Monday, September 18, 2023

Rocky Mountain National Park - Day 4 - (Very) Early Morning

[Composed 7/26/2023]

4:19am. That's the time when we pulled past the Bear Lake entrace at Rocky Mountain National Park. Even at that early hour, weren't sure we were early enough. The plan for the day was to hike to Sky Pond, an alpine lake that's located about 5 miles and 1700 feet of elevation from the Glacier Gorge parking lot. We needed the early start to get one of the coveted spots in the Glacier Gorge lot, as well to ensure we would be off the moutain by the time afternoon thunderstorms typically roll in.

Shira and I breathed a sigh of relief when we pulled into the partially full parking lot at 4:45am. We donned warm clothes and headlamps and walked off into the darkness. If there was ever a time for M, P and B to think: these people are insane; this was now. [Editor's note: Ben's insane -- Shira would have also gladly still been sleeping.]

Thankfully, it only took about 45 minutes for our madness to start to make some sense. As we hiked, we were treated to one of the most incredible sunrises I've ever had the privilege of seeing. As we made our way higher and higher in elevation, the scene kept getting more and more impressive. The hike to Sky Pond is considered one of the most epic in the park, and even the seemingly mundane part to approach the lakes was showing itself to be next level.

Along with countless sunrise pics, I managed to get some relatively close up shots of a deer that was out looking for breakfast.

While the day would be close to 10 miles, the hike was an out and back, so distances were easy to mentally halve. We arrived at the first trail marker directing us to Sky Pond at 6:13am. It noted that Sky Pond was a mere 2.7 miles away. We were moving at a good clip, at this point, I was worried the hike was going to be over too soon!

15 minutes later, we found ourselves trudging up switchbacks. My watch informed me we'd just hit 10,004 feet and my labored breathing confirmed this. While nobody was struggling, this was definitely the real deal. Sky Pond was going to live up to its reputation as being both beautiful and challenging. My only thought at the time: bring it on!

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