Crossroads Yoga teacher Erin Reipe poses in eka pada rajakapotasana (pigeon pose) at sunset.
I thought I would switch up my routine this year and do something different to celebrate the day of my birth. I wanted to climb a mountain. All told, it was a pinnacle bday for me this year and I didn’t think a party was how I wanted to celebrate. Enter Loch Vale Trail.
Weeks before our trip to Colorado I spent time scouring through a book with more information on trails, lake, lochs, and vales than I will ever need. I found a picture of a beautiful lake in Rocky Mountain National Park called ‘Sky Pond”. I turned over in bed and showed my husband saying with certainty- “There. That’s where we are going for my birthday.”
So, we cooked a campfire breakfast of potatoes and eggs, drove into Estes Park for ‘real’ coffee and then set out across the snow in search of Sky Pond. If you have been following my adventures on this blog you will already know that it was REALLY snowy in colorado this year. The snow makes everything slow going and more tiresome. Our first big feature was Alberta Falls (picture above). The glacier melt was just rushing over the rocks. I took a variety shots where the water was stop motion and splashing, but I love the slower shutter speed waterfall photos where the rushing water looks soft and ribbony.
There are no pictures of the biggest hill I ever climbed because I was sucking wind the entire time. But it was a biggie, let me tell you. An. Absolute. Killer. On the way back I gave up completely and slid down on my rain coat. Who says I have to grow up? This was what we saw as we reached the top and rounded the corner.
As we sat there munching on granola and apples enjoying the view of the loch vale and the lake, a couple of fellow hikers arrived and sat nearby. One of the girls proceeded to take off her winter coat and JUMP IN THE LAKE! Ok, so the trail is about 3 miles one way from trailhead to finish. IN THE SNOW. Yes, hiking makes you warm, I get that, and yes, the sun is hot- I get that, but jumping into a glacier pool is not smart when you have no blankets or dry clothes and you have to hike 3 miles through the snow back to your car. Her friend shouted at her to get out the lake. Her response? Take a photo with her cell phone. Risking hypothermia for likes on Facebook? C’mon now! I seriously hope she made it down the mountain.
So, we never actually made it to Sky Pond. The hill before Loch Vale completely wiped us out. That’s ok. Now I have a reason to go back.
I had high hopes for this trip. We were going to hike higher, walk longer, see more. So our first hike I thought we could take the most accessible route to the top of the continental divide. One way the trail measured about 4.4 miles. It would be tough, but I figured the way down in always a little easier than the way up. I admit I was surprised and beginning to reconsider when we arrived at the Bear Lake trailhead to a frozen scape with knee deep snow just off the well defined trail that leads around the lake.
We thought maybe it might be easier up ahead and forged on. The trail was completely covered. Our only markers were little orange tags that dotted the tress through the forest like little Rocky Mountain bread crumbs. It was clear after less than a quarter mile that 4.4 miles was not going to happen.
At the first sign we opted for whatever trail lead us to something closer than a 4 mile hike. This happened to be Bierstadt Lake. Which we realized later, had its own trailhead up the road. If we had known we could have used the park shuttle to get back to our car at Bear Lake and made a loop instead of walking there and back on the same trail. But, anyways, I digress. We plowed through the snow the rest of the 2.1 miles, our feet constantly breaking through soft snow and plunging knee or thigh deep. It was a serious workout!
The trail wasn’t the best I have ever been on- but the reward at the end was spectacular!
Bierstadt translates to Beer Village or Bier City Lake, which is such a weird name as neither of those things are present. Or ever have been. After the hike back, we went ahead and set up at our second campground choice in Moraine Campground. I highly recommend this campground. It’s got great sites and great views. The sites are beautiful in park because you park your car about 180 feet away. The nature of the sites are preserved and although you have to walk back and forth each and every time you forget something, they provide generously sized bear boxes for your site, making it a little less far if you keep your stuff in there.
Estes Park Colorado may be the world’s most beautiful tourist trap. The mountain view is absolutely breathtaking, but the town center is full of overpriced food, shot glasses and tee shirts. Sitting like a crown jewel in Estes Park is the stunning Stanley Hotel, which has been made infamous because Steven King was inspired to write “The Shining” while staying here. We went in and sat in the lobby for awhile, trying to act like we belonged. Below is a picture of some elk in velvet munching on the grass buffet outside the beautiful hotel.
For all my traveling, I haven’t actually spent too much time in a tent. I purchased this 4 person dome tent off of REI during a sale, and it was fantastic for what we needed during our trip. At about 9 lbs it is too heavy to take into the mountains, and works best for car camping. It was extremely easy to set up and kept us dry the whole trip. This is our site at the Glacier Gorge Campground in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Before the summer sun really got the best of us, we thought we would head to the mountains, pitch tent and get one last chance to play in the snow. The skies were cloudy and yes, we got hailed on some, but the trip was amazing!
This photo was taken from a scenic pullover on the road that leads to Glacier Gorge and Bear Lake Trailheads in the Long’s Peak area of the park. The sun was shining on the snow capped mountains in such a pristine way.