Saturday, December 17, 2011

Ouzel Lake in the winter.

Last week brought me what will most likely and unfortunately be my last hike of the year. I will be heading out of town on the 23rd, and will arrive back late on the 29th. I am sad that this great hiking year has ended; I look forward to more adventure next year.
My goal was Bluebird Lake. I have to say that this is my favorite "easily" accessible lake in the park. Easily in quotes because while there is a trail to it, it is a difficult hike, particularly after passing by Ouzel Lake.
I set out a little later, and found that I didn't need snow shoes or any traction devices for that matter while walking from the winter parking lot to the Wild Basin trail head. My feet were slipping a little bit though, so I did stop there and put my crampons on, knowing there was some less flat terrain ahead.
Fortunately, the park had cleared all of the downed trees up until Ouzel Falls, and this made going alot easier. I stopped shortly after the falls and took off the crampons and put on my snowshoes as the trail seemed a little less packed. There weren't many trees down and I felt like I was making good time.
A early rest point.
The trail beyond Ouzel Falls.
The area after the split of the Thunder Lake and Bluebird Lake trails was more difficult, steeper and I could see it hadn't been used as much so far this winter. When I got to the plateau in the forest fire area, there were places where the trail was actually completely visible due to the action of the wind. I took my snowshoes off for a bit and walked. Got some good pictures along the way...
Mount Copeland.
A clear day and views of Longs Peak and Mount Meeker.
Tanima Peak and Mount Alice.
Earlier in the day I had run into a guy who said his buddies were going for Mount Copeland but he turned back because he wasn't feeling it. I kept looking up the face hoping to see someone and I am pretty sure I did.
The trail was easy to follow until it started to hit some deeper snow. I was following the footsteps of those few ahead of me, though at times I got off the trail because I thought they might not be going entirely the right way. I managed to find the sign for the split to Ouzel Lake, and headed on towards the Bluebird.
The foot steps I had been following cut out left, and without those, trail finding became alot harder. I just relied on my familiarity with some of the boulders in the area, and kept an eye on the general direction I wanted to go. However, the going got tough. Knee deep powder and sometimes but sometimes not crusted snow that could support my weight loomed ahead.
I had stopped several times, looking at the sun going down, thinking I should turn back but willing myself to keep going. I was relatively close after all.
Somewhere on or near the Bluebird Lake trail.
Looking back east.
Looking towards Ouzel Peak in the forest fire area.
Mount Copeland.
Eventually I decided to turn back. On the drive up I noticed ice on the road on route seven south, and I didn't want to be driving on that in the dark. At this point I was beyond Ouzel Lake, but looking down I could see its frozen outline in the forest. I set a new course, and went there.
Ouzel Lake from above.
Copeland over Ouzel Lake.
Ouzel Lake in the winter, defined by trees.
It was pretty neat to see somewhere that I had been to or by several times in the summer looking completely different. And it made a good scene for some photographs that would otherwise be impossible in the summer, at least not without getting wet.
Copeland, Ouzel Peak, Mahana Peak.
Close up.
Standing in the middle of Ouzel Lake, possible only a few months out of the year.
The outlet to Ouzel Creek.
Ouzel Lake documented, I turned back and made my way to Chickadee Pond, and then up the hill a brief way to intersect with the trail back.
I felt like I was motoring on the way back. Sure, it is easier to go downhill than uphill, but the snow really does fill in all the obstacles on the trail and flattens it out. No steps to go up or down, no rocks to walk around. I kept my snowshoes on most of the way down, finally stopping and going back to just boots near Copeland Falls.
The lower trail is pretty well packed and plenty wide.
One last look.
I got back to the car, and made it safely down route seven in the waning light. Another great day in the park.
This has been a great year of exploration and fun hikes. I didn't meet all of my goals this year- I wanted to hike to every named destination in Wild Basin- but I did get pretty close, tagging 75%. The heavy snow of last winter really gave me a late start, so I am hoping for less snowfall this year.
Next year I hope to get to the rest of those destinations, and to start to hike in other areas of the park. I have some pretty epic hikes in the planning stages, one of which may even come with a short film in addition to still photographs. I am hoping to write a year in review post before or shortly after the new year comes.
Until then, be safe, have fun, and enjoy the splendor and natural beauty that is Rocky Mountain National Park.
See you again soon.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, cool post. I’d like to write like this too – taking time and real hard work to make a great article… but I put things off too much and never seem to get started. Thanks though.
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