Two weeks at Lake Dillon, Summit County, Colorado…
Why we came…
To play in spectacular Summit County!
Heaton Bay Campground is one of many Forest Service campgrounds scattered around Lake Dillon. It’s the only one with hook-ups: water and electric, no waste-water dump. To dump our tanks, we hitched up and drove six miles south to the water treatment facility. The camp sites were big, gravel, and fairly level. Many of the trees have been cut so the views of the surrounding mountains and scenic lake are good. Access to the excellent bike trail system was right across the street! There was a little noise from busy I-70, otherwise, it was peaceful. The location is convenient. Frisco is just a couple miles southwest and Dillon and Silverthorne are less than five miles northwest. The campground hosts worked hard and did a good job. We had some very nice neighbors too!
Summit County, Colorado, population ~28,000, is an outdoors playground. Most of the county is above 9,000 feet elevation with numerous mountain peaks above 13,000 feet and a few above 14,000 feet. There are four ski resorts, many miles of paved bike trails, many more miles of hiking trails, and numerous lakes and streams. The county is also loaded with hundreds of restaurants and stores. Because it’s less than 90 minutes from Denver via I-70, it’s always swarming with people.
Surrounded by lupines at Heaton Bay campground, Lake Dillon, Colorado
Lake Dillon, Summit County, Colorado
Bride Heather and Groom Stephen / Erin and mom, Mary / Ellen on the dance floor
15-18 July: Front Range wedding…
It was a tough move day! We hitched up and drove 10 miles from one campground to the other. We hastily set up our new camp spot, secured our home, and headed east on I-70 to the Front Range.
City traffic is not good for our health! As soon as we came down out of the hills, we wanted to turn around and go back! How do you city folk do it?!?
Though I didn’t feel well, it was still a good trip. We enjoyed time with my family and Arleen’s family. Heather and Stephen’s wedding was outstanding.
In Arleen’s words:
“We had an incredible time at Heather & Stephen's wedding. It was so fun to help Heather, my niece, prepare for her big day! I was very busy for two days decorating the reception hall, attending the reception dinner, and getting my hair done with the "ladies". I had the joy of taking the bride to lunch and then it was off to the main event. What made it even more special was that Heather's brother, Erin performed part of the ceremony and my Mom, Ellen, recited one of the readings. Paul, the best man, shared a story of how he first met Heather and how seeing how Heather and Stephen cared for each restored his faith in love. There was not a dry eye in the hall. We know they will have a long and very happy marriage!”
In the garden after the wedding / Dancing / My family
Marge, Tony, and Arleen, and me at Lower Blue Lake
19 July, Tony and Marge visit…
Our dear friends from Boulder City, Nevada, help each year with the Courage Classic, a cycling event that raises money for the Colorado Children’s Hospital. They stayed at Copper Mountain, just a few miles from our camp spot.
We took them up to Blue Lakes for the spectacular scenery and hoped to see the mountain goats. Initially, we spotted the goats high above the parking area, perched along the rocky slopes. Then they decided to come down! Three or four nannies with a couple of youngsters descended the treacherous route like it was no big deal. The little ones had no problem keeping up…it was incredible! We watched the goats for awhile, posed for a few pictures, and headed to Breckenridge for a wonderful dinner.
Tony and Marge are two of our favorite people on the planet! We always like spending time with them.
Jumping at Upper Blue Lake / Momma goat and her kid
Hike route to an unnamed lake / Wild delphiniums
22 July, hike to unnamed lake…
While studying the route to Chihuahua Lake, I spotted an unnamed lake not far off the route. It was small, but looked deep on Google satellite. The local fly-fishing shop didn’t know anything about it, so I decided to check it out.
The Chihuahua Gulch trail got us within a half mile and then we navigated cross-country. The route ended up being fairly easy. We slowly ascended mostly through meadows full of flowers…it was great!
Our first glimpse of the small lake was beautiful and promising. Sure enough…it was deep and had decent inflow and outflow…good ingredients for trout.
While we took a snack break perched 20 or 30 feet above the water, we kept our eye out for trout. I also walked half way around, always above the lake, and watched for signs of fish. It was a no-go…we never spotted one. Fishing in the these unknown and unnamed lakes can be fantastic…it’s like playing the lottery. Regardless, it was still very gratifying. My route was spot-on, was very scenic, and we solved the mystery. It was an excellent adventure!
Hiking up Chihuahua Gulch
Lots of flowers blooming above timber line
Still had to dodge snow fields at nearly 12,000 feet
A wind break above the unnamed lake with 14,000 foot Torrey’s and Gray’s Peaks high above
Hike route to Chihuahua Lake / Perry’s primrose (aka brook primrose) flowers blooming at 12,000 feet
24 July, hiked to Chihuahua Lake…
We went back to Chihuahua Gulch and hiked to its namesake lake at the head of the drainage. We knew there would be fish, but the weather was worrisome.
We enjoyed the route again. This time we brought sandals for the multiple water crossings and did a good job of keeping our feet dry…until later…
The final scramble to the lake was tough. It was steep and rocky. There were shrill chirps of picas in every direction. We caught quick glimpses of them before they disappeared into the rocks. We also saw marmots, and one ptarmigan that blended into the surroundings perfectly. And flowers were still blooming at 12,000 feet, especially the Colorado state flower: columbines.
The trail peaked a hundred feet above the beautiful lake providing us an outstanding view. The water was dark aquamarine and mesmerizing. We even spotted trout slowly cruising the along the banks and sipping miniscule insects off the surface. I got excited, rushed down to the lake, and strung up my fly rod.
Unfortunately, the sky was darkening, and the winds got gusty. Within 30 minutes, it was lightly raining, and the fish had disappeared. This wasn’t going to be a short-lived mountain rain shower…it was setting up to last awhile. We donned our rain gear, packed up, and headed back. The fish didn’t cooperate…we didn’t even get a hit. Oh well, if only we had gotten there an hour or two earlier!
Once the rain started, it didn’t stop. Occasionally it sprinkled, and occasionally it soaked. We stayed pretty comfortable in our rain gear, but eventually our feet got soggy.
Shortly after our final creek crossing, we came across five hikers huddled by a tree and alerting us to a critter. A big bull moose stood a hundred feet ahead of us on the trail. Arleen and I told them with confidence, “there are seven of us, he’ll move”. We were wrong! He stood his ground, faced us, and appeared agitated. Just as we decided to reroute, a red Jeep approached and the moose shot into the woods. The seven of us followed the Jeep a bit, while keeping a close eye on the woods where the moose disappeared. We actually leap-frogged the Jeep a couple of times while it crawled through tough sections of the 4-wheel drive trail. Other than being soaked from the steady rain, there were no other shenanigans as we descended to the truck. It was another memorable adventure!
Amazing reflection on a small pond at 12,300 feet
Posing above Chihuahua Lake
Chihuahua Lake…the sky looks ominous
Fly-fishing Chihuahua Lake…the wind increased, it started to rain, and the fish disappeared
Relaxing in our home / Posing by a waterfall / Above lower Blue Lake
Ellen visited 26 and 27 July…
Arleen's Mom, Ellen, came to visit us for a few days. We enjoy showing her places she has not seen before. The first stop is the first place we would take anyone in the Breckenridge area: Blue Lake. She was very impressed with the scenery and eagerly watched a family of mountain goats perched on a rocky point. Unfortunately, they kept their distance that day.
Next we drove up and over Hoosier Pass into Fairplay. Arleen and her Mom visited South Park City:
"South Park City is a remarkable restoration of these early towns, preserving the history of our nation's frontier".
The outdoor museum represents a typical mining town in the late 1800s. "Thirty-four authentic buildings filled with over 60,000 artifacts portray most of the economic and social aspects of boomtown life. Seven of the buildings are on their original sites; the others have been moved from abandoned camps and ghost towns in South Park, a 900 square mile basin surrounded by Colorado's majestic Rocky Mountains." Arleen was most impressed with the burro room that paid tribute to the impact that the burro had to the mining operations. We ended the day by having dinner at our favorite Breckenridge restaurant: Mi Casa Mexican Restaurant & Cantina.
Hoosier Pass / At the old saloon in historic South Park City
Ellen waiting for the train in South Park City
Mushroom hunting is one of our favorite hobbies! We eat many fresh mushrooms and dry many more. We leave all mind-altering mushrooms alone…our reality is great just the way it is!
Mushroom season in the Rockies peaks during later summer and early fall with monsoon rains. We hunt specifically for king boletes (aka porcinis), chanterelles, and hawk wings at high elevations in spruce-dominated forests. These are easy mushrooms to identify. Though we find other mushrooms that we think we can eat, we don’t take any risks.
This mushroom season has been unusual in the Colorado Rockies. May was cool with record-breaking moisture, and our targets started flushing a month early! We were quite successful the second half of July in Summit County. Check it out…
First king bolete of the year on 19 July!
19 July, found first king bolete of the year at 10,600 feet in Summit County.
King bolete mushrooms…one of our favorites!
20 July, ate a meal with a pound of fresh porcinis, and dried two and a half trays! Found at 10,200 feet in Summit County.
Hawk wing mushrooms
21 July, found roughly three pounds of hawk wings in Summit County at 9,600 feet. Had some mixed with eggs, cream cheese, garlic…dried the rest.
A basket full of fresh king boletes
23 July, found nearly five pounds of porcinis at 10,600 feet in Summit County. Sautéed some and added them to pasta with smoked salmon…dried the rest.
On 25 July we found nearly two pounds of chanterelles at 10,700 feet in Summit County…dry-sautéed all of them and topped on a steak
Three young king boletes and a morel / A flock of hawk wing mushrooms
On 28 July we found about three pounds of king boletes and three pounds of hawk wings…added half of the hawk wings to green chili chicken enchilada casserole, and dried everything else.
We are in Fairplay, Colorado and had to extend our stay due to my health (struggling with Graves Disease). I suffered through a really tough week, but am feeling better! We will move to Buena Vista, Colorado in a few days where we will spend a month fishing, mushroom hunting, and having fun with family.
Bald eagle flying over our home
Ptarmigan / Marmot