Reaching Lost Lake felt almost disappointing, as I stood in front of the still water that mirrored pine covered alpine peaks and a sunny sky. I enjoyed the trail that brought me here – I preferred to keep going instead of heading back.
The easy to moderate 2.7 mile hike through marshy meadows and tall pines forms part of a larger trail network through the Grand Mesa National Forest in Colorado. At over 10,000 feet in altitude mushroom season already bloomed during my visit in mid-August, a mycological haven of variety scattered among the pine needle litter on the forest floor. Chipmunks live here in large numbers, fed by the abundance of pinecones.
Moose and elk tracks followed the trail, though I spotted neither on my afternoon hike. Instead I lost myself studying the different mushrooms, kicking myself since I forgot to bring a guide to help identify the myriad of toadstools I discovered. A couple that passed by in the opposite direction came better prepared, evidenced by their two large bags filled to the brim with the forest bounty.
A stand of raspberries required a quick break in order to enjoy some fresh, juicy berries. I inhaled deeply as I sat on a rock munching on my impromptu snack, the cool air tickling my nose with a scent of wildflowers and spruce, reminiscent of a fine men’s cologne. Blueberries and wild strawberries grew abundantly in the forest, but I arrived too late for their fruits.
Along the edges of the many small lakes, streams, and marshes the trail offered bird watching opportunities. Among others I saw swallows in great number over the fields and the occasional heron. Once in a while a large hawk circled above, with a solitary haunting call that echoed among the surrounding cliffs.
Twice the trail crossed through a marsh. My sandal-wearing feet quickly sunk into cold muddy water, cooling me down on the sunny day. I discovered multiple frogs throughout the marsh, jumping with haste to get out of my way as I squished past them.
Luckily I only later discovered that there may well have been leeches in the waters as well, or I would have chosen to keep my bare feet out of the water. The Lost Lake trail did offer an option to circumvent the marsh for those wishing to keep their feet dry.
Lost Lake itself brimmed with fish. The water surface stood neatly still except for the rings moving outward from leaping fish. At this late day of summer, almost early fall in the mountains, the lake shone clear in reflection of a blue sky in spite of the slightly muddy water and low waterline. Other mountain peaks and lower cliffs surround the lake and reminded me that I stood at well over 10,000 feet in spite of the ease of the hike.
My sense of direction failed as I lost myself in my surroundings. Thankfully the trail can easily be followed in either direction by the presence of blue ribbons or diamonds indicating the route. Signs pointing the way stood posted at each juncture with other trails. With more time to spare, I would have continued following those blue marks of the larger Blue Diamond Trail further through the forest.
Next time, if I have the luck to visit again, I’ll make sure to bring a mushroom guide and a fishing pole and start early enough to enjoy another few miles along the trail. A picnic in one of the meadows, sitting on a blanket among delicate wildflowers, sounds pretty good too.
You can reach the Lost Lake trail off Hwy 65 by taking a short turn-off. The road is best suited for 4WD cars but most vehicles can handle the dirt road with careful driving. A parking lot offers plenty of room at the start of the trail. There are a few rough camping spots near the parking lot, no amenities available. The turn-off from the main road is not clearly marked. For specific directions and more information on the Grand Mesa National Forest you can stop at the visitor center near the Island Lake campground. Caution should be kept for anyone not yet used to the high altitude.