The weather was a bit threatening when I left for the mountains, but I really didn’t care. I needed some time with nature, and my out-of-shape body needed to pound some miles at a higher altitude.
The trailhead for the Sandbeach Lake Trail was dry, and the parking lot was empty when I arrived. The trail starts at about 8,312′ and immediately begins to climb upward. I quickly hit the trail and began pounding out the first mile or so. The sky was overcast, but didn’t seem to threatening, at least at lower elevations.
It was amazingly peaceful, and I quickly began to decompress. A few days before, I had the good fortune of hiking to Calypso Cascades and getting some great pictures of some Steller’s Jays. While it is always fantastic to see any wildlife, I didn’t expected to see much on this hike. Then, right in front of me on the trail was a dusky grouse.
While I am not very knowable about bird behavior, it certainly seemed as if he was trying to lead me away from something. Either that, or maybe he thought I was kind of cute too, and he was showing off for me. He would walk up the trail about thirty or forty feet and then stop. Once I got within about fifteen or twenty feet, he would take off walking again. We did this for about fifty yards, then he cut back into the woods and was gone.
After about two miles and 1,000′ of elevation gain, the snowpack was beginning to melt, and was making the trail very muddy in places.
It wasn’t long before I was at a slightly higher elevation, and the snow was still deep enough to cover the trail. While the trail is mostly marked in the trees with small colored markers, the best path is usually the path that has been packed down. My crampons came out, and my rate began to slow.
After going another mile, I came to the small footbridge that crosses Hunters Creek. The bridge was one small casualty of last year’s flooding.
Fortunately, the snow had created a natural bridge only a few feet away.
I crossed the snow bridge and continued heading toward Sandbeach Lake. Hiking on packed snow can be a real challenge at times, especially in the spring. Once the snow begins to melt, you are more likely to take a step, thinking that the packed snow will hold your weight. Then suddenly, you drop through. Hikers call this postholing, and it adds to the over additional exertion that hiking in the snow requires.
After about three hours and fifteen minutes, I finally arrived at Sandbeach Lake, some four and a half miles from the trailhead. The lake sits at 10,283′ above sea level, and was complete engulfed in the clouds. It was an absolutely awe-inspiring sensation when the lake came into view.
Sandbeach Lake in Winter – Sitting in the Clouds
I headed out to the small peninsula that juts out into the lake for a well-deserved break and lunch. While the temperature was only slightly above freezing, there was little wind, and I felt comfortable in a t-shirt and light fleece jacket.
On the Peninsula on Sandbeach Lake
The trek down the mountain always goes faster than the hike up. I left the lake, with the weather deteriorating. In typical Colorado fashion, the weather was completely varied as I headed down – everything from snow to rain to sunshine.
A Meadow Turned into a Pond from the Snowmelt
Completely exhausted, with multiple places cramping in my legs, I crawled into my truck and headed back to “civilization.” I am blessed and fortunate to be so close to Rocky Mountain National Park, one of the most beautiful places on Earth.
Please feel free to visit my Flickr Album from this hike, by clicking HERE.