Living – Places: 19

2014 (continued)

Tenacity. I drive by this tree every day on way to and from work. It's a vibrant tree that leafs out with enthusiasm each spring year after year, despite having fallen over years ago. The main truck is horizontal and laying on the ground, but by now all of its branches have grown upward, forming a glorious crown, and its roots are like a myriad of trunks. Amazing.

Beautiful tree that has recoverd from having fallen over

The theme of today's hike was Whoa! We hiked in a new area for us, up from Bear Lake into high country, climbing up to Lake Helene before descending dramatically to Odessa Lake, and then Fern Lake, and finally down to the Fern Lake trailhead. We felt we were in another world up there, and feel so fortunate that we can spend a day in such an amazing place.

We started our morning at Bear Lake, early enough that there weren't many people yet

We were headed to Lake Helene, which at 10,600' is just beyond the high point of the hike of 10,697', as high as we've been when we've been hiking. That also means there is a 1,200' gain from Bear Lake, and then a 2,500' descent to the Fern Lake trailhead going past Odessa and Fern lakes. So we were facing unfamiliar territory, heading higher than we've been, and looking at more ascent and descent than we normally do. I was feeling exhilarated and just a bit frightened as we made the turn onto the trail and started climbing!

Trail sign pointing to Odessa and Fern Lakes

As we climbed up the ridge above Bear Lake, we began getting some beautiful views to the north.

View of vast pine forest with mountains in the distance

One of the next views revealed Bierstadt Lake.

A lake in the distance on a plateau with a drop-off beyond

There was an abundance of wildflowers, including Jacob's Ladder.

Clusters of delicate violet flowers with pinnately compound leaves

Parry's Primrose.

Light magenta flowers

More climbing and we began to see sub-alpine meadows.

A little brook wending its way across a sub-alpine meadow

A large field of snow covered the trail in this area. When we saw how much snow there still was in mid-July, we understood how creeks and rivers continue to flow all summer long.

Garima standing on a large remnant of snow

There were a lot of Globe Flowers in the meadows.

Small, delicate, white, five-petaled flowers

As we continued to climb, we began to cross large scree fields.

A large, steep scree field with a pine forest at the far end

Garima hiking across a scree field.

Looking back at a scree field we had just crossed

As we climbed higher still, we began to see small, unnamed glacial-melt ponds.

A small pond reflecting the pine trees surrounding it

Our first view of 12,129' Notchtop Mountain. Lake Helene is just at the foot of Notchtop.

Notchtop Mountain standing beyond a scree field

A second glacial-melt pond.

Another small pond, this one with snow still at the foot of it

Another pond. Twin Rivers Lake is downhill beyond this pond.

A small pond in a very rocky setting

The beautiful and unusually colored Dusky Penstemon were out in abundance.

A very dark purple, tubular-shaped flower

I love old, twisted and gnarled stumps; they have so much character.

An old and very twisted stump

A second glimpse of Notchtop Mountain. We're getting closer! The entire mountainside beneath the main glacier is flowing with thin waterfalls. The music of it is glorious!

Notchtop Mountain is distinguished by a large cleft in its peak

Our first glimpse of Lake Helene, as we're rock hopping across the outlet. I think that's Ptarmigan Point beyond.

A small creek flowing out of the lake, with mountains directly behind

Looking downstream at the Lake Helene outlet, which I think is the source of Fern Creek.

A wide, shallow creek flowing across a meadow and into a pine forest

Enjoying a break at Lake Helene.

Garima sitting on the shore of Lake Helene

A view across Lake Helene at the glacier just beyond it on the steep side of Ptarmigan Point.

A view across Lake Helene towards a steep, glacier-covered mountain side

Back on the trail, now steeply downhill, heading towards Odessa Lake.

The trail wends its way down a steep hillside

Our first glimpse of Odessa Lake.

The lake is nestled far below in the valley

The trail descends steeply through some dramatic scree fields. You can just see Garima ahead under that enormous boulder jutting above the trail.

The trail on a very steep hillside with scree made up of small to enormous boulders

Looking up at a screen field flowing down towards us.

A scree field coming down the mountainside, looking much like a river of rock

Looking back up valley towards Notchtop and Knobtop Mountains.

Notchtop Mountain, now far up the valley above us

A Potentilla flower.

A delicate, pale yellow flower with a pentagram etched in its center

After hiking down the steep hillside to a point beyond Odessa Lake, we turned around and began hiking up the creek towards the lake.

A small creek coming down the hillside in a series of ladder steps, with a narrow pathway running along it

A view of the creek where we crossed it as we near Odessa Lake.

Further up the creek, now very near to the lake

Odessa Lake.

Looking across the logjam at the outlet of Odessa Lake, with the lake and mountains beyond

Bistort flower.

A knob of delicate little white flowers with thin, spiky stamen protuding

Tall Chiming Bells line the creekside.

A thick stand of blue, bell-shaped flowers along the creek's edge

As we began hiking down from Odessa Lake, we followed Fern Creek as it tumbled down towards Fern Lake.

Fern creek tumbling down a steep hillside, already now far below us

The trail down towards Fern Lake remained steep and spectacular, though now we were deeper into pine forest.

The trail cutting across a very steep, pine-covered hillside

Our first glimpse of Fern lake through the forest.

A glimpse through an opening in the forest of the lake down below

A beautiful trailside boulder.

A large boulder covered in pale and dark-green moss

Rosy Paintbrush flowers.

A pair of Rosy Paintbrush basking in the aftenoon sun

Brook Saxifrage growing alongside a tiny trickle of water coming directly out of moss-covered opening in the base of a boulder.

Vibrant green round leaves with coarsely serrated edges

A vivid trio of Rocky Mountain Columbine flowers, which were abundant in this part of the forest.

If you zoom in on middle flower, you'll see a pale green visitor enjoying the nectar

Another view of Fern Lake, this time across a rough scree field.

A scree field of rough boulders with the lake beyond

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