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Deer Mountain, RMNP Estes Park CO, Hiked 7/19/14

21 Nov

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Starting Elevation:  8930 Ft

Highest Elevation:  10,013 Ft ( A total Elevation gain of almost 1100 Ft)

Trail Length: 6 miles – it took us 3ish hours but we did spend a lot of time on the summit.

Trail Uses:  Hiker & Horses ( but no horses allowed on the Summit spur)

Degree of Difficulty:  Moderate

Bathrooms:  There are bathrooms at the visitors centers there was nothing near the trail head

Pets:  No this is Rocky Mountain National Park and no Dogs allowed

Deer Mountain trail sign

I am so sorry at how long I have been away.  I will have to catch you all up soon, I can tell you that I have had just a few breaks in hiking but have been mostly hiking every weekend.  I want to get out those new trials I did while away and then one big summary of some amazing days out on the trails between then and now.  First Deer Mountain!

Wow it has been a long time since I hiked this one, I almost forgot what it was like!  I did it the weekend after I had company in town so I wanted something that challenged me but was not too much, because when my company was here we had done 3 tough hikes in just 5 days.  I was wiped when we hit this trail.

This hike was exactly what I needed as it has great views all the way up of the mountains that make up Rocky Mountain National Park. But there was this weird haze in the air we hoped would burn off but only ended up getting worse.  We speculated that it was from that horrible fire in California this summer.

The trail head is right off Trail Ridge Road and there is literally a little bit of a wide shoulder for maybe 6 cars to park.  You can park along the road in some places near here, but get there early if you want a parking spot at any of them.  There are also shuttle parking lots at the various gates and you can take a shuttle to so many places in the park so you don’t have to worry about finding parking.

We got there around 7:30 and just barley nabbed a spot.

We got there around 7:30 and just barely nabbed a spot.

The trail starts out super wide and very well maintained, the whole trial was very well maintained and we even talked to a couple of Park rangers we passed while hiking.

Start of the trail

Start of the trail

First trail marker

After a decent climb, while the stellar views just started opening up all around us we got the Switchback part.  Sadly the haze in the air made it hard to get any really great pictures.  I actually gave up taking them because there was no depth but we stopped a lot just to ohhhhh and ahhhh.  It doesn’t take too long to start the switchbacks up the to flat before the summit.

The views were everywhere

The views were everywhere

Starting up the switchbacks

Starting up the switchbacks

Then towards the end of the switch backs

Then towards the end of the switch backs

There were a lot of switch backs on this one and it was a strange struggle that day.  I am not sure if it was the altitude or exhaustion from the few days before with my guests in town, but it took me time to get up this part.  I would not say it is particularly hard but that day for me it was.

Once we turned the corner of the last switchbacks we reached a nice flat that felt like it went on forever but was probably more like a quarter of mile maybe half a mile before the final summit climb.  The summit climb sign made us want to come back and do the rest of the trail back to Estes just to see what is was like.

The summit climb Summit climb conditions

It was just a short steep climb to the summit, and then WOW!  Such an amazing payoff so quickly!

The Summit

The Summit

I will tell you we hung up there as long as we could before more people started showing up.  I think we got a solid 25 minutes up there just to take it all in.  It was lovely.  The hike back down was crowded…. and it was just around 10AM.  I cannot imagine what kind of traffic this trail gets throughout every summer day, but I can tell you I was glad we got there early and had it mostly to ourselves.

If you ever find yourself in Rocky Mountain National Park and you want a great view payout without a ton of effort this is the hike for you.  Of course there are so many great trails in the park but I really liked how this one was both a nice work out with great payout.  There were views in every direction and of the almost the whole park. After the directions will the be the few goodish pictures I took while at the top.

Directions:    The Deer Ridge Junction Trailhead is located 3.05 miles west of the Beaver Meadows Entrance Station along Trail Ridge Road (Highway 36). The trailhead is located on the north side of the road at the Trail Ridge Road – Highway 34 split. There is no designated lot, but roadside parking is permitted. Parking is limited.

View of Estes Park from the Summit.

View of Estes Park from the Summit.

View looking south towards Long's Peak

View looking south towards Long’s Peak

The view West-ish

The view West-ish

Looking North was a little obstructed

Looking North was a little obstructed

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TrailRidge Road Hike/Snowshoe RMNP, Estes Park CO hiked 4/5/14

12 Apr

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There is a Facebook Page called Enjoy Estes Park and every Thursday they run a contest for an all expenses paid trip to Estes Park, free lodging, free meals, Free beer and wine, free snacks throughout the day, free rental of sporting goods and they even gave us money to spend in some of the stores in town.  They started doing it in October and it runs for 36 weekends through May.  They start every Thursday then pick someone by Saturday night for 2 weekends ahead.  2 weeks ago I won!  So this past weekend we had a fun weekend in Estes.  I wasn’t sure with all we had to do for free that we would get in time for hike or snowshoe but we did.

Saturday was crazy beautiful when we woke up at 6AM…. I was determined to get in a hike or snowshoe!  What was not so great… the headache and disconnected head I woke up with.  I will admit I still thought this was my crown work at this point since it had been hanging around all week at weird times.   I am not one to give into things like this when I have so much planned and like so many before me, I just pushed through…..

Driving into RMNP

Driving into RMNP

As we drove up to Rocky Mountain National Park ( after our free breakfast) I saw views I had never seen before, as I have reflected on this shock of awe it occurred to me that every time I have actually entered the park it has been cloudy, snowy or stormy.   I think if had seen the views I saw last Saturday I would have been in RMNP more frequently before now.  I have to be honest here, I didn’t want to leave….like EVER.

It took us almost an hour to get to the Trail Ridge Road parking lot and trail( Snowshoe details here) because we kept stopping to take pictures. I figured that we could hit this trail again and see what it looks like outside of a snow storm, assuming there were views.

When we pulled up to the parking area, I was still not feeling so hot and I seriously chalked it up to poor sleep and the crown.  So we climbed up on one side of the parking area to get this shot, I figured it was just exhaustion.

parking lot

We scouted out the trail and saw it was all straight ice and decided that we didn’t need to bring our snowshoes, but if I was honest with myself I knew I couldn’t carry the snowshoes  anyway.  We started hiking up the road and the views were amazing!

rounding the first corner up the road

rounding the first corner up the road

how the Road/trail looked

how the Road/trail looked

Views before the Snow

Views before the Snow

It was pretty much after this turn that I checked out….. that disconnected head thing that happens when you have a head cold, well I was there. The views were crazy amazing and I was loving them but I was also out of touch….

view

Hidden Valley

Hidden Valley

same view 2 weeks earlier

same view 2 weeks earlier

Looking forward

Looking forward

We walked for about a mile and then all the sudden the snow was deep, and us with no snowshoes… the good or bad of it was, I was completely oblivious and just kept following Aaron.  He was following other footprints so I didn’t care much about our direction and then the other foot prints were  gone … I still didn’t care much I just had my head down thinking-> put one foot in front of the other.

hmmmmmm snow

hmmmmmm snow

As we moved forward, I was fighting with myself the whole way thinking WTF this is cake why am I struggling> get over the stupid tooth thing already ….. while Aaron was moving forward on 2-5 feet of snow with no input from me.  He did awesome, as he always does, but about a quarter to half mile into the snow the tracks we and been following turned around while we kept going.

Looking Back

Looking Back

It was both cool and foggy as we went forward, I completely figured out the snowshoe trail I could not see the last time.  The hard route from Hidden Valley to Trail Ridge Road > Can you see it?

Hidden Valley to trail ridge road

Hidden Valley to trail ridge road

As we were moving through this last little bit I realized I was totally sick…. its not the tooth.

just us

At one point Aaron turned around and said what do you think, I just stared at him and said whatever…. he knew >I had the sick face…. so he said check the time we still have a lot of awards to get.  Sure enough it was 11 and we needed to turn around.  It was then that I realized I was totally sick. For the record it only took me 20 minutes more to voice it….

The drive out was both beautiful and painful….. I never wanted to leave, I was so excited about our prizes AND completely sick…..  We stopped at every awe point and took pictures, we went into town and celebrated our wins, we left early the next morning and I spent the next 36 hours in bed.

I had a crazy good time in Estes Park despite my illness, I loved seeing Trail Ridge Road without a storm, I loved driving through RMNP with moody weather and skies.   I loved going through town and gathering our prizes…. What I didn’t love  was, was being sick the whole time.  Either way we got some good pictures…..

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still pretending on the drive out with crazy beautiful views

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Great view…. pretending to not be sick

 

Trail Ridge Road, Rocky Mountain National Park( RMNP)- Estes Park CO- Snowshoed 3/22/14

28 Mar

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Starting Elevation:  somewhere in the mid 9000’s

Highest Elevation: A little over 10,000 Ft- our watch that gives us the elevation is no longer working so this is a guestimate.

Trail Uses: Snowshoeing and Cross Country Skiing Winter only trail as it is an actual road in summer.

Trail Length:  5.5 miles Round trip but this can grow and shrink based on conditions. We did a little over 6 miles, it took 3.5 hours.

Degree of Difficulty:  Easy to Moderate

Bathrooms: None at the road closure so hit one of the visitor centers just outside the park.

Pets: No pets allowed in RMNP

Fee:  Yes $20 per car a day OR $40 for annual pass with unlimited RMNP access – we have the pass

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I have been trying to figure out the balance when it comes to snowshoeing, is more mileage better or steeper trails?  Since last week we did a steeper trail with low mileage that felt good and maybe a little too easy.  I decided this week would be better to up the mileage and keep the incline low, I was also secretly hoping we might get some magic timing again like last week and catch  the amazing views that Trail Ridge Road is supposed to have.   Once again the weather forecast was snowy…snowy the day before, through the night and all day Saturday and it truly was.

We were just outside of the Park when we came across 2 large groups of Elk.

elk Lots of elk

The roads were not great and the snow was pretty thick at times, so it was no surprise that when we pulled into the area cleared for parking at the road closure we were the only ones there.

Parking lot Start

Trail Ridge road is open through the summer and is closed in the winter months until the snow is no longer an obstacle.  It goes over the Continental Divide in RMNP and in the winter is used as a great way to snowshoe or cross-country ski with amazing views, wicked wind and a certain level of security in that it is impossible to get lost.   Since it was pretty obvious the snow had no intention of stopping, we were confident that there would be no views.  We just got our snowshoes on and started moving and at first it was decidedly….hard.  Not just because we were the first people out there in a while, but likely the altitude played a factor too.  Oh and maybe the fact I overdressed.

looking back after the first quarter mile

looking back after the first quarter-mile

I am always amazed when I do a trail for function then get transfixed by the unexpected beauty.  The snow made any views of the surrounding mountains impossible, occasionally we would catch hints of them but the snowy landscape itself was just lovely.  The bonus of this particular snow storm was that the wind wasn’t all that bad so no wicked wind to make us miserable.

It wasn’t too long before we got to the overlook near Hidden Valley which used to be a ski resort, in fact  my sister learned to ski there, but now it is all closed down and its own snowshoe/winter fun route.  You can make a difficult adventure loop by starting at either Trail Ridge Road OR Hidden valley then climb/descend to the other location.   I have to be honest, staring over the edge at Hidden Valley I have no idea how you do the loop.  Perhaps taking the road all the way around to that main run?  I didn’t get a good shot of it to even let you all hypothesize with me.

Enjoying a brief views of Hidden Valley

Enjoying a brief views of Hidden Valley

At this point on the road the snow was not very deep and we actually almost took off our snowshoes for fear of ruining the metal spikes on them.  When we turned the corner up ahead it was crazy deep again, so deep we could no longer go side by side.  We took turns breaking trail to help us keep some strength in reserve just in case we went further than we originally planned.

Looking up ahead to where the snow gets deep.

Looking up ahead to where the snow gets deep.

We went along the road for about 3 miles and had it all to ourselves the whole way.  We decided to turn around when we got to this sign, for the record the snow wasn’t this bad the whole way it was a just well-timed gust of wind.

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Looking at our single track

Looking  back at our single track

Breaking trail

Breaking trail

All together we got a little over 6 miles from the snowshoe and maybe 600 feet of elevation gain.  Breaking trail was great exercise, after just 3 miles my legs were solidly tired, it was nice to turnaround and head back to the car.  We saw some people on the way back, I think we passed maybe  6 or 7 total the whole snowshoe, all of them taking advantage of the trail we broke.

I have to be honest, I cannot wait to get back to this trail and try it again with a clear sky, the few hints of mountains we saw through out our snowshoe looked amazing!  I would also like to go further than we made it last week.  We didn’t get a ton of pictures because the snow was so heavy I was worried about hurting my new Nikon.  After the directions will be a very few of our favorite pictures.

Directions: Taking 36/66 through Ester Park, at the 3rd light along main street there will be signs for the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center and RMNP, turn left.  Once you cross into the park, stay straight then take this road for about 8 miles to the road closure sign.   You will pass the Hidden Valley snow park on your right before the road gets curvy( hairpin turns) and then you will be at the road closure.

being artsy

being artsy

Cool Tree

Cool Tree

Best View

Best View with a little moisture on the lens

Nymph, Dream & Emerald Lakes – RMNP – Estes CO, Snowshoed 3/15/14

21 Mar
Emerald Lake

Emerald Lake

Nymph Lake > Dream Lake > Emerald Lake

Starting Elevation: 9400 ft

Highest Elevation: 10,100 ft

Trail Uses: hiking, snowshoe, cross-country skiing, hike in ski out…. anything with skis….

Trail Length: Officially 3.8 miles, we walked around Emerald and Nymph lakes a lot so we got around 4.5 miles for the day… it took us 3 hours although we did spend 30 minutes at Emerald lake in awe.

Degree of Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

Bathrooms: Yes in the parking lot

Pets: No- No pets allowed in Rocky Mountain National Park

Fees – Yes $20 per car a day OR $40 for annual pass with unlimited RMNP access – we have the pass

Looking back at Emerald Lake

Looking back at Emerald Lake

I have to tell you that I have been getting humbled by our snowshoes and how these shorter distances kinda kick my butt.  With that said I picked this easier snowshoe in Rocky Mountain National Park ( RMNP) in hopes that if I try something a little easier I won’t feel so defeated at the end.  It is short and the elevation gain is minimal.

As we were driving into the park, we were lucky enough to catch these Elk battling it out.

elk

We pulled into a huge parking lot that was quickly filling up at Bear Lake.  If this lot is full, they suggest parking at the Glacier Gorge parking lot and walk up from there.  I was impressed with how many people were out there given it was St. Paddy’s day weekend and the weather forecast was questionable.  The weather was supposed to be exactly like our first snowshoe at Mills Lake via Glacier Gorge, snowy with a lot of wind.  I had already made peace with the fact that I would not get any views just some experience and work on my leg strength with those snowshoes on. Getting out the car I was not surprised by our view.

parking lot view

Parking lot view

There are 2 options at this parking lot… well a lot more than 2 but for snowshoeing you had Bear lake, which is a 1 mile loop around Bear lake Or the 3 lakes we were going to that day; Nymph, Dream & Emerald. We took the path kinda up the middle and to the left of Bear Lake.  It is not far to Nymph lake, in fact maybe a half a mile and the path was hard packed we didn’t have our snowshoes on but carried them instead.  It was not super steep but we did climb up to the lake.  It was snowing even harder upon our arrival then when we started.

trail break 1 emerald lake sugn trail break 2

Trail Conditions to Nymph

Trail Conditions to Nymph

 

When we got there I realized I had left my directions in the car and so we started going the wrong way. I should have just looked for the hard packed trail but there was a large guided group there as well and it threw me off.  We went right and the snow felt lass hard here so I put my snowshoes on.  That’s when we saw everyone going left along the lake so we turned around and followed them up.  For the record I didn’t need my snowshoes for this portion either and really I could have gone without them until Emerald lake where I was actually out on the lake adventuring around.   It was kind of steep going up this section, I would say the most steep of the whole snowshoe and it was busy!

Nymph Lake

Nymph Lake

Views on the way to Dream Lake

Views on the way to Dream Lake

When we got to Dream Lake, I was once again confused by where to go.  There is a clear path off to the left but it must go up to other options, we decided to stay straight and cross over dream lake hoping to get to Emerald lake.  I was so consumed to see where everyone else was going that I failed to notice it was starting to clear up.  We thankfully crossed the path of another snowshoer who said we were on the right track for Emerald Lake and so we continued on.

Dream Lake Looking towards Emerald Lake

Dream Lake Looking towards Emerald Lake

Me on Dream Lake

Me on Dream Lake

It was not far to this last lake with some more climbing, a little over half a mile.  As we got a little higher, the sky lit up in the best blue while clouds moved around the peaks surrounding the lake.  It was amazing!  When we got to Emerald Lake Aaron put on his snowshoes while I ran out on to the lake to try to capture the views as best I could before we lost them again.  Honestly I could have stayed there longer it was so beautiful. The best part is we had it mostly to ourselves.

Trail Conditions going towards Emerald Lake

Trail Conditions going towards Emerald Lake

Skies opening up

Skies opening up

Almost to Emerald Lake

Almost to Emerald Lake

We spent about 30 minutes ohhhing and ahhing before heading back.   It was a slow start back because I kept turning around to enjoy the views before they were gone.  By the time we got back to Dream lake the clouds had moved back in, while the crowds were on the move to Emerald lake.  We passed so many people on the way down.

On Emerald Lake

On Emerald Lake

Overall it was a great snowshoe!  I would love to take visitors here so they could see the amazing beauty for themselves.  I  know I will be back in the summer, there is another lake to check out and so much to see, all off this parking lot.  I couldn’t believe how lucky we were in terms of our timing, it made me want to get back there as soon as I could!

Since the snowshoe was on the easier side, we got out on Sunday and did 7 miles at Deer Creek Canyon which is a muddy, snowy, icy mess right now.  It was a good workout.   After the directions will be some of my favorite pictures from the day.

However your week is going, find some time and get out there and hike!

Directions:  From Estes Park stay on 66/36 through town, at the 3rd light in town, turn left and follow the signs to the Beaver Meadows Entrance Station entrance into the park. There is a fee to enter the park through this entrance.
Shortly after passing through the Beaver Meadows fee station, turn left onto Bear Lake Road. Take Bear Lake Road until it dead-ends into the Bear Lake Trailhead area. If parking is unavailable at Bear Lake, it is possible to park at the Glacier Basin area and take a shuttle to Bear Lake.

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One side of the lke Ice falls views on the way  down Beautiful

We caught this one on the drive out of the park

We caught this one on the drive out of the park

Mills Lake via Galcier Gorge RMNP Snowshoed 2/8/14

12 Feb
Mills Lake is just over there... trust me

Mills Lake is just over there… trust me

I know I usually start with all the details of a new hike but this snowshoe was not what I expected, instead it was everything I could have hoped for and more.  Because of that I have no hard facts and no path to tell you to follow but I can tell you I am totally in love with snow shoeing and even purchased some snowshoes this week….just waiting for them to arrive.

these signs are usually about chest high in the summer. We are almost walking on it

these signs are usually about chest high in the summer. We are almost walking on it

On the way up we were hardly on a path… we broke our own trail and eventually made our way up to Mills Lake in Glacier Gorge.  The weather was terrible, heavy snow and the wind just got worse the higher up we climbed but I still had an amazing time! The best part about the snowshoe was the guides and their comfort with the area, with that knowledge they said we could pretty much explore where ever we wanted and let me tell you it got pretty creative.  If I was honest with myself,  I was ok with this approach  because the weather was so bad that there were no views to see anyway, but on a nice day this might have been a little bit of a bummer as I have read that this trail has amazing views!

The view as we went off the winter trail

The view as we went off the winter trail

I think originally the plan had been to sort of follow the summer trail to Mills Lake, we wove in and out of huge drifts of snow and along a creek bed until we eventually came to the Alberta Falls, which were of course covered in lots of snow.

looking back

Once we got past the falls we crossed over the creek a few times until one of our group broke through the ice and soaked her foot.  This wouldn’t have been a big deal except she had on gym shoes…. yep she wore gym shoes to snowshoe in even after the email and phone call the day before said how important waterproof boots were.   To make it worse, for whatever reason she insisted on breaking trail… in gym shoes and the guides were not going to fight with her so they gave general directions and told her to just have fun with it.   Needless to say after they got her out of the creek, into dry socks and caught back up with the rest of us, we had gone pretty far afield of the summer route.

Alberta Falls

Alberta Falls Somewhere over there

Again not a problem, as they just took the lead and got us back on track, we did everything you could hope to do in snowshoes during this correction path and it was so fun.  We climbed up steep inclines, through thick trees and around massive boulders, I fell a lot but it wasn’t a big deal because it was in like 6 feet of snow so no injuries!

Leaving Tracks

Leaving Tracks

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As we got closer to the lake, the wind and snow really picked up intensity it was pretty much like walking in a blizzard.  One of the guides knew of a great spot for the fondue across the lake… like walking across it…. so we snowshoed across Mills lake and had a lovely fondue out of the wind while watching it whip around the lake with a crazy amount of snow.  Did I mention it wasn’t supposed to really snow at all on Saturday, maybe an inch at most?  On Monday I read the park itself got around 35 inches of snow, most of that was on Saturday.

These guides were quick in getting the fondue together, it was simple but delicious and ready in like 5 minutes.  We had been snowshoeing for 4 hours before the fondue and everyone was spent but exhilarated.   When we had all had our fill, they asked us if we wanted to go straight down or take the longer way down.  If it had been different weather I know I would have gone longer but it was wicked windy and the snow was very heavy at this point, as a group we agreed fastest way down was best.  We took the winter route back down which gave me great comfort in terms of our first solo snowshoes that we certainly have in our future. How awesome is it that the guides were completely ready to take us out for as long as we wanted? An hour later we were back at our cars and heading home.

On the way back

On the way back

on the way back view 4

I will tell you the weather could have made this a miserable experience but the guides were so great, laid back and engaging, it kept everyone’s attitude happy and fun.

Here are the details behind the trip,  this was a groupon that I got for a day long guided snowshoe with fondue and cider lunch.  It included the snowshoes and poles all for $98, the additional cost was  tipping the guides and the $20 fee daily car fee to get into Rocky Mountain National Park (OR you can pay $40 for annual pass to the park,  I bought the pass,) I can see us spending a lot of time in Rocky Mountain National Park this year so it was a good investment!  Normally the Day long guided snowshoe with fondue and cider is $399 per person.

It was run through Apex Ex , they do all sorts of Mountain activities and adventures in Rocky Mountain National Park.  I was very leery of how it may turn out as I always am a little fearful of groupons, but I cannot convey strongly enough how truly awesome our guides were.  I don’t know how many of you have a chance to take advantage of something like this but if you are here in Colorado and want to do it , request Tyler and Mike they made it a perfect trip.

I cannot wait until our next snowshoe adventure, I wish those snowshoes would show up quick!

Cow Creek Trails Via Gem Lake, Estes Park CO Hiked 11/16/13

28 Nov

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Gem Lake Trail> Cow Creek TrailHead

Starting Elevation:  7882 Ft

Highest elevation: 8830 Ft

Trail Length:  Officially we did 9.2 miles around trip, my Fitbit said we did close to 11 miles ( it took us approximately 5.5 hours)

Trail Uses:  Hiker only

Degree of difficulty:  I consider Gem Lake Moderate, after the floods I think there are many more strenuous parts. If you are going to Cow Creek I think difficult would make sense with all the ups and downs and distance.

Bathrooms: Yes at the trailhead parking lot

Pets: No Dogs allowed as this is all Rocky Mountain National Park

VIews on the way to Cow Creek

VIews on the way to Cow Creek

It had been just over 2 months since those devastating floods hit so much of our front range and no where was harder hit then Lyons as well as the most of the ways in to Estes Park.   I have been reading about the recovery and the how desperate things are in those hard hit communities for small businesses.  The amazing part is how quickly CDOT has managed to repair so many major arteries helping to get tourism back as quickly as possible, but for some businesses it is already too late.  That is why on this particular weekend I searched long and hard for a hike near both Estes Park and Lyons so that we could spend some money in each town trying to help out where we could.  What I didn’t expect was how hard it would be to find a trail we could get too that hadn’t been obliterated in parts or in total. Finally at 10:30 the Friday night before I saw that the Gem Lake/Lumpy Ridge Trail system was intact and not just the trail but the roads to get there was all open too.

Map of trail system

Map of trail system

I had wanted the trail to be more challenging but I also knew that I had a girls hike on Sunday so it was worth it just to get up there and spend some money in those towns.

The weather forecast wasn’t that great either, we had a small window before a nice snow storm hit Estes Park and a huge wind warning went into effect.  We maybe had until 2 when we left our house.  When we got to the trailhead it was already snowing and the wind was whipping up pretty good at 8AM.  But it was also so beautiful being both sunny and snowing with almost no cars in the parking lot – we took off.

Wind and storm coming in early

Wind and storm coming in early

The trail has taken quite a bit of damage from the floods but was still hike-able, although RMNP had put up “hike at your own risk” signs at the beginning.  We flew up the Gem Lake trail, when we got to the lake itself the wind was so hard it pulling off drops of water off the lake, turning it to ice which was pelting us as we walked by.  It was so fun to watch, not so great to walk through.  We went right past the lake to the next section of trail starting our long journey down to Cow Creek , what we didn’t expect was how flipping cold that wind would make everything.  I had a first on this hike…. I actually took off my pants on the hike to put on long underwear, thank goodness we didn’t see any traffic ….because that would have been quite a show.  It was crazy insane cold  taking off my pants but I can tell you it saved me for the rest of the hike.

Trail signage just past Gem Lake

Trail signage just past Gem Lake

One more trail break before Cow Creek

One more trail break before Cow Creek

After putting on those extra layers on, we started moving at a good pace but steadily down with a few small ups.  Having never done this part of the trail before, I can’t say for sure but it seemed like there was some damage from the floods it was still easily hike-able with little worry about a lot of risk. We did 2.8 miles out to the Cow Creek trailhead and then headed back.  I imagine the views on the way to Cow Creek are usually pretty astounding, but they were mostly obscured by the storm moving towards us.   Even so it was amazing to behold.

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Climbing back up to Gem Lake was beautiful and getting back to the lake was interesting in that the wind was twice as bad as it was a few hours before.  Once we pushed back through the wind, we hung out in the shelter of trees and rocks for a few minutes just to marvel at ferocity if the wind.

Snow blowing at Gem Lake

Snow blowing at Gem Lake

On the way down from Gem Lake we saw a lot more traffic but nothing like there is on a good day.  Upon finishing the hike, we quickly drove over to Estes Park and hit a few stores to spend as much as we could afford.  Those owners were crazy appreciative.

Driving back, I was able to be the passenger and take in the damage from the floods.  It was heartbreaking, I don ‘t know how all those people are coping and moving forward.  There were pieces of route 36 on the other side of the St.Vrain Creek, so much debris or trees with guard rails wrapped around them….. it was weird and sad and hopeful.

I don’t know if you ever find yourself close to these communities, but if you do please spend some money and help out these small businesses.  They are hanging on by threads and struggling to make it through this mess.  I caught a few pictures of the damage and a few favorites…….

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Me at Gem Lake on the way back… Man those winds are cold!

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Twin Sisters Trail, Estes Park/Rocky Mountain National Park *Repeater* 6/8/13

11 Jun

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Last week when I was hiking with my girlfriends, we were admiring Twin Sisters (Hike details here) at all of our different amazing view spots.  I think it took me 3 looks to realize that there was not all that much snow showing at the summit and by the end of that hike I knew this was where we were going to hike next.  It was a good elevation gain, has amazing views and got us above 11,000 feet.

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When we arrived at the trail head at 7:30 AM, other hikers were pulling up at a steady pace and we could tell it was going to be a crowded day on the hike.  The summit isn’t all that huge either on the West sister and the East sister we never even attempted it last time, so we had no idea what that might look like.  We decided to go with a slow and steady pace on the way up mostly to adjust to altitude.

The weather was perfect, it was sunny but with clouds constantly moving across the sky making each glimpse of Longs peak different and more magnificent.  As we got closer to the tree line the wind started to really pick up, this is one of those peaks that is always windy and some of the hikers we passed as they were descending said it was hit or miss at the top on if the wind would be bad or not.  Most of the snow was gone but we hit a few patches mostly above the tree line.

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As we got to the saddle between the 2 sisters, the wind really picked up…like A LOT.  Last time we came here we didn’t even try the East sister, which is the true summit, this time Aaron really wanted to try it and so we went towards it.  Our timing was almost perfect as 6 people were coming down while we started going up this meant that we had it all to ourselves.  This East Summit requires some bouldering and the use of your hands as you find the best path up for you.  There is no defined path but most people end up going the same way up just by finding the easiest rocks to crawl over.

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When we got to the top of the East Sister, the wind was really pushing us around strong and Aaron is uncomfortable with heights when there is no wind.  So while I could have walked around up there, I didn’t because I knew he would probably have a heart attack.  I took a couple of pictures and then followed him down, as we were climbing the clouds started to come around the mountainside and we were literally in the clouds.

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The view of the West Summit from the East Summit.

The view of the West Sister from the East Sister.

The view east from the summit of the East Sister

The view east from the summit of the East Sister

View of Longs Peak from the East Summit

View of Longs Peak from the East Sister

Aaron climbing down the East Summit.

Aaron climbing down the East Sister.

We got down from the East sister and almost ran over to the West Sister so that we could catch the clouds coming in from the East and around the mountain, it was so cool looking.

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The Summit was CROWDED and more people were coming up all the time.  Fortunately the wind was also driving a lot of people right back down, we got some great pictures as the clouds were zooming across the sky and mountains.

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We made great time down the mountain and just as we were about a mile from being done, I fell….hard.  I squeaked and got all twisted in my poles trying to protect my head, I even managed to break one of my trekking poles.  It turned out not to be a big deal since I couldn’t close my left hand around it anyway and I could only use one pole the rest of the way regardless.

I was doing an assessment of my injuries and figured the hand was the worst one, as soon as we got to the car I grabbed an ice pack and started icing it took some Advil and figured we could still do a second hike on Sunday.  The one I had picked was easy so why not…..turns out my hand wasn’t the problem but my whole right side of my body( on which I landed) ignited with pain at about 2AM.  Not one for suffering in silence, I woke up Aaron to tell him the hike was off, I am such a good wife…..

Sunday all I did was lay around feeling sorry for myself as the weather was perfect so views of our second hike would have been spectacular.  Outside of a few bruises ( including my pride),  I am feeling pretty good today but Sunday and Monday were good days of healing.  I should be back to hiking this weekend and we are planning on trying 2 hikes again.

Gem Lake, Estes Park CO; a repeater & the first Girlfriend hike – 6/2/13

5 Jun
Gem Lake

Gem Lake

One of the best parts of moving to Colorado so far has been the amazing friends I have made!  These friends have been a great source of motivation, information and comfort for me.  Because of them I seen such beautiful parts of the state that I may never have adventured too if not for their advice!

Julie was patient and nice enough to take me on one of my first hikes here, one I later used to help me get in some sort of better shape to try hard harder hikes, Deer Creek Canyon ( hike details here).  When I think back to that hike with her, I grimace at what she had to put up with from me and with such good grace!  She has been so encouraging in my pursuit of hiking to healthy and everything I pursue for that matter, not to mention just a great friend to bounce hike ideas off of!

Julie

Karin knows so much about Colorado in general it is staggering, she gave me my second go to hike in the beginning of this journey at White Ranch Park( hike details here)  with the Rawhide trail.  At the time I first started doing it, I thought she considers this easy… note to self never hike with Karin!  But as I have learned to discover, people who live here a long time know what is really hard and what is easy.  She was right, it is now an easy hike for me but 53+ pounds ago, not so much.  She is also my biggest cheerleader every day as I try to live a healthier more active life, she is always bragging on my weight loss to anyone who mentions I look great while she is around.  She helps me stay on track when ever I need a little lift to keep on going.  Everyone needs a Karin in their life….but you can’t have mine!

Karin n view

On this particular hike we were missing our third partner in crime, Carrie, who will be joining us for future hikes but she has been equally important to me and our move here.  She took me out all over the place to do all sorts of different fun Colorado things, introduced me to so many wonderful people and all while laughing and having a  great time! I often remind her that she is the reason I stayed in Colorado and I am thankful every day she helped me through those hard transition times, among other things!!

They have all been extra supportive of my hiking and have actually started asking for my advice on which ones to try.  I was so excited that I begged them to come hike with me so this past Sunday I got to show them a trail they have never tried before.

I took Julie & Karin to Gem Lake (hike details here).  I love this hike because it is the perfect hike to plant the seed of “doing more hikes” with.  It isn’t too long, has amazing views, and it does have a decent climb so it is hard work but the payoff is so worth it!  The day was perfect in terms of weather, close to 70 degrees, sunny and dry which made the sky the best color blue while the clouds were the whitest white!

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The only down side to the day is that the trail was very crowded, which made pictures a little more challenging and finding a nice spot to grab a snack at the top was harder to come by.

I need to rename this hike as the persuasion hike, because I think it helps in convincing people that Colorado and hiking are awesome!   In fact during our hike on Sunday, it was easy to suggest that we try to get together and do a girl’s hike once a month!  It was a great day with wonderful Ladies!  Now once a month I will share with you our friends hike!  I hope you like the extra hikes!  Now for some favorite pictures.

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Gem Lake -Rocky Mountain National Park, Estes CO 3/6/13 ( Spring Break Hike #2)

16 Mar
Gem Lake

Gem Lake

Gem Lake Trail

Starting Elevation:  7882 Ft

Highest Elevation:  8830 Ft ( Total elevation gain 948 ft)

Trail Length:  According to the map it is 1.8 miles one way to the lake for a total of 3.6.  We did a lot of walking around taking pictures so in the end we had a little over 4 miles on my fitbit.   It took about 2 and half hours for our whole trip.

Trail uses:  Hiker only

Degree of Difficulty:  This one is hard for me to categorize, I would say overall Moderate but the elevation gain is a lot in a short distance and so some parts could be considered strenuous….

Bathrooms:  Yes, at the parking lot/trailhead and then there is a privy not too far below the lake itself.

Pets:  No dogs allowed.

Fees: None

Here we are at the parking lot ready to start the hike to Gem Lake

Here we are at the parking lot ready to start the hike to Gem Lake

When I was looking at different hikes for when Lauren and Anne were here, I wanted something with great views.  Normally I would have taken them to a hike I had done before but at this particular time of year all those great view hikes were probably under quite a bit of snow.  I liked what I read about Gem Lake for different reasons, it was not too long with spectacular views of Long’s peak, Mt. Meeker, the Twin Sisters and the whole town of Estes Park down below along with a nice elevation gain.  The other bonus was that  we had tickets for the ghost hunt tour at the Stanley Hotel later that night so it gave us lots to do in Estes Park.  I have also been wanting to do this hike for a long time but since we have been focused in getting more stamina a hike under 4 miles kept getting knocked off for longer, harder hikes.  My final reason, evil genius plan to make my nieces fall in love with Colorado….

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Lets talk trail, this is a short trail that climbs quickly but has some very well placed straights to catch your breath on with stunning views to admire.  From the parking lot you want to go to the vault toilet and take the path to the right of it, this is the Gem Lake trail it is very easy to follow and is straight in and straight out.   At points there were some stairs to help with the climbing but the path itself is pretty easy.  It actually runs through and along Lumpy Ridge and the rock formations were really neat.

Gem Lake trailheadTrail 1

The best part is that the trail is done in such away that you are always moving towards the next great view and the trail is so easy to follow.  We were lucky to have a pretty nice day, we started out a little chilly but quickly stripped off layers as we went up.

Trail 2A L K at view

One of the things I super love about Colorado is about how beautifully blue the skies get and the day we did this hike they were extra pretty.   After the above picture we climbed at a little steeper pace for just a little longer before it leveled out to where we started entering an aspen grove and some beautiful pine.  But before that grove we came around to the Paul Bunyans Boot, seriously check this out:

The trail as it leveled out and before the boot

The trail as it leveled out and before the boot

Paul Bunyans Boot

Paul Bunyans Boot and Lauren

After this is a great Aspen Grove that my nieces thought looked like it should be in a museum as a perfect depiction of an alpine aspen grove and I had to agree.

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From here it is not far to the lake and the last climb.  The steps could get challenging as there was some with long distances from one step to the next so I think this is where other hikers have decided to classify this as a harder hike but if you take your time getting through it is no problem.  Also there is a privy up here.  Privy’s are so interesting and I encountered one when we hiked Chasm Lake I just want to giggle every time I have to use one because there is barely enough coverage to get your business done.  At least this one was kinda down and behind a huge boulder so you could sort of get off the trail and out of view.  The last stretch of trail was a little in the shade and so snowy but not hard to get up or down at all.

Trail conditions to the lake

From here it is an easy scramble to the lake, which was frozen when we got there but still beautiful and the views around were amazing.

Gem Lake

Gem Lake

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We took a bunch of pictures, pretended to be yeti’s waiting to be spotted laughed a ridiculous amount and then headed back down.  I have to admit hiking with my nieces was so much fun, today’s hike ( post coming) was a little subdued  because we didn’t have their company!  We are already counting down the days until their next visit so we can show them more of beautiful Colorado.  After the directions on how to get to the trail I will put some of our favorite pictures.

Directions: 

This trailhead was relocated to the northwest of the old trailhead, and the parking lot expanded.  The turn-off to the new trailhead is approximately 1/4 mile west of the old Gem Lake Trailhead, on Lumpy Ridge Rd.

From Estes Park, take the US Hwy 34 bypass (the road that goes by the Stanley Hotel). Just west of the Stanley, turn right (north) onto MacGregor Avenue (CR 43). The road makes a hard right at the entrance to MacGregor Ranch, after which it is known as the Devils Gulch Rd. Veer right, and proceed about 3/4 miles to Lumpy Ridge Rd. Turn left onto Lumpy Ridge Rd. The Lumpy Ridge Trailhead and parking area at the end of the road.

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Fun with perspective and Lauren

Fun with perspective and Lauren

Lion Gulch -Homestead Meadows, Lyons, CO 2/17/13

20 Feb
best view from Meadow loop

best view from Meadow loop

Lion Gulch #949 >  Griffith Homestead #979-2> Homestead Meadow Loop #971 > forest Road 120

Lowest Elevation: 7300 Ft

Highest Elevation: 8700Ft ( according to the Nike GSP watch Aaron wears) We think we had a total gain of 2000 ft with the ups and downs.

Trail Length:  The route we took got us 10 miles give or take a little

Trail Uses:  Hiker, biker, Horses, cross country skier

Degree of difficulty:  Moderate due to length and conditions

Bathrooms:  Yes at the trailhead

Pets:  Yes on leash only, and all the dogs were actually on leash which was a first.  This leads me to believe that there is strict enforcement of the rule.

Return trips views

Return trips views

I picked today’s hike from the Falcon Guide – Best Hikes Near Denver & Boulder for the Homestead Meadows hike.   What is really interesting about this particular hike is that the Meadow Loop itself is an outdoor museum that reflects those brave people who took advantage of the homestead act in the 1860’s.  The original hike suggestion has the hiker starting from Hermit Park Open Space which is privately owned and so has a fee associated with going in that way.  It also is not that tough of an elevation gain at just +720 and we didn’t do a tough elevation gain hike last week either, so I started reading as much as I could on the area and my options.  At the end of the hike description are some options and we took one of those which had us starting at Lion Gulch, this gave us an extra 2.1 miles with elevation gain of almost 1400, not counting the numerous ups and downs so it was closer to 2000 feet in total elevation gain.  It was exactly what we needed.

Lion Gulch & Homestead Meadows Information board

Lion Gulch & Homestead Meadows Information board

Map of the Homesteads you can visit.

Map of the Homesteads you can visit.

Our first view of the hike from the parking lot

Our first view of the hike from the parking lot

What is really cool about going this way is that those original homesteaders would use this exact path to go to and from Lyons and/or Estes Park to sell their goods or work.  I know all the trails have great history, but this one really stuck with me for some reason maybe it was their sense of adventure and hope.  It climbs up and over the creek, crossing it about 10 times, maybe more and in some places there is an option between the horse path and hiker path.  I loved this climb, it was constantly changing between challenging and easy both because of the elevation we were gaining and the snow/ice on the trail.

Hiker/Horse trail indicator

Hiker/Horse trail indicator

Starting to get snowy

Starting to get snowy

mostly snow

mostly snow

As we were getting closer to the top of our major climb, we came across the trail’s ice skating rink portion.  It’s not really mentioned anywhere on any hike description and was a surprise to every hiker that had to try to pass, fortunately we had brought our crampons so getting through it wasn’t nearly as tricky for us as it was for everyone else not similarly equipped.  It was our first time using them and man did they rock, going up was easy going while down was just ok.  Fortunately there was a group of scouts who came prepared and I was able to grab their rope before I bit it.  We think it actually prevented a lot of hikers from making it to the meadows above.

Aaron on the ice skating rick

Aaron on the ice skating rink

My turn ice skating

My turn ice skating

This is also where the trail starts to leave the creek with the beautiful tree cover and opens up in the meadows of the Homestead Meadow trails.

Homestead Trails

Homestead Trails

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After walking up to the main trail break we went to our right, to go past the Griffith homestead and then onto the meadow loop.  I would like to say it was all pretty easy to follow by the trail markers alone but it wasn’t, in fact I referred to my hiking book a lot to make sure we were going the right way for the hike we wanted.   Also this loop is not popular in the winter/spring, we had to walk through a lot of snow on the path and ours were often the only and first foot prints.

Trail MarkerMeadow Loop marker

After we went past the Griffith Homestead we started hitting  that snow and then got to use our gators also for the first time too, it was pretty exciting!  It made us feel like we knew what we were doing, well really like Aaron knew what he was doing because I couldn’t get these or the crampons on without his help.   Plus we were the only ones there, we had the whole loop to ourselves and we loved it!

Stove with view

Stove with view

Griffith homestead

Gators

Gators

The loop took us past the Brown Homestead and we could have gone to see the Irvine Homestead which has the most intact buildings on it, but we decided it was getting late, we had already covered 5 miles and needed to make sure that we could handle the return trip.  It gave us a reason to come back again to check out more of the homesteads.  Getting back to Lion Gulch was easier, that trail was well marked…

Lion Gulch #949

Lion Gulch #949

While there are some beautiful views to been seen once you get to the Homestead Meadows, they aren’t totally spectacular.  Strangely though it is now one of or favorites, the whole trail is just beautiful in its composition.  The way it winds along the creek through beautiful lodge pines and Aspens while the tops of the surrounding mountains are constantly peaking through.  It was really motivating and peaceful.  Then the meadows are rich in their feeling of history and perseverance of those brave people.  I have read it is a high traffic trail in the summer and fall, but it was not that crowded this weekend which is probably not when it is at its best but I loved the solitude we got to have while explored.  It is a great trail and I hope I can take more people through there in the future.   I will put our favorite pictures after the directions to the trailhead.

Directions:

From Lyons, take 36 towards Estes Park.  The parking lot and trailhead  are 12.3 miles from where 7 & 36 split right at mile marker 8 on the left side of the road.

The end of the ice is so close....

The end of the ice is so close….

Cool looking tree

Cool looking tree

View back towards Lion Gulch after reaching the next section of trail

View back towards Lion Gulch after reaching the next section of trail

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