G writing today’s post. Bear Lake Road is undergoing heavy maintenance and is closed to private vehicles from 9am-4pm. If you get on the road prior to 9am
however they will let you travel it leaving. Additionally, there is a mad rush for the limited parking spots at the end of Bear Lake road at the main parking lot. We were told by 9am that all parking spots would be taken. That made for an early morning of getting everyone up and going. Also there is an approximate 20 minute traffic delay each way since part of the road is only one way. We got to the parking lot around 8:30 and sure enough about 80% of the parking spots were gone. We parked our car and each of us loaded up our packs with water, snacks, rain gear and a coat. We spoke with the ranger about a plan for hiking and he confirmed that the plan we had laid out was a good one- We would hike 18 miles in uphill at 9000 foot elevation and then do the return 18 mile hike downhill for a total 36 mile hike! I was very pleased that we were able to do it in only 3 hours (averaging 12 MPH!) The actual hike was 3.6 miles roundtrip but since it was all either uphill or downhill and due to the high altitude, I have decided that is fair to move the decimal point one place to compensate for us being used to living at sea level and the flat ground Lowcountry. The hike took us to 3 different lakes- Nymph Lake at .5 miles, Dream Lake at 1.1 miles and Emerald Lake at 1.8 miles at the turn around
spot. You hate to pick favorites but Emerald was definitely the best- beautiful water with high mountains on the far side of the lake with snow covered tops melting and creating waterfalls down the mountain. We encountered numerous mini waterfalls along the hike. The funny thing about mountain hiking is that on the way up your lungs and muscles are burning (especially at high altitude) but on the way down a steeper decline, it is your joints that take the abuse. We determined the kids have two different “energy tanks”- one for on trail hiking that empties quickly and a separate bottomless tank for “boulder climbing and scampering”! All 3 lakes had great views and were well worth the hikes. After getting back to the parking lot, we decided to forgo the second shorter waterfall hike to Alberta Falls and head back to the rv for some R&R. We took naps and rested. I (G) woke mid afternoon and wanted to go back in the Park for some more driving and scenery since today was our last full day. The kids and L decided to stay and swim at the campground, so I set off on my own. I decided to redo the one way Old Fall River road. It was a completely different experience later in the day than what we had experienced the morning before- only a fraction of the cars and people. I took my time exploring the road and using my new binoculars to spot animals. I stopped at one promising spot and was scanning the far mountainside for elk when I heard a noise very close- a large bull elk came up the near vertical slope out of the woods and was standing about 8 feet behind my car. He looked at me and I at him and he just sauntered off- truly amazing the lack of fear these animals have for humans. I would post the quick pic I took with my camera phone but it is of his back side. I continued up the road past the Alpine Center and saw a group of 5 cars pulled off and people with cameras clicking- there was a group of 8 bull elk bedding down for the evening. As I made my way back up Trail Ridge Road, I saw (way in the distance) a large group (maybe 70-80) of cow elk and their young feeding. I turned the car for home and enjoyed the views of the mountains.