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984 Crater Lake
via Pawnee Pass

West side of Pawnee Pass - looking down at Pawnee Lake

After our trip up Mount Audubon, we returned to the Indian Peaks for an overnight backpacking trip. We had permits for a two night trip, but we needed to let Augie's' (one year old Golden Retriever) paws heal a bit from his first rocky excursion, so we shortened the trip to one night.

We arrived at Long Lake Trailhead, just in time to get one of the last parking spaces. We were just lucky!

Finishing a few last minute details and we were off on the adventure.

The Pawnee Pass Trail branches off the Isabelle Glacier Trail and begins to climb. Every bit of snow, Augie could find, he wanted to play in it. With reckless abandon, he traversed snow slopes as he slid toward rocks below the trail. Then, just in the nick of time he stopped himself. He had a good time.

At Pawnee Pass we peered down to the west (see first photo). The slope seemed to cliff out, but we could see the trail continuing. There had to be a way, no matter how improbable it looked.

Descending from the pass we were amazed at how the trail wove a path through the steep terrain. The trail was simply, a piece of art. It was a blast to hike.

We continued down past beautiful Pawnee Lake and on to crowded Crater Lake our destination. Months before the trip, we had reserved a campsite at Crater Lake, but so had many other hikers. There were no sites available at the lake, but we finally found a designated site down the trail. The site, #1, had a lot to be desired, but it at least had a great view of Lone Eagle Peak from the front door of the tent.

The next morning we said goodbye to the swarms of mosquitoes that were gathered to feast on us and retraced our steps.

As we passed Pawnee Lake, we vowed to return to camp near the isolated lake. Above the lake we climbed steadily to the pass. The switchbacks did a great job of taming the steep couloir. We enjoyed climbing up the path even more than descending it.

Close to the top of the path the wind speed increased. Soon, more effort was spent trying to maintain balance than climbing to the pass. If we had not been using trekking poles, we surely would have a scrape or two from being pushed over by the gusts.

Over the pass, we walked with purpose looking for shelter from the wind. Finally the wind eased. The remaining hike to the trailhead was uneventful, but filled with Kodak moments.

Pawnee Pass to Pawnee Lake is a great hike, that we hope to do again. It would be rated as difficult, but still it is worth the effort.

Happy Across the Pass trails


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