The trail to Sky Pond is fairly heavily traveled and I’ve been there at least three or four times over the years. Lately I’ve preferred to visit lakes I’ve never been to before, and I’ve come to enjoy the relative seclusion many of these hikes have provided. But I was looking at the map the other day and noticed Embryo Lake, just off the trail where Andrews Creek joins Icy Brook. So off to Sky Pond it was, thinking it may be late enough in the season to be less crowded than usual.
I had hoped to hit the trail by 8:30, but I got off to a bit of a late start. And when I arrived at the park entrance, the express pass lane was closed. It’s another free day in the park. The Bear Lake road is now paved almost all the way to Hallowell Park, but now they’ve removed the pavement from there to the park and ride.
From the Glacier Gorge trailhead, Sky Pond is 4.4 miles one way, with a 1,720 foot elevation gain. But because of my late start, and it being free day, but the time I got there Glacier Gorge parking lot was full and the Bear Lake parking lot was getting there. The trip from Bear Lake to Glacier Gorge Junction adds about a quarter mile to the trip, downhill in the morning but uphill after a long hike at the end.
To offset that, I now know where the ‘Fire trail’ is. I’ve seen it on the old maps but it’s not on the new ones, and I never looked that hard for it. Earlier this year I hiked to Frozen Lake with Ed and that’s how we returned. This cuts six tenths off the trip each way, so in the end I hiked more like 8.1 miles round trip.
The trail was quite busy today, except for the Fire trail, where I saw one other hiker in the morning and none in the afternoon. Other than that, I probably didn’t go more than three minutes without seeing or hearing another hiker.
The Fire trail is supposedly unimproved, but it’s about as unimproved as the back way down from Haiyaha – fairly well maintained. I’ve been on the main trail, to Alberta Falls then to the Mills/Loch junction, so many times it’s become a bit of a chore, a trail to push through quickly in the morning and to endure in the afternoons. So it’s a nice change to go another way, particularly as so few use it.
I made it to the Loch in less than an hour. Here is where you first get a nice view of the mountains – the higher elevations dusted with snow the last few nights. The trail winds around the Loch then goes back into the forest. Just after the turn for Andrews Glacier there is a meadow on the left affording a nice view of Powell Peak and Taylor Peak, with Timberline Falls below, glinting in the sun. It is here one makes a side trip to Embryo Lake, but I decide to save this side trip for the way back.
A few minutes further along and the trail starts to climb in earnest, leaving the forest below and the falls above. The trail is a staircase, long and winding up to the right side of Timberline Falls. At the falls you have to use your hands a bit; I caught up to a young couple here and she had some difficulty deciding how to go about it.
I really don’t like this part of the hike. I find it not so bad going up, but I don’t like the descent at all. This time of year, though, it is much less nerve wracking for me as there isn’t as much water flowing and splashing on the rocks. I didn’t have any trouble today.
Glass Lake lies just above the falls. I always used to see it called “Lake of Glass” but that usage seems to have gone away.
It is only another couple of tenths of a mile, another eighty vertical feet to Sky Pond. It has been windy every time I’ve been there, and usually there’s a rich insect life. Today it was windy but I enjoyed my lunch without interference by clouds of gnats. I sat there for half an hour without bothering to set up for a time lapse as there was not a cloud in the sky.
By the time I left, the lake was beginning to get crowded and I ran into another dozen or so hikers on the trail between Glass Lake and Sky Pond. As I said, I had no difficulty descending the falls and before long was back at the Andrews Glacier trail junction. Here, I set off to the south in search of Embryo Lake.
I quickly found a faint trail that led me to an easy crossing of Icy Brook. After skirting some deadfall and circling around a small mound I found a small meadow with a tiny pond. This must be Embryo Lake. I assume it is cleverly named – it is much too small to qualify as a lake in any regard. And based on the grass around it, I’m guessing it doesn’t get much bigger in the spring.
I was back to the Loch a few minutes after one. By now some clouds were popping up over the divide. I found a nice rock outcropping with a view and set up the cameras. As usual, I brought the GoPro. And this was my first time playing with the intervalometer for the SLR. Problem was, I hadn’t taken the time to figure out how to work it, so nothing came out. To top it off, the battery I popped in the SLR this morning indicated fully charged, but clearly it wasn’t as it died completely within minutes.
Here’s the short clip from the GoPro. Not very good – aimed too close to the sun.
|Trailhead||09:00 AM||02:35 AM|
|Mills/Loch jct||09:35 AM||02:00 AM|
|The Loch||09:55 AM||01:05 AM|
|Andrews jct||10:20 AM||12:30 PM|
|Glass Lake||10:55 AM||12:10 PM|
|Sky Pond||11:15 AM||11:45 AM|
The side trip to Embryo Lake took only 15 minutes, and I spent a half hour shooting time lapse at the Loch on the return trip.