Day 6: Purple Mountains Majesty
Left town after finding an excellent local coffee shop for breakfast called The Cup, and stocking up at the grocery store for a week of camp cooking. The drive to Rocky Mountain National park was stunning, hairpin turns through a narrow canyon of red rock and pines next to a gushing creek. I was so buzzing with excitement by the time I got to the main entrance, I made the rangers smile.
Today marks an important event I've been looking forward to. Today I bought my first annual NPS pass. For a measly $80 I can now enter any national park without paying an entrance fee for the next year. Completely worth it. Decide to pay for the convenience of camping in the park, so I rushed to grab a spot at one of the smaller grounds, pitched my tent, and made a sandwich for lunch. After fighting off some brazen ninja chipmunks, I set off to find a good hike.
Based on a recommendation in the park paper I picked a loop of trails at Bear Lake that would to me to past some falls to several high elevation lakes fed mostly by snow melt. The hike had an elevation gain of about 800 feet, starting at around 9,400 and going to 10,000 feet above sea level, and was over seven miles long. So I prepared myself for a reasonably challenging hike. However once I got up there, I realized that at this elevation it's still spring. The path was blocked in many places by snow drifts that were still clinging to the steep sides of mountains, and melting snow made clear sections of the path into small streams. In all the scrambling and slogging, I lost my way twice. Throughout the afternoon there were short periods of spring showers, which weren't too bad. Still I must admit the sound of thunder hitting the mountain tops and echoing past me down into the valley was intimidating. I almost felt foolish, boldly charging upward by myself while most people came off the mountain with a worried look at a brisk walk.
The scenery made it all worth it. I've never quite seen its equal. The streams were fast and flooded, burgeoning with crisp beauty. The gnarled pines and slim birches grew in think groves to complement each other with contrast. The rocky crags rose so high they caught the clouds. The lakes still frosted in ice flows were the mesmerizing saturated colors of freshly melted water. Thanks to the weather, it was fairly deserted.
I got back to camp, built a fire, cooked dinner, cleaned up, and toasted some marshmallows all before it really started pouring. Now I'm in my cozy tent listening to the rain. I feel good in so many ways.
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