RMNP 1 of 5: Odessa Loop

This is the first in a series of five posts about my trip to Rocky Mountain National Park back in August. I anticipated writing detailed posts, but I left my hiking journal at Hillsdale. I will try to recall my hikes from memory, but I will have to rely mostly on photos. I don’t remember the exact milages for each hike, but I do remember the approximate route. I will do my best. If you want a reference to the places I am referring to, consult this map (PDF).

Click on the photos to view them at a larger size.

The Staffords (Ben, Mrs. Stafford, and Mr. Stafford) near Lake Helene:

The Stafford family was very gracious in inviting me to join them for a week-long hiking trip in Rocky Mountain National Park. We all stayed in a cabin just outside of Estes Park proper and drove in to the park early each morning.

The first day we started at the Bear Lake trailhead around 7:30 a.m. We caught the Fern Lake Trail off of the Bear Lake Trail just north of Bear Lake and made our way west and north towards Odessa Lake.

I paused shortly after Bear Lake as the trail climbed quickly upward to snap a photo of the morning light illuminating some leaves (click the photo for a larger view):

We climbed up a little ways to Lake Helene. Here is the edge of Helene with Notchtop Mountain in the distance:

Continuing on past Helene, we went through a pass on the north side of Joe Mills Mountain. This was our highest altitude of that day, at around 10,500 ft. Once while looking down over the valley I saw a massive bull elk making his way through the pines! Thankfully I did not experience any altitude sickness of any kind. I had plenty of water and I kept well hydrated.

Here are the Staffords looking down on Odessa Lake from the trail on the north side of Joe Mills Mountain:

Looking back at Notchtop from the same place:

Once we got down to Odessa Lake we ate lunch. It was a little chilly, but the sun felt wonderful. I hiked in an athletic polo and hiking shorts most of the day.

Odessa Lake:

After lunch, we continued down to Fern Lake and rested there for a little while. We didn’t want to push ourselves too hard on the first day. I kicked back and watched some trout swim around in the cold mountain lake water.

A glacial deposit just above Fern Lake:

Afterwards we went on to Marguerite Falls, Fern Falls, and The Pool. Throughout the day we saw ptarmigan, marmot, pika, and elk! It was a great hike. I think it was approximately 7±1 miles, but I am not 100% sure. (I have it written down in my hiking journal up in Hillsdale.)

Next: Glacier Gorge area

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