On Hiking Alone and Family Bonding

image I should really buy an annual pass to Rocky Mountain National Park. I go so early that the pay station isn’t open yet or I guess “temporarily closed” according to the sign on the window. Unfortunately, I didn’t get up early enough though to make sunrise but I did see the alpenglow driving up to the trailhead.

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This isn’t the first time I have hiked by myself and it won’t be my last. But this time I had a weird feeling. Probably because I spoke to my sister the night before about sunrise hikes. She mentioned she’s always scared a mountain lion will pop out of nowhere. Thanks Charles! Well, that should be a fear for anyone hiking even if they are with a group. It never occurred to me that I would encounter one. I mean, no one “sees” a mountain lion. They’re fricken stealthy animals. Anyway, I didn’t see one luckily but I spooked myself.

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I started the trail to Odessa Lake pretty late probably around 6:30 am so the sun was up. I read the trail was a popular one so it reassured me that there would be a few people hiking in the morning. I ended up behind a group of tourists but they turned at Flattop Mountain. So it was just me. I wasn’t worried until a little ways in. Usually I would catch up to someone or there would be people behind me. Nothing. I got real scared and fortunately there was cell reception so I called my mom haha. After a brief pep talk a couple walked along the path. Hooray! I tagged along with them. They had so much knowledge on RMNP it was quite the educational experience. I nervously asked about wildlife in the park. He noted that he hasn’t heard any news on mountain lion sightings but he did see a bear a couple weeks ago on the same trail we were on. Awesome.

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The trail is very moderate with great views of Flattop Mountain, Notchtop Mountain, Little Matterhorn, Nobtop Mountain and Gabletop Mountian. The clouds were still hovering pretty low so there was a light mist and a brisk wind. I was surprised to find that Odessa Lake is like a little beach. I hadn’t been to a lake in CO (in the mountains) that had sand. It was a nice treat and if it wasn’t threatening to storm I would have stayed longer. Next time I will do Fern lake/Fern falls and make the loop to I think Big Thompson to take the shuttle back to Bear lake parking lot.

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My younger brothers came to visit! It was also my niece’s first birthday. They were here for a week and of course I took them hiking. It was probably the most physical activity they have done all summer. I took them to McCullough Gulch in Breckenridge. It took us a long time to find the trailhead. My sister’s directions were super confusing. It’s the same turnoff for Quandary Peak but you take the McCullough Gulch road all the way down until you see a sign that says “McCullough Gulch trail.” The road is gravel with loads of massive potholes. If you don’t want to risk a flat tire you can park on the side and walk to the trail but it is pretty far away and would add on some miles to the actual hike. This was also a moderate hike even though my younger brothers were dying from altitude. It was a fun short hike up to the lake. Apparently there’s an upper lake with a hidden trail so I will need to check that out.

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The Case Of “I Wish I Was There”

If you hang out with me on weekends you probably won’t sleep or sleep in at least. Saturday I got up at 3 am to head out to Rocky Mountain National Park for a sunrise hike up to Sky Pond. This was the first long hike I have done by myself. Of course I hike alone a lot but I had never hiked 10 miles let alone in high elevation. But I did it and despite all my sweary Snapchats it was worth it. I forgot about how much RMNP has to offer. Sometimes it’s a little off-putting during tourist season but that’s why hiking at the wee hours of the morning makes it better. image

If you are thinking about hiking: I would suggest going early to hike Sky Pond. Because of Colorado’s infamous afternoon thunderstorms it’s best to be at the top by the latest 10 am. I got up there within 2 1/2 hours and stayed up there for an hour and the clouds were already starting roll in by 9 am. I hiked with a few groups that were older but they let me pass them. “Oh this girl is pushing. She’s going for it” they would say as I passed them. They didn’t continue onto Sky Pond. It was just me. There are several spots to stop at before arriving at Sky Pond. The first one being Alberta Falls which is a short hike from the parking lot. Follow signs point towards The Loch, Black Lake and Mills Lake. This is where the trail begins to climb in elevation. The trail is pretty clear so you won’t get lost but know that switchbacks lay ahead. Take it slow and drink water. After a steep climb you’ll reach The Loch lake which was BEAUTIFUL!. The water was so still and it was all so serene. I was an idiot though and did not bring bug spray so my legs are paying for that mistake.

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Continuing on the trail an elk joined me and two other girls. I forgot how big they are. He was massive and I couldn’t stop laughing because the elk was ahead of us and all I saw were legs and its butt and the girls were taking photos. Eventually the elk decided to veer off and take a bath in the lake. I knew Sky Pond wasn’t far from The Loch lake so I was getting pretty pumped. I remember the directions saying that there would be a sign point to Andrews Glacier and not to go right but stay to the left. Now this was not very clear while on the trail. Basically the sign points to the right and you’ll see a trail but just go straight. There is no left except for trees.

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From here the trail starts to be very rocky and you’ll feel the change in elevation. But luckily, once hiking through a forest and rocks there will be an opening where you will see Timberline Falls. This is the part where you climb next to a waterfall. It’s not as difficult as other reviews said it was. It’s a class 2 climb and I basically scaled the rocks to prevent my shoes and myself from getting soaked. It’s only a little dangerous because there aren’t definite hand or foot holds. On the way down it was much more difficult. Partly because there were groups of people watching me slide down. SO MUCH PRESSURE. The rocks were definitely a lot more wet than when I initially went up so I thought ‘screw it’ and sat my butt down and carefully shimmied my way down. I figured my butt would be dry by the time I finished the hike. Now, once you reach the top of Timberline Falls you’ll be at Glass Lake. Take a look behind you and you’ll see stunning views of The Loch.

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This part of the trail can be confusing AF because you’re in a gorge, surrounded by mountains. This is one of those instances where everything looks like a trail. I was alone so I couldn’t ask anyone. I basically looked at the moraine and headed in that direction. Soon you’ll reach Sky Pond!  The views are breathtaking. I mean you’re sitting roughly at 11,000 ft in the sky. The lake is surrounded by three sided cliff walls and to the right you’ll see granite spires of The Sharkstooth. The mountain directly across the lake is Taylor Peak, and towards the south is Powell Peak.

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When I arrived there were people climbing on Sharkstooth. It’s quite windy up there so bring clothing for all types of weather: wind, rain, sun. I stayed up top by an hour partly because I couldn’t remember how to get down. Every time I tried there was a waterfall or snow. I was getting worried because the clouds were rolling in and lately there have been many news stories of people getting struck by lightening. Luckily, there were a few couples that were heading up to Sky Pond so I ran over to where they were climbing and finally made it down. It took me an hour to get to the trail head. I ran most of the it but I got held up by all the people just starting to hike the trails.

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On Sunday I headed up to Breck to visit Smooth Riders aka my sister. It was freezing up there and was going to storm. It wasn’t the best day but it was still fun. I brought my older sister’s dog, Koa with. She got so much love while up in Breck. She’s a good mountain dog.

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