Peak(s):  Fools Peak - 12947
Date Posted:  08/15/2016
Modified:  05/21/2017
Date Climbed:   07/28/2016
Author:  MtnHub
Additional Members:   cloudust
 Fools: Gold!   

Fools: Gold!

Fools Peak at Lake Charles. (photo by cloudust)

July 28, 2016

Peak: Fools Peak (12,947')

Trailhead: Fulford Cave TH
Elevation gain: 3,500'
RT Distance: 14 miles

Climbers: cloudust (Beth), MtnHub (Doug)

Getting There:

From I-70, take Exit 147 to Eagle and go straight to the last roundabout. Take the first right, which is Grand Avenue, the main street into town. At another roundabout, take the Sylvan Lake Road, which bypasses much of the residential part of Eagle and follow this. Look for signs leading to Sylvan Lake State Park. You will drive through another new outlying residential area and then pass by a golf course on your right.

Shortly after you cross a creek (Brush Creek), turn right on Brush Creek Road. Again look for signs to Sylvan Lake State Park. The road may now be labeled Forest Road 400. Follow this excellent paved road about 9 miles through gorgeous farm and ranch land. When you reach a junction, stay left on Forest Road 415, which now becomes a dirt road. A very nice Visitors Center is just off to the left right before this junction. Look for signs to Fulford Cave Campground/Fulford Cave.

Stay on the main road, as there will be a few 4x4 turnoffs along the way. After about 6 miles or so you will drive by the Yeoman Park Campground on the right. Keep going straight ahead on Road 415 to the campground for another mile. Do not take the turnoff to Fulford Cave. At the road's terminus, the Fulford Campground is to the right, the Trailhead to the left.

This last mile is rougher but easily done by most any vehicle. I am the world's biggest wimp for driving on CO dirt roads, but I had absolutely no problem getting to this trailhead.

The Climb:

I leave my motel room in Glenwood Springs around 2am, earlier than I originally planned. I had my alarm set for 1:50 but my wife woke me up a half hour early by mistake. She was half asleep, noticed the clock, and thought I had overslept. Ha!

This is OK, as it gives me a little more time to leisurely get ready. Beth is car camping at the TH and we plan to meet at 4:30. I want to allow a good two hours time to get there.

I merge onto I-70 heading east and am immediately faced with a beautiful last-quarter moon. It looks like the tilted grin of the fading Cheshire Cat. I take this warm, cream-colored smile as a good omen that I'm going to have a great day!

Even though I drive very conservatively (I've learned to take my time driving in the early hours -- I've come across wildlife on or along the roadway too many times) I reach the TH shortly after 4am. As I get out of the car, the star-studded sky above me is simply breathtaking! Beth greets me, and we each unload our gear from our vehicles and prepare for our hike.

With our headlamps beaming brightly, we find the trailhead at the end of the parking area and start down the pathway around 4:15, taking note to follow the Lake Charles Trail (#1899) and not the Ironedge Trail, which immediately branches off to the west.

The trail is nice and easy for the first few miles, fairly level with lots of soft dirt and pine needles to tread on. It's difficult to really get a good feel for it in the dark, and I look forward to enjoying it more on the way out during the daylight hours. After a couple of minor stream crossings, the trail begins to gain some elevation. It eventually emerges into a small open meadow where the still quiet waters of a few ponds lie.

By now there is enough light to turn our headlamps off. Dawn rises gently like a morning prayer. We pass through a small, narrow wetland filled with bistort. The small, white bottlebrush-like blooms are everywhere, and I wonder if Brush Creek is so named because of them.

When we see an opening in the forest ahead, we suspect that we are getting close to the first lake. With a little more steep climbing, we gain the edge of the rim and Lake Charles appears. We take a short break and I nibble on a granola bar while the first rays of dawn lightly brushes the top of Fools Peak. WOW! What a sight!
Lake Charles with first light on Fools Peak.

We'd love to just sit here and absorb the beauty before us but we're also anxious to keep going and see more of what's ahead. Beauty abounds in this place! The trail continues around the north shore of Lake Charles for another mile or so and then finally reaches Mystic Island Lake. The surface of the water mirrors the rugged ridge enclosing it. It's like the huge rocky arms surrounding the cirque are caressing and protecting the lake with an all-engulfing, warm hug! Another big WOW!!
Mystic Island Lake

The trail ends here at the lake so we pick our own way along the western shore. We spy an orange tent on a rocky outcrop overlooking the island up ahead. As a result, we talk minimally and softly, partly so we don't disturb the campers, but also because we feel we are entering a sacred place. It is filled with awe and wonder!

Looking up at the rocky wall to the southwest, we try to discern the way to go. James Dziezynski's book describes the correct gully leading to the saddle as a dirt path that looks like a possible trail. We see no such dirt pathway in a gully. Perhaps in the four years since his book was published the area has weathered enough that new growth has appeared.

We perceive two gullies that could possibly grant us access to the shelf above. Both look doable, but the one on the right looks a bit more promising. It also has a grassy ramp leading up to it for easier access. Maybe this used to be the dirt 'trail' James was describing before it was overgrown with alpine vegetation.
We choose to ascend the gully on the right.

MtnHub climbing to the gully. (photo by cloudust)

cloudust beginning her ascent.

Nearing the mouth of the gully.

Like climbing up through a rock garden.


cloudust leads us into the rocks ...

... and I follow. (photo by cloudust)


Looking back down through the cut in the slope. The tent and the island can now be seen.

Climbing a little higher, we find we need to pass through a very steep, narrow section that is wet with draining water and clogged with willows. We discover the soil and rocks to be unstable here so we take turns going up through this part to avoid spilling rocks on each other. A helmet is advisable for this gully ascent.
Getting into the willows. (photo by cloudust)

We reach a narrow grassy shelf for a little respite before climbing up another couple of rocky gullies, but the most difficult climbing is now behind us.
We get a brief reprieve from climbing when we reach a green shelf.

cloudust taking a picture with Eagle Peak in the background.

(photo by cloudust)

Soon we need to do some more scrambling.

cloudust starting the next rocky section.


Looking back down to the lake below.

Flowers continue to line the gully.

Looking out towards the west.

The final section of climbing before reaching the saddle.

Once we reach the saddle, we take a short break. The last push to the summit is all boulder-hopping. Beth calls this Mother Nature's Stairmaster. I love it!
Beth starting the final push to the summit.

Getting close...

The top is in sight...

Success is sweet!

Basking in the richness of the day, we take a good long and well-deserved break. The deep cerulean sky is so sharp and clear it appears enameled to the dome above us. I keep commenting to Beth that I must be in heaven!
Climbing partners.

Looking straight down at Mystic Island Lake.

Lake Charles and the valley approach.

We look to the southeast where the long rugged ridge leads to Eagle Peak. We debate briefly whether we want to tackle that too, but in the end we both agree it simply looks like too much work. We're content with what we've accomplished and we're happy to return while we're ahead.
Eagle Peak and the rugged connecting ridge.

We're reluctant to leave but, alas! All good things must come to an end. Dropping down the other way to the saddle on the west side, we stop to study the wide gully. It looks pretty good but the green space below could be wet and marshy. From our perspective, Lake Charles, where we are supposed to catch the trail again, is hidden from our view.

There are also trees to get through closer to the lake, which could make for some interesting bushwhacking. I've done enough bushwhacking in the past to know that what appears easy from above can translate into major time-consuming obstacles: thick willows and scratchy underbrush to plow through; wet, marshy boot-sucking mud; short cliff bands that require you to backtrack and maneuver around. So I anticipate the worst.
Looking down from the saddle.

Hoping for the best, we scramble down the talus and we're pleasantly surprised to find the rocks quite stable. By the time we reach the small meadow below we once again find it very pleasant - "easy-peasy" as Dillon would say. It is literally a garden of delights with all the wildflowers surrounding us. We find ample patches of grass and stepping-stones to pass through this area so it's simple to avoid wet spots.
The gully we descended, with wildflowers greeting us with open petals.



We still need to drop down lower to reach Lake Charles but we continue to easily find a way through the trees paralleling the stream downward.
More flowers all the way down!

We intersect with the trail again and I have to say that was the easiest, most delightful bushwhacking I think I will ever encounter. We stop once more at lovely Lake Charles to soak it in as much as possible before we say 'Goodbye!" Our Lord and Creator outdid Himself on this one!
Soaking it in!

The hike out is equally enjoyable, albeit not quite as spectacular as what we've just experienced. The cheerful kaleidoscopic faces of wildflowers continue to greet us along the trail. We also pass several humongous boulders, one being the largest I've ever witnessed. It is one separate rock but it is nearly the size of a 4-story apartment building. Amazing!

We reach our vehicles by 1:30pm, adequately exhausted, but extremely content with our spirits renewed and uplifted. It was truly a perfect day with a perfect new partner!


I could not find the origin for the naming of this mountain as Fools Peak, except to say you'd be a fool not to get back there and climb it. It is not the highest or most difficult peak to bag by any means, but the peace and tranquility, the breathless beauty surrounding you at every turn, makes this a truly magical and inspiring place to experience. Make no mistake, there is nothing artificial about this mountain; this place is solid Gold! On a scale of 1 to 10, this climb is easily a 12!


PS. While I was certainly in heaven during this trip to CO, I'm back home in Iowa now. Although I would move to CO in a minute, it simply isn't in the cards. But IA is not a bad place to live if you have to live in the Midwest.

For those of you unfamiliar with this grand State, I'm closing with an image (which doesn't come close to doing it justice) of a typical scene. Iowa is not a flat boring State by any means, and many (at least in the movies) have to wonder, "Is this heaven?"
Photo taken at the first Rest Area heading east along I-680.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
08/15/2016 17:27
I've added this to the already very long list of places I want to go. Thanks for sharing!

Darn it, Doug!
08/16/2016 08:37
Now I have ANOTHER one to add to my bucket list. Geez - I'm gonna have to live to 100 to empty that bucket!

Nice one, Doug - looks like you and Beth had a great day!

Brian Thomas
I must be in heaven!
08/16/2016 16:56
You are. Welcome to Colorado

Thanks for your comments!
08/16/2016 20:39
Jay -- if anyone lives to be 100 it will be you. Like Dillon frequently says, "You the man!" I'm inspired by you; I figure if you can keep climbing, I still have a few more years left in me. Great to finally meet and hike with you earlier this summer.

Bri -- yeah, 'heaven' comes in various flavors I think, but CO's version certainly is one of the best!

Another one...
08/16/2016 21:48
that's been hanging out on my "to-do" list for a few years.

Nice job on the hike and TR!

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