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Chapter 4
Trail Rider Pass and Snowmass Lake








We awoke to another beautiful day in paradise. Today I only had to make it over one mountain pass instead of two!

After breaking camp and hoisting out packs on our backs, we continued along the North Fork trail down Fravert Basin. As I said in yesterday's chapter, we passed by several nicer campsites, up in the trees on the right side of the trail.

We eventually came to the North Fork waterfall. It's hard to see from the top of the falls. However, from the top of the falls, the trail drops quickly and you get several great views out to the west of the Fravert Basin and the wide, flat valley beyond.

View down Fravert Valley

The view westward down the valley. The waterfall is off to the right.

When you reach the bottom of the hill and look back you can see the falls better. However, the lighting angle was bad in the morning so we didn't get a good photo. About a half mile further the trail splits in a small grove of trees. One trail turned to the left and went up Hasley Basin. One trail went straight and another led off to the right and crossed the stream. The GPS said we weren't at the crossing yet so we weren't sure whether to go straight or ignore the GPs and turn right.

As we were standing there, two other parties of backpackers came along. One party thought the right-hand trail was the correct choice and went off that way. The other party felt the straight-ahead path was correct and promptly continued on that way. We stayed put and decided to see which party turned around and came back first! It turned out that the right turn was the correct path. The stream crossing was wide and deep enough that we had to de-boot to cross.

We were now on the North Fork Cutoff Trail. The map showed it gently going up the side of a hill. Boy was the map misleading! Sure, it started off easy, but, then the slope got very steep and the trail switched steeply back and forth up the hillside. I was having dejavu from yesterday about laboriously clawing my way to the top of the previous two passes. We stopped for lunch when we met up with the trail from Geneva Lake. It was in a small bowl area alongside a nice rocky stream. The other party of backpackers we had met back at the stream crossing had gotten there before us, ate their lunches, and were now just getting ready to continue on.

View along North Fork Cutoff trail

The view along the North Fork Cutoff trail looking back up Fravert Basin. That's the backside of the Maroon Bells on the far horizon.

After lunch it was just a short distance around a bend in the trail and we came to a nice picturesque alpine bowl with two medium sized tarns. It looked like it would be a nice place to camp for the evening. From here we could easily see Trail Rider Pass up ahead and we could see our lunch companions completing the final 10 yards to the pass. They enjoyed the view briefly and then disappeared down the other side of the pass. It wasn't too much longer and we too were at the pass.

View of Trail Rider Pass

This is the picturesque bowl just before Trail Rider Pass, which is the low spot in the ridge to the left.

View from Trail Rider Pass

The view from Trail Rider Pass. Down below is Snowmass Lake.

From the pass we got a great view to the north of Snowmass Lake and the surrounding valley. We could also see the long thin line of the trail snaking down the mountainside descending to the lake. After a few quick photos and some snacks, we continued on down to find a nice 5-star campsite at Snowmass Lake.

There were tons of campsites amongst the pine trees surrounding the lake. We hiked nearly to the far end of the lake where the trees ended looking for our "perfect" site. The sites all had a soft carpet of pine needles and there were many fallen logs for benches. If you didn't want a lake front site there were many further back in the trees.

I was getting rather slow by this time. After setting up camp and taking off my boots I discovered I had developed a blister that covered the entire bottom of my right heel. :-(




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last revised : January 13, 2007