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Hike to Two Rivers Lake

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Northeast end of Two Rivers Lake looking at Notch Top Mountain

Dave, a good photog friend and hiking buddy of mine, and I hiked up to Two Rivers Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park this last week.  It’s a relatively short hike from the Bear Lake Trailhead up the Flat top trail towards Odessa and Lily Lake along the Fern Lake Trail.  About 6 miles round trip.  To avoid the crowds at this very popular Trailhead we arrived a little after 6am at Bear Lake to begin our hike.

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Dave stands beside the sign where the Flattop Mountain Trail and the Fern Lake Trail diverge

It was an entertaining trek as we encountered numerous small streams with running water (your hiking along Mill Creek that comes from Two Rivers Lake) and a variety of wildflowers along the way.

Two Rivers Lake can be difficult to find.  It’s not readily visible from the trail unless you’re looking for it.  There is not a true trail to it and thus one must ‘bushwhack’ their way to it.  The lake is not far off the Fern Lake Trail, at the most about a hundred yards.  But between you and the lake is a downhill boulder field followed by thick vegetation to whack through once you get close to the water. 

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A good ‘tell’ that you are in the area is a sign for a backcountry campground named ‘Sourdough’.  Once you meet up with this sign, the place to get off the trail is only about 50+ yards ahead (on the left).  At this point you will have to pick what looks like the easiest way to Rock Hop down to the lake (and through the thick trees).

Now, there’s a trail of sorts that one can take down near the lake about 25 yards beyond this point.  The problem with this is that the trail takes you toward the southwest end of the lake.  If you’re there for photography, this is not the end of the lake you want to be at.  Jutting up out of the lake at the southwest end is Notch Top Mountain.  Viewing from the Northeast end of the lake makes for a more pleasing photograph with Mountain giving the image depth at the other end.  So, if you have been ‘sucked’ down this trail, you now have to rock hop and bushwhack back around the edge of the lake.  We had a lot of company along this trek (yes, we erroneously went down the trail) in the form of swarms of mosquitoes.  In fact, they were ever present our whole time at the lake, but I came away with zero bites.  No idea why?  All males?

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I ‘rock hopped’ across the water to get out to a vantage from which to shoot.

At the northeast end I found rocks in the water that I could use to make my way out into the lake to get a decent angle from which to look down it’s length (see picture at top of post). 

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See Dave at the far left, in the bushes getting his shot!

Dave had long pants on (I was in shorts) and choose to continue through very thick brush to the end of the lake and shoot from there.  But, he’s the professional, what do I know (but I’m learning!).

After we were done, we rock hopped directly back up to Fern Lake Trail.  It was mindful of the ‘Boulder Field’ one hops through up near the Keyhole on Long’s Peak.  The differences?  They’re large rocks not boulders and it’s not as long a hopping journey to endeavor!

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Dave finishing up his trek over the rocks back to the Fern Lake Trail

At this point it was only about 10 am, so we chose to hike on to Lake Helene which is about a quarter mile up the trail.  It’s a smaller, roundish lake with very clear water.  We didn’t spend much time there and hiked a little farther to a rocky overlook that provides a view down a long valley in which Lake Odessa is visible. Fern Lake (which lies beyond Lake Odessa) is not visible from this perch.

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Rocky perch available on the left side of trail when traveling toward Odessa Lake

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Odessa Lake visible in the valley from atop the rock perch.

I learned that some treat the Fern Lake Trail as a loop hike.  They continue downhill into the valley from this point past Lake Odessa to Fern Lake.  Nearby Fern Lake (I’m told) you can pick up a shuttle that will take you back up to Bear Lake (and your car).  This makes the hike about 8 miles plus the ride.  We chose to hike back down to Bear Lake meeting many friendly hikers coming up along our way.

(Except for the very top image, all the rest were taken with an iPhone 7 plus)

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Crystal Lakes, Rocky Mountain N.P.

Lawn Lake, RMNP

Lawn Lake, RMNP

This picture is taken from the south end of Lawn Lake in RMNP.  If you look above the far end of the lake, slightly left off center you can make out what appears to be an ‘M’ made from left over snow.  It is just below this snow when my destination for this post the, Crystal Lakes lie.  (This picture was taken on a previous trip to Lawn Lake).

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Little Crystal Lake

In my journey to get back to ‘Long’s Peak’ health since my surgery, I took another step this week.  About 10 days ago I had hiked up to Lawn Lake in Rocky Mountain N.P.  It was a 12 mile hike (round trip), 2500 ft gain to just shy of 11,000 ft. elevation and had wiped me out.    Upon return from the hike I was reading one of my hiking books (Hiking Rocky Mountain National Park) and discovered that there are two more destinations above Lawn Lake, Crystal Lakes and The Saddle.  Crystal Lakes are two small Alpine Lakes about 2 miles and 500 ft above Lawn Lake.  The Saddle is a little less than a mile beyond Crystal Lakes and another 500 ft higher than them.  It sits in-between Hagues Peak and Fairchild Mountain and provides expansive views to the northwest.  I talked myself into small steps and decided to only go to Crystal Lakes this time and then do more conditioning and go back to The Saddle another day.

View of Crystal Lake (in background) behind Little Crystal Lake.

View of Crystal Lake (in background) behind Little Crystal Lake.

Lawn Lake from the north

Lawn Lake from the north

The extra 500 ft elevation at the lakes provide a beautiful view back toward Lawn Lake.  Being late summer, you can see that the water level is somewhat down.   However, the high water mark you can see in the picture is from long ago when a crude dam was constructed to make this a reservoir for farmers down the mountain.  The dam was was not properly maintained and is now gone.  Crystal Lakes are much smaller and packed tightly into a cirque on the side of Fairchild Mountain.  Being unable to back up much to get more of the lakes into the picture results in a very incomplete view of the beauty I found.  I’ll have to remember to take a wider angle lens with me next time.  (Although, carrying a D4 body, 24-70 lens, a Really Right Stuff BH-55 Head and a Gitzo GT3541XLS Tripod up has me pretty much at my carrying capacity!).  So, I completed this 16 mile Trek and felt I had a little gas left in the tank.  However, I realize two things: One, I need to increase my effort in preparation as this does not equate to Long’s Peak in effort.  Longs is a shorter hike, but another 2,000 ft in elevation gain.  Two, I read that the views from The Saddle are beautiful and that you can see Laramie, Wyoming from there.  With that as motivation I will make it my next step toward getting back to summit Long’s for the fourth time.