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I am a New York-based writer, travel lover, and author of The Drive North and Destination Paranormal. I have several other books in the works, including fiction.

Hiking to Native Lake

It was getting late in the season, despite some snow on the ground in pockets along trails, and I hadn’t been out for a good, solid hike yet. I was so busy running around to New York and Rwanda that I’ve missed out, in a manner of speaking, on some opportunities to explore my own backyard. But, after all the other traveling I’ve done, I could hardly afford another annual national or state park’s pass to get me on the trails. So, since I really needed to get out, I sent a note out on Twitter looking for help and received a quick response from VisitLeadville.
I planned my trip by looking over the list of free hikes in the area they sent me, and took the beautiful drive over Fremont Pass from Interstate-70 on in to Leadville. The directions in the link were perfect and I had no problem finding a trailhead, but I actually wasn’t sure it was the right one. Sure, there were other cars parked, but there was no sign saying this was the trail to Native Lake – just Mt. Massive Wilderness in the San Isabel National Forest.
I shrugged it off and figured a trail would be a trail, I just needed to get out and enjoy some nature as I’ve been in cities too much this summer.
The trail had a gentle slope to it with great, long switchbacks that cut across the face of the mountain as they gained in elevation. And before I knew it, having crossed the path of a waterfall several times, I was hundreds of feet up from where I left my car with spectacular views of the mountains in the area and the dirt road below. It was a spectacular view, and one that I could only imagine would get better as I got further along on the trail since usually there’s a gem at the end of any yellow brick road.

The switchbacked trail continued to carry me up the side of the mountain, occasionally presenting breathtaking panoramas of the surrounding mountain peaks. But when I started on this intermediate level hike, that’s all I expected to be taking my breath away – the views. I didn’t anticipate being so high in elevation, surely over 11,000 feet above sea level, as I worked my way back to what I had hoped was Native Lake.
I wasn’t sure though if I was on the right path, and began to contemplate turning back since I wasn’t prepared for anything too difficult, this being my first hike of the season. And then, unexpectedly, I crossed the timberline and was presented with a view that would cause the von Trapp family to spin in circles and sing. Heck, I even half expected them to come out from behind a nearby tree singing and frolicking in the mountain top meadow.
I still doubted that this was the trail, but as I had never hiked above the tree line before, I figured I’d continue on and see what it looked like so high up. In doing so I caught up to a man in his 60s who confirmed for me that I actually was on the proper trail, and that it also was just as difficult as I had anticipated – he remembered it being much easier ten years and thirty pounds ago. I chuckled at this as I thought how ten years ago was actually an additional thirty pounds for me, so who knows what another ten years will look like if I try to repeat my efforts.
The top of the mountain was covered in green grass and bushes and sprinkled with ponds that were likely left over from the snowmelt. I hopped over the puddles they created on the trail and on across to the other side where I was met with a stunning view of the Native Lake, far below me in a bowl of peaks.

I had made it this far, so I decided to head down lakeside for my planned picnic lunch, shrugging off what I knew would be a difficult hike back to the top of the mountain and ultimately down to my car.
It was worth the extra effort as the lake with the running streams and waterfalls created a peaceful atmosphere, especially as I held it to myself with not another soul around. But really, the hike back to the top of the mountain, made me give pause and wonder if I should purchase a tent on my way home in case I get stuck out on a hike like this in the future as my legs began to seize up and I was taking extra stops, so short of breath.
Another hiker I ran into on my return journey, who was heading to the lake, was surprised when I told him I was just out for the eight mile return day hike since, he said, most people do it in two separate days as they camp and fish for the night. Too bad I’m so partial to electricity and running water, or I might actually go through with my threat of a tent purchase.
Still, I had accomplished what I came to do, and that was to get a good, hard hike in on the day. It was more difficult than I had anticipated as I crossed the top of a mountain that was well over 1,000 feet higher than where I began, but I was happy with my efforts and well deserving of a drink to celebrate my hiking season being underway. But now, after such a great hike with amazing views, the question would be where I should venture to next.

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  1. Relaxing at Native Lake | Jason's Travels - July 20, 2012

    […] after a hike to Colorado’s Native Lake near Leadville. Share this:TwitterFacebookPinterestStumbleUponEmailPrintLike this:LikeBe the first […]

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