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The Trail to Emerald Lake

Posted By admin16 On October 17, 2015 @ 1:42 pm In Photography | No Comments

The most popular hike in Rocky Mountain National Park and probably in the whole state of Colorado is the trail to Emerald Lake. Neither Sharon nor I had hiked it for years, but we finally got back there Tuesday.

People come from all over the world to experience this wonderful trail. In a little over 1.8 miles from the Bear Lake Trailhead it takes thousands of hikers every year to four beautiful mountain lakes.

Right at the trailhead is Bear Lake, 9,450 feet up in the Rockies. Two weeks earlier we saw and photographed this lake on a rare still day when we left from the same trailhead on our hike around the Bierstadt Lake Loop [1].

Just 0.5 miles further up the trail to Emerald Lake on Tuesday we reached Nymph Lake, which sits in a bowl at 9,705 feet. This small lake is ringed by pond lilies that bloom in the spring and early summer.

Then, after 0.6 miles comes Dream Lake. This long lake is 9,905 feet high.

Eventually, after 0.7 more miles we reached our destination. Once we passed along the long shore of Dream Lake, we climbed an apparently endless stream of steps up to Emerald Lake at 10,110 feet.

Appropriately named, Emerald Lake is the jewel of the Rockies. Like the gemstone, the color of this lake is an intense green with a bluish cast. The water reflects the sheer rock face of Hallett Peak, which rises directly from the lake to 12,713 feet.

Never mind the beauty, all this summer Sharon and I had avoided this hike. Too many people. We got there early on a less crowded weekday several weeks after most visitors had returned home. Still, we must have seen hundreds of people on the trail, which is well known around the world. For example, we talked with a couple of Aussies who came just to hike in Colorado and Utah.

Arriving about sunrise, we saw few people on the way up the trail. Most people are late risers, even when they get out in nature. The crowds we passed were on our return hike down the chain of lakes.

I hadn’t hiked this trail since 2010, although that was my eighth trip there, including snowshoeing once to Dream Lake and another time to Emerald Lake. Sharon hadn’t hiked this trail since August 1991, more than 24 years ago.

When we reached Emerald Lake, we sat down right at the shore for a picnic. Sharon ate a late breakfast and I had an early lunch.

We shared our food, not with each other but instead with our furry and feathery friends. Because so many people have, like us, picnicked at the lake for so long, two species of animals have lost their fear of humans.

Sharon Holds a Raw Almond for a Gray Jay [2]

Sharon Holds a Raw Almond for a Gray Jay

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A Uinta Chipmunk Eats a Raw Almond from My Hand [3]

A Uinta Chipmunk Eats a Raw Almond from My Hand

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The main attraction, of course, was the lake itself. After all these years it is still exceptional.

Water, Rock, Trees, and Sky [4]

Water, Rock, Trees, and Sky

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[1] Bierstadt Lake Loop: http://www.mendosa.com/fitnessblog/?p=13128

[2] Image: http://www.mendosa.com/fitnessblog/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/gray-jay.jpg

[3] Image: http://www.mendosa.com/fitnessblog/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/chipmunk-eats.jpg

[4] Image: http://www.mendosa.com/fitnessblog/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/emerald-lake.jpg

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