Having been a slacker the past few
months, I figured I was way past due for a nice day in the park.
There are so many places to go within the borders of the National
Park, so it is often very hard for me to make a decision on where
my destination will be for the day. So, today, I chose the first
lake that I visited when I first moved to Estes Park, 48 years ago.
Emerald Lake, while one of the easiest
in the park to get to, is in the middle of some of the most dramatic
scenery. Hallett Peak rises sharply to the Southwest, as the Flattop
Spires rise high above to the Northwest. The area that contains
Emerald Lake, and its close neighbors Dream, Nymph, and Bear Lakes,
is knows as Tyndall Gorge, and is capped at the top by Tyndall Glacier.
This was named by Enos Mills after the English physicist John Tyndall,
a man well versed in glacial phenomena (Arps,Kingery; High Country
Names; pg 165). This beautiful area sees large amounts of hiking
traffic, especially in the Summer, and is one of the few place in
the Park where no camping is allowed.
This was a cold and snowy day, so
I waited for the sun to get a little higher than I usually do before
heading out for the morning. I was the fist to arrive at the Bear
Lake parking lot, and leisurely got my gear together and started
on the trail. I took my time, enjoying the light snowfall and the
solitude as I made my way toward Nymph Lake. By the time I traveled
the 1/2 mile to the lake, the snow had picked up, and Hallett Peak
was no longer in view. So I crossed my fingers, hoping the snow
would let up a bit, as I made my way toward Dream Lake.
I stopped every now and then to snap
a few shots of the trail, or of small little scenes along it. I
kept climbing the gentle slopes nearing Dream Lake and was lucky
enough to have the snow slow down a little bit.....long enough to
get a few shots with Hallett in view. But this was just the calm
before the storm!
As I meandered up the narrow trail
beyond Dream Lake, the snow began to get much heavier, and the wind
picked up quite a bit. This would normally not surprise me, as the
winds this close to the divide are usually raging, but they typically
come from the West...these were blowing in from the East. I knew
we had an upslope against the mountains from the East, but I have
never felt it this strong before.
As I neared Emerald Lake, the wind
and snow, once again, died down a little bit. But the second I got
to the lake, they both picked right back up again. Walking out onto
the lake, I took a little rest. I just laid there and sipped some
water enjoying this wonderful little spot, and wondered how many
times I had actually been there. Too many to count...whether it
was to the lake itself, or on my way into upper Tyndall Gorge, or
on a decent from Hallett Peak, I had been here many, many times,
and it just never, ever, gets old or boring or repetitive. It has
always been a special place, and will always be.
The way back down was fairly uneventful.
I did stop while crossing Dream Lake to pull out my goggles...the
wind was blowing snow into my eyes and was becoming a little annoying.
I then jogged most of the way back to the parking lot, taking advantage
of the deep snow and by using steep, drop-off shortcuts (don't worry
mom, nothing over ten feet). I was soon making my way back into
Estes feeling VERY satisfied about a nice morning in Rocky!
Emerald Lake elevation: 10,080 feet
Elevation gain: 605 feet
Distance round trip: 3.6 miles