Hike Difficulty: moderate
Hike Length: 4.02 mi -> camp -> 2.46 mi
Elevation Gain: 1122 ft
Highest Point: 6923 ft
Time: 2 hrs 30 mins and 1 hr 6 mins
My Rating (out of 5): 4.5 – I always love those trips that I decide to go on last minute. A coworker and I found out that we both are avid hikers and we both know the same places. So, that sparked a conversation about going backpacking up in Mountain Lakes Wilderness after school. It seemed like a crazy, hurried plan, but it worked out pretty well.
Our plan was to hike in to the MLW as far as we could, camp, then make our way up to Aspen Butte’s summit in the morning. The mountain loop trail that connects to Clover Creek trail is about 4.3 miles in, so it seemed like a good goal. We got to the trailhead around 6 PM with the sun setting at 8:45.
It was a bit trick to navigate certain portions of the trail because there was still large amounts of snow. We had to cross two snowmelt streams and climb over many fallen trees. It was helpful to look for the flat surface of sawed trees because it was a sign that the trail ran through the area. However, that tactic led me to take the right fork after a pond instead of the left one, which put us on an unmaintained trail that I hadn’t used. With all the difficulty navigating and the sun going down, we decided to backtrack to the pond and find a site to make camp.
The night was crazy because I have a 3-season tent and a sleeping bag rated to 40 degrees, but I’m pretty sure it was 30 degrees or less. We were all huddled in my tent with Grace and it worked pretty well. I slept many more hours than I thought I would.
The next morning, we tried one more time to find the trail, even taking a left at the fork toward Clover Lake. But, it was still tricky to navigate on the ice-covered snow and I didn’t bring my Yaktrax, so we didn’t make it to Aspen Butte, or even the ridge. Still, it was a memorable trip and I will go back very soon.