Wednesday, August 4, 1999

Three Forks Loop (8/1-4/99)

Trail: Three Forks Conejos River Loop
Trailhead: Platoro Reservoir
Trailhead Elevation: 10,200 ft.
High Point: 12,129 ft. on the south end of the loop between Lake Ann and Blue Lake.
Trip Elevation Total: 3185 ft.
Trip Mileage Total: 16.8 miles


This backpacking trip went from August 1 to 4, 1999. We were hiking down in the San Juans. One word describes this trip: WET. It seemed to rain constantly from start to finish.

We started from the end of the road just south of Platoro Reservoir. For the first two miles we followed along the Conejos River along relatively flat terrain. This took us to a larger meadow where we hit the Three Forks. We took the Middle Fork trail. This led us through our first stream crossing of the North Fork and into the Middle Fork drainage. We followed that in about a mile and a half to where I estimate we spent our first night. This day like all to come was marked with plenty of rains and wet gear. And this being our first backpacking adventure we were less than prepared for how to handle the rain. David, Mark and Denny were trying to deal with garbage bags over our large backpacks which just wasn't a fun thing to do. At night we were struggling to find ways to keep our backs dry under the vestibules, that too, was not a fun ordeal.
Our second day involved a 3 mile hike up to 11,375 where the Middle Fork trail met up with the Continental Divide trail. We set up camp #2 near a large tree and made our way up to Lake Ann. It was beautiful up at the Lake but our stay was ultimately cut short by heavy rains that once more came down on us. We made a mad dash down the 500 foot slope from Lake Ann to our camp getting drenched along the way.
Our third day was a nearly 6-mile hike from our camp by Lake Ann to Blue Lake. This took us up into the high elevations topping out just over 12,100. The hike into Blue Lake was a pretty one and the Lake itself was great. If our views had clear blue skies it may have been even more majestic. A memory from our third camp that day at Blue Lake was desperately trying to light a fire with the wet wood we had laying around. We were so desperate we even had both of our campstoves running full blast at the kindling we had put together and still were unable to get anything going. We had picked out a beautiful camping location nonetheless on a small hill overlooking the lake.
Our fourth day was the hike out, about a 5.5 mile hike. The big highlight of the last day, other than getting into our dry vehicle was the major stream crossing we had to make once we got back to the Three Forks area. This crossing took place along the main branch of the Conejos river before the North Fork and Middle Forks break apart. We were in moving water up over our knees nearing our waists trying to carefully keep our footing. It was quite a relief to finally be out on this hike. Too many memories of getting drenched by rain, avoiding massive mud puddles along the trail, and wet socks. But miraculously we decided that we wanted to try this backpacking thing again.


Here is the basic trail that we followed. I pulled this from topo maps of the area and manually plotted the track using Google Earth. It doesn't show any detours we took, such as the hike up to Lake Ann.

My Tracks


I have embedded the photos I took from this hike:

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