An alpine lake is classified as a high elevation body of water (usually starting at 5,000′ above sea level) or located above the natural tree line. The beauty and serenity of these lakes have an almost mysterious draw to adventurers worldwide and i’m no different.
Lake Agnes is a special jewel located within the Never Summer Range of Northern Colorado. The trail to the lake is just over 3/4 of a mile one way with about a 400′ elevation gain making this a very accessible destination for most weekend warriors.
But don’t let the relative short distance fool you for there is plenty of inspiration to be drawn from this hike for adventurers of all ages and abilities.
Keep in mind that the elevation is around 10,000′ above sea level so if you’re not accustomed to high altitude hiking this may prove the most difficult aspect of this hike.
* Pro Tip: When hiking at high altitude be sure to keep yourself hydrated to combat the effects of altitude sickness.
Crisp air welcomed me to the forest, inviting me to take in several long and deep breaths. Filling my lungs with the anticipation of the journey to come.
Marking the trails beginning, a cabin built in 1925 by Ranger Frank Poley was erected as a boys camp intending to give an introduction to the real pioneer life.
As I ruminate about the structures beginnings I can almost hear the young mens laughter and anticipation of lessons learned in the wilderness.
At the onset of the trail I could feel the damp trail telling the story of recent rainfall. The darkened color of the trail promised to hold the dust down as my trek began.
Passing the marshy meadow, just beyond the cabin I can feel my heart beat with excitement expecting to see a large moose grazing on the newly wetted green grass that must be as sweet to them as we find fresh honey.
Beginning the steep incline my legs begin to strain as my breathing adjusts to the compensate for the work I was now asking of my heart and lungs. Pulling in as much oxygen as possible from the high mountain air.
Looking beyond the top of the trees as my ascent continues I can see Nokhu Crags peering down on me through the pine needles and branches, occasionally checking my progress.
A welcomed break comes in after about 1/2 mile to watch the beginnings of Upper Michigan Ditch, feeding the Michigan River in the valley below.
Mt. Mahler, towering over Lake Agnes at 12,493′ comes into view just before the Alpine lake reminding me of just how small I am in the natural world.
Taking in the majestic views surrounding the lake, we are invited to stop and enjoy the brisk afternoon. Even in mid-July traces of last winters snow remains, reminding me why this range is called Never Summer.
My modestly paced walk slowed even more as my senses are bombarded by the sights, sounds and smells being offered up by the world I now find myself in.
Two trees standing lakeside provide the perfect place to hang a hammock and lie perched taking in the wonder surrounding us. From the surrounding peaks to the cold clear water protecting a lone island in the lakes center. The local birds and chipmunks begin to investigate hoping for a handout or misplaced snack they may capitalize on.
Often overlooked wildflowers scattered all around the landscape offer a splash of color adding to the breathtaking scene in contrast to the grand peaks surrounding the lake.
The lesson that Lake Agnes and the surrounding Never Summer Range brings is that some of the most beautiful places available to us do not always require extensive preparation or many grueling miles of trekking through the wilderness.
Sometimes the most awe-inspiring places are the ones that are right in our own backyard that we may take for granted due to their apparent ease of access. Adventure is measured more by your state of mind than the effort put into reaching a destination.
So remember to take your time, enjoy the journey and soak in all that is offered by the natural beauty surrounding you, for the destination shouldn’t be goal it should be the place where you contemplate the gift that has been offered up for you to simply receive.