Wow, the continental breakfast was awesome, frozen Danishes and old fruit. I grabbed enough for breakfast and lunch on the trail. Truth be told, I like frozen Danishes and old fruit so this was not a hardship for me! I started the day at Our Lady of the Mountains Church where I could see those snow covered peaks out the window. Felt good to be there.
I drove the few short miles to the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park. Got me a discounted week long pass ‘cause I knew I’d be there a few times! My destination was Mills Lake in Glacier Gorge. I was sticking to the more frequented sections of the park since I was hiking alone and let’s face it, I get lost a lot! I wanted an easy hike today since I had no idea how the altitude would treat me. Glacier Gorge trailhead is already at about 9400 feet and the lake, 3 miles distant is another 800 feet up. Easy peasy. I thought it odd that several hikers had snowshoes on their packs. Hmmmm. Starting out was easy, a well groomed trail suitable for families. The woods and views were beautiful. I saw mule deer and elk. It was just over ½ mile alongside the beautiful Glacier Creek when my first destination was reached, Alberta Falls. I climbed out onto a little ledge and let the thunder and the mist engulf me. It was awe inspiring. Truth be told, if I had to guess at the time, that little trip felt longer and steeper than it really was! I was NOT ready for the altitude!
So the real climb began after the falls. The trail got steeper and narrower and rockier. I had to keep stopping to drink water to prevent the dizziness that goes with the altitude. The switchbacks were mostly on rock in full sun and I was pretty sure my lungs had shrunk to the size of walnuts. I noticed patches of snow in the woods and packed some into my empty water bottle. The last mile to the lake the trail was completely covered in snow except for the open rock areas. That explained the snowshoes since many people were going on to higher destinations!
I finally reached the beautiful Mills Lake with it’s views of Longs Peak and surrounding peaks, all clothed in snow. I lay on a rock jutting out over the water and had my lunch of fruits and Danishes. I also made a mental note to bring some protein next trip! The walk down was much easier on the lungs and I was able to really enjoy the forest and valleys surrounding me. After reaching my car I drove up to Bear Lake and wandered around a bit then decided to just drive around and explore. I felt exhausted after just that little walk!
Finally, around 4, after picking up a sandwich and some coffee, I reached my hotel room where I planned a short nap before heading downtown. Oops. Never woke up until the next morning!