Spruce Lake, 10/26/2002

Started hiking from the Fern Lake trailhead at 9:47. It was a very cold morning for this time of year. The ground was frozen with occasional frozen puddles on the trail. Beyond the Big Thompson River crossing, snow began appearing on the trail. By the time we got to the Spruce Lake trail junction just below Fern Lake there was about 3 inches of snow on the ground. From that point to Spruce Lake there were no human tracks in the snow, only the ocassional wild animal track crossing the trail. Getting near to Spruce Lake, it became challenging to follow the trail because of the snow and because the trail is difficult to see even without any snow. We stopped at the shore of Spruce Lake and took a couple of pictures. At least half of the lake was covered with ice. I was able to see a couple of fish swimming under the thin layer of ice. I wonder if they freeze solid in the winter. From there we hiked along the lake's north side, then left the west side of the lake heading up toward Loomis Lake. We started ascending up the south (left) side of the canyon along a creek but the terrain soon became extremely difficult then we slowly moved over to the north side of the canyon as we ascended where the terrain was a little better. The terrain started out steep, leveled out a bit, then got steep again. It was very slow going because of the snow combined with rough terrain. We eventually were able to see a clear area down the slope to our right which we interpreted to be the small unnamed lake shown on our topo map that is just before Loomis Lake. The terrain soon became very rough with large rocks and small trees and the only way that looked reasonable was up the slope to our right toward the ridge of Castle Rock. Hiking up that way, the terrrain eventually leveled out very briefly where a tree of great circumference but only about 40 feet tall was growing. This tree looked incredibly old and was actually split in half, but both halves still had green needles on some of the branches. We guessed that it might be as old as 1000 years. I took a picture of Stefan in front of this tree, and he gave it the name "Wizard Tree" (It resembled a man with his arms raised.). We sat down here and had some water, then began hiking east just below the ridge of Castle Rock. The terrain became even more challenging then the ascent route but going very slowly, we eventually made it to the point that Stefan recognized as the route that we took down the Castle Rock ridge on our return to Spruce Lake from our hike up Hidden River. We returned to Spruce Lake at about 14:40, sat on a nice picnic rock near the shore and had some water and nuts. We began hiking back along the trail at about 14:55, and returned to the truck about two hours later.