Estes Park, CO
Tuesday morning we were up early and headed for Rocky Mountain National Park. The hike we had planned was up into the mountains to the Loch Vale. The trail head for this hike is at the end of Bear Lake Road, which is currently undergoing extensive construction. The road is closed to all traffic except the park shuttle bus from nine to four each day. But if you get there before nine in the morning, you can drive all the way to the end. Once you get through the construction, you can drive back out at any time, but you’ll face a bit of a delay waiting for the pilot car to guide you back. We were on Bear Lake Road a little after eight hoping to get by the construction before they began. But apparently they start early, as we had to sit for about ten minutes until the pilot car escorted us (and many other cars) through the construction area. We missed the lot where we should have parked and ended up a little further up the road at the Bear Lake parking lot (where the road ends). But we figured that would be all right, as the map showed it was only a tenth of a mile back along a trail that would meet the one leading to the Loch. So much for map accuracy as the trail was a half mile long, not a long distance, but all down hill. That meant we would face a half mile back UP the hill on the return hike.
We joined the main trail to the Loch and soon crossed over a fairly full stream.
A little under a mile further up the trail we came to beautiful Alberta Falls. This beautiful thirty foot waterfall, which thunders down a small gorge on Glacier Creek, is named after Alberta Sprague, the wife of Abner Sprague, one of the original settlers in the Estes Park area.
As we continued our hike up the mountain, snow began to appear in larger and larger amounts. But it never was much of an obstacle, as the warm weather of late had melted much of it. Our friends, Howard and Linda of RV-Dreams, had hiked this trail two and a half weeks ago and it was filled with deep snow much of the way. But the snow was just too difficult to resist for one of the hikers, despite a warning from her former middle school principal!
Fortunately for him, she isn’t too talented when it comes to snowballs, as the one she attempted to throw at her former principal disintegrated before hitting its target. Good thing, though, as he still has his paddle stored in her basement and wouldn’t hesitate to use it!
The views along the hike continued to be impressive . . .
. . . and the snow continued to deepen.
After hiking for about three miles and gaining almost a thousand feet of elevation, we reached a very large bank of snow covering the trail.
We hiked about a tenth of a mile on the snow when the Loch appeared in front of us.
What a perfect spot to enjoy an early lunch. Note the light jackets, as it was quite a bit cooler up there surrounded by snow.
After an extended stay enjoying the view of the Loch, we headed back down the trail.
We then headed into Estes Park to enjoy a coffee at the local Starbucks. As we returned to the Jeep, we were surprised when we looked to the west back toward the national park and saw huge billows of smoke on the horizon. Apparently a small fire that started the day before on the west side of the park had flared up due to low humidity and high winds. The fire is in a remote section of the park so it doesn’t threaten anyone, but the odor from the smoke sure was strong.
After a long day of hiking, what better way to reward yourself than a good barbecue! Howard and Linda had highly recommended Smokin’ Daves BBQ and Taphouse, so off we went. Smoking Dave’s has two “Family Meals”. The Big Kahuna Bellybuster feeds 5 – 6 and the Not-So-Teeny Wahine feeds 2 – 3. There are many other choices on the menu, but come on, we did a big hike today! We deserved the Wahine, which came with ribs, pulled pork, brisket, chicken, four sides, and cornbread.
After eating much more than we are use to, we asked the server if they had a small golf cart to get us back out to the Jeep. But with no such vehicle available, we were forced to waddled out the door on our own! We then drove back into the park to see if any Big Horn Sheep were out near Sheep Lakes. We drove all around that area but, alas, the sheep had the day off. But we did spot a mother coyote and her pup near a visitors center.
Well, another exciting day in the Rocky Mountains! Tomorrow is our final hiking day here before Jessica flies back home and we begin to make our way east. We’re not sure which hike we’ll take, but it looks to be another long one!
More on that later . .