that it would be up to 4 ft of snow and it would actually be a “strenuous” hike. Not just he elevation gain of 2,500 ft in 3.5 miles, but falling 2 ft+ into the snow each time you took a step was difficult! I loved it though!
We got to where Ice Lake should be but it was covered. I was still in denial. I wanted to see that lake (!) but I did not want to fall in that lake either. So we found a stream, to sit and have lunch at. I kept thinking that I should be freezing at this point, but I was actually comfortable sitting in the sun.
We started heading back as the clouds came in. It was easier to get across the bridge on the way back.
What an experience though. I am glad that we didn’t know about the lakes being covered, because I don’t think that we would have gone the entire way. It was such a rewarding hike without the intended outcome. I never would have thought that that would be a hike that I would have enjoyed the entire time. The challenge was something I would have turned down in the past. I hope that we can come back at some point during the summer to see the lakes!
Tips: Do wear good hiking boots and pants. Bring snow shoes if you are going to go this early in the season. I rarely use poles, but suggest them here, especially in the snow! Bring the dogs!