Living – Places: 20

2014 (continued)

The theme of today's hike was freshness. We decided to take a gentler hike this weekend. We started by climbing up the same trail from Bear Lake that we took last weekend, but this time instead of continuing the climb west to Lake Helene, we turned north and descended to Bierstadt Lake through an incredibly silent forest, with the only sounds coming from an occasional woodpecker and one trickling brook we crossed. It must've rained heavily the previous day because everything was damp and steaming, and the air had a glorious pine-scented freshness.

Bierstadt Lake was beautiful, with hundreds of dragonflies and Damselflies entertaining us as we enjoyed the tranquil vistas. We sat for a long time mesmerized by the beauty, until a family with several exuberant kids arrived and, for some reason, decided that the best place to sit around this fairly good-sized lake was a couple feet away from us, at which point we escaped back into the quiet forest to continue our hike.

Basking in the majesty of Bierstadt Lake from a boulder jutting out from shoreline

The lake was very still except for the occasional fish jumping.

Looking across Bierstadt Lake at the Continental Divide

Graceful lake grasses dancing above the reflected sky.

Lake grasses reflected in the water along with the surrounding forest and the sky above

There were so many dragonflies. This was the smaller of the two types. The larger type never stopped moving. I think this is a Belted (or Red-Waisted) Whiteface.

Black dragonfly with a white face and red marking on its back

A Damselfly, perhaps a Northern or Boreal Bluet, if I'm reading Dragonflies and Damselflies of the West by Dennis Paulson correctly.

A beautiful turquoise blue Damselfly resting on a large granite rock

I love the coloration of this sunflower.

A sunflower with an inner ring of dark orange

More morning walk beauty: freshly emerged "whirlybird" seed pods with some stowaways along for the ride (zoom in on the lower-left seed pod). I love the fresh pale green-tinged luster. Ah, youth!

Fresh maple seed pods with tiny, rust-colored insect eggs

An ode to the early morning sun along the South St. Vrain river.

A sunflower with its face to the morning sun, seen from behind

Moments of quiet serenity.

For the third weekend in a row, we began our hike at Bear Lake. It's a bit of a strange experience to visit Bear Lake. Just 1/10th of a mile from a bustling ranger station, shuttle stop (Rocky Mountain National Park has a wonderful shuttle system), and large parking lot, it can be absolutely overrun with tourists, many quite noisy. And yet, it's an absolutely serene high mountain lake in an incredible setting.

We arrived shortly after sunrise, when it was still relatively quiet, which gave us the opportunity to stop and quietly appreciate it's majestic serenity for a few moments before we headed up the trail into higher country.

View of forests and mountains beyond bathed in early morning sunshine and reflected in the mirror lake surface

When we were nearing Lake Helene, we decided to go off trail to see if we could get to Two Rivers Lake. After a bit of scrambling, we found the lake and were awed to see a large male moose on the other side. We were very quiet. He was very aware of us, but still made his was along the shore, in and out of the water, with great calm.

A large male moose walking along the shoreline

The moose moved with calm and unhurried grace.

Moose silhouetted against the steep hillside and reflected in the lake's surface

As he slowly moved along the shoreline and into and out of the water, he always kept his eyes on us.

Moose standing chest deep in water, a stream of water running from his beard

I could see his eyes clearly through the telephoto lens of my camera.

Full view of the moose standing in water looking at us

When he walked up onto the shoreline, the healthy sheen of his coat was very evident.

Moose slowly walking out of the lake up onto the shoreline

Next, we climbed up onto a little ridge overlooking the valley running down towards Odessa and Fern Lakes to sit and enjoy our lunch. We had a great view Notchtop Mountain, with its melting glaciers and waterfalls, which sounded beautiful.

A view of the mountain with its sides sprinkled with little waterfalls running out of glaciers

A closer view of one of the largest glacier-fed waterfalls.

A closer view of the largest waterfall spilling down the steep mountainside

Next we visited Lake Helene, but this time we went around to the west side of the lake, and then up onto a ridge above the lake, where we enjoyed a stunning view of the valley leading down to Odessa Lake.

Garima standing at the edge of the ridge with Odessa Lake visible far off below

The view of Lake Helene from above the west side.

Small, calm lake ringed by pine trees

A closer view of the peak of Notchtop Mountain from the ridge above Lake Helene.

The mountain rising above a ridge, sihouetted agains the sky

An old pine root ball of great character.

A gnarled old rootball lying on the forest floor

Right at the end of our walk, we came across some Fireweed. This may be my personal favorite flower.

Tall plant with green leaves topped by violet flowers and rose-colored flower buds

A day at the beach.

Or rather, a day spent mostly climbing up to and back down from the beach. The trail to Sandbeach Lake has an altitude gain of nearly 2,000' over 4-1/2 miles, which makes it a fairly strenuous hike. In between, we enjoyed a tranquil hour sitting on and walking along the shoreline.

At the beginning of our hike, we were greeted by the first Lupine we've seen this year.

The first Lupine we've seen this year, a sign that summer is maturing

Recently I shared a photo of a Bedstraw Hawk moth caterpillar in our garden, a very large and beautiful green creature. This is the result of its metamorphosis, a large, beautifully colored moth that flies like a hummingbird.

A view of a large moth from above as it flies next to and feeds on Bee Balm flower nectar

As the moth flitted from flower to flower in a large bed of Bee Balm, I was able to take many photos, a few of which turned out nicely.

A view of the moth from the side showing its beautifully striped body

A final view of the moth clearly showing its long antenna and proboscis, which is well suited for Bee Balm flowers.

Moth facing towards the camera, wings a blur

The climb up the northern side of Wild Basin reveals some stunning views of the moraine below, especially green this summer as we've had a lot of thunderstorms.

A view of the river meandering acoss the Wild Basin floor far below

Moss and mushroom deep in conversation.

A vivid green clump of moss next to a pale orange mushroom

The view from our lunch spot. Sandbeach Lake is the deepest lake in Rocky Mountain National Park with a depth of around 50 feet. At one time, the lake was dammed, one of four lakes in the Park that were. After the dam at Lawn Lake failed in 1982, causing a flash flood that killed three campers and resulted in millions of dollars in damage in nearby Estes Park, the Park Service inspected the other dams and found that they were all beginning to fail, so they removed them all. At Sandbeach Lake, this has resulted in a wide sandy shoreline that is only now beginning to fill in with trees and shrubs.

A view of the deep green lake surrounded by a sandy shore and pine forests beyond

Mount Meeker towers over Sandbeach Lake to the north. This is the view from a narrow peninsula that juts out into the middle of the lake. Our timing was perfect: we ran into some light scattered showers on the way up to and down from the lake, but it was beautifully sunny while we there. We also were fortunate to enjoy our time there in solitude. It was only as we were beginning our return trip that a group of overnight campers arrived. It's an amazing feeling to enjoy a spot like this in solitude.

A view across the lake with Mount Meeker rising beyond

Garima sitting on the peninsula soaking up the welcome sunshine.

Garima sitting on the sandy peninsula framed by the shoreline and forest beyond

View north from the outlet at the southern tip of Sandbeach Lake.

View across the entire length of the lake with Mount Meeker beyond

Favorite root ball of the day. An ancient pine weathering on the eastern shore of Sandbeach Lake.

Complex and twisted gray rootball still tinged with bits of the orangish coloring of Ponderosas

The lake is ringed with many Krummholz pines, which are unusual at this low of an altitude (10,300'), but Sandbeach Lake lies in a shallow basin, so the weather gets quite extreme with strong winds and very cold temperatures.

A view of the pines standing above the western shore, many with very twisted and gnarled tops

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