Yowsa! Fall is really here, and our mornings in the desert have been awesome. It’s that time of year where we can hike locally and go further. Oh, happy days! I’m sure I’ll have more adventures to share, but I wanted to continue what I started last week.
Our birthday trip to Pagosa Springs, Colorado, was a whirlwind, but we did manage to get another hike in while there. On day two, we headed south on 84 from the Pagosa Lodge and turned left on Blanca Basin / Road #326. We went 14 miles on a dirt road that any vehicle could handle. You do not need 4-wheel drive or a high-clearance vehicle.
Eventually the road turns into NF 657/326 where you’ll encounter some washboards but nothing major. The drive is very pretty with great views of the San Juan Mountains. In another 10 miles, we turned right onto Fish Creek Road #660 with signs for the Opal Lake trail head parking lot. It is 3 more miles from here, and in 2 miles you turn right again onto #023 or just follow the signs.
Note: Watch for cows meandering on the road. Yes, cows…big ones! They weren’t in a hurry to get off the road either. Blanca Basin is ranch country.
Anyway, parking is free, but the lot isn’t very big. There is not a human restroom, so mom and dad had to go doggy style. I showed them the ropes! Woof.
Opal Lake is located in the San Juan wilderness and gets its name because of the mineral deposits at the inlet that give the water its milky color.
The hike to the lake is just over a mile, and it is a steady uphill. It’s not a difficult trail, but you are at 8,400 feet. We all felt it, and I kept looking back at mom wondering why we were out of breath despite the cool temperatures. It was in the 40s when we started. That’s Kuma temperature. Awoof! Remember, you might not feel dehydrated in crisp weather, but you still need to drink plenty of water, especially at higher elevations.
The trail is well maintained and easy to follow. It had rained the night before, so we encountered some mud. The ground was nice and soft winding through the forest, both pine and aspen trees. I’d say we were hitting it at one of the very best times to visit with the turning of the leaves.
Although known to locals, this hike doesn’t get too busy. We arrived in about an hour to an unusual-looking lake. It wasn’t like anything I’ve seen before. We stood there and stared at it for a few minutes. Because of all the minerals (Pagosa is known for the natural hot springs…more on that next time) deposited, the water was opaque with translucent blue hues. It was pretty and strange all at once.
We found a spot to sit, and dad got some hot tea going. Mom pulled out our picnic lunch, and we sat listening to the sounds of nature. It was extremely quiet except for a canine friend who was jumping in and out of the lake. He was a happy fellow! I went in for a quick dip as well.
The clouds were darkening and threatening more rain, so we packed it up and started back to the car. Going downhill went much faster, and we were adjusted to the altitude by then. Before we knew it, we were back to the car, for a total of 2.3 miles. Dad wanted to check out of the most scenic drives in Colorado, which meant we went back to Blanco Basin Road but instead of going toward Pagosa Springs, we went the opposite direction.
It’s actually called Blanco Basin because the tops of the peaks often have snow on them all year long. Even though we were in the San Juan wilderness and mountains, we got views of the Sangre de Cristo range, a group of mountains that includes Blanca, Ellingwood Point, Little Bear and Mt. Lindsey.
The road remains dirt but easy. It takes you through some incredible valleys filled with multi-million-dollar homes and ranges. The fall color was peaking, and the snow-capped peaks majestic. Again, cows live here, so go slow. It isn’t if you will encounter cows but when and how many. They seemed like nice enough creatures.
The road ends after about 3 miles, and you turn around to head back the way you came. All in all, it was about an hour drive to the trail head, another 45 minutes for scenic detour, and an hour back. Hiking time was one hour up and 45 minutes back. It took more of our day than we thought, but we are glad we did it. Opal Lake is something you won’t see every day, and Blanca Basin is amazing.
Next week, I’ll wrap up our trip. In the meantime, you know I’m outdoors and living life. It’s one great, big adventure!
My mom, Lorraine Bossé-Smith, is kind enough to help me share my Great Adventures, big and small. My mom is a motivational speaker, corporate trainer, executive recruiter, business consultant, coach, fitness expert, and author of nine published books. More importantly, she’s the best doggy mom ever!
and be sure to follow me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Kumathedog/ and Instagram: kumaitothedog
Get outside! You never know what you’ll discover, and our paths just might cross. Happy tails!