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A Stay at the Milky Way Motel

By Ann Driggers

I didn't think it was going to happen this summer, as weather scuppered one trip and running plans and busy schedules took care of most weekends. But the night after the Power of Four 22k Trail Race, which I rather surprisingly and incredibly won (!), I decided I had enough of racing and wanted to go backpacking instead.  Despite the short 10 days notice, we managed to gather a group of five of us adventuresome gals to head out on a 30 mile point-to-point, partial traverse of the Holy Cross Wilderness.

We started at the busy Holy Cross/Fall Creek trailhead but quickly left the masses behind as we took the trail less traveled towards Fall Creek Pass.

We were pleased to see that wildflowers were still blooming up high:

When we reached the pass an afternoon storm rolled in and we spent the next few miles hiking down past the Seven Sisters lakes in rain. Although a little gloomy it was still quite beautiful:

The Elephant Heads were really out in force:

After passing through Holy Cross City, an old derelict mining town, and with 10 miles under our belts for the day, we set up camp at Fancy Lake.

I awoke early and snuck out of my tent to watch the sunrise over the distant Gore Range:

Once up the sun lit the peaks surrounding the lake:

Our second day on the trail started off with a climb up and over Fancy Pass at 12,380 feet and then dropping down into the head waters of Cross Creek.

From there we left the trail and beat our own path across country and up and over an unnamed pass in the above photo on the far right. This was a route that we had an idea would go having researched on the map and on Google Earth, but until we got there and figured it out we did not know for sure. I was excited to find it totally worked, and I wasn't the only one who had that idea since there was a faint trail in spots. Even better, when we landed over the otherside we were transported to an even more spectacular setting than before. Granite walls, mouton rochees and boulders were interlaced with meadows blanketed with wildflowers, and emerald and turquoise lakes and tarns, strung together by gurgling streams and cascading waterfalls.

We wandered, almost in a daze, for hours, gradually making our way down this pristine alpine valley to our next camp. Here we whiled away the evening flyfishing, cooking up mushrooms, playing music, reading poetry, drinking bourbon and engaging in the general merriment that a group of five gals might get up to when left to their own devices for a few days.

In the middle of August the milky way is at its peak and I tried my best to capture its incredible beauty:

Our final day involved linking a number of trails for about 10 miles to reach our vehicle left at Woods Lake. The landscape we traveled through was quite different from the days previous but uniquely beautiful. We hiked between big stands of lodgepole pine, across 'parks' and past lakes.

As we approached the trail head marking the end of our trip I really wanted to make the clock stop and hike backwards. Even if just for a few nights my annual stay at the Milky Way Motel is always the best.

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