Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Snowshoeing in Rocky Mountain National Park

I had to go to Boulder, Colorado for work last week. I decided to make the most of it by going out early and staying through this past weekend. We have lots of friends there, so Michael flew out at the end of the work week. We intended to stay with friends, but this wound up being a trip where flexibility was required. More on that in a bit.

I arrived late Friday night and stayed with my brother. We visited Garden of the Gods on Saturday. It must have been 75 degrees, which was a bit of a shock coming from the chilly weather here the previous week. It was crowded, but we managed to find a short trail with only a few people.

On Sunday, a friend and I borrowed snowshoes fand headed for Rocky Mountain National Park. For all of the times I've been to Colorado, I had never actually been there. We were warned that parking can be at a premium at Bear Lake Trailhead, but the lot was only about 1/3 full when we got there. We hiked the trail towards Emerald Lake. I expected to struggle. I arrived 48 hours prior to our hike and my friend arrived had been in Colorado less than 24 hours at that point. The trailhead is at nearly 9,500 feet. Much to my surprise, we did pretty well. We were slow on the uphills, but otherwise, we had a good hike to Emerald Lake. The views were just spectacular. There is a reason why this is such a popular area.
 Looking towards Emerald Lake from Nymph Lake
On the hike up to Dream and Emerald Lakes. Although it was relatively warm, the wind was fierce. I wore my parka the entire hike.
 Just above Dream Lake.
 The bark of an evergreen tree.
 Looking down on Emerald Lake
My friend snowshoeing above Emerald Lake. We turned around shortly after this. The legs were strong, but my lungs were burning a bit at this point from the lack of oxygen.
Frozen Emerald Lake
 I love this picture for the sense of scale. In addition to the group on the edge of the lake, there are two skiers about halfway up the chute in the top center of the photo, just to the right of the large pillar of rock.
A dead tree on the lakeshore.
Standing on Emerald Lake. I'm pretty sure this is the first time I've been out on a frozen lake. On this day, the ice was really smooth.
Bubbles trapped in the ice.

Our hike back to the parking lot was quick. The parking lot was a complete circus, complete with people clubbing each other for parking spots. We were still feeling energetic, so we decided to hike to Alberta Falls. I sort of expected the frozen columns of ice that one usually sees when waterfalls freeze. What we found instead was an inky black sheet of ice through which we could see water flowing. I had never seen anything like it. It was very cool and completely unexpected. Unfortunately, I couldn't capture it with my camera.

After my week of meetings was over, Michael flew out to Colorado to join me. As I said earlier, we intended to stay with friends for the weekend. That didn't wind up happening because several members of their family got sick. So, Friday, Michael and I borrowed the same snowshoes and I took him up to do the same hike. I know there are a million other places we could have gone, even within the National Park, but I was so impressed with Emerald Lake that I wanted him to see it.
 The weather wasn't quite as perfect as it had been five days earlier. There were more clouds and periodic snow flurries, but it also wasn't as windy. This is the view from Dream Lake.
Interesting tree roots.
 Another view of Emerald Lake
 Windblown Snow
Michael and I made it higher than I had the previous Sunday. This is working our way up a gully above Emerald Lake.
Crossing a rock slide. We turned around not long after this because we felt the terrain got to steep.
 The view from our turnaround point between 10,500 and 11,000 feet.
Michael at our turnaround point. Shortly after this, clouds started rolling in and it started snowing. We made the right decision in turning around.
 Michael out on the lake.
The view from Moraine Park on our drive out.

We had a great time. I loved both hikes. Now I want to go back and explore the park when I have more time.