Hiking in Rocky Mountain

Sprague Lake. Rocky Mountain National Park, CO

Sunday, September 9
We pulled into the Estes Park area of Rocky Mountain National Park just after noon and got a very nice campground at Moraine Park and were set up pretty quickly. We rested up from driving in from Ft. Collins for a few hours, then took a short drive out to Sprague Lake for a walk around the perimeter.

Due to construction on the road, it is closed to traffic between 9 AM and 4 PM, but if you get in before 9 or after 4, you can drive around at will. This is what we did. The light was really nice by now and it is a very pleasant walk around the lake. Of course we had the cameras and played around with grasses, water and such. We had seen an elk cow on the opposite side of the lake, and by the time we got over there, several others had gathered. They seemed very unconcerned with people and allowed us to get very close while still staying on the path. Also found some nice reflections to photograph.

Monday September 10

Nymph Lake

Today was our first real hike of any length in the park. We decided on a rather popular one the would allow us to visit four lakes without doing too much backtracking. It would be a good 6 plus mile hike with several hundred feet elevation change. We got out early and got to the trail head by 7:30 AM. There were already 40 or so cars there so we knew it would be a busy hike. Even with the road closure, the shuttle busses keep people coming in throughout the day, so getting out early is important. It paid off, as much of the first part of the hike was had few people.

It was a beautiful day with virtually no clouds. Quite warm, but much of the trail was shaded so not much of a problem. The first part of the hike climbed steadily for a half mile up to Nymph Lake. There were already people coming down from the hike. They must have been up there before dawn. Nymph Lake is a real jewel. Quite small really, but all around the edges, lilly pads grow and there was some nice dark backgrounds to set them off with. I also got to try out my new 17-40 mm lens. I got this lens mostly to shoot inside of RV’s for my project, but I knew it would come in handy for super wide landscape views as well. It’s something I’ve lacked for too long and I’m having fun with it.

An uphill climb brought us to Dream Lake, another nice alpine lake. The lake is somewhat open and this resulted in it being very windy when near it. Because it was already getting quite hot, the cold wind cooled us off nicely.

We didn’t linger too long and moved on to the next destination – Emerald Lake. So far the trail was pretty much all uphill – something not unusual in mountain country. Still, just pacing ourselves is all it took to keep it enjoyable. Arriving at Emerald Lake it once again got windy – really windy. Just a few feet made a difference. As soon as we came over a little rise to the lake, we were greeted with a cold blast than never really let up. And now, more and more people were starting to pile in. We hung out here for a short while, had a little snack and moved on.

Emerald Lake

Next up was Lake Haiyaha – something many people must say when trying to get here. We had to backtrack nearly a mile to get to the Haiyaha trail branch, but it was all downhill till the branch. On the way down, we must have passed 30 people on their way up to Dream Lake. One group was a hiking club of about 14. I figured we’d see them again on the next trail – they all looked fit and ready for the full lake tour.

Lake Haiyaha

Getting up to Haiyaha was a bit of a trudge. Getting hotter and all uphill, but some really nice views along the way also. The only problem with this lake is that it is surrounded by huge boulders. There is no real path once you get near it. You have to scramble over boulders to get close, then try to find a flat area once you do. We did manage to get there, but it wasn’t real comfortable. We found a serviceable perch in a sunny spot for lunch. The lake is really in a spectacular location though. It sits at the bottom of a glacial canyon and we could look up the the massive peaks all around us. i don’t think my pictures do it justice. It’s just one of those places you have simply enjoy for what it is.

We headed back after lunch – all downhill. We must have passed 100 more hikers on their way up. I’m really glad we started when we did. This is the only problem with hanging out in such a popular national park. I don’t really mind it that much once in a while, but it’s hard to concentrate on making images with people milling about. It’s a struggle to frame images without people in them. I will be happier when we move on to less densely peopled areas. Once again I’m reminded of a quote from the film Barfly. When Fay Dunaway, playing a drunk, laments to Mickey Rourke, playing the drunk Charles Bukowski, “Don’t you hate people?” Mickey replies, “I don’t hate em, I just seem to feel better when they’re not around”. That kind of says it for me to.

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2 Responses to Hiking in Rocky Mountain

  1. Love that quote from Barfly. Our thoughts exactly. Reading about your hike at RMNP made us so happy we stuck to less visited areas of CO this summer. I doubt we saw 100 people total on all the hikes we took the past few months.

    • We knew what we were getting into coming to Rocky Mountain this time of year, but the landscape is just too tempting to avoid. Our latest hike worked out much differently. One of the best we’ve done since retirement. I’ll be posting on it on Thursday some time. BTW, I loved the marmot shots you did the other day. Very cute!

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