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Saturday, October 1, 2022

Twin Lake Reservoir

Fall Colors have finally hit Colorado. We were a little early for fall colors in Rocky Mountain National Park last weekend and just a little too late this weekend in Pingree Park. Since fall colors tend to change first in the North, it's no surprise that Pingree Park was already past its peak, but it gave us some rich and deep oranges that you don't get until the trees are starting to die. But since the colors in Northern Colorado were starting to fade we'll try for somewhere South in central Colorado tomorrow. There is still plenty of color out there, we just have to find it.

Pingree Park is a lesser-known gem that's filled with Aspen trees. Since the area was burned in the High Park Fire in 2012 the area has had a little bit of time to recover. The first trees that sprout up from a burned area are usually aspens, and since it's been a decade since the fire there are a lot of new aspens growing everywhere.

Both times (July 2021 & June 2022) that we've hiked in this area I've noted the amount of aspens. Ever since doing those hikes, I've wanted to come back to this area for fall colors. We didn't do much for fall colors in Colorado last year because we had our East coast fall colors trip planned, so this was the first year since I've noticed those aspens that I wanted to take photos of the changing aspens. The area definitely didn't disappoint and this is absolutely on my list for years to come for fall colors.

Ready for the ColorShort AspensStumpedLeaf-Littered TrailDowned TreeParallelBeads of WaterAspens EverywhereOrangeWest LakeIn the LakeEast LakePerfect MirrorBirdDennyGreen BrushBetween the Trees

Sunday, October 2, 2022

Leaf Peeping in Nederland

It's the first weekend in October, which means that this might be the last weekend to see fall colors in the mountains. There will still be plenty of colors down in the foothills, but not the same kinds of colors that we get in the mountains. Primarily I'm talking about the Aspen trees which can grow in thick groves in the mountains and turn a vibrant yellow color. Fall colors seemed to be a little late this year, so there's a chance that the colors could be good next weekend, but we have plants that will keep us out of the mountains next weekend, and the colors will surely be gone the weekend after.

This is our second "hike" this weekend, which is rare. I put hike in quotes since neither of the trails we were on this weekend were very difficult. Our barometer for if something should be considered a hike is usually that it needs to be over 1,000 feet in elevation gain, but that isn't fair for snowshoeing where a moderately difficult hike might only be 800 feet in elevation gain. But I digress - with fall colors not lasting very long, we knew we had to go out to try and find some rich Aspen groves. Yesterday we found fall colors past their peak; today, we found fall colors not quite at their peak. It's so odd that the colors change in different areas (even though yesterday and today we were at similar elevations), but not knowing what the aspens will be like helps in the adventure of trying to find the perfect colors.

This hike started off with someone telling us there was a bull nose not too far from the start of the trail. This got us quite excited, but we never saw it. The temperature was about right for a moose sighting, but we figured it was probably too busy to see one. Then just a few minutes from our car at the end of the hike another group warned us that the moose was still roaming around. We extended our hike a little bit to try and find it, but the moose didn't want to be seen by us. We've seen plenty of moose this season, but it would have been really cool to capture one in the aspens. Maybe next year...

Between the Pine TreesWeather Over the MountainAspen AlleyHanging off the CliffAspen TrunksAround the BendHwy 132WGolden LeavesColorful MountainsideMuddy Water

Monday, October 17, 2022

Perfect Weather on Mount Ida

We got fortunate with the weather hiking to the top of Mount Ida. There wasn't a single cloud in the sky and considering this hike is mostly above treeline, the wind was minimal. The last time I hiked Mount Ida I remember it being so incredibly windy at the top with nasty storms rolling in (which is the last thing you want when you're on one of the highest peaks around and above treeline). So we were pleasantly surprised when we reached the summit and the sun was out without a single cloud in the sky and almost nonexistent wind. We came prepared for colder weather than this, with both of us bringing two jackets. Both jackets ended up being taken off quickly in the hike and were a little annoying to have to carry around, but it's better to be prepared than to be underprepared.

The hike started a little later in the day than we were hoping. We didn't leave the house until almost 10 am, and it took almost 2 hours to get up to Estes Park, into Rocky, and over the continental divide to the trailhead. The Trailhead for this hike is closer to the West-side of Rocky, which was apparent since we could see Lake Grandby from the summit. Because we got to the trailhead around noon, there wasn't very much parking. We had to park about a quarter-mile down the road from the trailhead which pushed this hike to be over 10-miles long, the second double-digit hike I've ever done. Even though we got started later than we wanted to, this almost 6 hour hike was completed before the sun went down and since we weren't fighting the weather, getting started that late didn't matter.

This was a very challenging hike. Although it's not the longest hike we've done together, it is the most elevation gain we've done. Combining the elevation gain of 2,600ft with the 10.5 miles of hiking and we were both completely exhausted by the end of the hike. The altitude also didn't help, since we hiked to almost 13,000 feet where there isn't very much oxygen. But we made it and the absolutely stunning summit was worth the pain.

Ice on the TreesNever Summer MountainsSnowy TreeMount Ida in the DistanceIceLong TrailNot There YetSummitedInkwell and Azure LakesLongs PeakPikaTowering Rocks

Sunday, October 30, 2022

Hiking Through Rocky

The weather this weekend was forecasted to be gorgeous in the mountains. And it was. The shuttles in Rocky Mountain National Park still run during the weekends in October (weather permitting), so we used that to our advantage which takes a lot of pressure off knowing if you'll get a parking spot at the exact trailhead that you want to do. We started our adventures by being the first car to park at the park-and-ride and hitching a ride on the shuttle up to Bear Lake. A ranger at the park-and-ride told us that there was still parking at Bear Lake trailhead, but we were planning a different kind of hike where we actually didn't want to park at Bear Lake, despite starting our hike there.

We parked at the park-and-ride because we ended our hike in Moraine Park. There is no shuttle that goes from Moraine park to Bear Lake, but both shuttles do go to the park-and-ride, so that's why we parked there. Because of the shuttle service, we were able to hike 10 miles across Rocky Mountain National Park without having to track back on the trails we hiked up, and we ended our hike in a completely different area than where we started. The hike started with slick ice, fresh snow, and cold weather. The hike ended with no snow in sight and us not wearing any of our layers other than our base clothing. We were well prepared for all of those conditions, which was good, but it was neat to have that varying degree (pun intended) of nature during our hike. We were also able to shave off strenuous elevation gain by making this a one-way trip instead of an out-and-back, only having to do 1,200 feet of elevation gain but almost 3,000 feet of decent. All of those things combined made this a pretty spectacular hike.

Our hike started at the Bear Lake trailhead where we went counter-clockwise around the lake. Bear Lake is always busy, but most people start their hike by going clockwise, so almost immediately we were hiking in what felt like a secluded area with few people which was great since we go into the mountains to be away from people anyway. From Bear Lake, we hiked up 1,200 feet in elevation to Lake Helene, which marked the high point of the hike. From there, we hiked down to Odessa Lake. This is where most people turn around and hike back up to Lake Helene and back to Bear Lake. But we continued on descending to Fern Lake, then down to Fern Falls, and concluded through Moraine Park where we hitched a ride from the Fern Lake Shuttle stop back to the park-and-ride.

The only downside to the shuttle service is that if you are planning to use them, you better make it back on at least the last bus. This added a little pressure to the hike, even though we still had plenty of time when we finished the hike to catch a ride. But because of this time constraint, we were constantly looking at the time to make sure we were on track to not get stranded in Rocky. Not only that, but the busses leave Fern Lake Trailhead (where we finished) once every hour, so at the end of the hike we pushed ourselves a little harder than we should have to make sure we didn't miss the bus and have to wait around for an hour. Our hustling got us to the bus stop 5 minutes before its scheduled departure (and 2-hours and five minutes before the final departure). I am still glad we hiked the end quickly to make sure we got on that bus rather than taking it easy and having to wait an hour for the next one.

Only because it turned out OK I have to point out that Katie went for an accidental swim in Lake Helene. We had no idea that we were walking on thin ice when her foot went right through the ice into the lake. Her foot got soaking wet. She trekked onward with squishy socks for the remaining 6+ miles even though it would have been quicker to turn around. This marks an important lesson in carrying some spare socks, particularly as the weather gets colder and hiking (or snowshoeing) turns from something you can get by being relatively ill-prepared to something that could be life-threatening in the wrong environment.

Pine BeetleNotchtop MountainPtarmiganLake HeleneTowering MountainsOn To Odessa LakeLittle MatterhornBurn AreaNot FrozenFern Falls

October 2022

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