Greetings, Family and Friends:
I've been wanting to do some hiking in the Westcliffe area and our neighbor, who has been spending all summer here for several years (from Texas, you might guess) - he and his wife go on motor cycle excursions in this area and beyond - recommended Music Pass. So, that's where I headed early Thursday morning. I had a goal of hiking to a high mountain lake and this trek had the advantage of being the shortest hike from trail head to lake that I could find in the area.
The trail head is about 15 miles south of us, 9 miles of pavement, 3.5 of washboarded dirt road, 2.5 of pretty challenging (for me) jeep trail. But, the Explorer handled it well. Couldn't help thinking - Boy, sure glad I have a new fuel pump, and, Good thing it didn't wait until now to fail. Got to the trail head soon after 8 am.
The trail to Lower Sand Creek Lake (there's also an Upper lake), in round numbers, consists of a mile and a quarter hike to Music Pass, climbing about 700 ft., a one mile, 400 ft. descent to the Sand Creek basin, then a one mile, 500 ft. climb to the lake (which is at an elev. of 11,500 ft.). Some might call it "rolling terrain." I called it a more than adequate challenge.
This website: Music Pass, says the pass got the name because the wind in the mountains here can sound musical. You know, Julie Andrews said it best: The hills are alive with the sound of ... . A forest service sign at the pass says Zebulon Pike crossed here, back in the day when he was exploring Colorado and finding the peak with his name on it.
Here are some pix:
Pastoral scene on the approach. I'm a sucker for cattle ranches backed by soaring mountain ranges and dramatic skies.
Approaching Music Pass.
I took this picture because I assumed that was the pass ahead. Typically, though, that was false impression - still a little further to go. At one time you could drive a jeep to the top of the pass, but not now.
When you cross Music Pass you go from National Forest to the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. The trail down the back (west) side of the pass takes you to the Dunes. It's a popular hiking locale. In the meadow in the Sand Creek basin there were several backpacking groups and tents.
Here's the Lower Sand Creek Lake. I believe the peak in the first picture is Tijeras Peak.
After I got back to the pass I took this picture looking across at the valley in which the lake is situated, beneath Tijeras Peak.
At the pass I met a couple of men who had driven up from Raton, NM to do some hiking and fishing and we had a good visit and hiking discussion. There's a sign at the pass saying Lower Sand Creek Lake, 3 mi. The map I was carrying indicated 2 mi. I hiked back from the lake to the pass in one hour and I know I can't do three miles per hour in that sort of terrain. Besides, I stopped to take pictures, like this one of purple-hued pine cones.
Here's a picture of the road down from the trail head - doesn't really do the road justice, though. Lots of big humps, erosion control I think, where I really expected to drag, but didn't.
One more shot of the ranch lands below.
There's something very poignant about abandoned farms. You wonder about the tales those walls could tell - the labor and dreams that went into establishing a homestead and the heartaches when the dreams died - the day the music died ... .
Rob and Susie