At 7:30 from the Milner Pass Trailhead we began our hike. The first mile of this hike is steep but beautiful through some nice forest and sweet views of the Never Summers. As we approach tree line we are treated to a couple of elk grazing in a small meadow below us. We stopped for a bit to watch and soak up the coolness on this still, quiet mountain morning. With tree line now visible and our first glimpses of the tundra leading to Ida just ahead, we begin again what should be a couple of hours of “easy” sailing.
Breaking out of the woods onto the tundra brings you to a whole new world. Following the trail uphill across the backside of the Continental Divide, we arrive in short order at “Marmot City” and it lives up to its name. We’re treated to marmots sunning themselves, oblivious to the pretty lady with the Canon shouting out posing instructions. We continue on, coming to our first “head scratcher” of the day. 2 trails. One veers left, gently up to a ridge, the other climbs steeply and then continues on the Divide. Naturally we pick wrong. We follow the gentler trail left. We top out on the Continental Divide a few hundred yards later and are met by views of virtually the entire Park! We stop for a few minutes as Sandy shoots the scenery. Aware now that this isn’t the
correct trail and hoping to keep on schedule we head across the tundra, figuring to catch the trail again up ahead. We finally rejoin the trail after dropping back down and continue on.
The entire trail stays just below the Continental Divide and everything left is sloping tundra for about 100 feet to the actual CD. The temptation to run up and sneak a peak is powerful, but we resist and eventually arrive at the saddle between Jagor Point and Mt. Ida. Below us are two of the Gorge Lakes, Azure & Inkwell. For years these lakes have called out to us. How many times had we sat at Forest Canyon Overlook and marveled at these lakes. They had seemed so unattainable to us. To finally be here, looking down on these gems is probably my favorite moment in the Park. We stop for a breather. This is where the wheels began to come off the wagon.
We notice that the cloud cover is starting to increase, and to the south and east it appears to be raining. It appears, however, as if everything is moving east and away from us. Sensing that we may not have much longer we begin our ascent up to Ida. About half way up the final push to Ida’s summit we heard the first, loud crack of thunder. Looking around we saw dark skies starting to come across Ida’s peak, so we turn around and picked our way as quickly, but safely as we could (a lesson learned on Ypsilon). In short order we made the saddle, and of course, the skies had now cleared and were that beautiful Colorado blue again. Looking around we saw nothing but big white puffy clouds. We discussed what to do. Judging by the sky, there were now no storms to be seen.
After the earlier ascent and descent of Ida, coupled with the lateness of the day we decided a re-attempt of Ida would be stupid. However we both wanted one more grand view of the lakes and decided Jagor Point, around ¾ mile, would work quite well. With our eyes on the view of lakes below we made good time to our destination. We began the short climb to the Point. As Sandy made the peak, I reached around for my camera and saw that the wheels were now definitely off the wagon. The sky above Ida was black again. The rain was falling sideways and we felt, rather than heard, the thunder.
We knew that we needed to reach the trees, and fast. We were an hour by trail from regaining the forest and, on open tundra, we were by at least 5’11” the tallest objects for quite a ways. The only thing that came to mind was “get down fast” so down we head. Not 30 seconds later the storm hit us with full fury. The wind almost knocked us off our feet and the rain pounded so hard it hurt. The temperature began dropping, so we stopped to put on our rain gear and stow Sandy’s camera. Geared up we began heading down again, when Sandy stopped and said, “Bill, nothing looks right!” Sure enough, she’s right. With a fog forming, visibility is poor. Unrecognizable rock and tundra is all we see. Not only are the wheels off the wagon, but the wagon seems to be ready to plummet over a cliff.
With the storm now in full rage, the wind and rain pounding us, we stop and pull out the map and compass. We had strayed further east than we should have and now faced the prospect of some serious downhill ahead. According to the map we needed to head southwest and, unfortunately regain 400’ of lost altitude, to reach the saddle. With the wind still howling, the cold and now hail, at least the thunder & lightning had stopped. The saddle seemed our best option. With the saddle regained, the storm finally broke.
As the rush of adrenaline wore off, we found ourselves completely spent. Wet, shivering, cold and hungry we were too tired to go any further. We sat on the cold, wet ground and ate the last of our trail mix. It tasted like manna from heaven and the water was the sweetest we had ever tasted. We looked back at where we had just come and marveled at how much ground you can cover in a short period of time when you’re scared to death.
As the sun began to warm us, and energized by our rest we finally decide that that’s all the fun we can handle for one day and begin to head home. The Never Summers, now to our left, were just as beautiful as before and except for the tiredness in our legs, it was hard to remember the ordeal we had just gone through. This is where the wagon starts getting put back together. Below us to our left in a small meadow we see a Bighorn ram. He’s laying in the shade of two small aspens, surveying his Kingdom. He’s too far away for any good photos, but the scene is still beautiful to see. While watching, we sit for a bit to rest. We’re reflecting on just what an amazing place this is when the most amazing sight of all occurs. From just below us another ram comes sauntering up the hill and stops no more than 20’ away. He stares at us curiously and then begins grazing like we aren’t even there. Unbelievable! We spend 30 minutes relishing this once in a lifetime opportunity, and then, sadly, pack up and head on down to the trailhead.
We still really have no idea where exactly we went that day. At first we thought we had done Cheley & Ida, but after checking and rechecking I believe we just nailed Ida and Jagor Point. Whatever – we saw some absolutely incredible sights and experienced some exciting (now) adventures. Once again through it all – God proved to be an awesome provider!