Sky Pond

Last month I picked up a couple of timed-entry passes for July for the Bear Lake corridor. There aren’t any named lakes in the area that I haven’t already visited, except Marigold Lake, a very minor body of water more or less midway between Odessa Lake and the summit of Joe Mills Mountain. Perhaps I’ll manage to collect that one this summer. But not this time.

Wednesday, July 6

I picked Sky Pond for this trip, as it has been quite a while since I was last there. I described the trail in my last report, so I won’t repeat myself.

The mountains along the divide were wreathed in clouds that looked to be starting to break up a bit. The forecast was for a nice, warm day, so I expected things would clear up a bit. Hopefully the clouds would make for an interesting sky.

I managed to put boots on the trail a few minutes after 7 am and was at the base of Timberline Falls a bit before 9. There was a fair group at the falls, as this is the chokepoint for the hike. I don’t mind climbing up the section, but it always gives me a bit of heartburn on the way down. Especially “early” in the season, when the water flow is high and the spray gets all the rocks nice and wet.

Here I met volunteer Dan. We chatted for quite a while. I don’t recall his exact words, but he expressed some amazement that so many people manage to navigate up and down this steep bit without any “loss of blood”. He said the climb was much easier six weeks ago when it was all covered in snow. He was able to walk right up the slope.

Even with the pass system in place, these popular trails can get quite crowded. I admit that I’m pretty spoiled on this point, but by seeking out some of the more obscure places in the Park, I can find quiet solitude. Quiet and solitude are quite often not available at Sky Pond. As soon as I sat down on a rock to enjoy the view, I heard somebody fire up a drone. They flew their drone nearly the entire time I was at the lake. I wonder if the drone pilot knew drones are illegal in the Park and was just thumbing his nose at authority, or if he didn’t realize he could be fined $5,000 and spend six months in jail. Just after he retrieved his drone, he looked in my direction and noticed that I was pointing my telephoto lens his way. I was a bit far away to discern his expression. Was it embarrassment?

After listening to the drone for the better part of half an hour, I went down to Glass Lake for another extended break. This time I ran across a woman listening to music as she searched for a spot to watch the world go by. Rather than using headphones or earbuds, she was broadcasting her taste in music to the world, or at least those of us who were trying to enjoy nature.

At the trailhead (well, not exactly the trailhead, but close enough), they have a notice warning of a “habituated” mountain goat in the area. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a mountain goat in the Park. I’d forgotten about this warning until I spotted said mountain goat, who seemed to be following a couple of hikers who didn’t notice who was behind them.

I chatted briefly with one of these hikers, who claimed to have spotted a fox. “I don’t know if it was a fox or a marmot. I think it went under this rock!” I’ve never seen a fox in the Park. That doesn’t mean there aren’t any, but I’m pretty sure what he saw was a marmot.

Back at The Loch, I found that one of the rocky peninsulas on the east side of the lake was unoccupied. These peninsulas, I think, give the best views of Loch Vale. I made my way there for my final extended break of the day. It was noon, and time for lunch. Today’s beer was a Roadie Grapefruit Radler by Great Divide Brewing Company.

On the shuttle bus back to the park-and-ride, the driver pointed out a large bull elk by the side of the road. His antlers were still quite velvety. The driver mentioned this; he would soon rub the velvet off. She told us not to be deceived: the antlers are quite sharp. She said a bull got a bit angry with this particular bus and punched a hole in the side. Naturally, when I disembarked I managed to forget to look for the hole. So it goes.