| On the Nature of Daylight: Paiute Peak, Indian Peaks Wilderness
Suddenly I realize
That if I stepped out of my body I would break
- James Wright, in A Blessing
On the Nature of Daylight - Paiute Peak, Indian Peaks Wilderness
Summit name, elevation: Paiute Peak, 13088 ft.
Trailhead name, elevation: Mitchell Lake, 10525 ft.
Route: Southeast gully
Distance: Approximately 9 miles roundtrip
Hike Date: August 7, 2010
I've enjoyed the last four weekends in the Indian Peaks Wilderness, and I've only scratched the surface of possibility in this great wilderness. Combined with the Park, I feel lucky to have the fortune to live so close to this very special place. So here goes another sublime adventure in Indian Peaks, this time up 13er Paiute Peak. I purchased a Tamron macro lens for my Nikon a few days before this trip. I was excited to practice with it. The photos are straight from the camera - no edits. Captions on top of photos.
I walk through a grey forest. It's six a.m. Behind me are many others - chatting, laughing, preparing - in a parking lot that will be filled with cars by eight o'clock. I splash through deep puddles - the ground is saturated by recent rains. I am satisfied that I am the first person to walk this trail since last night came and went. I am the first of what will surely be hundreds of visitors today. I smile back at the rested forest. Above, the east ridge of Pawnee receives the day's first light.
The still forest suddenly quakes. Phantom elk bolt through the shadows. I hear and feel them - they seem close enough to touch - but I do not see them.
The flowers slowly emerge from the darkness. They strive to be seen as stars in the day.
The sun sets the stage.
And the forest breaks into a symphony of color.
John Lennon celebrated, "Yeah we all shine on like the moon, and the stars, and the sun."
It's not long and I arrive at Mitchell Lake. Mount Audubon's massive southern flanks rise high above the trees.
The disciples of daylight.
I approach Blue Lake. Paiute Peak emerges from shadow.
Blue Lake is crowned by the impressive east face of Mount Toll. Paiute Peak is taller, but more shy and reserved.
I follow the primitive trail around the north shore of Blue Lake.
The elegant Indian Paintbrush.
The ubiquitous Aspen Daisy.
The trail comes to an end not far past Blue Lake. I hike a half mile across talus and boulders towards the base of Paiute Peak.
There seem to be as many flowers as there are stars in the dark sky.
An Aspen Daisy.
These are known as King's Crown.
Purple Fringe Flowers.
The angle steepens as I ascend the talus slope. The rock is solid and progress is easy. Mount Toll towers on my left.
The rocky slope is graced with splashes of color. Here are more Aspen Daisies.
And the comparitively rare Columbine makes a welcome appearance.
After hiking stable talus I reach the upper basin. Mount Toll is in the foreground. The rotund summit of Pawnee Peak is behind.
From here, the easiest route to the summit of Paiute Peak is a straight climb up the gully on the left (crowned with the snowfield at top). At photo center, the class 3 ledges look like a lot of fun. I'm alone and decide to be cautious - I ascend the conservative gully route.
The gully is filled with unpleasant scree. I scramble up more stable rock along the right side of the gully.
I make great ascent time and stop for only a few pictures. This the view towards Blue Lake and the east ridge of Pawnee (Little Pawnee).
Although no one is above me, I don't enjoy hanging out in loose gullies. I quickly turn to my left and snap a pic of Mount Toll. Beyond the near ridge and across the Lone Eagle Cirque are the peaks of Iroquois and Hopi.
Soon I'm at the top of the gully. From here it's an easy hike to the summit of Paiute Peak.
The scree turns to talus. The summit block appears.
Signs of life, shine on.
Purple mountain majesties.
I approach the summit of Paiute. To the east is the ridge connecting to Mount Audubon. There is a group of hikers on the ridge approaching Paiute. Over the past two years I have summited nine peaks over 12K ft. in the Indian Peaks Wilderness. Remarkably, for being so close to Denver, this is the first summit I will share with strangers.
This is the summit of Paiute Peak. Longs Peak and the mountains surrounding Wild Basin fill the northern horizon.
A close-up of Longs south face. The south ridge of Mount Meeker perked my curiosity - I might have to try that sometime.
I turn towards the south. The view in this direction is arresting. From front to back are Mount Toll, Pawnee Peak, Shoshoni Peak, massive Apache Peak (broad shoulder, dual summits), the unique summit block of Navajo Peak, shy Arikaree Peak, the dark north face of North Arapaho Peak, sun-drenched South Arapaho Peak, and far in the distance, the Mount Evans massif.
I turn towards the southwest. The view in this direction is my favorite of them all. The peaks of Apache, Iroquois, Hopi, and Lone Eagle are joined by jagged ridgelines and spires.
This photo of Hopi (on left) and Mount Achonee (on right) provided great beta to me. Six days later, I backpacked into the Lone Eagle Cirque and bushwacked up a grassy ramp (near center of photo) to the scree-filled gulley that intersects the ridge between the two peaks. I realized great satisfaction in doing my own recon prior to attempting the obscure route.
The rugged west face and summit of Paiute Peak is seen. I took this photo from the top of Hopi on August 13.
Paiute Peak has two summits of nearly the same elevation. The twin summits are separated by a short, blunt knife-edge ridge. I visited both summits.
This is the view down to the north while crossing Paiute's summit ridge.
Satisfied with my time on the summit, I carefully descend from Paiute. The view to the south is spectacular.
I pass vibrant wildflowers on my way down.
Many hikers are taking advantage of today's beautiful weather.
I take an hour and savor this sublime moment.
I hike down to the wetlands surrounding Little Blue Lake. I turn and give thanks to Paiute Peak for safe passage.
I enjoy the afternoon in the upper basin, taking photos using my new macro lens.
These flowers are called Queen's Crown.
The Tamron lens is reknowned for the quality of its bokeh (out-of-focus blur). Creamy is a good word.
Imagine a world without bees. I can't.
This little guy was dedicated to a single Queen's Crown. I enjoyed his persistence.
Shine on little man.
Aspen Daisies - or maybe asters?
The elegant Arctic Gentian.
Purple streaks swirl like mixed paints.
The sweetest pollen.
In search of nectar.
Where little things reign.
The anatomy of an open flower.
The Elephant Flower.
The stars of the day - a galaxy turned upside down and at my feet.
A Painted Lady at work.
I stop and admire the show. And then I keep walking. It's nearly four p.m. Time for a beer.