Sunday, August 19, 2018

Trail Review: 5 Lakes, 1 Morning: Nymph, Dream, Emerald, Haiyaha, Bear Lakes, Rocky Mountain National Park, CO

Starting the hike up to Nymph, Dream, and Emerald Lakes.

Earlier this Summer in July, I had the opportunity to go on a trip to Colorado with extended family that put us in Estes Park, CO, right down the road about a mile or so from the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park.  This is the 3rd of 5 trail reviews from that week!  Enjoy!

Nymph Lake.  Are there little fairies living in that water?

Two days after I went up Deer Mountain and one day after my rainy excursion in Beaver Meadows, our immediate and extended family got up early and made the drive out to the Bear Lake Trails in Rocky Mountain National Park, not far from Estes Park.  Our goal was to get as many people to Emerald Lake as possible.  The age span in our group was larger than 50 years from oldest to youngest and the elevation ranged around 9,500-10,000+ for most of the 3.6 mile round trip hike, not including Bear Lake and Lake Haiyaha.

Another view of Nymph Lake.

The hike up to Nymph Lake from the Bear Lake parking lot is just a half mile.  It does have a little bit of elevation gain, but it's not bad and a pretty easy hike for most people.  The lake, as seen in the pictures above is filled with lily pads and surrounded by pine trees.  

View from the trail up to Dream Lake.

The second lake, Dream Lake, has a steep section partway into the .6 of a mile stretch from Nymph Lake.  Here though, more and more views of the surrounding countryside start to come into view.  Again, the hike is not strenuous, unless you have to carry a child up one of the steep stair like sections, that's about the only time I got winded!  Dream Lake looks very placid and mirror like, calm and still.

Almost to Dream Lake.

Hallett Peak, Tyndall Gorge, and Flattop Mountain, (L to R), as seen from Dream Lake.

The trail continues as we pass Dream Lake and head to Emerald Lake.

Stairs here as we leave Dream and head to Emerald, but the elevation gain isn't too bad in this .7 mile stretch.
A gentle mountain brook in between Dream Lake and Emerald Lake.

This section of the Tyndall Gorge waters was really flowing as it poured down towards Dream Lake.
Hallett Peak as seem from the third lake, Emerald.  

The push towards Emerald Lake is the longest, but only .7 of a mile.  There is some elevation gain, but again, it didn't seem too bad.  Definitely the trail through this section has a few more tripping hazards and you are now above 10,000 feet.  The views however as you get to the final lake are amazing.  Several years ago when just a few of us made it to this lake, there were rock climbers you could spy through binoculars climbing up the side of Hallett Peak.  While there were no climbers today, I am happy to report, that everyone which started in our group of family, made it to the third lake!  Pretty awesome! One of my relatives who didn't think she could do it, actually cried when she got up there.  She was the oldest in our group.  I am also happy to note, that the youngest two children, both in single digits, also made it!

Flattop Mountain.

Coming back to Dream Lake.  Even prettier on the way back down.

Neat little stretch of trail around the side of Dream Lake.

As we came back down from Emerald Lake to Dream Lake, my wife and I talked about me doing a quick trail run/hike to Lake Haiyaha, about 1.1-1.2 miles from the edge of Dream Lake.  As she had other family with her to help with the kids, she okayed my to go on this quick side excursion, and I am sure glad I did.  The next group of photos is all from this section of the hike.  The trail is a bit more rugged and there was one stretch I'd definitely want little kids to be extremely careful, but otherwise, it was totally awesome!!!  

The junction where I split off from my family and headed to my 4th lake, Lake Haiyaha.

The trail went up pretty quick and was more rugged than the trail to the other lakes.

Caught this awesome picture of the sun breaking through the trees and onto the trail.

The lake towards the top is Bear Lake, the other one is Nymph Lake.  You can almost see the lily pads!

Another hiker took this pic of me with the lakes in the background, very thankful she did this for me!!!

A picture off to the left of the trail, I am assuming based on my map that's Chaos Canyon and somewhere is Otis Peak.

A bridge to get you over Chaos Creek.

Getting closer!!!

Lake Haiyaha

The hike/run to Lake Haiyaha as you can see, has some beautiful views.  Again, after the immediate climb up from Dream Lake, the elevation gain is not too bad, but the last section of trail is really climbing over, under and around boulders if you want to actually get right up to the lake, just an FYI.  This lake is definitely bigger than Nymph or Dream, and according to the map, also Emerald.  The next several pictures are from me scurrying around the boulders and snapping off different shots of the lake.


The hillside behind the lake.  Notice the people walking/climbing on the rocks.

Some boulders I didn't scurry around on top of at Lake Haiyaha.

The way back down, I ran as fast as I could, (around several hikers a few times) but also managed to take the following pictures.  I was hurrying down to see if I could make it all the way to Bear Lake, (2.2 miles away), and catch my family and hike around it, but remember I departed from them when they were only 1.1 miles from the junction back at the parking lot for Bear Lake.

This was the little piece of trail I'd want my kids close to me.

Believe it or not, right about here, I got a phone call from a telemarketer!  What a way to interrupt the beauty!

Almost back to the main trail down to Bear Lake.

I made it back down to Bear Lake and found that one of my kids and my wife were still hiking around it while the others rested and waited.  I sped off, hoping I was heading in the right direction, (the lake is a pretty flat half mile loop), and caught them about 1/3-1/2 of the way around.  My wife mentioned that our youngest had started on this hike, but then promptly stopped shortly into it and proclaimed, "I have hiked enough today, I am not hiking anymore," or something to that effect!  So she took her back to the rest area next to the parking lot and started again on the trail!  Bear Lake is a beautiful lake and almost anyone can walk around it.  It gains little elevation and the trail is fairly wide.  The following pics are from the second half of that hike after I caught my wife and youngest son.

A section of trail around Bear Lake.

My fifth lake this day, Bear Lake, just as pretty as the rest of them!!! 


All in all, this hike is 3.6 miles up and back from Bear Lake to Emerald Lake.  Add on another 2.2 to go to Lake Haiyaha and then another .5 around Bear Lake.  My GPS had it at 5.7 but I forgot to restart it a couple of times after we had stopped for a few minutes.  Therefore, 6.3 +/- miles seems about right.  I was able to fly down the section of trail from Dream Lake to Bear Lake passing people left and right when I was trying to catch my wife.  The elevation change according to my GPS, (again it might be off a bit) was almost 1200 feet of ascent and the same descent.  That seems like a lot, but it is very spread out with certain section gaining it quickly while other flat stretches seem to meander a bit.  A thoroughly enjoyable day of hiking and seeing lots of gorgeous lakes and mountain views.  Try to fit it in if you are out that way and I hope you ENJOY!!!

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Trail Review: Deer Mt TH to Upper Beaver Meadows TH, Rocky Mountain National Park, CO

Sign next to the road at Deer Mt Trail Head

Earlier this Summer, in July, I had the opportunity to go on a trip to Colorado with extended family that put us in Estes Park, CO, right down the road about a mile or so from the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park.  This is the second of several trail reviews from that week!  Enjoy!

The trail starts out as single-track and you could tell the rain had hit it hard!

The day after I trail ran/hiked up Deer Mountain, it was raining after lunch and everyone was just kind of sitting around on their phones or devices.  I didn't want to waste time doing that on vacation in the mountains, so thinking it looked like maybe it wasn't raining a few miles away in the park, or that maybe it would stop, I decided to head back up to the trail head at Deer Mountain, run a quick 1/4 up that trail to get the exact distance to the first overlook, and then run back down and do the the trail down to the Upper Beaver Meadows Trail Head and a short 1 mile loop that was indicated on the map as originating from there.  When I arrived at the trail junction for Deer Mountain and the one down to Upper Beaver Meadows, it was raining...then it was pouring...then it would kind of stop.  I ran the quick bit up Deer Mountain to the first overlook and came back...raining again...then pouring...then it let up, but still raining...I finally decided I run in the rain back home...what's the difference at 8500 ft above sea level.  I might get a bit cold, but the hike/run back uphill at the end should warm me up...right?

The trail descends pretty quickly the first .6 of a mile.

The first .6 of a mile as seen and noted in the first two pictures, is pretty much straight downhill, with a good bit of it single track.  This had somewhat washed out a bit due to the rain, making the first section of it a little rutted.  Eventually it widened out a bit as seen above and was easier to run.  As this section ends, you have a choice to go left, (which appears to be the correct trail as it seems to go straight on from the original), or right.  I almost went down the wrong trail, but looking again at the map, realized that while the trail to the right goes right, it quickly arcs around and parallels the other trail as it takes a nice jaunt through the meadow as seen below:  

Here the trail takes that arc and then runs through the meadow onward to Upper Beaver Meadows Trail Head.

This stretch is a quick .3 of a mile until you come to a sign post, (just visible in the picture below) that marks the right hand turn onto the Beaver Mountain Trail.  I wasn't going that way this day and shortly after that junction, as I ran straight on, the rain increased in intensity and I also decided that while I would go to the trail head, I would not do the extra mile loop.  I was pretty much getting soaked and body temperature was still a concern.

Trail signs mark the turn off to Beaver Mountain Trail as the single track continues onward through this beautiful meadow.

As I got closer to the trail head, the trail descended a little bit, slowly going down through some stretched out steps marked by logs across the trail.  As normal, these are to prevent the trail from eroding too much, but they can also form some puddles near them as they did on this day.  I finally made it to the trail head and took a moment to be covered by the trail head sign before turning back into the rain.

At this point I was starting to get cold...

Taking the trail back up through the meadow back towards the junction sign with Beaver Mountain.

And of course I was soaked...the flatter parts of meadow didn't really do much to warm me up.  Finally I turned onto the uphill and knew I only had a little over a .5 mile to go.  However, again, this wasn't really warming up me up as much as I thought, though it certainly helped.  My hands got a bit cold for sure.  

View heading back uphill to Deer Mountain Trail Head.

But, in the end, I was glad I took advantage of the time I had to run in the the rain...(don't tell me wife about any of the lightning or thunder...okay?)  It might have been a short run and a bit unplanned, (and maybe I wasn't as prepared as I should have been...I didn't really want to take my rain coat and run in it...knowing it would really ramp up the heat and humidity on my body even as it kept me dry), but it was fun and enjoyable!  This run, (not including the short part up Deer Mountain at the beginning) was only about 2.9 miles, but probably had somewhere around 800 feet or so of elevation change, +/- 400 descent and same ascent.  If you head out this way and have an extra bit of time like to kill like I did, go run it, it's a nice gentle run through an awesome meadow but with a stinger little uphill at the end!  Enjoy!

At the end of the run...I don't look wet...but trust me...I was soaked!

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