Friday, September 22, 2023

Rocky Mountain National Park - Day 4 - The Return

[Composed 7/26/2023]

After exploring Sky Pond, we started our descent back to our car. We quickly encountered the notorious waterfall section, and again, I found that only a single boulder gave us any pause. There just wasn't an obvious place for someone of Shira's stature to obviously place her hands and feet to get down. With some assistance from M though, Shira got through and before we knew it we were on the other side of the this tricky obstacle.

At this point, the stars fully aligned and a pika popped out from the rocks, and I was able to snap a number of clear pics. A pika is a small mouse like animal that lives in the harsh ecosystem that exists at high elevations.

Despite their cuddly appearance, American pikas—the smallest members of the lagomorph group—are among North America's toughest animals. Pikas are one of the few mammals in the lower 48 states that can survive their entire lives in alpine terrain, the windswept no-man's-land above tree line.

We made our way back to The Loch, encouraging hikers that we passed that they were just about to their goal. At The Loch, we found a piece of land that jut out into the lake and sat down for a rest and snack. The moutains were in the distance, while trout swam in crystal clear waters at our feet. The scene was perfection.

From The Loch, we continued our descent, eventually seeing some clouds in the distance and hearing some thunder, though the weather remained sunny for us. As we got closer to the parking lot, the crowds increased and we came across families with kids who apparently had skipped the 4am start for a more family friendly afternoon hike.

While the trail stretched on, but we had to be getting close to the and with it lunch and a proper bathroom. I was ready to get off the mountain.

We arrived back at our car at 12:35pm, nearly 8 hours after we started the day. While we were all pretty beat, spirits were high as we'd managed to pull off one of the most legendary hikes in the park. We had lunch at The Wayfinder, a restaurant just outside the park's enterance. The food was good, though the real highlight was the show we could see through the windows. The clouds and thunder we'd heard while hiking finally rolled in, and the afternoon thunderstorms that we'd started our day at 4am to avoid made an appearance. It sure was nice catching the storm indoors, rather than on the trail.

We spent the rest of the day chilling at the Airbnb, starting to pack up. At one point I tried to convince Shira to take a walk through our neighborhood. We made it exactly two minutes and 40 seconds before Shira was like, yeah, no. We're not doing this. We've walked enough for the day.

The hike to Sky Pond is definitely the winner reviews suggest it is. Take your time, and you'll crush it.

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