Snowshoeing Bear Lake to Bierstadt Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park
This past Sunday was the anniversary of our first date. Five years ago we met at the marina in Berkeley, CA where Chris taught Anna how to fly her new two-line stunt kite. Conversation was excellent and flying was fun. Much has changed for us over the past five years, but we still love to experience new things and spend time together outdoors. January in Colorado isn’t ideal for kite flying, so we opted for a more appropriate winter activity to celebrate our anniversary: snowshoeing.
We arrived at the Bear Lake Trailhead in Rocky Mountain National Park to gorgeous sunny blue skies. The wind was fierce but we had noted that in the forecast so we were prepared. We bundled up, strapped on our snowshoes, and set off, though a bit awkwardly at first. It had been a while since we’d walked with snowshoes.
Within steps, frozen Bear Lake was visible with classic Rocky Mountain peaks behind. It was a grand start to the hike.
We followed the eastern shore of Bear Lake for a few hundred feet, then broke away from the lake and started climbing. The route wasn’t obvious because people had compacted the snow in numerous paths and the official trail was buried. Preparation and solid navigation skills are important for travel in snow. Even though we were ready to use our map, compass, and GPS to navigate, we were happy to find the Bierstadt Lake Trail marked with permanent orange flags affixed to trees.
Once we got into our rhythm, the snowshoes made us feel more superhuman than clunky. It was fun to easily traverse steep or heavily side sloped terrain without fear of falling.
All was going well until we realized that the trail should have ceased climbing and that an orange flag sighting was overdue. We decided to backtrack.
In about 500 feet, we found a faded orange flag near a boulder, and realized this was where the trail turned sharply and downhill to the right. Good thing we noticed quickly and didn’t continue following the footsteps of the people that came before us!
The trail snaked through tall pines. The trees creaked in the wind and snow crunched under our feet. We were in good spirits.
After a few well-signed junctions we reached Bierstadt Lake. The view was better than we had hoped! Wind gusts had blown much of the snow off the solidly frozen lake, creating a glassy surface interrupted occasionally by stubborn snow patches. Majestic peaks stood behind the lake. We sat down, snacked, and drank some not-so-hot chocolate from our thermos.
Rest breaks in such cold weather are necessarily short. Soon we were up and walking around the edge of Bierstadt Lake to take in the view from other angles.
Then we snowshoed back the direction we came.
The highlight of the hike back was climbing up an outcrop and watching the sun begin to sink below the peaks. The sun lit up spindrift streaming off the rocky summits, creating ever-shifting glowing clouds. We couldn’t have chosen a better way to celebrate our anniversary.
This post marks a blogging milestone for us too — our 100th post!