Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Estes Park: Gem Lake

I’ve been thinking about Gem Lake since the last time I hiked here, that was about two weeks ago, the day I did my long hike around the Lumpy Range. Unfortunately, by the time I got to Gem Lake I had already hiked 9.4 miles that day and I still had 1.7 miles to get to the parking lot.

I was so tired toward the end of that hike, I just snapped a few pictures around Gem Lake and continued hiking to the car. I remember there being so many things there to see like amazing views and really cool rock formations. So today I decided to do a hike to Gem Lake. On my last hike I remembered the turn off for Balanced Rock, it didn’t seem to be that far from Gem Lake, so maybe I could hike there as well.

The little wheels in my head were spinning today. It was going to be a high of about 70 degrees today in Fort Collins, probably about 60 in Estes Park and I really wanted to ride my motorcycle to Estes Park to go hiking. But it was getting late in the day already and I would have to figure out how to get all my motorcycle gear locked and secured on to my 954RR which meant I’d have to find my cables and padlocks first. If only my ST3 was running. I miss not having lots of hard luggage.

Spectacular rock formations and boulders along the trail to Gem Lake

This area is very popular for rock climbing

Those boulders to the left are so smooth, they almost look "man-made"

Apen trees

Once spring and summer comes I will have to figure out the “hike and bike” thing, but not today. I jumped in my car and headed for Estes Park. The wind was blowing hard by the time I left and I was kind of happy that I was in my car and not on the bike. When the winds blow here, they really blow. But the wind was not blowing in Estes Park. It was very pleasant and unlike the last time I was here, today the Lumpy Ridge trailhead parking lot was packed with cars and the trail with hikers.

Estes Park from the Gem Lake Trail

Looking toward the west and Rocky Mountain National Park

More awesome views from the Gem Lake Trail

Gem Lake Trail: log stairs (left), rock stairs covered by snow (right)

I started to hike up to Gem Lake. The elevation gain in the 1.7 miles to the lake is 910 feet. The climb was constant. At times the trail was dirt, at times the trail was rocky. Some sections of the trail were made of rocks that were aligned as stairs - not sure about what other hikers think, but I’m beginning to dislike these “stairs”. It’s unnatural and harder to climb then just a regular natural hiking path and much harder to use the trekking poles on. Plus, it kind of reminds me of the “Stairmaster“.

Nature made a perfect hole through this rock

Same rock and better lighting - this picture was taken two weeks earlier, there was more snow on the ground then

After what seemed like a while, I made it to Gem Lake. I was surprised that with so many people on the trail, there was no one up here at Gem Lake. I decided to hike further although the sign said that the Balanced Rock was still 2.1 miles away. I somehow remembered it being closer to Gem Lake, oh well. That hike wasn’t going to happened today, it was already late in the afternoon. I hiked for about a half mile past Gem Lake and turned around. The trail had a bit of snow and ice on it and I didn’t bring my trekking poles with me today.

Gem Lake thawing out in the warm sun

The ice melting at Gem Lake

The clear waters of Gem Lake

How do these trees grow in the sand like that?

Standing on the "beach" in front of Gem Lake

I had a bit of time to waste so I headed back to Gem Lake to explore the area around the lake, the rocks and the beach. The lake had a thick layers of ice on it the last time I was here, today the ice was thin and melting. After a good 45 minutes at the lake, I hiked back down to the trailhead and drove home. I hiked about 4.5 miles today, but the steep rock steps on this trail made my knees feel like I hiked at least 6 miles.

These rocks remind me very much of the Greyrock near Fort Collins

A closeup of the same rock formation as in the above picture

A sign announcing closure areas (left), signs along the Gem Lake Trail (right)

Trailhead elevation at Lumpy Ridge: 7,920 feet
Gem Lake elevation: 8,830 feet
Elevation gain: 910 feet
Distance from Lumpy Ridge TH to Gem Lake: 1.7 miles

High-lighted in yellow is approximately the 4.5 miles round trip I hiked today

No comments: