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Fitness and Photography for Fun - A blog on staying fit by hiking and doing photography by David Mendosa

A Hard Hike to The Loch

August 29th, 2015 · No Comments

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If I didn’t known how beautiful The Loch and the trail to it is, I would have stayed home. I would have missed a great experience that at the same time exhausted me.

Two previous hikes to this spectacular lake in Rocky Mountain National Park convinced me that no setting can be more glorious, so it would be worth the effort. When I first hiked up to The Loch in 2007, I wrote in my photo essay then that I never had to stop because I was tired.

But I had to rest quite a few times on Tuesday. I’m not sure what explains the difference, but of course I’m eight years older now. I also forgot to bring any food with me and had only a glass of my protein shake for breakfast at 4:30 and nothing else until I got back home 12 hours later. Sharon, my hiking partner, offered me some of her picnic lunch, but because it wasn’t vegetarian and low-carb, I declined. Another difference was that I was drowsy from the drug I’m taking for seasonal allergies. In addition I was carrying two of my cameras, my binoculars, and my backpack.

​Sharon Says I Take So Much Stuff

Sharon Says I Take So Much Stuff

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But both Sharon and I made sure to carry our cell phones, even if for most of the hike we were out of range. We want to be sure to avoid a repeat of our misadventure at Caribou Ranch earlier this month.

As hard as yesterday’s hike was, I am glad that I went. By any objective measure, I can describe the hike as a moderate one. It’s only six miles round trip, and my pedometer counted only 14,000 steps. The Glacier Gorge Trailhead is at 9,240 feet so I had to climb less than 1,000 feet to the lake, which sits at 10,180 feet. The trail itself offers no difficult obstacles. The first 0.8 miles of the trail is especially easy as it goes to one of the park’s top tourist attractions, Alberta Falls. One of the first settlers in the area, Abner Sprague, named the falls in honor of his wife.

​Alberta Falls on Glacier Creek

Alberta Falls on Glacier Creek

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The rest of the trail to The Loch was somewhat rocky, and I am glad that I took my trekking poles to get up and down some big steps. The views from the trail, however, went well beyond anyone’s requirements to make any navigation difficulties worthwhile. About half way up to The Loch the trail leveled off and opened up to this scene.

Sharon Points Out the View

Sharon Points Out the View

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The Loch is one of the most spectacular lakes in the park, although it deserves an American name. Abner Sprague was also the person who named it, this time in honor of a guest in his lodge, a banker from Kansas City named Locke. Later, Sprague changed the name to The Loch, perhaps because his family came from Scotland or perhaps as a joke.

Scotland can’t have any scene like this. The Loch sits in a gorgeous valley about 1,000 feet below tree line. If it were much higher, it would be in the tundra, and without trees surrounding the lake, it could not be as beautiful.

At first view, The Loch appears much smaller than it actually is.

​First View of The Loch

First View of The Loch

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The land to the left is actually a peninsula jutting out into the lake. We stopped and enjoyed the wider scene for perhaps an hour. Sharon ate her lunch and I drank water from my canteen while resting, looking, and trying to capture the beauty all around us.

The Loch and Sharon

The Loch and Sharon

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Returning to what we call civilization was easier than leaving it, at least physically if not mentally. But I still stopped often to rest. Sharon found some welcoming rocks to lean against not far from the trail. As soon as I sat down, a bee investigated my blue jeans.

A Bee on my Knee

A Bee on my Knee

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I used my Canon 50D camera with my Canon 60mm macro lens for this shot. This macro lens can focus down to full life-size (1:1) magnification, letting me get the lens within 8 inches of the bee. Most of the other photos I made were with my Canon 7D camera and my Tamron 10-24mm ultra wide-angle zoom lens.

I was actually traveling light camera gear-wise, since I left my 100-400mm telephoto zoom lens in the car because I didn’t expect to find many birds to photograph so high in the mountains. So when we saw a big bull elk destroying a stand of aspen, I used the same lens to capture the image of the elk as I used for the bee. This macro lens isn’t just for close-ups.

​This Bull Elk Rubbed Its Antlers on this Aspen Grove

This Bull Elk Rubbed Its Antlers on this Aspen Grove

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After watching the elk at work for a quarter of an hour, he finally noticed me and turned my way, rewarding my patience. Then Sharon and I went to our homes in Boulder, where the temperature was 50 degrees hotter than when we arrived at the trailhead at the start of this hike.


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