Lake Haiyaha

Saturday, July 1

It has been a while since I visited Lake Haiyaha in the summer. I have been there many times, and the last three or four visits were in winter. For me, winter and summer trips to are so different that they may as well not have been the same place.

In winter, I follow a route that I’ve proven I’m unable to find on my own. I’ve successfully navigated to ninety lakes in the park, and I’ve spent a lot of time around Bear Lake. It doesn’t bother me that I haven’t been able to get there without a guide. On the contrary, it makes a common hike unusual. On these winter Haiyaha hikes we don’t encounter many other hikers, which is unusual for so close to Bear Lake.

And, of course, in winter the landscape is totally different. Some gullies get filled in, some drifts are twenty feet deep. You take different routes. In winter, at Haiyaha, the water level drops so much, massive shards of ice make volcano shapes around large no-longer-submerged boulders. So although I’ve been there four or five times in the last ten years, it’s been maybe ten years since I’ve been there in summer. It is time to face the crowds and go in summer.

It’s a short hike, so I didn’t need to be early. I’d park at the park and ride and shuttle to Bear Lake. The line for the bus was the longest I’ve ever seen it, but the wait wasn’t too bad. I was on the trail by 9:15. The route I always take is Bear Lake to Nymph and Dream, then to Haiyaha. The return is down to the Loch Vale trail junction, then either the Fire Trail or by Alberta Falls to the Glacier Gorge bus stop.

Between Bear Lake and the trail junction at Dream Lake, a distance of 1.1 miles, I passed over a hundred people. This is people were standing or sitting trailside or hiking in my direction. Not many people going the other way. Conga-line hiking.

From Dream to the bridge over the outlet of Haiyaha it was much better. I could still hear the voices of people on the trail below. My original plan was to go above Haiyaha a little way up Chaos Canyon. Michael and I did that last time we came here. You get a nice view of the lake, but eastern views are not the most dramatic here. With that in mind, I came across a family sitting on a log, taking selfies. They were right next to a fairly obvious trail, which I followed.

The trail petered out after a while, but I easily traversed a small ridge and made my way to the northern shore of Lake Haiyaha. I’d never been on this side before. The trail dumps you into a large pile of boulders. There’s no shore. Here there are many places one could dip their feet into the water, and there is shade, if you want it. I worked my way a bit farther to the west and found a nice spot with a view of Long’s Peak, a much more interesting horizon than up the canyon above the lake. And, best of all, no neighbors.

Spiders construct substantial webs between the boulders. Sometimes they can be hard to spot. One day, traversing a large talus field, the light was just right. I could spot them from several feet away, and see the spider scramble from the center to safety on the rock as I approached. To say that Lake Haiyaha features a rich insect life might be to understate it. Here, today, the spider webs were easy to spot – they all had dozens of captured insects.

I found a nice spot to relax, a seat in the shade and three feet away a seat in the sun with the flank of Otis Peak front and center, the top of the canyon to the right, capped with heavy cornices of snow, and the erect nipple of Long’s Peak to the left. There was a cloud of gnats not far to my left, but they stayed where they were and didn’t annoy me. The occasional horse fly or curious bee made a visit, but no mosquitoes.

I brought both GoPros with me and the cell phone but not the SLR. I tried to get a picture of the laden spider webs but the cell phone isn’t up to it. I was game to get some nice time lapse footage but there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. Pretty blue skies, but just a shade on the hazy side due to wildfires in Utah. But it was clearly particulate matter and not water – passing jetliners’ contrails spanned fingers only a few inches apart, held at arms length.

I reached my spot at 10:10. I didn’t have any other plans for the day, so in theory I could sit here for something like four hours and still get home by 5:00. Surely in the next hour or hour and a half, some clouds would start bubbling up along the divide.

There was nobody on my side of the lake, but twenty or thirty at any given time on the other side. When the wind was calm, or a light breeze blew across the lake to me, I could hear snippets of their conversations. They were a chatty bunch.

At 11:30 I saw a tiny wisp of cloud above Half Mountain so I started up one of the cameras. This little wisp struggled only a short while, lived only a few minutes. I let the camera run, in case it might make a comeback. Alas, it was the only cloud I saw until I was off the trail at 1:45.

Shortly after noon I decided it was time to pack up. Nothing was happening in the sky. Normally, I sit at a lake for thirty minutes to an hour. I’d been here two hours and enjoyed every minute of it. But now I was hearing voices on my side of the lake, somewhere to my east.

On the way to the trail I found the people I’d heard a few minutes before. I surprised them when I greeted them on my way out. As usual, I headed out the back way toward the Loch Vale trail junction. I wasn’t sure yet whether I’d go by Alberta Falls or take the shortcut. I had this section of trail, from the lake to the junction, all to myself. My solitude ended as soon as I hit the main trail again. Any doubt I had as to my way back evaporated like that tiny wisp of cloud. I’d take the shortcut and avoid the hundreds of people on the trail.

I’m happy that I can hike to a place I’ve been to many times before and still get some pleasure out of it. I’m reluctant to take these shorter hikes in summer because of the crowds. Today was probably one of the busiest days of the year. On my way out of the park, the line of cars at the entrance station stretched to just a few yards short of the Beaver Meadows visitor center. Cars were parked illegally along long stretches of Bear Lake Road, and all the parking lots and pullouts were full. And yet, I was able to find a few yards of quiet trail in the busiest part of the park.

Just another beautiful day in the park.

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