The Loch

I have been aching for another walk in the Park. I was thinking it has been two months since my last hike, but I see it’s more than three. Definitely past due. I reached out to Ed to see what he had on his calendar. Thursday worked for both of us, so Thursday it was.

Thursday, December 26

I told Ed I’d pick him up between 8:10 and 8:20. For a while, I thought I’d be late. There was more traffic than I’d expected. And it was foggy. Dense enough that you couldn’t see much past your headlights. And a surprisingly large number of drivers didn’t bother with headlights.

North of Boulder the road goes alongside the foothills and up the slope I could see blue skies while everything to the east was in the soup. By the time I got to Lyons, I was out of it. There wasn’t much traffic north of Boulder. I made up the time I lost earlier and pulled up in front of Ed’s house right at 8:20.

We got to the Bear Lake parking lot in good time and met the third of our party, Judy. She’d hiked with Ed once or twice in the past. Since I can’t drive wearing my big hiking boots, I have to get ready when we get there: take the shoes off, put on the snow pants, put on the gaiters and boots, change to the heavy coat, and all the rest. Ed and Judy went up and chatted with the volunteers while I got it together.

We began by taking Ed’s winter trail to Lake Haiyaha. Or, two-thirds of it anyway. At the meadow at the top of the gully, instead of heading uphill to the right we went left. I keep thinking I should know my way on this route, having been on it several times now. Today, his trail was pretty easy to follow. He’s been working on it all season, and for most of the way I’d have been okay wearing micro-spikes instead of snowshoes, the base was that good.

Our route took us between West Glacier Knob and the eastern flank of Otis Peak, along the shores of “Beautiful Lake Marv”. Today, not so much along the shores as right across it. This is one of three unnamed lakes in the immediate vicinity that Ed has named.

Just before arriving at The Loch, we met up with the last few yards of the summer route. I was a bit surprised to see so many footprints here. The other times I’ve been to The Loch in winter, I came up the stream. The hike so far had been quite pleasant. A bit on the cool side, but no wind at all. The skies to the east were still quite clear, but above the Divide was a maelstrom, often blotting out the sun.

At the lake, though, the wind whipped in a steady gale down the valley, blowing snow across the ice. All the nice sunny summer picnic places today were instead cold, bleak stone benches blasted by blowing snow. Naturally, I had to suggest we stay here long enough to get some time-lapse video. I sent Ed and Judy to find a place out of the wind, following after I got the camera running and set in a place I thought the wind wouldn’t move it.

I found them a hundred yards or so away, in a hollow half surrounded by a fifteen-foot snowdrift. There wasn’t any place to sit, but it was out of the wind. We told each other stories until we decided standing still wasn’t the most fun thing to do, whence I went and collected the camera. It ran for not quite twenty minutes and looked to be exactly where I left it.

We left by the route I’d always used in winter: down the outlet stream. When we started down it occurred to me that my other winter trips here were later in the season. Today there isn’t nearly as much snow here as before. I could see why the summer trail was still carrying all the traffic: this was not the easiest way down.

We took another short break at the hitching posts near the bridge to Mills Lake. The snow was deep enough to make them nice benches. I ate about half my lunch here. After a few minutes, we were moving again.

Ed took us from the trail junction on a route that included the two other unnamed lakes that Ed has named: Joyce’s Pond and Zone Lake. As bodies of water, they’re not much to brag about. But all three of these little ponds have three nice attributes: they’re a short hike, have nice views, and very few visitors.

All day on the trail it was Ed leading, Judy in the middle, and me at the back. When you’re hiking, anything you say is projected forward. Being in the back I couldn’t hear what Ed and Judy were talking about. Which, actually, was fine.

I could be unengaged. I was always following, never leading. I didn’t do any navigation, I didn’t set the pace, I generally wasn’t involved in any conversation. We weren’t on any sort of schedule. It was easy walking. It was a beautiful day. I could let my mind wander. I soaked in my surroundings. I enjoyed myself immensely.

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