Monday, October 27, 2014

Maroon Bells & Crater Lake

Maroon Bells...the most photographed mountains in Colorado.  I can understand why.  It is easy to get to, there is a lake which offers a nice reflection and well, you have the mountain, what more does a person what to capture the essence of the moment?

During peak time, you must park your car in the parking area and take the bus up to Maroon Bells...I was there midweek in late September and was able to drive up.  The fee for driving in is $10, but I had the America the Beautiful National Park / Recreation Pass so I didn't have to pay.  The drive up to the parking lot was pretty, with the Aspens changing - even with it drizzling.  I was happy to be driving slow at the speed limit to take it all in.  The parking lot was quite full, I found a spot, but they had rangers telling people where to park to make the most of the room.  There are also two sets of restroom facilities.

Maroon Lake & Maroon Bells
From the parking lot to Maroon Bells was a very short walk.  There were so many people all around the lake taking pictures.  I snuck between a few people and grabbed a few shots.  It was drizzling and very cloudy, so I figured I'd walk around and maybe it would clear up before I got back to Maroon Lake.

Start of the trail
I continued around the lake on the path and saw a sign for a trail.  OK, so I didn't read the map that the lady in the fee collection area gave me yet.  I figured, sure why not, it is cloudy and rainy...why not take a walk.  Many people didn't leave the lake - but just seeing the Maroon Bells wasn't enough for me, I wanted to take advantage of the area now that I was here.  The trail started off as a dirt trail among the trees and it gained elevation.  I had to stop several times to catch my breath.

You will reach a clearing that overlooks the lake from the opposite side.  Many people only hiked to this area and did not continue up to crater lake.  The view was beautiful from this angle too.

Trail gets rocky
The dirt/small rock path continues up and then starts changing to a rocky path for a good portion of rest of the way to the lake.  As it just rained, part of this trail was very muddy.

Crater Lake was pretty.  It started to hail.  I spent maybe 10 minutes resting, had a quick snack and taking pictures of other people.

Crater Lake
Then I headed back down the same way I went up.  Of course going down is faster, but with the rain and hail and slick leaves, I kept a cautionary pace (don't want to fall or sprain an ankle when you are by yourself). There were a few people on the trail going up and going down.

When I got back to the Maroon Bells viewing area, it really cleared out....and it was also much more foggy and cloudy that the few pictures I took - I realized where much worse than earlier - with the top half barely visible.

I had my tripod in the car...I could have spent the time taking nicer pictures at the beginning...but I didn't want to carry it up the hike...and I am glad I didn't because my round trip hike was 3.6 miles round trip, gaining about 500 feet elevation (it seemed like more!).  Carrying water, a few jackets, 2 cameras and a few snacks was plenty for me.  And I did change my jackets a few times because the weather changed so quickly.

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