Emerald Lake Hike

9/29/11

Bummer!  It was our last full day but we had planned a great day of hiking.  We set out about 7:30 on a hike that would take us to three lakes in a row.  Our first stop was Nymph Lake.  The blanket of lily pads made it a fairy tale scene.  A half mile up was Dream Lake.  Across the lake was an incredible view of several mountain peaks.  I guess that’s what makes it “dreamy.”  Ancient Bristlecone Pines make the scene especially picturesque.  We met a nice couple who retired to the area from Louisiana.  Their retired life centered around hiking and photography–and staying indoors during the snowy winter.  It sounded quite nice to me but Howard wasn’t convinced that Colorado could be our retirement state.  (I’ve also tried to convince him that Utah would be a scenic retirement home to no avail.)

The last stop up the trail was Emerald Lake.  Another incredible glacier-carved lake ringed by mountain peaks.  The best sight at this destination was the birds.  A sweet white crowned sparrow flitted around the boulders lining the lake.  And there were water ouzels!  They are sweet little black birds that actually “fly” under water.  They dive in and use their wings like they are flying underwater to search out bugs and such.  Howard took a lot of pictures of the entertaining water ouzels.Emerald-Lake-2_0545

We had already planned to hike to one other lake on that last day.  So we hiked down the mountain and then up again to Lake Haiyaha.


Bierstadt Lake Hike

9/28/11

Day two in RMNP started a little later since our hike to Bierstadt Lake was going to be shorter–to give us a little break after the previous day’s hike.  We first took a short hike around Bear Lake.  It was a half mile level hike but it showcased some of the surrounding peaks.  Our “real hike” again took us through really beautiful forests. There were mini-forests of Aspens in gorgeous fall color.  When we reached the lake at first it was a let-down.  No steep mountain cliffs ringed the lake.  Instead you could gaze at 180 degrees of distant mountain peaks dotted with glaciers.


We hiked to the sunny side of the lake, had lunch and relaxed while reclining on the surrounding rocks.  We decided that Bierstadt Lake was every bit as beautiful as the other lakes we’d visited–just different.

 
 

On our way back to civilization we heard a woodpecker hammering away at a nearby tree.  It was a three-toed woodpecker!  We were sure this was a first sighting of this woodpecker for us.  (We keep track of things like that, you know.)  But alas we had already added that bird to our life-list.  Rats!

 
 

When we arrived at the end of our 4.3 mile hike we talked to the couple who were just ahead of us on the trail down.  They said: Did you see the mother bear and her two cubs?  Believe me Howard and I will only be excited to see a mother bear with cubs in the ZOO.  I should have said: But did you see the three-toed woodpecker??

 
 


 

Mills Lake Hike

9/27/11

With the help of the rangers at the visitor center we planned our “attack.” The first morning we were on the road by 7am.  Our destination was Mills Lake.  What a beautiful hike through a picturesque forest!  The hike included several crossings of a lovely stream and two waterfalls.


The best hikes are the ones where the “journey” is just as pretty as the destination.  This hike fit that description.


Mills Lake was surrounded by high mountain walls (it was carved by glaciers) and the fall colors were abundant.


We were feeling pretty good after that hike so we decided to hike to another lake nearby called The Loch.


Immediately we were challenged by a seemingly unending uphill hike with switchback after switchback.  We hiked just behind one couple who were probably our age and we joked about our stupidity to take on this particular mountain trail.  But once we arrived we were glad that we made the trip.  It was a lovely lake but, in all honesty, it was not as pretty as Mills Lake.  Our hike that day totaled in at 7.4 miles–not bad for a (nearly) 60 and 70 year old.


 

Devil’s Thumb Ranch

9/24/11

The plan to visit Colorado started with a wedding invitation.  We had just returned from a week in Zion National Park and were opening up the week’s accumulated mail when we came upon the invitation.  Our friend from the office, Karen Heffron, had planned a “destination” wedding at Devil’s Thumb Ranch, a 5,000 acre ranch/resort in Colorado west of the Rockies.  Although we knew Karen was getting married we had no plans to attend…until we saw the invitation.  That wedding invitation was so inviting!  I said to Howard: Wanna go?  He said: Yea!  And I was on the Internet in a flash booking our room.  The only accommodations available at that late date were in the “bunkhouse.” That should have given us a hint of what was to come.  We even paid extra for a bathroom in the room!

Devil’s Thumb Ranch is an incredible place.  I recommend you get married there.  Or just visit there if you’re already married or not inclined to tie the knot.  And there is a “devil’s thumb.” It’s a geological phenomenon at the top of the hill that is supposed to look like a thumb.  Maybe the devil is giving us “the finger” instead!

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Believe it or not, Howard and I got all “duded out” (dressed like cowboys/girls) for the rehearsal BBQ dinner.  At a second-hand western store I found perfectly fitting lizard-skin boots!  Add a cowboy hat and I’m a cowgirl!  We were pretty impressed with ourselves.  Although no pictures are available to document this incredible feat.

Apart from the incredibly beautiful wedding and great evening of dancing like nuts, we also took scenic hikes, enjoyed delicious food, basked in the sun and perfect weather, and met lots of friends and family of the newly-weds.  (And I had to listen to the judge that married the couple trying to convince me that the wedding costs should be tax deductible as “business promotion”!)  We got little sleep our first two nights because in our bunkhouse room we could hear the people above us BREATHING.  (That’s how thin the floors were!). I pretty much threatened to stampede the cattle through the lobby if they did not assure me that I would have a good nights sleep our last night.  Instead of giving us a luxurious, quiet suite (like I had hoped) they apparently cleared the bunkhouse because we were virtually the only ones there that night. I may not have gotten a luxurious room but I did get a good night’s sleep!

While we were at the ranch (on the west side of the Rockies), I commented that the Colorado Rockies could not hold a candle to the Canadian Rockies.  I was sure that Banff Nation Park had spoiled me and I would never appreciate any mountains other than the Canadian Rockies.  I was also sure that this trip would be our only visit to Colorado.  But, OMG (!), the east side of the Rockies are every bit as incredible as their “cousins” up north.  And without question we will be back here!