Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Rocky Mountain High

When we turned into the trailhead parking lot I felt my heart sink and I lost any hope of a peaceful walk in Rocky Mountain National Park when I saw the dozens of parked cars. However, we weren't going to let a crowd deter us and we laced up our boots and hit the trail. 
The well-traveled path gradually left the valley and meanered through the fields of giant granite boulders. The surrounding brown grasses and plants served as a reminder that nearly a month had passed since the last rain. As I looked to the horizon I couldn't help but wonder if the thunderheads in the distance would bring the much needed precipitation.
I was thankful to the repeated switch-backs since the thin air was a bit of a shock. With each step I felt myself breathe a bit harder than I had during my bushwalks of the past year, but my body quickly acclimated and my breathing became more regular.
As the autumn sun gently warmed the air, the giant ponderosas that surrounded us filled the air with their fragrance. It wasn't long before the pine needle covered trail reached the ridge above the Roaring River Canyon. A small river gently flowed below us. Its gentle bubbling sound made it appear harmless; but the errosion devastated banks stood as testimony to the great floods that occurred in 1982. In the distance I saw a small animal jumping amongst the boulders. I wasn't sure but I think it was a beaver. Even though it didn't seem as exotic as the kangaroos I have grown accustomed to meeting on the trail I still took out my camera and tried to snap a picture.
We soon hit a fork in the road. We decided to stay to the left and head to Ypsilon Lake. We figured there would be more people on the shorter trail, but we had not allowed ourselves enough time to complete the trek on the longer trail. To our surprise we encountered only 4 other hikers during our trek.
The forest service had been busy that summer and new log steps quickly led us from the river valley. The giant ponderosas gave way to lodgepole pines that whispered quietly in the gentle breeze. It wasn't long before we reached the famed aspen groves. Amongst their glistening, fluttering green leaves clumps of yellow stood out. It was as though a few trees had taken a tip of one of their branches and dipped it in a can of yellow paint. A gentle reminder that soon thousands of people would flock to the area for a final burst of color, before the forest is blanketed with the snow cover of winter.

After several hours of hiking, the dense forest opened up and before us stood the weather-ravaged craggy Ypsilon Peak. A final  descent brought us to our goal: a subalpine lake nestled between granite rocks and a  forest. As we sat on the shores of the lake admiring the azure blue skies--found only in this part of the world--a cold wind began to blow and I noted the chill on my bare skin. I moved to the sun in hopes of warming up, but my attempts at basking were futile; and we were forced to retreat to the car park reminded that winter will soon arrive in the Rockies.


  1. Hi Maya, this is such a wonderful post. Another great hiking adventure brought to life by your unique observations and beautiful photos. Stunning scenery.

    Thanks so much for sharing.

  2. Hi Maya --

    I'm looking at these great photos and your general account and thinking -- you're most definitely a serious hiker. So when you come to Hong Kong in December, here's recommending you head out to Sai Kung or Lantau for your Hong Kong hiking! :)

  3. Hi Kathy, it was so wonderful to have the opportunity to hike in Rocky Mountain National Park. Australia doesn't have any mountains like them and it is really something we miss.

    Hi YTSL, I think of myself as a serious day hiker. We keep saying we should try an overnight trip, but can't seem to get around to it. Once we get tickets to Hong Kong I will be in contact with you for plenty of hiking tips. We are thinking of maybe April instead of Dec, but nothing is set in stone yet.