Within the Arapaho National Recreation Area the Willow Creek Reservoir is located about 2 miles west of Lake Granby where its outflow is pumped into the Colorado River. One of the many great things of about paddling on the Willow Creek Reservoir is there are no motorized boats of any sort allowed, no dodging on coming ski boats or feeling the need to turn into their wake to avoid capsizing your kayak. We started out paddling to the North towards the dam however the westerly winds were telling us not today. We contemplated whether or not continue however this day we set aside to paddle Willow Creek. We turned about and headed towards the Southern shoreline and began paddling into the wind and calmer waters. The reservoir sits in the Willow Creek basin and captures the run off from the surrounding mountains. The creek itself begins in Northwest Grand County deep into the Arapahoe National Forest near Willow Pass and the continental divide. As we continue our trek along the shoreline we come across several people fishing from the shore and its outcrops. A touch further and campground appears sitting above perched upon a cliff overlooking the reservoir. We turn slightly south to explore a small cove before paddling to the northwest and the passage into the upper portion of the reservoir. The scenery is somewhat diverse, gently rolling mountains, some covered in pine and aspen trees while other areas more resemble a desert covered in sage brush starving for water. Nonetheless we come upon Willow Creek and we enter the gently flowing waters that seem very navigable at this time, the creek itself is approximately 30 plus miles in length. Suddenly mother nature called as we quickly abandoned our plans to continue up the creek and sped to shore. After returning to the water we headed to the Northern shore for the paddle back to the launch area. In the distant we notice 3 large white objects just on shore, as we approached we gain their attention and notice they are the majestic American White Pelican. It appears one has an injured wing and as if the two healthy pelicans were tending to and looking after their injured brethren. Stella was desperate to assist however I gently reminded her of the circle of life. As we reenter the passage and continue East you are greeted by the stunning photo above, this truly is why there is no better place than to be outside in the great outdoors surrounded by 360 degrees of majestic and awe inspiring views. The winds calmed for the later half of our kayaking adventure around the Willow Creek Reservoir and soon we found ourselves back onshore. Oddly enough we ran into a couple from Wisconsin as he was waiting for his wife to return from her own kayaking adventure around the reservoir.
Sunday we headed towards Monarch Lake with the intent to hike the loop and paddle the lake. Well sometimes even the best plans don’t turn out in your favor. Cars and trucks were sprawled down the entrance to the trailhead and it was quickly decided that we were not going to play in these reindeer games and headed back to Grand Lake. Note, I did hawk the parking area twice before leaving. Uncertain what the remainder of our afternoon would entail we head out to the east end of the Grand Lake and the East Inlet Trailhead. Adams Falls it is, literally just a 1/2 mile from the trailhead you stumble quickly upon the falls. Cutting violently through a canyon in a spectacle only nature can provide. The East Inlet Creek begins well to the east deep into Rocky Mountain National Park near Pyramid Peak. As the creek winds it way westward it flows into several Alpine Lakes beginning with Fifth Lake, Fourth Lake, Spirit Lake, Lake Verna and Lone Pine Lake. The trek to Spirit Lake is an out and back just shy of 15 miles with a 2700 foot elevation gain and is the terminal end of the trail. Remembering a more serene creek from last summer and the fallen tree where we sat as we dipped our toes into the water now covered by the engorged creek we headed back down to fetch the “Big Mango” and to kayak Grand Lake starting from the eastern shore. Paddling Grand Lake will never get old, there is history abound from the homes surrounding the lake to the awe inspiring views of the mountains.
No weekend is complete without mentioning Aspen. Saturday we took her for a quick but short hike on the Colorado River Trail and off to Shadow Mountain Lake. She was able to spend time swimming in her favorite spot however Saturday’s session was cut short as a bull moose and a cow began milling about near our swimming hole. Aspen seemed a bit confused as to why we were leaving so soon but we know better that a moose views a dog as a threat. No worries Aspen the lake will still be there on Sunday. Returning Sunday Aspen was able to spend the morning swimming without interruption retrieving her water ball each time as if it were never going to end. I do want mention a special sighting Friday night just as we finished unpacking for the weekend. A female moose and her calf wandered nearby to feed on the succulent willows that are abundant throughout the campground. This sighting was a first for Stella and I as we have never seen such a small calf. Additional photos can be found under the photos tab.