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Blue Lake Backpack

South San Juan Wilderness, Colorado

June 6 - 9, 2006

Author: Jan Studebaker

Leader: Bill Priedhorsky

Photo Gallery: Jan Studebaker, Click here to view

Trip Participants: Bill Priedhorsky, Karen Grace, Dennis Brandt, Petey Priedhorsky, Mark and Lynn Jones, Jackie Little, and Jan Studebaker

Eight of us wanted to do a backpack in spite of the ominous weather forecasts for our target areas; rain was the order of the day. I personally wanted to visit Blue Lake near Platoro, Colorado, since I had never hiked in the area, and had heard great things about the South San Juan Wilderness area. It was a short drive, and it looked like less rain would befall us in that region. We met at Bill's house at noon, and talked over our options; a vote decided it. We were shortly off to the Blue Lake.

Blue Lake immediately after our first afternoon storm.

June 6: Our route took us to Antonito, Colorado, where we drove west on SR-17 for about 23 miles. We then turned (right) onto FDR-250, which is a very nice dirt road, and continued west for another 23 miles. This put us in Platoro. We then drove around the Platoro Reservoir and on to the Three Forks Trailhead where we parked our vehicles in the large parking lot and started on our adventure.

Our final destination was of course the lake, but because of our late start we decided to camp at the halfway point, and continue on to the lake for the next two nights stay. We hiked about 3 miles up the gorgeous El Rito Azul valley. Our first camp was just past a sign pointing towards the next day's trail, which would begin with a crossing of the Conejos River. So far we had avoided the rain.

Dennis wading across the Conejos River

June 7: The next morning we waded across the Conejos River, which was extremely cold by everyone's howling proclamation, and started the steep accent to the Blue Lake. The total altitude gain was around 1400', and I would say the hike was more difficult than I had expected. Everyone seemed happy to get to camp. Petey was feeling his oats that morning, and offered to help others with their load, for a fee; Karen took him up on the offer on the way up, as well as the way down. We set up our tents, and most, including myself, took a nap during the rain that followed.

After a several hour rain several of us hiked in a wonderland of natural beauty, Bill successfully fished for our next breakfast, and others played around camp. We got more rain for dinner, but Bill and others had strung up a large tarp between trees to give us an eating shelter that worked very well indeed for the rest of the trip.

Fish anyone?

June 8: After a wonderful breakfast the next morning, complete with fresh fish, we set out upon a great hike along the continental divide trail. Our destinations for the day were two of the highest points in the area. Although it rained intermittently all day, lightning activity was very low, and views came and went as we plodded along. Dinner was again held under the tarp.

Our view from one of the highest points in the area.

June 9: Our final morning started under the tarp with fish for breakfast; Bill had been successful again yesterday evening!   We broke camp and headed back to our cars in the rain.  We drove home via Chama, NM and had lupper at a new restaurant that Bill calls the library, because they have a nice selection of interesting books for sale.  Several of us paged through books as we ate.

Final thoughts: No one seemed to think the rain was a big problem to our enjoyment, but Petey was unprepared and suffered a bit from his cold wet clothing.  He learned some valuable lessons, as we all have in the past.  The Blue Lake was one of the most beautiful lakes that I have ever visited!  This hike was truly wonderful, and I would highly recommend it.......even in the rainy season!

Click here to view our Blue Lake Backpack Gallery.

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