Knobs 8, 7, and 6

Wednesday, June 17

Ed and I arranged to meet at the Beaver Meadows visitor center at 7:30. Again, somehow, I managed to get there early. And instead of driving the rather generic SUV, I drove the car nobody can miss. While changing from my driving shoes to hiking boots I spied a white Toyota enter the parking lot. “Here comes Ed. And there goes Ed.” He somehow didn’t see me.

Today, instead of checking the timed entry passes right there by the BMVC, they simply did it at the entrance station. So, now, it clearly makes sense to have the express lane blocked off. There was no line to speak of at the entrance station, and there were plenty of open parking spaces at Bear Lake (although the Glacier Gorge lot was full, no surprise).

We lacked anything like a plan. After some back and forth, we decided to head up to the top of West Glacier Knob, which is #8 in Ed’s numbering scheme. We left the crowded trail at the usual spot and made our way to Ed’s preferred stream crossing spot. The water was a good six inches lower than it was a couple of weeks ago when we came this way. I declined to use the log to cross and instead took off my boots and waded across.

“Zone” Lake

Our first waypoint on the way is a little lake Ed has named “Zone” Lake. It’s not much of a body of water, but it has a really nice view for what I’d call a “forest” lake. It’s easy to get spoiled by the alpine lakes in the park, sitting immediately beneath dramatic granite faces. Forest lakes, on the other hand, typically are on the dull side, surrounded by view-obscuring trees. This one, though, has enough swampy land around it that the views of the Longs Peak complex, Thatchtop, and Otis are expansive.

“Joyce’s Pond”

From there we headed to another unnamed lake, “Joyce’s Pond”. Our walk so far didn’t require much effort. We’d done a little up and down, but here we were roughly the same elevation as we were when we left the trail from Bear Lake to Nymph Lake. It was now time to start climbing. In the next half mile or so, we gained a bit over 600′ to gain the summit of West Glacier Knob.

Mills Lake and Glacier Gorge from West Glacier Knob

It was still a bit early for lunch, and as might be expected up here, the wind was a bit gusty. After a short look around, we descended towards the southwest and made our way past our third unnamed lake: “Beautiful Lake Marv”. We were headed to another glacier knob and we nearly bypassed it by mistake.

“Beautiful Lake Marv”

Knob 7 features a nice view up Loch Vale. We could hear the distant roaring of Icy Brook as it falls steeply from The Loch, and we could see hikers crossing a field of snow on their way to or from the lake.

Knob 6 is very close to Knob 5, both hanging off the southeastern flank of Otis Peak. Knob 5 is a bit higher. While we were sitting on Knob 6 eating our lunches and relaxing, we discussed where to go next. Ed suggested bagging 5 at first, but I kept asking him for alternatives. We finally decided that, when it was time to go, we’d descend along a ridge that extended to the northeast. Going this way, we could visit three more knobs (all minor and not featuring in Ed’s numbering scheme). I thought that was a splendid choice.

We sat on Knob 6 for quite a while, taking in the views. I had the GoPro with me, but there still wasn’t a cloud in the sky near us. Far to the east, over the plains, were some high, thin, boring clouds, and a few very small clouds that looked to be created by the turbulence of winds blowing over Longs Peak. Nothing worth setting up the camera for.

The wind is a near-constant feature up on top of these knobs. Clear evidence of this is demonstrated by the trees. I was fascinated by one that had seen so much wind that it had grown in a corkscrew shape. I’m also constantly amazed at the tenacity with which these trees grow. They’ll start in the faintest of cracks in the rock and grow to an impressive size, given that there’s no soil to speak of, no nutrients and no place for water to pool. Very harsh conditions, but life is stubborn, and finds a way.

Another thing that fascinates me when hiking in this area is the amount of wood lying about that was burned in the Bear Lake Fire of 1900. At “Zone” Lake, there’s a tree stump that was chewed up by beavers before it caught fire. The teeth marks were burned, meaning the beaver downed the tree sometime before 1900. Even on the tops of these knobs, we see burned wood. One hundred and twenty years of wind and blowing snow, cold, harsh high-altitude sun bleaching the wood, but the evidence persists.

Lichen and char

We probably sat up there for an hour. A quite pleasant hour. We had a bit of a false start when we left. Ed couldn’t find his poles. We thought he might have set them down on a big slab a bit below the summit but we couldn’t find them. We kept searching and before long decided they must be up on the top so he went back to re-search. He found them, neatly camouflaged in the shadow.

Our departure restarted, we went down the slope, circling below the outcropping we lounged on and worked to the spine of the ridge. We pretty quickly came to two small knobs, echoes of the larger one we sat on up above. No need to circle down these knobs, we could just walk down the face of them. Much of the spine of this ridge was huge slabs of solid granite stretching a couple of hundred yards. I don’t like going down these slabs if they’re too steep; we had to be cautious in places, but it was pretty easy walking.

This ridge ends with a giant cliff that is visible from the unimproved park trail from Haiyaha to Glacier Gorge Junction. We arrived at the top of it by walking down the gently sloping slabs. Ed pointed down to a little ledge and suggested we take in the view. I stayed well away from the precipice, but it got my heart going a bit.

We had to backtrack a few yards to find ramps off the ledge. It was a bit steep for a while, but it wasn’t long before we came to the trail. We wanted to be discreet about coming out of the woods, but some hikers were approaching. They got about as close to us as they could without leaving the trail and stopped for a break. We didn’t want to wait, so we elected to forego discretion and stomped out of the woods a few yards from their resting spot. A few yards up the trail we stood at the base of the big cliff and spotted the ledge we stood on.

Our last adventure was recrossing Tyndall Creek. Ed said he knew a spot that was wider and shallower and easier to ford than where we crossed this morning. So we both waded. Why not? I was looking forward to cooling my feet in the cold water. Ed’s spot was well chosen. Wide and not much more than ankle deep except for a narrow channel in the middle that was maybe a foot deep, and swift.

I was taking my time, checking my footing with each step. Just before reaching the deep channel I thought I had my left foot nicely placed, but as soon as I lifted my right foot, the rocks under my left foot shifted. I nearly lost my balance. I didn’t notice until this morning when I got out of bed, but I bruised my foot pretty good. It’s slightly swollen, a bit discolored, and quite tender.

The paved super-highway trail from Nymph was quite crowded. Maybe I’m just sensitive about being around people these days and therefore I’m thinking it’s more crowded than it actually is. But it seems to me that there is more than 60% of average traffic. The parking lot wasn’t full, but the line for the shuttle bus was as long as I’ve ever seen it. There was no line to get in at the entrance station, but it was about five, so quite late. I didn’t count, but I’d say roughly half the cars in the Bear Lake lot were out of state while all but two in the Glacier Gorge lot had Colorado plates.

The weather was beautiful; not too hot, not a cloud in the sky, mostly calm. We had a nice walk in the woods and took in some views that relatively few people see. We stayed off the beaten path. It was a good day.

Half Mountain Knob

Saturday, June 13

I heard on the news a day or two ago that the timed entry passes for this weekend had sold out. I bought mine about a week ago, when there were still more than a hundred available. So, in theory, the Park would be operating at 60% of capacity. Shouldn’t be too crowed then, eh?

This is my first time using the pass, so I was curious how they were going to do it. They have a couple of rangers (one of whom was armed) posted on the road right by the entrance to the Beaver Meadows visitors center. They can check two cars at a time that way, and direct those lacking passes to turn around in the parking lot. At the entrance station, the express lane is closed. I’m a bit surprised at that, as using the express lane is contactless.

We got to the Bear Lake parking lot a bit before 8:00. The Glacier Gorge lot was full, and we got one of the last half-dozen or so spots at Bear Lake. While I was changing into my boots I saw a shuttle bus with two passengers, so I’m guessing there weren’t too many cars at the park and ride. Walking from the car I tried to get an idea how many visitors were from out of state. I didn’t count, but it looked to be about a third, which surprised me.

We didn’t decide where to go until we got there. Plan A was Black Lake, Plan B was the glacier knob by Half Mountain, which is #10 in Ed’s nomenclature. I told Chad we’d need the microspikes to visit Black Lake. He suggested we skip the spikes, so we went to Half Mountain knob. That was fine by me; there was little chance of finding solitude at Black Lake but nobody would go where we were going.

I’m not sure we ran into any other hikers between Bear Lake and the Fire Trail. If we did see any, it was just a few by the junction to the Glacier Gorge lot. On the Fire Trail we did see two hikers. There were a few more people between Glacier Gorge junction and Mills Lake. It took us almost exactly an hour to get to Mills.

From there we worked our way uphill, headed more or less toward the little saddle about forty feet below the top. It was pretty easy going and we made the summit in about twenty minutes. When we got there, it was absolutely calm. Chad made the mistake of remarking on this and moments after I pointed out one of the wind-twisted trees, the calm was over with a big gust.

Andrews Glacier in the distance.

We found a spot out of the wind with a view up Glacier Gorge. We sat up there for quite a while. There weren’t any clouds at first, but some high wispy ones developed. They didn’t particularly appeal to me, so I didn’t bother setting up the camera for a time lapse. After a short while, another hiker did show up; he told us he didn’t expect to see anybody up here. We empathized.

Glacier Gorge with Mills Lake and Jewell Lake partly obscured.

After lazing about the summit for a good stretch, we headed down the hill. About two-thirds of the way down, we found ourselves on a rock outcropping with a view, so we took another break. One of the nice things about short hikes is that you never need to be in a hurry. We discussed our options for the return trip: we could go back the way we came, or take the main trail and stop at Alberta Falls. I’m not sure Chad has been to Alberta Falls, so that’s what we decided to do.

But, after reaching the trail, we fairly quickly decided to forego the main trail. We found we couldn’t hike three hundred yards without having to step off the trail to let somebody by. It wasn’t just solo hikers or pairs, but lots of groups of four or five or six. Knowing that there’d also be traffic to and from the Loch, it was a no-brainer to go back down the Fire Trail. I don’t mean to sound paranoid, but these days I’d really rather not get within breathing distance of so many people. It was a good choice; we saw only one solo hiker on the Fire Trail.

From when we got back on the main trail until we got to the car, we were back on the “superhighway” and among the crowd. We got back to the car at about two. The parking lot wasn’t nearly as full this morning, perhaps two-thirds full.

It was a good thing I asked Chad this morning to remind me to stop at the backcountry office to pick up my permit for next month because I’d already forgotten. The parking lot at the backcountry office was full, but the Lotus is small enough I took a half spot on the end. There was a cone there, so I probably wasn’t supposed to park there, but so it goes.

You don’t walk into the office now, which makes sense. It’s pretty small inside and both workers and visitors would be constantly in close proximity. Instead, they blocked off the stairs and installed plexiglass on all the exterior windows. There’s literally a paper-thin gap at the bottom to pass paper through. I at first waited in a line by the first window. It was taking quite a while so I wandered around the corner and found two more windows and got served with little wait. I came for my July 12/13/14 permit, but due to COVID, they issued all three of mine so I wouldn’t need to go back.

Leaving the backcountry office, we got back on the road. There was a fair amount of traffic and I had to wait for a few cars to go by before I could get going. I’d not have been able to make a left turn here to go back to the park: the line of cars stretched from the checkpoint at the Beaver Meadows entrance down the hill to the junction with Hwy 66. This is 60% capacity?

Seeing so many cars lined up, I decided to drive through the village. I never go through downtown in the summer, but I couldn’t resist. The place was hopping. I didn’t see any empty parking spaces on the street, and I glanced only a couple of empty spots in the parking lots we passed. The sidewalks were crowded. There were enough pedestrians that they had police directing traffic. Most of the benches on the sidewalks were occupied, the shops looked crowded. Not everybody wore masks, and the usual (rather high) percentage of those with masks didn’t have them covering their noses.

Traffic on 36 was only slightly lighter than a normal summer weekend. We could go the speed limit until Pinewood Springs, where we caught a big line of cars.

My next permit is for a weekday. I’m wondering if the crowds will be any less.

Edventure in Chaos

Wednesday, June 3

I reached out to Ed the other day and suggested a walk in the Park on the last day before timed entry permits are required. He thought it was a great idea, so we agreed to meet at Beaver Meadows at 7:30am.

For once, I actually made it to the rendezvous point before he did. I parked at the top of the parking lot. A few minutes later, I spied a white sedan turning into the parking lot. “Here comes Ed,” I said to myself. He drove right by. “And there goes Ed.” He parked, got out of his car, and ran walked quickly to the bathroom. With his urgent matter resolved, he found me and we headed into the Park.

I was sort of expecting that there’d be a fair number of visitors to the Park. There was only one car in line in front of us in the express lane and only a couple of cars that needed to pay. At the Bear Lake parking lot there were only a few dozen cars. I’m thinking I’ve seen more cars there in the past at 4am. I should have looked at the license plates. I’m guessing most everybody was local. This is the third most visited Park in the system. Can it be possible that, even restricting visitors to 60% or normal, I’ll have no difficulty spending my usual amount of time there?

Ed and I arrived here without a plan, so the first topic of discussion was, “Where are we going to go?” We quickly decided that either East Glacier Knob or West Glacier Knob would be the way to go. I had a set of microspikes with me. “Ed, should I take my microspikes?” He shook his head: “You won’t need them.” And off we went.

We abandoned the trail at the usual spot and arrived at the stream in no time. Ed found the log he uses as a bridge, but the stream was running unusually high, and the crossing looked pretty sketchy. So we wandered upstream a bit and made a crossing of Tyndall Creek a bit above its confluence with Chaos Creek.We took a short break here to deploy the Deet. The mosquitoes were out for blood!

We worked our way back to Chaos Creek, still with the idea we’d head to our chosen destination. After a few minutes heading upstream looking for a crossing, we scotched Plan A and developed Plan B: climb up the hill beside Chaos Cascades. Ed had pointed that route out to me earlier when they first came into sight. There was quite a bit of snow on the south (left) side of the stream but the right side looked clear. “It is a bit steep,” he said.

Climbing the cascades

We stopped a couple times to take in the view. Ed talked about a rockfall that occurred sometime perhaps a century ago. A large boulder crashed down the cascades, ultimately coming to rest on top of some burnt logs. So he know it was some time after the Bear Lake fire of 1900. It looks to have hit a number of substantial logs, splintering them in unusual ways.

Not long after reaching the top of the cascades, we made a bit of a circle to gain the top of one of the many glacial knobs in the area. Ed has numbered them 1 through 10. We went and sat on to of Knob 3. If I’m counting correctly, this would be the fifth one Ed has taken me to.

Knob 3 panorama

Being mostly granite, they don’t have many trees on their “summits”, so they all have nice, open views of the surrounding terrain. And those views are all different, but not that different. All have commanding views of the lowlands to the east: Bierstadt Moraine, Sprague Lake, and points east. This one features a clear view of Chaos Canyon, Hallett Peak, Otis Peak, Thatchtop, and, of course, Longs Peak.

Spot the hikers

You can also see parts of the park trail from Dream Lake to Lake Haiyaha. There’s an overlook on that trail. We spotted a couple of hikers taking a break there on a large boulder. That indicated to me that the trail from Dream Lake was passable. I’ve been on it when there was lots of snow. On that occasion, I had to abandon the trail to avoid the not quite sheer drops. I really don’t like traversing steep snow, particularly when it’s atop a two hundred foot drop.

After a short break, we continued on to Lake Haiyaha. By now we were mostly hiking across snow. It was fairly dense and we seldom postholed. (If I’d had my microspikes, I’d have put them on, but it wasn’t a big deal that I didn’t have them.) Somewhere in here, we came across a bit of fecal matter on the snow. Ed suggested perhaps it was cat poo. There weren’t any footprints; this poo may as well have come from the heavens. I will leave it to the feces experts to determine exactly what beast left it.

Who left this?

When we got to the crossing of the outlet stream, Ed realized he’d abandoned his sunglasses on the knob. He headed back to fetch them while I stayed by the bridges. Before long, he was back and we continued to the lake.

We didn’t achieve the lake, though. When the trail reaches a little pond we could see how high the water was. Ed managed to make it at least half way past here, but without poles (which I never carry) I knew I’d end up getting wet up to my knees so I played the “I’m a wienie” card and refused to go any farther. So we found a place there to have our lunches.

After a few minutes, the two hikers we’d spotted earlier were making their way back from the lake. He hopped from rock to rock without difficulty but had to coax her and eventually give her an assist. They told us the view was worth the effort. Perhaps if I’d never been there, I’d have put a bit more effort into it.

While we sat there, it started sprinkling a couple of times, with a bit of graupel thrown in for good measure. It never really started to rain, but the breeze picked up a bit and things started to look a bit threatening. For about two minutes. Having eaten and rested, we decided it was time to head back. “Which way should we go?” I asked. When we were thinking we’d do West Glacial Knob, we’d decided to exit along the fire trail. But that now seemed a bit out of the way. So Ed replied, “Let’s take the Park trail to Dream Lake. Hopefully there are no big snowdrifts” Knowing that the other hikers came that way, I agreed.

At about the easternmost part of the trail, where the hiker has a nice open view to the east, because it’s on a large slab of granite that falls steeply, and there are no trees, we encounter our first drift. It’s sketchy. My heart kicks up a notch. One slip here and you’re done for. I wasn’t feeling panicked, but I sure wished I’d brought my microspikes. After what seemed like a short eternity I had my boots on dry trail again and I felt quite a bit better. This was the place I was most worried about.

We caught up to the other hikers when we came to another drift. Again, we need to traverse the slope. It’s not as precarious a drop, but steeper, with a long drop to my right. There are some trees here, but I’m not sure I’d call it an improvement. We have to go maybe thirty feet, and about halfway or a bit past, we climb slightly to where the drift is broken by the bulging granite face towering above us. Underneath this overhang, the drift is shaped like a knife. At the very end, to put boots on the trail again, you must take a couple of large steps straight down.

This isn’t sketchy, it’s treacherous.

When we caught them, the woman was about halfway through her traverse. He had gone ahead of her and was calling out instructions. He told us he’d tried a lower route, but it wasn’t as good. I watched where Ed was placing his feet. He had the advantage of poles, but he was taking his time. I followed about ten feet behind him. I kept jamming the fingers of my left hand in the snow as an aid to balance and being very careful of my footing. I was happy to reach the knife-edge, where I could put most of my left arm around something.

Safely through this ordeal, Ed turns to me and says, “That was the one I was worried about.” He wins. That one was much worse.

We had a few more to deal with, but nothing as harrowing as either of the first two.

At Dream Lake, I asked Ed who had the bright idea to go that way.

We made it back to the car at about two. I can’t remember the last time I was at the Bear Lake parking lot in June at two and it wasn’t at least 90% full. Now, it might have been at 60%. (And I think most of those people were between Dream Lake and Bear Lake.)

All in all, a glorious and invigorating day. But, yeah, it was a bit of a mistake not to take the microspikes.

A Visit to Ed’s Igloo

Friday, November 23

Several days ago I reached out to Ed to see if he’d be interested in hiking with me today. His plans were more ambitious than mine: he said he would be going to the igloo he made the other day and spending Friday and Saturday nights there. He asked if I’d like to join him. I quickly declined, but agreed to spend the day with him. My excuse is that my sleeping bag isn’t sufficient for a November night at 10,500′ in a structure made of snow.

Earlier in the week, the forecast for the day looked pretty good. It would be mid-50’s in Denver, but windy. I don’t know why I keep mentioning the Denver forecast when I’m heading to the Park. In the summer I can count on my time in the Park being much the same as Denver, but cooler. In the winter it may as well be a different planet.

Ed wanted to meet at the Bear Lake parking lot at 7:30. That seemed a bit early for me, so I talked him into 8:00. Lately it has been taking me an hour and forty-five minutes to get to the parking lot, and when I add a few minutes to grab breakfast in Boulder and a few minutes cushion in case I run a bit late, I could leave at 6:00 to meet Ed at 8:00. As it turned out, I left promptly at 6:00 and didn’t have any traffic, so I arrived at Bear Lake at Ed’s preferred time. Which meant I had to wait.

According to the weather report, the forecast for the northern mountains was snow overnight Thursday, clearing up for most of the day, then snow again starting late afternoon or early evening. As of 7:30, the first part of that was more or less accurate. The skies were clear on my drive all the way up to the Bierstadt trailhead, just a few miles from Bear Lake. From there on, it was snowing, but not windy. Here I should mention that the Chrysler isn’t equipped for driving in snow: I have ultra-high performance summer tires on her. They’re fantastic for dry pavement, excellent in the rain, but there are few tires that are worse in the snow.

I’ll also add that the road to Bear Lake was in the worst condition I’ve ever seen. But that’s fairly meaningless, for three reasons. First, I only go to Bear Lake in the winter a few times a year. Second, I’m a fair-weather winter hiker and most times I’ve gone, I could easily take the Lotus (which is worse in the snow than the Chrysler). Third, the park service does a good job of keeping the road clear. So I made it to the parking lot without problem, but made sure to park so I didn’t have to go uphill on my way out, anticipating that conditions wouldn’t get any better.

Ed had posted a few pictures of the igloo on Facebook, but I didn’t have a great idea where it was other than the top of a little ridge with a great view. Given Ed’s range, even restricting it to within a few miles of Bear Lake, that doesn’t narrow it down much. Perhaps I should have asked him before we started, or before I agreed to go with him, but I waited until we were on our way. We stopped for a few minutes and he used his trek pole to make a diagram in the snow.

This is the fourth or fifth time I’ve followed Ed through the snow. He’s led me to Lake Haiyaha a few times and I still don’t think I could get there on his route without his guidance. I think I’m figuring it out. I think I could do it in the summer, but for some reason the terrain looks totally different to me when it’s covered with snow.

Ed leads the way

My inability to follow his route isn’t because he’s not a good guide. He is constantly pointing out terrain features. Today perhaps he was trying to show me too much. I felt it was a bit of information overload. But that may have been because I was a bit preoccupied. You see, this was a one-way trek with Ed. Because he’d be spending two nights in the igloo, I’d have to find my own way back to the car.

We spent a lot of time turning around and looking back the way we came. “Through the trees here our trail should be fairly clear. But in this clearing it will drift over. You’ll want to avoid the bottom of the gully here. Stay to the left of that log there.” That sort of thing. You see, it was snowing pretty good. The wind wasn’t as bad as it often is here so close to the Divide. But it would be hours before I came back this way.

Yours truly. This is a smile, not a grimace. Look closely: the snow is falling sideways.

Where our route crossed the trail from Lake Haiyaha to the junction with the trail to Mills Lake and the Loch, we walked back and forth along that trail so that “tourists” wouldn’t be tempted to follow our tracks. Here we discussed one of my options. I could either follow our tracks, or take the official trail. It didn’t look like the official trail was very well traveled, so I was thinking following our own tracks would be the best bet.

From here our route started getting steep. Our destination was a glacial knob at the eastern end of Otis Peak, immediately north of The Loch, and about 300′ above it. Ed knows I’m not a big fan of the steep stuff, so he gave me a bit of a pep talk. The final approach to the igloo would be quite steep. He compared it to the descent we made from the ridge on the south side of Dream Lake back in the spring. It would be that steep, but not that long, and broken into short segments.

On that final approach there was only one spot that had me bothered. It was a bit tough climbing it, as the snow seemed to want to give way under my weight. I had to be very careful to put my weight directly above the balls of my feet, which I found a bit of a challenge. At one point, I was almost crawling up the snow.

“Come stand out here on this precipice and check out the view!”

The igloo is sited atop a rock outcropping, with clear views to the east and south. Or, it would have clear views if the weather was clear. When we arrived, we could see a bit down the Bear Lake road and we had a view of Half Mountain. A cliff face of Otis was just a few yards away to the northwest, and the northern flank of Thatchtop was prominent to the south. After a quick look at the surroundings, we retreated to the shelter of the igloo for lunch.

Click on the picture to see it full-sized.

We ate and chatted for about forty-five minutes. My soda was nice and cold, but my water was colder: it was starting to freeze. This should not have surprised me, but it was a bit distressing to have to knock a plug of ice out of the mouth before I could take a sip. We set my water bottle beside Ed’s little furnace. Although it was nice and cozy inside, it wasn’t warm enough to melt the ice. Standing up, though, I found that the air was close to fifty degrees at the top, while it was more like freezing down at the level of the door.

Igloo at center; Thatchtop in background.

After lunch it was time for me to head back. When we popped out of the igloo, it was quite obvious how the conditions had changed. Visibility was just a few hundred yards. Ed kindly escorted me down the steep bits and I was soon on my way, retracing our steps from the morning. These steps, of course, were our most recent. So they had had the least amount of snow, either freshly fallen or wind-blown, obscuring them. In the trees it was quite easy to follow them. I was feeling pretty good, in spite of the degraded conditions.

Wind-sculpted pillows of snow.

The first challenging part was around a small unnamed body of water that Ed likes to call “Beautiful Lake Marv”. We had walked through an open area where the wind gets an unimpeded run. Our track was completely erased. Ed’s advice was to stay to the left and don’t go down into the gully. It took me a few minutes, but I eventually did spot our trail below me. I was able to follow it all the way down to the trail from Haiyaha.

On the way up, we didn’t just cross directly over it. After reaching it, we went along it for maybe a hundred yards, then left it. I thought I’d easily find where we gained the trail, but I had no luck. Some other hikers had come through; I followed their tracks off the trail, but they just made a short excursion to look at the stream. After a couple times up and down the trail looking for my way, I decided that the tracks along the official trail were my best bet, so off I went.

Although a bit longer, it was an easy hike out. I arrived at the trial junction in good time and ran into a few hikers. Two guys asked me how it was the way I came. I told them I didn’t go all that far. They told me they’d come up the Fire Trail and that it was pretty clear. So that’s the way I went. A few minutes later they passed me, one on skies, the other booting it. They went at a pretty good clip, the one in boots running.

By now the wind was getting pretty fierce. Even in the wooded sections, the trail was getting harder to follow. Those guys were just a few minutes ahead of me and their tracks were indistinct. Then a few minutes later another pair of hikers passed me, and shortly after that the trail was sufficiently out of the wind that it was quite obvious.

I was back to the car by 2:45. There were surprisingly few cars in the parking lot. My car was the closest to the top of the hill, and was pretty well covered by snow. By 3:00 I was on my way. I practically crawled along the road, ABS engaging quite a bit. My doors don’t lock until I reach 13mph. They didn’t lock until I passed the Glacier Gorge lot. Even going so slow, I managed to catch two other cars, who pulled over to let me by. The road was pretty treacherous, with blowing snow creating blizzard-like conditions, until about Hollowell Park. At Moraine Park, a ranger had his truck, lights flashing, blocking up-bound traffic. Clearly, they weren’t letting people go any farther. That explains why there were so few cars at Bear Lake.

So, to recap: I walked through sometimes blizzard-like conditions, up and down sometimes incredibly steep terrain, sometimes trying to follow my own vanishing tracks in the snow, then drove my car on summer tires through more blizzard conditions. Through all that, I was warm and dry. What can I say? It was another beautiful day in the neighborhood.