We got on the road on time, and headed up to Estes Park which is where the Stanley Hotel is located (think Steven King’s The Shining). Didn’t see the hotel, but we did see a bunch of Highlanders in their kilts since the park was hosting their Scotch-Irish festival.
After parking in the lot and suiting up, we waited for the bus to come and pick us up to take us to the glacier trail head. The first part of the trail was really smooth and easy to hike and took us up onto a switch-back course where you could look out over the valley and see the mountains covered with Aspen trees just beginning to turn for Fall. The Aspens made a yellow stripe through the evergreen pines and it was so very pretty. The color of yellow the Aspens sported was the color of a squash, and the leaves on the ground looked like slices of squash, ready to be eaten.
After about a half mile, the trail became rugged, taking us around the top of the mountain. From that point on, the hike became alternately easy, then moderate until we got to the first lake, The Locke.
The Locke was (at its entrance) somewhat small, and opened out into the space between the mountains, becoming bigger and bigger in the middle, then at the other end becoming smaller and smaller until it disappeared into the waterfall region of the mountains where we were headed. We decided to eat lunch on a big rock overlooking the Locke. While I sat on my rock, Friend #1 went down to the waterside to eat his sandwich, where a beautiful Grey Jay flew down on a limb above his head to watch him eat. Then another Grey Jay flew in on the same limb to also watch him eat. I heard a scurrying up behind me and turned to see a chipmunk staring at my sandwich. I turned back around and thought about the warnings of “Do Not Feed The Animals.” Just then, I saw Friend #1 throw a piece of bread down on the ground for the jays to eat and thought, “Maybe we shouldn’t feed these birds because THEY, in fact, are animals...” About that time one of the jays bombed Friend #1’s hand, knocking the rest of his sandwich to the ground and in a flurry, snatched it up and took off. Meanwhile, the chipmunk was alternately running at me from different directions in what I now believe to be an attempt at making me think he was not one, but many chipmunks, and that I would become scared and give up my food to the army of chipmunks who were waging a war at me. Then, all of a sudden, a duck flew out of the trees and began to go after Friend #2. And when Friend #2 got up and moved away, the duck came after me! I was laughing almost too hard to move or defend myself. We decided to get the hell out of our peaceful spot of respite, and on our way out, we stopped to warn the hikers spreading out their lunch on a poolside rock to beware of the animals. We could hear their surprised cries and laughs as we got down the trail and knew that they had not seriously heeded our warnings.
We headed along the trail until we got up to a point of incline where the hiking was about to turn into rock scrambling and climbing, and decided to rest. We began talking to this lone hiker from Iowa who was a former art teacher and outdoors enthusiast who was now retired. And because his wife had been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and couldn’t hike anymore, he hiked alone. Iowa would catch up with us periodically and pass, and then we would pass him, back and forth, throughout the remainder of the hike. While walking beside me, he described the glacier lakes at the top and said he would see us there. And then he took off.
The climb to the lakes was at times tricky, but we went slowly and made it to the first lake called Lake of Glass. Clouds had moved into the area at that point and we had to put on our hooded jackets to stay warm. As he promised, we met up with Iowa again and he encouraged us to keep going up to the next lake, the last lake, called Sky Lake. He said it was most beautiful, and that you could see the glaciers really well there. We all took off, including Iowa, and hiked into the top lake. Oh, what a site it was! The clouds moved out just as we were coming into the clearing, so the lake reflected half blue sky and half grey. The color of the water was a teal/emerald. There were rock pyres on one side resembling the Eiffel Tower, while on the other side were remnants of the glaciers. The glaciers looked like smooth grey glass. They were a lot smaller than I had hoped them to be (one dreams of enormous glaciers) but the drought had decreased their size considerably the last couple of years.
We enjoyed the sight and rested there at Sky Lake for about an hour, testing the water temperature (very cold) and eating a snack for return hiking energy and then began our descent. We lost Iowa for awhile as he took an alternate route down the mountain, but we caught up with him again and hiked together till we got back to the Locke. That is where I sat down with him for awhile as he talked about how much he missed hiking with his wife. This time, when we parted, it was for the last time. I’m sure when he got back to his wife at campsite that evening, he had a lot to say about those crazy kids from Alabama he met up with on the trail.
The rest of our trip was just getting home and finding real food. We had buffalo burgers and beer at the Wyncoop Brewery and then went home. I was in bed by eight.
I hope you enjoyed this tale, and I encourage you to share it with my lovely sister as I will not be typing this damn story again for her benefit regardless of how much love I have for her. I love and miss you all! c
And so ends the story of Tag Team Wildlife...