~Tuesday, May 10, 2022~
Jeff and I rarely watch tv nor do we stay at places that offer cable. But this place does, offering 9 premium movie channels. Nice! So, last night I thought while doing my stitching project, I would tune into some mindless movie watching….”Employee of the Month” . I know, I know. Not the best choice, but it was pretty funny…..that is until the tv went black. With it being the midnight hour, I didn’t feel like troubleshooting the problem, so continued my stitching the remainder of the evening, in silence. We’re on TV #2 for the living area, which was replaced for free since it was still within the warranty period. So we sure hope it isn’t that.
After tending to a few things in the morning, we didn’t get out the door until around 1:30…..a little late for a big hike day. Our first stop at the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center didn’t quite work out to plan. They wouldn’t say why it was closed for the day, but hoped to reopen the following day. At least there was a park ranger outside the building, offering trail tips and information on road conditions in the park since they’re in their transition period between Winter and Spring. It appears most roads are open with the exception of Trail Ridge Road which is still under 3 feet of snow. That road won’t open until late May. We originally had plans to take this route to our next destination, as we explored the other side of Rocky Mountain National Park. So we won’t be able to traverse so we won’t be able to traverse the park, but instead have to go around the park, adding another 1-½ hours to our drive coming up this Friday. to our next destination (adding another 1-½ hours to our drive). Oh well. Can’t accelerate Mother Nature’s pace.
It seems we’ve timed our arrival here quite well since snow adds to the drama of the landscape and the crowds are not as insane. The downside, however, is not being able to see everything in its Spring glory, which we’ll see likely in Wyoming, Montana and South Dakota.
We took the ranger’s advice, by taking Bear Lake Road today. There are several amazing hikes in this area. So we decided to hike the 1-mile perimeter trail around Bear Lake, in snow. Normally, one would choose to use snowshoes which we don’t have with us. But luckily the route was pretty flat at 9,450 feet and the snow, very compact. Hiking poles definitely helped, though we may have slipped and slid just a little. Bear Lake was still pretty frozen over, but continuing to work on its Spring thaw.
As we were finishing up the loop, we took a look at the topo map showing the other hikes in the area. One in particular attracted our attention with its location at the base of some of the highest peaks we’ve seen on the trip. We could see these pinnacles from afar, but there’s nothing like being up close and personal. In most cases, you don’t get this kind of benefit without paying some dues. So off we went, up the mountain on the Emerald Lake Trail. The trail is only 3.2 miles out and back, but the majority of it is compacted snow at this time, which always slows things down. Plus, it was a climb. We passed a small number of hikers, all encouraging us to tredge on with the bonus of what lies ahead. We noticed most were ill prepared for hiking in this type of terrain. Most were in t-shirts and tennis shoes, carrying no water and no poles. The only extra thing we wished we had were micro-spikes for our shoes for added traction (protruding spikes on the soles of shoes….sort of like mini crampons). At least it wasn’t icy.
It’s so nice to feel our legs getting stronger, and our lung capacity improving. Had we not been at this altitude for some time, this hike would have killed us. Starting at 9,450 feet, climbing to 10,200 feet wasn’t too bad. For us, it was just maintaining our sure footedness in the snow. Along the way, we passed two other lakes….first, Nymph Lake followed by Dream Lake; both still pretty frozen. As we inched our way closer to Emerald Lake, we were in complete awe,
especially the views of Flattop Mountain at 12,324 feet and Hallett Peak at 12,713 feet. I couldn’t resist asking this young couple we met to take a photo of Jeff and I with these awe inspiring beauties behind us. It was the perfect moment where a selfie just wouldn’t have cut it. At the end of the trail, we had warm sunshine, the perfect sit upon flat rocks to have our snack, and the most spectacular scenery in front of us.
With the clouds rolling in and the temperatures dropping during our rest at Emerald Lake, we were ready to reverse our route. At this point, both of our hiking boots were pretty wet (even waterproof isn’t completely waterproof). As long as we kept moving, our feet stayed warm. But what an amazing experience. We’d do this hike again in a heartbeat, snow or no snow.
As we hit the road via Bear Lake Road, we made note of another intriguing trail…..The Glacier Gorge Trail which we hope to do tomorrow. Getting closer to exiting the park, we timed our wildlife viewing perfectly. The elk and deer, all enjoying their dinner, appeared around 6:30. We noticed a little side road where it seemed like a good place to park and watch. Luckily we had our binoculars, though it didn’t take long for the elk to make their way closer to us. I got some pretty cool footage of one particular herd….all females. The park is currently doing a 20-year study on restoring key vegetation for these animals and others. So it is not uncommon to see sporadic 20-acre fenced-in areas
where they are working on restoring vegetation. The elk we saw tonight seemed ever so interested in what lies behind the fencing with its lush appearance. What the elk don’t realize is that if vegetation is restored and not exhausted, that it will in turn help the wildlife that depend on aspen and willow for habitat.
Continuing on before the park’s exit, we saw an inviting beautiful, green, meadowy area called Moraine Park via Fern Lake Rd. Again, we saw more herds of elk and deer, heads to the ground for feeding time.
This area in Rocky Mountain National Park was once carved by glaciers thousands of years ago that have since receded. Braided by the Big Thompson River and views of Longs Peak at 14,259 feet tall, it is a lovely peaceful section of this magnificent national park. We took just a little of the trail, meandering through the valley, crossing a few newly constructed bridges (Jeff was very interested in these), and took in the beautiful colors that only dusk can bring. Opposite the parking lot, not in the meadow area itself, were scars from the devastating 2020 fires. Yet, it’s encouraging to see the forest rebound just 2 years later.