This really is a bucket list trail. Every time I see someone post a trail review of this milky green lake I just want to go! I tried to do this hike in the summer but I never got around to it. Recently I saw a couple photos of the lake with some snow around the edges and they looked pretty spectacular. I’m a sucker for a great photo! Decision made! Hike Blanca Lake before all the snow arrives!
Friday the weather report looked really good. Clear skies with a chance of rain or snow after 4. That would work out perfectly as we would be back to the truck by then! With snow around it is important to pack for a variety of weather conditions so extra clothes and what felt like four days of food. Better to be over prepared!😳
My friend, Todd, and I headed out a 7 am. We parked and started the extra 2 mike trek at 8:45. We were the only car at the gate. The road is closed due to three large washouts on the road leading to the trailhead. It looks like a major repair project so I’m not sure when or if it will be fixed. We arrived at the trailhead around 9:15 and set out on our journey.
The trail starts in the forest where there was no snow. This was nice because I was looking forward to seeing our trail work from our WTA work party a group of Happy Hikers did in September. The drainage ditch constructed was doing its job perfectly! A new set of log stairs made for a easy step up! A short rock path covered a muddy section of the trail. Dang we did good trail work!😁. Shortly after bragging about our awesome tail work the trail conditions changed to 2-4 inches of slushy ice. It was a bit slippery so microspikes came in handy! We hiked in these conditions mixed with short sections of 4-6 inches of powder for about a mile. This trail has a lot of switchbacks. We could start to see the blue sky over the ridge line so that pushed us to keep going through all the switchbacks. At many points it truly felt like all we were doing was walking back and forth across the hillside but going nowhere. Them we’d get another glimpse of the blue sky and would gain motivation again, only to see it disappear after a switchback. As we gained elevation the slush turned to pure powder. Starting at about six inches deep and quickly gained to twelve to eighteen inches deep. Since we were the first on the trail we were blazing the trail. You could see the trail for the most part because the trail was lined with powder about two to two and a half feet of snow! The deep snow made the work effort much greater than normal. The trail was really narrow in places so snowshoes were not helpful. After about three hours of hiking and still not having the ridgeline in sight I was beginning to wonder if we would ever see it. My legs were so tired.
We finally found the first section of the ridge line but quickly lost the trial. We had to scramble up a rock face that was covered in snow and fairly slick. Additional workout for the legs! Once we got across the ridge we entered the start of what is probably a meadow in the summer. It was filled with small trees and thigh deep powder!❄️❄️
You could see which way the wind blows because all the trees had snow blown up one side pushing the top of the tree over so they looked like mini cornices. If the trees were bright colors and covered in Christmas decorations I would have expected to see Cindy Lou Who and The Grinch because we definitely were in Doctor Suess’ Whoville!! So pretty! We should have started singing “Fah who for-aze! Dah who dor-aze! Welcome Christmas! Come this way!”
At this point we had been hiking for 5 hours and we still we not at the lake. 😩. We could see down in the valley the edge of Virgin Lake. It looked frozen. We could see the remnants of what we think was the trail headed down into the valley. It is a steep decline into the valley. The trail had not been walked on since the snow so it was about 2 feet deep. We could see a dark cloud looming nearby and we figured it would be at least 2 hours of hiking( .8 miles each way) to get down to Blanca Lake and back up the hill. That would have made it about 3:30 before we got back to the ridge which would have meant a few hours of hiking in the dark with snow or rain. That didn’t sound appealing so for safety we decided to turn back.
Getting down was still work but easier as the trail was pack down by us and a couple other groups we saw. I saw the snow drift clinging to a log and it looked just like a dragon! Couldn’t help but take a picture. It was a perfect shot for my #devynrocks photo. I always take this love rock on my hikes to honor a family who lost their son this summer. He loved to hike so I take him hiking with me!❤️
Once we got out of the powder the slush and ice became pretty slippery. Harder on the knees and hips coming back down. It only took us 2.5 hours to get back to the road. We walked out with another group who turned around at the same place we did. At this point we were tired. Our feet hurt and we were tired of walking. This made the trek on the road seem much longer than it was. The gate was never in sight, ever! We entered the mental battle of physical exhaustion! We finally made it back to the truck. Drank some chocolate recovery milk! Delicious! And finally sat down!!!!! YAY!!!
My activity app says we took roughly 30,000 steps. In hiking calories this would be around 3,000 calories. Let’s just say today I’m starving!
We may not have made it to the lake so that means it stays on the bucket list for next summer!
Blanca Lake Trail I want a rematch. Next summer! Game on!