It's a long road up to Clear Lake. James, Andrea and I headed up there early this morning, bouncing over the rocks and ruts in James's Jeep, and yawning every so often to clear our ears as we climbed to 12,000 feet.
As a former New Jerseyan, I still get a little thrill at the idea of being two and a half miles high. (You Coloradans can laugh—I won't mind.) And looking back down the road to the valley below just emphasized how very far we'd climbed.
The first sign of the lake was this waterfall, which drains its overflow.
It's beautiful, but it doesn't prepare you for the tranquil beauty of Clear Lake itself. Sitting in a bowl-like glacial cirque, the lake's glassy water reflected the pure blue early-morning sky.
It was so entrancing that Andrea and I decided to just relax, while James photographed the landscape. We basked in the sun, enjoying a stillness broken only by the occasional whistlings of pikas nesting on the rocks above us.
As always happens on these summer days, clouds soon boiled up all around us, and within an hour the blue sky was swarming with cumulus. In this photo I deliberately underexposed, in order to bring out the shapes and reflections of the clouds.
Alas, no paradise remains unspoiled for long, and the stillness was eventually shattered by the wasp-like buzz of two dirt bikes climbing the trail to where we sat by the lake. We figured it was time to go, so we gathered up our gear and headed back down.
I've gotten to the point where these "four-wheeling" excursions don't bother me, but I'm not sure I'll ever quite get used to them. In an effort to give you an idea of what it's like, I shot a short video as we drove back down. (If you're prone to motion sickness, I recommend that you not watch this video fullscreen. Just editing it made me a bit queasy.) Bear in mind that this is one of the smoother stretches of road. On the rougher sections, I couldn't have held the camera!
(Note: this video is large and may take awhile to load.)
Yes, it's a long road down from Clear Lake.
After all that jolting and jouncing, Route 550 felt smooth as glass as we headed back to our campground on Little Molas Lake.