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The Loch

Started: 2011-07-10 12:27:32

Submitted: 2011-07-10 13:18:49

Visibility: World-readable

For the Fourth of July holiday weekend, Kiesa and I took Calvin hiking in our friendly neighborhood national park. (Every morning while driving to work I glance up at Longs Peak, smile, and wonder how many people can see their nearest national park from their house.) This being a holiday weekend, I expected the park to be packed, so I decided to take the hiker shuttle all the way from the Estes Park Visitor's Center to the shuttle parking lot inside the national park, and then take another shuttle to Glacier Gorge for our actual hiking. Calvin thought the bus ride was part of the adventure: he got to sit on our laps and look out the window at the scenery. We still had to wait through traffic in Estes Park and at the park entrance station but at least I didn't have to actually drive through it; I could sit back and apply sunscreen. Our second bus (from the shuttle parking lot to Glacier Gorge Junction) was far more crowded; I had to balance my large Calvin-carrying backpack on my lap in the back of the bus, but I did at least have a seat.

Carrying Calvin on my back was only enough to slow me down so that Kiesa could keep up with me. (Calvin doesn't weigh more than 30 pounds, and while backpacking three years ago I routinely carried 50 to 60 pounds in my pack, a third of my body weight at the time.) The trail was packed with flatland tourists as far as Alberta Falls, then thinned out to a more manageable level. Calvin wanted to walk some of the way, often holding my hand for balance, which did slow me down enough that the flatland tourists caught up with me. For a toddler, the well-maintained class 1 trail turned into a major class 3 scramble.

Calvin returned to the backpack and fell asleep as we climbed the switchbacks into Loch Vale. I picked my destination carefully, using the national park's trail condition reports and my own observations from the previous day. The trailhead at Glacier Gorge Junction is around 9000 feet, and our destination for the day, The Loch, is around 10,000 feet, which seems to be the snow line for this part of Colorado in early July this year. (In an ordinary snow year the snow line would be around 10,000 feet in early June.) We encountered one snowfield below the lake but the trail was otherwise mostly snow-free.

The Loch
The Loch

Calvin was still sleeping when we reached the lake, so I carefully put the backpack down and managed to keep Calvin from waking up while I enjoyed the view without the backpack.

Calvin sleeps in the backpack carrier at The Loch
Calvin sleeps in the backpack carrier at The Loch

We arrived at the lake around mid-afternoon, and I didn't want to stick around for too long given the relatively late hour (and the mosquitos that attempted to feed whenever the wind died down). We headed back and Calvin kept sleeping as we hiked. We took the climber's trail shortcut around the west side of the Glacier Knobs to avoid the crowds at Alberta Falls and saw a rabbit hopping through the woods. Calvin spotted the rabbit and immediately asked for more rabbit. I tried to explain that we couldn't just produce more rabbit on command. I pointed out that both the rabbit and the toy kangaroo he was carrying moved by hopping, and he spent much of the rest of the day making the kangaroo hop. (I picked up the kangaroo in Katoomba, New South Wales, Australia four years ago as a cat toy, and Calvin recently appropriated it for his own use.)

We took the busses back to the visitor's center, which took much longer than the hypothetical alternative of driving but did guarantee us a parking space. (Once again Calvin enjoyed the bus ride at least as much as the hike itself.) Back in Estes Park we braved the crowds to eat supper and returned home, just in time for Calvin's bedtime.