Shadow Mountain Fire Lookout

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Friday, September 1st. After Aspen’s morning swim in Shadow Mountain Lake, we turned our attention to another first. Friday afternoon we embarked on a new hike to the Shadow Mountain Fire Lookout positioned atop of Shadow Mountain. This is a hike that I have been waiting to complete since we first came to Grand Lake a year ago. After a quick drive to the East Shore trailhead from Base Camp, Stella and I gathered our packs and began the trek to the top of the mountain. From the trailhead we start with an immediate climb followed by a fairly steep descent down to Shadow Mountain Lake. The trail continues along the lakeshore for about a mile and a half passing underneath an Osprey nest that we see frequently while paddling on Shadow Mountain Lake. Hiking along a bit further we happen upon the junction in the trail. The trail, which shares the Continental Divide Trail, continues south along the lake to Shadow Mountain Dam, further onto the Roaring Fork trailhead and beyond. However we opt for the slight left and begin our assent to the top of Shadow Mountain and the Fire Lookout. The trail begins with a steep trek through a short series of switchbacks. The best way to describe the climb is we are following the trail up to the top of the mountain on the Shadow Mountain Lake side, Shadow Mountain separates Grand Lake and Shadow Mountain Lake. Once through the initial series of switchbacks the trail becomes fairly easy. We pass underneath a rock out cropping that look as if a mountain lion would take refuge while gazing below for its next meal. One final push through the last series of switchbacks and we have made our destination. The Fire Lookout tower is the last of four original Fire Lookouts located in Rocky Mountain National Park. The lookout was built in 1932 by the Civilian Conservation Corps wth the three other lookouts located at Twin Sisters Peak, the north fork of the Thompson River and near Longs Peak. The look out was last used in 1978 and unfortunately you are unable to climb the tower to gain a better view due the dry rot from lack of upkeep, to bad. IMG_4483However the view from the top is magnificent, you are able to look down into Grand Lake through the pines and further north deep into Rock Mountain National Park and the Never Summer Range. Looking south you are able to see Lake Granby and beyond into the Indian Peaks Range. Just before we begin our trek back down the mountain I look to the east and taking a sound look at Mount Baldy (technically Mount Craig), which is on next years short list of adventures. Mount Baldy tops out at just over 12,000 feet but there are no trails to the top and this would be an overnight hike with an assault on the summit the following morning. Okay, not quite like summiting Mt. Everest but should be fun nonetheless. Reversing course we begin our descent as this is an out & back hike and after hiking for 9 plus miles we find ourselves at the bottom of our initial descent from the trailhead that took us down to the shoreline of the lake. To complete the hike we unfortunately must finish by climbing about a 1/2 mile back up to the trailhead where we started our journey. Eerily, this reminds me of another hike back near Denver where depending on your exit from the mountain you find yourself in this same precarious moment, an up hill finish after a long trek. In all we hiked for just over 10 miles gaining 1747 feet of elevation and topping out at 9850 feet, just below the tree line, total time 4 hour and 10 minutes including spending time at the Fire Lookout. Overall Stella and I would rate this a moderate hike however the National Park Service deems this hike difficult. Thank you Stella for joining me on this adventure today. Once back at Base Camp and needing to refuel, Stella prepared protein rich meal consisting of vegan meatballs topped with pesto and fresh mozzarella accompanied by a garden fresh sautéd yellow zucchini. Another great day in the rockies.

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