If you’re lucky enough to be in the mountains, you’re lucky enough!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Time for snowshoeing

We headed out to the Bear Lake Trailhead on Wednesday morning (as in, LAST Wednesday morning - I know, we're BEHIND) with mostly gray skies with brief peeks of blue, fiercely gusty winds (try gusts up to 50mph) and brisk temps buffeting us.  Our hope was that we would gain some shelter from the wind once we trekked into the trees.  So we threw on the snowshoes and warm clothes and left the Bear Lake parking area and headed into the trees hoping for respite from the howling wind.
Kathleen at the trailhead

The plan for the day was to trek out past Bear Lake, around Nymph Lake, Dream Lake, and end at the basin below Hallet Peak and Flattop Mountain where Emerald Lake sits.  Base snowpack at Bear was 20", so we knew we would have reasonably good conditions the whole way.  Pretty amazing, considering that the Beaver Meadows entrance station into Rocky Mountain National Park was virtually snow-free.  You would not think that "extra" 1700' of elevation would make that big a difference, but combine that with the ring of peaks along that basin, and the snow holds pretty well.
Heading up the windblown area below Nymph Lake
Dream Lake - supposedly the most photographed spot in RMNP

So we made our way up past Nymph Lake and next was Dream Lake.  The view here was breathtaking and it is no wonder this shows up in so many of the summer photos from the park.   Even frozen and covered in wind-scorched snow, it was stunning.  
Looking back from the far end of Dream Lake
Some deep snow between Dream and Emerald Lakes

We made our way up to Emerald, basically the end of the "trail" unless you are into winter mountaineering.   We're not.   We did run into some hardcore backcountry snowboarders that hiked up one of the couloirs above Emerald Lake and were carving their way down to Bear Lake - gnarly!  It was a nice snowshoe trip - 6 miles and plenty of snow.

"Shoes" - Crescent Moon Silver
The Alluvial Fan - Horseshoe Park

On the way out of the park, we stopped to check out the Alluvial Fan - remnants of a huge flood in 1982 which you can read about here
Ubiquitous Elk


Quiet walk in the park

Thursday morning, we headed back up toward Bear Lake but stopped this time at the Glacier Gorge trailhead in order to snowshoe out to Mills Lake - highly recommended by one of the park rangers.  This was a bit longer destination and was back in a ways from the trailhead.  Once again the temperature was in the upper 20's at the 9500' trailhead and winds were 35 to 50 mph.  Unlike the previous day, there were a couple stretches of completely wind parched trail in the middle, more exposed section of trail, where we came close to unhitching the snowshoes for a bit.  Really odd when other sections were knee deep with the shoes.  It would snow off and on for much of this trip.
Mills Lake - look cold?
Mountain grandeur
That's a lot of ice....
One last look before heading back down

Stopped by the falls on the way down
Wind twisted spruce tree

For whatever reason, the twisted spruce trees, shaped by the howling winds coming down the mountains, reminded us of the Cypress trees along the coast of Monterey, California - different climate, but a kindred weather  intensity that hones the landscape into surreal forms.  We had another great day on the snowshoes - 7 miles and lots of "dermabrasion therapy" compliments of the wind and snow!!!  Happy Trails!

 "Shoes" - Crescent Moon Silver
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