| Handies Peak From American Basin
I landed in Pagosa Springs shortly before noon on the last day of July, picked up my rent car, had lunch, and drove to Lake City. After piddling around Lake City for a while, I picked up a "to go" order from Poker Alice, then headed up County Road 30 in my 2WD rent car toward American Basin and Handies Peak.
After driving about an hour up County Road 30, I passed the Grizzly Gulch approach to Handies. About a half hour after that American Basin came into view:
I parked near this sign and had an early supper:
From the 2WD trailhead where I parked, it's a .9 mile hike to the 4WD trailhead:
There's a water crossing on the way, but it posed no problem. The stream was low, and I simply walked across some rocks to get across.
After a tiring day of flying, driving, and hiking, I was ready to retire for the evening after setting up my tent. But I stayed up long enough to see the moonrise:
The night was cold, with an overnight low below freezing. Around 3:00 a.m. I was awakened by people in the adjoining campsite getting up to start their hike. Since I was awake, and cold, I decided that the best way to get warm was to get moving. The first part of the hike was in the dark. Whenever I stopped to rest, I turned off my lamp to get the full benefit of the canopy of stars.
Midway through the hike, the sun started coming up. As I neared the summit, I had this view of the final pitch:
That early in the morning I had the summit all to myself. The views were magnificent. But with the glaring sunrise to the east and mountain shadow to the west, these photos from the summit don't do justice to the actual view:
On the way back down, I turned around and had this view of the summit:
A view of Sloan Lake on the way back down:
And some of the wildflowers in American Basin:
The American Basin approach to Handies is much easier than the Grizzly Gulch approach. The abundance of wildflowers in American Basin is amazing. (I think I saw as many photographers as I did hikers.) This hike would be an excellent choice for somebody who has never hiked a 14er before.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):