Today’s destination was Bear Lake, one of Rocky Mountain National Park’s most iconic spots. The alpine lake was formed by 500-foot-thick ice between 15,000 and 30,000 years ago.
Flanked by the 12,720-foot Hallett Peak and the Continental Divide, Bear Lake sits at an elevation of 9,450 feet, providing a breathtaking view of Longs Peak, one of 96 “fourteeners” in the contiguous United States, which is also featured on the Colorado state quarter.
We embarked upon the half-mile “nature trail” around the lakeshore, which claimed to be accessible to visitors in wheelchairs. As it turns out, we helped make the often inaccessible trail more accessible to a Viet Nam vet and his family by helping lift his chair over muddy terrain, pushing it up steep inclines, and slowing its descent before it went plunging into the lake.
The poor guy was accompanied by two women who were determined to get him around the nature trail on their own, but they finally acknowledged that it was going to take a team to get him back to base.
Although inconvenienced by the lack of adequate parking (we had to double back to the park-n-ride to catch the shuttle), we were nonetheless impressed by the sheer diversity of visitors to the park. People from every state in the nation and every nation on earth visit the park annually, proving that “America’s best idea” can’t be so easily undone by a tweet or a twit.
We ended the day with a return to Morraine Park, near the east entrance, for stargazing. Who knew the park never closed!
A few lessons we learned along the way that are worth sharing:
- Never underestimate the ability of a mom pushing a stroller or an elderly sister pushing a wheelchair to traverse difficult terrain in the quest to see the sights.
- Children love to count. And they count everything. They count steps; they count benches; they count people–they count anything that can be counted. And they count out loud. So everyone can hear.
- Signs telling people to not feed the wildlife are as effective as signs telling people not to approach wildlife or not to leave the trail. People will approach and feed the wildlife and leave the trail, regardless of what the sign says.