The high country continues to pick up more and more moisture. The view from my classroom is gorgeous with a great perspective of Longs Peak as well as the Indian Peaks Wilderness. Looking towards the mountains always reminds me of my mostly weekend adventures. In fact, a week ago from this past Saturday I took a pretty cool hike (actually it was freezing), and also saw my first Colorado moose (and second).
The destination was Lake Isabelle and on the way we would also pass Long Lake. Driving up from the high plains was an adventure. A new route kept things interesting, but the frosty coating on the trees had me driving carefully in case some of the ice had formed on the road as well. The new frosty coat became much heavier as we ascended to Brainard Lake from the Peak-to-Peak highway.
Brainard Lake looked mysterious in the fog, reminding me of the foggy days I've experienced so often in Tennessee. I'm going out on a limb here and guessing I won't see as much fog here in Colorado but time will only tell.
Interestingly, as we hiked further upwards, the clouds thinned and so did the ice on the trees. Upslope flow was keeping the clouds entrenched against the mountains, but at the very top, downsloping flow was keeping the clouds evaporating and the views spectacular. The moist air was constantly flowing up the valley towards us creating some very interesting clouds that would blow this way and that before vanishing into thin air (Really, it was thin. We were huffing and puffing our way along...).
Long Lake was still firmly socked in with fog providing some great photo opportunities. After freezing ourselves in an attempt to take pictures of the ghostly scene, we quickly put gloves and hats back on and commenced hiking in earnest.
Watching for moose, we progressed up the valley, occasionally wondering why we were apparently the only people dedicated enough (or is it crazy?) to be out hiking on this day. We finally crested the last rise and our destination lay before us. The glaciers above the lake had a fresh coat of snow, covering the dirty color they had taken on over the summer.
Unfortunately the wind picked up abruptly in this high alpine environment. Even with the layers we wore it was chilly. A few pictures later, we were on our way back down into the relative calm amongst the trees.
We found that Long Lake was now much more visible although moisture was still flowing in thin wispy clouds towards the high peaks. The scenery provided a new perspective so the cameras came back out and were pressed into service documenting this new mood of the high country.
I discovered brook trout spawning in the stream below the lake and enjoyed watching them. They were just a bit too spooky for good photography although I was tempted to attempt some video. In the end, the car's heater was just a little more inviting.
Slowly descending the road to Brainard Lake, we again discussed how nice it would be to see a moose. I also was thinking about the snowshoe hares and suggested how it would be nice to see one of those also. Driving slowly past the lake, nothing showed itself and we were already starting to talk about what we should do for supper when we made it back to town. My focus thus broken, I was thoroughly shocked when something approaching the size of a barn bolted mere feet from my car.
Scaring my friend Catherine, I managed to get the car stopped without wrecking in excitement. The apparently giant moose was actually the smaller of the two. Mom was a few yards away and once both calmed down (along with my own nerves), we got some pictures. The low light and fog meant the pictures were not as crisp as they could have been but of course, the foggy day was the perfect setting for seeing our first moose!!!
Oh yeah, we saw our snowshoe hares also. Lots and lots of them. They seemed to be running all over on the way out. I guess they all got hungry at once and were out having supper...