Sept 12th – Cascade Canyon joins Paintbrush Canyon to form a loop trail 19 miles long that many people hike as a 1-2 night backpacking trip. Since this trail crossed the mountains at Paintbrush Divide with 4900 ft total climbing and the use of an ice axe recommended, we decided NOT to hike these canyons as a loop, but rather to hike each canyon separately, as out-and-back day hikes, avoiding the pass and the highest elevations.
We set out Sunday morning to hike the Paintbrush Canyon. This was to be an out-and-back hike. We had no particular goal in mind, but knew that an alpine lake, Holly Lake, lay 6.5 miles and 2900 feet up the canyon.
We were blessed with another beautiful day. The trail started out walking around String lake.
With a more brushy area and the mountains on the other side of the trail.
We came upon a whole group of these quail? crossing the path….
This hike was a steady climb up Paintbrush Canyon…….
…..with wonderful views, the higher we climbed.
Again, we had to cross a bolder field, the rocks are left by receding glaciers which sculpted this area. Hiking across rocks like these, makes for tedious hiking and tricky footing.
As we approached an elevation of about 9,000 feet, we found SNOW.
We stopped for lunch, then hiked on a bit. We had felt fairly acclimated to the altitude at 4,000-6,000 feet, but we were feeling the effort at 9,000 feet. We were not really sure how far from Holly lake we were, but the trail kept going up in steep switchbacks, and we decided that our legs (and lungs) had had enough. We turned and headed back down.
On our way back down, we were rewarded with a chance sighting of a red fox.
He was trotting right down the middle of the trail…..
When he spotted us, he just looked at us…..and kept on coming towards us……..until he got about 10 feet away….
Then, he turned and headed back away……
Out-and-back hikes are tough……we find ourselves wanting to keep going……wanting to know what is around the next corner……yet knowing that for each mile further out, we have to walk that same mile back. When we got back to camp, we looked up the info on the trail and realized that we had been only .5 - .75 miles from Holly Lake when we had turned around. We had hiked a total of 11.5 miles and 2700 feet up Paintbrush Canyon.
It has been a lesson for us to keep practicing…… life is not a race, nor a competition……it really IS about the journey….not the destination……
And what a journey this is……… : )