After a good night’s sleep (strangely, it wasn’t very cold at this altitude- we were camping at around 7,500 feet), we woke up the next morning ready for some good hiking. We took the shuttle bus (a welcome relief after several long days of driving) to the trail head of Bear Lake where we set out on a 10-mile hike which passed at least five pretty mountain lakes. It was good to stretch out our lakes and to take in some of the beautiful mountain views and fresh air. The mountains here were completely different than what we saw in Grand Teton and Glacier National Park (also part of the Rockies chain.) Here they were more severe and barren (in part due to the higher altitude.)
After a good morning hike, we decided to take it easy in the campground and catch up on our “to-do” list: blog posts, the move, and some much needed rest and relaxation. The afternoon thunderstorms rolled in and continued in to the evening- so I spent part of the time reading in the tent. We knew we would have a couple of days to enjoy the park, so there was no need to rush.
The next morning was dark and cloudy…the threat of thunderstorms loomed in the background. We decided to do the scenic drives offered in the park in the protection of our car. We started with the Fall River Road, a steep, winding road that opened in 1920. We followed the river through forest, past the tree line and into alpine tundra. The road topped out at the Alpine Visitor Center at 11,976 feet above sea level. It was a balmy 55 degrees up there, but we felt quickly acclimated to the altitude. Outside the visitor center, we saw a couple of baby marmots. From there, we rejoined Skyline Drive which continued through the alpine tundra and descended to the Colorado River. (The headwaters of this magnificent river are In Rocky Mountain NP.) We made a couple of stops to stretch our legs, one at the site of one of the first dude ranches in the area. As we retraced our route back towards the other side of the park, the thunder and lightning started. When we had passed the storm, we did a little nature walk about the tundra ecosystem. Our last stop was at the ranger station to get the weather forecast and some final advice for the ascent of Long’s Peak- we had decided to climb the highest peak in the park and one of Colorado’s fourteeners. Our trek would begin early the next morning, so we prepared our packs and were in bed by 8:30pm.
Posted from Williamsburg, VA
Tags: BIG TRIP 2011, Colorado FR, In English 2005-2006