I’ve been whining a lot lately about the snow that never seems to go away here in Denver. While we’ve had some positively summer-like weather since last the last time it snowed – about seven days ago – we’re expecting to have more in about 24 hours from now. And since my older daughter, JRS, is up at a week-long outdoor school with the rest of her sixth grade class, I’m especially worried that this snowstorm will be long-lasting or frigid.
So last week, RAS and I went to Rocky Mountain National Park near Estes Park, a little over an hour away from here on a scenic but winding mountain road, US 36, once you get past the controlled sprawl of Boulder. If we were going to have an everlasting winter, we might as well go to the place where the snow perpetually stays put.
During the summer and into the fall before the serious snow makes an appearance, Estes is jammed with tourists. Rocky Mountain gets clogged with vehicles all the way up to its main attraction, Trail Ridge Road. The highest paved road in the U.S. traverses the park all the way to Grand Lake and only stays open from Memorial Day to Labor Day, give or take a week.
Not during mud season. Here’s what it looked like in downtown:
Since Trail Ridge wasn’t an option, we decided to pull out our snowshoes. This was my first time doing this, but there really is nothing to it. And it makes hiking on snow-piled trails so much easier.
We chose the shortest route that the visitor-center ranger suggested, Bear Lake. One of the most popular summertime attractions in Rocky Mountain, it proved to be almost as much for snowshoeing people like us. Coming in the early morning with the harder snowpack, we easily hiked without the snowshoes. Then as it softened and we sunk knee-deep with more frequency, we fastened them on.
A view of the fourteener, Longs Peak, from the trail:
RAS doing his best mountain guide impression:
In this environment with the snow this deep, the animals may still be in hibernation. Not surprisingly, we didn’t see any along the trail except for a few ptarmigans flying overhead. Elk, so common all around Estes, were nowhere to be found.
The ranger hadn’t told us that each of the lakes on the trail – Nymph, Dream and Emerald – would be frozen solid as we encountered them. In fact, we had no idea that we actually hiked on top of the first two, until we saw sheets of ice worn away from other snowshoeing hikers and the strong wind.
Here’s what the last one at trail’s end, Emerald Lake, looked like:
(trust me, there is a lake underneath all that white)
We certainly want to return when nearly all of this snow melts…probably in early August??