Unfortunately, I did not sleep well last night and so had a bit of a rough time getting up–but we still got out of bed around 7 and out of the hotel around 8:00, to get an early start on hiking in what looked like it would be slightly variable weather. This time, we headed into another direction from Trail Ridge Road once we got to the National Park–down the road that ends at Bear Lake. This one is much shorter and has very few stops and pull-outs, so we drove right up to the end, where it was quite busy even before 9 in the morning. There are some very short and (because of less high altitude) not very strenuous hikes going off from Bear Lake, and so a lot of people with young kids and also elderly hikers are around. We first went around Bear Lake, which was unspectacular, and then decided to hike to three lakes in sequence, each about 0.6 miles from the next–Nymph, Dream, and Emerald. That was really fun. Emerald Lake is right beneath these massive granite rock walls (one side is Flat Top, I am not sure what the other mountainside is), and so we got to see the structures quite close up). The lake was very pretty and there were even some totally cute chipmunks for entertainment–a mom that had clearly had enough of the steady tourist traffic and hauled her almost grown babies by the neck to a new home. It looked too funny; we watched her yank two of them into safety. 🙂
After we returned from this not-very-strenuous but nice hike, we had another picnic lunch in the parking lot, and decided to go down one other trail, and that turned out to be really worth it. It led to the Alberta Falls, again only a mile away, plus probably another half-mile further up the rocks along the falls. It was absolutely gorgeous, with the rushing water masses and the huge boulders, and very adventurous, because we couldn’t see very far ahead of us how this river would be running and where the next set of falls and boulders would be. On the way down, we took the path rather than to opt for more rock climbing, and since it was all downhill, it was pretty quick. Instead of going back to the Bear Lake parking lot, we branched off to the Glacier Gorge parking lot and caught the shuttle back up. On our way down from the falls, we had heard quite a bit of distant thunder and it looked like it would rain, but we actually made it all the way to our car up at Bear Lake before the first real drops began to fall, and then drove back to the hotel in the pouring rain, while seeing some of the mountains in the sunshine. Fun!
It was only about 2:30 pm when we got home, but we were pretty shot after our 6 or so miles, and took a bit of a nap, and generally rested up a bit. Around 5:30, we took off to find ourselves some dinner in town. For the record, I officially “yelled” at Mark for the first time because I had suggested one place to park and he tried for another, already packed place, so that we spent extra time finding parking. He didn’t “yell” back, so we still haven’t had our first-ever fight, but we had a good laugh at how silly it was and how stressed out I got about the extra two minutes of driving around to get to an empty parking lot). We followed my niece Nicki’s recommendation for Mama Rose’s, an Italian place that turned out to have delicious food that we both liked very well. We then got ice cream at another of the gazillion ice cream places, but we thought it was really a much bigger portion than we wanted, so we probably won’t try another tomorrow. We walked around a little more in downtown Estes between rain showers, mostly along the riverbank, and also drove by the famous Stanley hotel (“inspired” Stephen King’s The Shining , and features dumb ghost tours–just the kind of touristy crap I cannot stand). Then we picked up some groceries for the next picnic lunches, and went home to wrap up the evening. This is the third day of a big 5-day rodeo, and we hear excited shouting and screaming through our hotel room windows for our auditory entertainment.