August 15, 2020
The day after hiking Circleville Mountain I hiked to Blue Lake with Chris and Dollie. The two hikes were very similar as far as distance and elevation gain/loss, both over seven miles and 1,300′ vertical. Since Blue Lake can be accessed either by the Skyline National Recreation Trail starting at Mud Lake, or a closed dirt road north of Bullion Pasture, we decided to make this a loop. We dropped my truck off at the locked gate at the top of the road and then took Chris’ truck to Mud Lake and started down the trail. After crossing a creek and climbing for a bit, we reached the junction with the Skyline trail and it was mostly downhill from there to Blue Lake.
The trail initially wound through the trees without much of a view. After a turn to the north we caught our first view of Blue Lake and had frequent views of mounts Baldy and Belknap for much of the hike. We crossed a stream several times and enjoyed an easy, mostly shaded walk. There were a few bow hunters on the trail, and we passed a pair of women with two dogs closer to the lake.
The water level was disappointing low. I’d imagine it’s much prettier when the lake is full. We took a short break at a campsite in the trees on the north side of Blue Lake and then started walking up the road. It had been freshly graded, probably only within the last couple of days judging by how green some of the grass still was that had been uprooted by the bulldozer. Blue Lake Creek would appear and disappear within the watercourse, running underground in some places. In contrast to the cool, pleasant hike down the trail, walking up the road was tough. The sun was high in the sky and there was almost no shade along the road, and it was quite steep. New berms created by the dozer on the side of the road were unstable and there was a slide just above me at one point, kicking up a cloud of dust. We reached the truck about four and a half hours after we’d started and it felt wonderful running the A/C on high for the drive back to camp.
The next day everyone who was camping with us went home, but Traci and I wanted to stay an extra night. I’d hoped to hike Mount Belknap that day but I was too worn out from the previous days’ back-to-back hikes. That makes twice now I’ve gotten skunked on Belknap, the first time being in 2019 when we encountered a locked gate due to snow on the road. Instead I took two of the dogs for a short hike and then spent the rest of the day relaxing at camp.