Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Serenity in the Rocky Mountains


Timeless beauty at the Continental Divide
photo by author

 
Preface: This year’s hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park inspired me to paint a picture with words and to paint a watercolor (at the end of the blog). It was four glorious days of mild-weather hiking in March for me and my brother-in-law, Michael Farley, and his wife Linda Anneberg. I’ve included several pictures for you to enjoy.

Serenity in the Rocky Mountains
travel memoir
by Gregory E. Larson

Sunrise on Long's Peak
photo by author
          It was the stillness of the forest in the semi-darkness that grabbed my attention when we began our daily treks at the trailhead. Hiking each day in the mountains at sunrise had many advantages. It gave one a new perspective of the beautiful landscape, and there were no crowds. I looked up to the peaks to see the golden reflections of sunrise touch the snow and rocks. To me, it was nature’s alarm clock at the start of a fresh, new day. As we walked through the forest, the glints of sunlight sparkled around the dark trunks of the pines. Snow crunched underfoot. The shadowed floor of blue snow lay quiet, waiting for the birds and animals to wake up.

Author on Emerald Lake with Hallett Peak behind
          This year’s winter hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park were quite different than last year when I had every piece of clothing and equipment on to keep me warm in the snow and wind. It was a treat to have mostly mild and sunny days. Temperatures were in the high teens at sunrise, and around forty-five degrees when we finished hiking in early afternoon. Snowshoes were not needed because the trails were a mixture of packed snow, ice, rocks and mud. The best mode of hiking was traction devices on the boots and the use of poles to keep one’s balance. We were able to go greater distances without the snowshoes, hiking about six miles a day.
Climbing a chute to Loch Vale
 
         
          By late morning each day, we reached our destination at frozen glacial lakes in hidden valleys near the peaks on the continental divide. We joked that to go further would require ropes on the rock faces. The names of the lakes evoked beautiful images (Emerald Lake, Dream Lake, Bierstadt Lake, Mills Lake, and Loch Vale), and each time we arrived at the frozen surfaces, the views would stop me in my tracks. Many times I just stared at the snow, the peaks, and the forests. I stood in silence for several minutes, watching the cloud shadows play on the rock faces. I wondered what the view was like from high up on the craggy faces that stood before me, and looked at the snowdrifts which caressed the boulders and trees. It was a timeless feeling, with a view unchanged by the ages.
          Most of the lakes were about 10,000 feet in altitude, with adjacent peaks of 12,000 to 14,000 ft. The details of rock and snow which stood over a half-mile in height from close range were almost too much to comprehend. It made me realize how tiny we humans are in such a big world, and also vulnerable to sudden weather changes. We always watched the clouds to see where they were going. Even though the forests were quiet, it was evident from the clouds and fog that scraped the peaks at fifty miles-per-hour that the climate was much different above us.
          I wanted to inhale the solid tranquility and etch it into my memory. I’m convinced that hiking in the mountains is good for the soul, and four days of beautiful winter weather in the Rocky Mountains brought forth memories (and pictures) for the keeping.

Winter at Loch Vale
Rocky Mountain National Park
watercolor by author
 
Here are a few more pictures from the trip:
 
Early morning on the trail
photo by author

Mills Lake looking at Long's Peak (middle left).
 
Glacial Valley below Bear Lake
Rocky Mountain National Park
photo by author
 
 
Frozen surface of Bierstadt Lake
Rocky Mountain National Park
photo by author
 

Looking back at the valley towards Loch Vale
photo by author