The photographer for the photo shoot on Monday, Kevin Moloney, inspired me to be on the trail by first light today.
I wanted to get to the high country one more time before the snows of winter close the roads. The highest country we can reach is Trail Ridge Road that climbs through the center of Rocky Mountain National Park up to 12,183 feet.
I got up at 4 a.m. and left before 5 a.m. in hopes of reaching the highest trail off of that road by first light. But a snowstorm had closed the road, at least temporarily, and I had to revert to “Plan B.”
My fall-back position was to reach one of my favorite lakes by first light. Sunrise was at 7:01, and I reached the trailhead at 6:30 with only the moon and stars shining and actually had to wait at Nymph Lake for the sun to hit the surrounding peaks and later the lake itself.
The night on the trail was dark and stormy. The wind was high and the temperature was right at the freezing point. Fortunately, I had dressed warmly and had to proceed most carefully over only a couple of bad patches of ice anywhere on the trail, much less ice than on Monday because I was about 1,000 feet lower.
I dressed the same as I had for the photo shoot on Monday, except I also wore a wool cap under my hat to keep my ears warm. My nose was always cold, and my feet and my hands seemed to alternative to see which would be colder.
While I waited at Nymph Lake for the sun to come up, I did some balance exercises. Karen inspired me to work on my balance, and Kevin on Monday suggested the same exercises that he was doing for his knee surgery, and yesterday my podiatrist recommended the same exercises. They get progressively more challenging, but start with standing on one leg on a flat surface with shoes on. I succeeded in finding a flat surface just where the lake lapped against my boots and managed to hold it for almost 30 seconds on each foot until the wind blew me over. I will continue to work on this in the less windy environs of my apartment.
From the trailhead at Bear Lake, elevation 9,465 feet the trail climbed gradually past Nymph Lake and Dream Lake to 10,080 feet at Emerald Lake, It was less than a 4-mile hike, easy by my new standards. But when I made the same hike this summer it seemed a lot longer. I got back to the trailhead in a quick 3.5 hours.
The colder weather hurried me along, but the big difference from my earlier hike was that the hordes of summer were missing. This is by far the most popular part of one of the nation’s most popular park, and in summer you have to get there by 8 or 9 in order to get one of the 75 or so parking places. Today, only four cars were there when I arrived.
Back in Boulder this afternoon I felt sort of silly dressed so warmly. It’s about 80 degrees here today.