12/26/04 & 1/2/05: Rocky Mountain National Park: West and East
Holly at Mills Lake
Brad's Mountaineering Homepage
See the Photo Essay for this hike.
Having spent the week of Christmas with my girlfriend at a cabin near Grand Lake, we got engaged, ate a lot of turkey, and decided to go for a hike. On December 26th, Holly and I drove to the East Inlet Trailhead at the frozen Grand Lake, and set off on the trail. We wore snowshoes, but did not really need them on the packed-down trail. Anyway, it was good experience. We passed the frozen Adams Falls three tenths of a mile into our hike, then headed deeper into the forests. Everything was crusted in a thick frost, causing the morning sun to illuminate the sparkling trees tenfold.
Coming into an open meadow, we had spectacular views of Mounts Cairns, Wescott and Craig. Back in the woods, we came to where the trail rounded a steep rock outcropping, and we decided to go straight up that. Holly wanted to do some rock climbing, as did I. It was nothing technical, just some fun third class scrambling up a steep ridge to a snow-covered bench. Then we went up another ridge, and as we got higher, we decided to continue uphill. Having left our snowshoes and poles below the first outcrop, I decided to go down and retrieve them before continuing up. Climbing back up with one hand proved to be an interesting endeavor.
After getting a drink and taking some pictures, Holly and I continued up the snowy ridge, wearing our snowshoes most of the time. At one point the slopes steepened dramatically, and we took our snowshoes off to continue scrambling uphill. We were on the south slopes of Mount Enentah, not really headed for any particular destination, just enjoying the scenery as we went.
We had gained a good bit of elevation and were admiring the views from up high when it came time to turn back. Going down proved to be quite a slippery challenge, as we were on no trail and the snow-covered rocks and logs kept us busy trying not to twist an ankle.
But, eventually we made it back down to the trail and headed out the way we had come in. This was Holly’s first hike in Colorado.
About a week later, on January second, we found ourselves on the east side of Rocky Mountain National Park. I had never seen Glacier Gorge with my own eyes, so I wanted to take her there. Unfortunately, we didn’t make it to the trailhead until two in the afternoon, and I knew we had to make good time to be out by dark.
The place was somewhat crowded, as I expected, but most of the people were coming out of the mountains, which gave us some semblance of solitude. The wind was harsh at some places, but we had good views of the Mummy Range and other surrounding peaks, and I promised her the scenery would get even more fantastic if we went just a little further.
We enjoyed the up-close views of the Glacier Knobs and Half Mountain as we ventured on to the Glacier Gorge Trail. It did not take us long to arrive at Mills Lake, a 15.6-acre lake at 9,940 feet, 2.5 miles from the trailhead. The lake was frozen, of course, and, as I had hoped, provided a sweeping view of Glacier Gorge and all the peaks surrounding it.
As we took pictures and ran around on the ice, a man wearing crampons and holding an ice axe came down from the mountains and stopped to talk with us a few minutes. He had been ice climbing on the slopes above us, and said he was surprised to be the only one up there. He pointed to the ice sculptures he had been climbing, and I must admit it looked like fun, though I was perfectly satisfied to go no further than the lake. Holly and I made it back out to the jeep by dusk, and then we were off to Boulder to warm up with some coffee.
© 2004, BSV