Sun and Snow in Rocky Mountain National Park

June 15, 2008 at 10:44 pm

Mark and I camped Saturday night with Doug and Liz, enjoying a warm evening in Estes Park and the smooth classic rock melodies from our fellow campers until the wee hours of the morning. When we awoke on Sunday, we made a tasty breakfast, Mark chased our tent across a field, we packed up, and headed in to the National Park for a day of mountains and vistas.

There are more pictures up in the gallery!

Doug and Liz enjoy the view (after I told them to)

Doug had big plans for our day, and had picked out a great hike that, with use of the park shuttle, would send us over a remote 11,000ft pass and have a net elevation loss of over 1,000ft. Unfortunately, the snowpack this year has been … wait for it … leg-en-dare-ree. And the rangers at the Bear Lake trailhead were ready to physically block us from heading up this trail without appropriate gear (crampons, ice axes, avy beacons, sunscreen, food for a week, emergency shelters, etc). Rather than invoke the wrath of 6-10 retirees in ranger uniforms, we agreed to head lower and hike out to a few very pretty, but less remote, alpine lakes.

Google Earth view of our Hiking trails

We waded through tourists in shorts and tank tops for the first mile or so, but the crowds thinned when the trail steepened above Alberta Falls, and began crossing over large snow fields. The trails over the (very deep) piles of snow were well packed, but we were all happy to have our trekking poles as we slipped and slid all over the stuff.

Liz carefully walks down the steep snow field

We hiked all the way up to Loch Vale first, which ended up being a little less than 2.5 miles from the Bear Lake trailhead. I’ve been to some beautiful areas of Rocky Mountain, but this little lake has to be one of my new favorites. It was simply stunningly beautiful. I couldn’t stop taking pictures of the snowfields, the rocks (is that the Petite Grepon?), the birds, the fisherman, the mountains and the glaciers. I did a little yoga self-portraiture for my photography portfolio, we all ate lunch, and enjoyed the spot.

Natural Natarajasana

We hiked back down the hill, refilled the water bottles, took long exposures of the very full rivers pouring out of the glacier, and a mile later we were up at Mills lake. Mark and I had been here before, when we climbed the Spearhead a few years ago, but it was nice to be here in the daylight, not exhausted and able to take more awesome pictures.

Mills Lake

On a normal day in June, we would be able to hike well above any of these lakes, but there was just too much snow this weekend. It made Doug and Liz nervous about their upcoming trip to Yellowstone, but made Mark and I more secure in our decision to not climb the Grand Teton next week. Hopefully, though, most of this snow will be melted off by the time we’re ready to climb the Petite or maybe even Long’s later this summer…