Member Trip Report



Highland Mary Lakes Backpack, near Silverton, Colorado

June 23-26, 2006

Author: Jan Studebaker - Bio  Jan's Slideshow: click here.   Terrain Map: click here.

Participants: Don Gettamy, Gracia Coffin, Cosima Leedom, and Jan Studebaker.

Getting There: Drive four miles East from Silverton on CO 110 to Howardsville, then turn right onto FR 589 and drive four miles to Cunningham Gulch.  The trailhead is at the end of the road.

Cosima had been working so hard on both her clients and her home remodeling projects that she was becoming ill from the stress of it all.  She wisely chose to take a break for a few days and do something for fun.  She knew that getting out for an adventure was just what she needed, so she asked our good friends, Don Gettamy and partner Gracia Coffin, to come up with a Colorado mountain backpack.  She wanted to see lots of spring flowers, and experience the serenity that came with few people and gorgeous surroundings.  Don and Gracia wisely chose the "Highland Mary Lakes" near Silverton as the destination, and we were off for our adventure.

Highland Mary Lake #1, where we camped for three nights.

The Hike: The three lakes that make up the "Highland Mary" group are all above 12,000 feet, which is above tree line.  We were a bit concerned about being out in the open in the sometimes volatile spring weather (driving rain, wind, and lightning).  I was also concerned that it might be difficult to protect our food from animals (no place to tie the food out of reach of the critters).  As it turned out, the weather was perfect except for a small bit of rain on our hike back to the cars on the 4th day, and Don found a boulder and a high point that provided a decent setting for a horizontal line to hang our food from.  Don didn't use the line because he kept his food in a light weight metal can that he packed in.

Colorado Columbine, one of many beautiful varieties in the area.

The "Highland Mary Lakes" are situated just west of the Continental Divide.  However, we discovered on our hikes that there are dozens of beautiful lakes in the immediate area; they don't all show up on the maps.  Don and I hiked as often as possible, and the girls would sometimes accompany us.  We pretty much covered the area in two very full days of hiking.  Our high point was 13,259' Whitehead Peak, from which we had panoramic views in all directions.  We also got within very good visual distance of Arrow Peak, Vestal Peak, and the Trinity Peaks, all in the nearby Grenadier Range.  Wham Ridge on Vestal was clearly visible.  Seeing those mountains brought back fond memories of climbing all five of them.  I remember well two wonderful trips where we took the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad from Durango and got off of the train at Elk Park so that we could more easily backpack into the area for rock climbing.  It was still a very difficult hike, with a gut wrenching stream crossing.

Vestal Peak and Arrow Peak.

We of course hiked to the nearby Verde Lakes, took easy evening hikes, and photographed many beautiful spring flowers.  Our pace was relaxed and felt very nice indeed.  We had the area almost completely to ourselves, as there were no other campers in the area, and we saw only 3 or 4 fishermen from a distance.  The trip was exactly what Cosima had in mind, and we all felt that this could become a yearly trip.  We couldn't have had better people to share the experience with than Don and Gracia......Thanks guys!

Note: the "Highland Mary Lakes" are described in "100 Classic Hikes in Colorado", by Scott S. Warren, and is published by The Mountaineers Books.  We highly recommend this book!

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