Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

Hiking the Bear Twice

Wednesday August 13, 2014
Glacier Basin Campground
Rocky Mountain National Park



After our morning hike to the three lakes, we spent the afternoon noodling around avoiding the press of humanity. We decide to try an evening hike and see if all the folks are tuckered out and have gone home.


We pick one of the easiest hikes in the park. The flat around the lake trail called appropriately, the Bear Lake Nature Trail. We are on the trail by about 7:30 and there is almost no one else there. Score!

BUT, we haven’t checked for sure about when the sun goes down and it gets too dark on us before we are finished.  Note to self:  6:45 would be better.

I have really liked this easy slow hike with no one else around and I decide to redo it in the morning EARLY since it is very very popular. It’s totally paved and handicapped accessible which is great given how lovely it is .   But that means nearly everyone who ever visits the East Side of RMNP hikes this with their families.


David would rather sleep in. So I am up and out the door at 5:30 and am able to catch a beautiful sunrise.. Love that!!  When I get there, there is just enough light to see by and about 6 cars in the parking lot.




The trail has 30 numbered stops around the perimeter and a “guide” which I have brought with me.  At stop # 1 I look at the map.  Too funny that it has the elevation gain.  When we hiked it last night, we thought there was no elevation gain.  Look at these numbers: 12%, 14% 16%.

I find there are two photographers who have gotten up earlier than I in order to get pictures in the beautiful early morning light.  I guess they do that but they never hike on around the trail.  I have it all to myself for nearly all of the time I am here.







Well, all to myself except for the critters that is.  Happy to share with them.  They are very quiet.



As I hike around the lake, the light changes and so do the views of the mountains.



I take a lake shot at each of the numbered stopping points.  I won’t expound on all the information but I do strongly suggest that you get the guide and take the hike very early the first morning you are here.  I learned a great deal about how the glaciers sculpted these mountains, about glacial moraines, the types of trees all around the lake, and the history of the area just to name a few.




I love how the colors of the clouds change with the morning light.  Look closely at the reflections in the water.  Each picture is taken from a slightly different view point.







I’m nearly half way around the lake when I come to this view and notice something moving just to the right of the rock outcropping across the lake.   I zoom in to take a look.



Here’s what I see looking back at me.  Look at those spots.




I watch for a while and then walk on around the easy path.  I notice that the sun has moved behind me.  I turn my back to the lake to take a shot of it when I hear the unmistakable sound of hooves clip clopping.   Having had horses, I know that sound.




I look up and she’s trotting across the bridge ahead of me. 




She’s plenty surprised when she rounds the corner and sees me.  I’ve stepped off the trail and backed up in case she should decide to run by.  But she doesn’t.  She stops and turns around, going back in the opposite direction.  I follow slowly and quietly.

There are two older fawns and a doe.  I spend at least 20 minutes just standing, watching and trying to get good shots of them as they move all over eating anything green that appeals.






Eventually, with mom leading the way they walk right by me.  I stand stock still not a foot from them.  The fawn turns and looks at me as they move away.





I walk on down the path and  am just across the bridge when I hear that sound again.   Here she comes.  Just as surprised to see me as the last time.  This time I’ve got the camera ready.







I step off the path again and watch her as she moves up and off the trail.  What I don’t know is that she’s on my right and mom has taken a short cut through the trees on my left.




I’m surrounded by elk and I’m between mom and the calf.   Not usually a good place to be.  But luckily mom isn’t worried about me at all or about the calf it doesn’t seem.  She’s interested in eats.




I move on down the trail and leave them to their breakfast.



I spend some time sitting in each of these spots watching the early morning activities of the birds and chipmunks.




The trail has numerous benches in really beautiful spots perfect for quiet contemplation if you come at the right time of day or the right time of year.



Finally I come to stop #30 which is the dignified 450 year old  Engelmann spruce which survived the 1900 fire.  A core sample taken from its trunk in 1959 revealed it to be more than 397 years old and that was 55 years ago.  Amazing that it survived the devastating fire, loggers’ saws during the lodge-building era, snow, wind and lightning storms.  What a venerable tree it is. 





As I leave the honorable spruce I can hear the groups of folks at the beginning of the trail talking.  Time for me to go.  It’s only 7:40 am as I drive away past the first bus dropping off the hikers.   I’ve had a wonderful solitary morning and will definitely do this again.




After breakfast and some chores, we head into Estes Park for David to get his monthly blood work done.  I wait in the car for him.  It’s raining.  I’m not much for medical establishments.  I read.  He comes out in due time.  Everything went fine.  The results won’t be back for at least a week. 

As a treat he decides to take himself out for an early dinner-late lunch.  He always checks Yelp and Trip Advisor wherever we go to see where is the best bakery, the best breakfast and the most highly rated restaurant.   You could definitely say David is a foodie.

This time he has found that rave reviews are given by everybody to a place called Smokin’ Dave’s BBQ and Taphouse.   BBQ and beer, couldn’t get much better in his mind.



And in the minds of a lot of other people too.  The place is totally full when we arrive and just after we are seated, a line forms out the door.




While we wait for our orders I look around and see this sign over the kitchen door, David Drive,  and a cute decoration on the wall.







Smokin’ Dave serves beef and pork, ribs and pulled, Carolina and Texas.  Whatever kind of BBQ you like, including St. Louis style ribs, you’ll find it here.   

We have the Carolina pulled pork BBQ with sweet potato fries.  Having eaten lots of sweet Carolina BBQ as part of our southern heritage, we both have to agree that this is the best Carolina BBQ outside of Carolina.  And the sweet potato fries also rate as the best we’ve ever had.  Dave’s a winner.   Give it a try when you get to Estes Park.  Oh, and the menu has some really dumb jokes at the bottom.



  1. John and I split a rack of ribs yesterday as we were passing through a tiny town in upper Missouri. Outstand bbq. Glad you found some for you. I have never heard of Carolina bbq. What is different about it?

  2. Wow, your pictures are gorgeous! You certainly did the right thing by going so early, beautiful lighting, no people and elk to boot, what a super hike. We definitely have to go here sometime in the near future but we'll go in the shoulder season when there aren't the big crowds.


  3. Wow, that early morning light really does make a difference! The lake was so still it reflected like a mirror and the colors were spectacular making for stunning pictures. Glad you did not wait for me to get out early.

  4. Another great tip about hiking early! Beautiful shots of a beautiful peaceful morning. Your first morning shot is stunning while the reflection shots are gravy!

  5. I sort of envy you the ability to get up and out the door early. . .definitely the best time of day, as your hike proved.

    We had Barbecue at that same place. . .being Texans, you know we are picky about our Q. . .it definitely passed muster. . .glad you are enjoying everything!

  6. I need to get out the door earlier!
    Great pics of the mom and little ones. They certainly mark the trails better than a lot we've been in recently, especially the grades! LOL

  7. That Red Neck RV, proves my point. The toilet is the most important part. I love pulled pork also, yummy.

  8. Love, Love, Love the early morning!!! Each one of those lake photos could be a postcard.

    What fun having such an up close and personal meeting with the elk doe and her fawns...AMAZING!!!

  9. Love the pictures. The light is really beautiful as it moves around in the morning making reflections in the glass-like surface of the lake. So neat to be surrounded by elk. Nice companions on the trail. BBQ and beer sound like a good treat after the not so fun doctor.

  10. The early bird gets the trail, the elk and good pictures. What a beautiful morning hike. Beer and BBQ afterwards- a perfect day.

  11. It's so nice of the elk to share their morning walk with you and us.
    We were without internet for a few days and busy to boot, but I went back in time to catch up on all your posts. I really appreciate the time and effort you put in on your blog. I know that we will never be able to enjoy such wonderful hikes together because of Gin's MS, so I want to thank you for taking us all along on your journey.

  12. Have done this trail once but need to erase those memories someday. LOL! It was snow packed and we had to be so conscious of each step that we totally missed the beauty of the trail. Not to mention the tourists in front of and behind us in flip flops. At least we had proper footwear, but in retrospect, we both wished we'd left it to enjoy another time. Can't imagine that you haven't done the Sprague Lake trail since it was so close to Glacier Basin, but if not, you must. And it also needs to be VERY early in the morning because it's beside a picnic area and everyone does it. Less than a mile (I think) and more of a nature trail than a hike, but absolutely beautiful. My favorite photo in all of RMNP (framed and hung in my office) was taken on that trail.

  13. That was such an amazing hike and to meet the elk made it even more special. I love the photos of the reflections on the lake. Early morning is really the best time.

    We have a Smokin Jim's BBQ here that people come from all over to go to. Unfortunately, he doesn't serve NC style bbq, but I like the kind with vinegar/cayenne base. Glad to see David got his reward for having his blood work done.

  14. Again, stunning scenery. Sherry, glad you are doing the very early morning hike... I would not be up for that but absolutely love the photos of the still, quiet, magnificent beauty you shared. The elk with her calf(s) were wonderful... especially that you could get that close and even smell them! I always smile to see David looking so healthy and enjoying food... I am think I am a foodie too... so I get it. So often those little unique places have the best food. We do live in a magnificent country, with such varying beauty from coast to coast. I love it all.

  15. You are making me ponder a stop there on the way to Kentucky next month! Great pictures. I have a tough time motivating real early, but am finding it works better most of the time.

  16. Glad that Cool Dave (my brother) found Smokin Dave's and had a great meal! Great pictures - we still are looking forward to a visit to that part of the country - your blogs will be a graet guide. Thanks

  17. Those lake reflection shots look like postcards, absolutely stunning! What wonderful elk encounters you had. When I started reading I thought you might see bear out there almost all by yourself. Early morning on a usually crowded trail is when Hans and I saw bear in Glacier (Avalanche Lake). Of course, the critters in National Parks don't necessarily seem to care if it's busy or quiet...they go where they want to go, when they want to go!

  18. What a special time with that elk family, no one could appreciate it more than you. Thank goodness for your camera to preserve that special moment in nature.

    I guess there are some things in life worth getting up early for! ;c)

  19. What a beautiful trail, and the reflections are stunning. I'm more used to deer and moose than elk, but the behaviour of the animals is similar. I'm sure the mother saw you as no threat at all to pass by; it helps that you were quiet. I'd imagine they make extensive use of the trails.

  20. Even when I am up early I don't often get out hiking. The light is so different in the early part of the day and your got some wonderful pictures. I'd agree with David that BBQ and Beer is a perfect combination.

  21. Your photos are gorgeous! Warm greetings from Montreal, Canada.

  22. Up with the photographers and you got some awesome shots here. The light and reflections are stunning. What a thrill to have the wildlife so close and calm. And that giant spruce is a magnificent old ent. You certainly earned that big Smokin' Dave's meal.

  23. Out running errands yesterday and almost missed this post which would have been a huge loss! The last lake shot before the elk is my new desktop pic. Absolutely breathtaking - it was hard to choose a favorite :-). The elk know a kindred spirit when they feel it , glad to share their morning foraging with you. Since retiring, morning is my favorite time of day. It's like being introduced to another world that has been there the whole time. Our ravens and squirrels seem to "whisper" in the early hours.

  24. I'd say you were lucky to see elk, but I'm sure it's because you were up at dawn. Dawn and dusk are the best times to see wildlife. I'm still catching up on blog reading (what else is new). I have a good excuse, though. Rick, our computer GARU has been helping me in my effort to recover data on an external hard drive. I am amazed at his knowledge.

    I can hear the water and smell the aroma of your surroundings just from your picture and words.

  25. What an awesome encounter with the elk family. I might even get up for that:)

    David picked a winner for dinner. We ate there also.

  26. Your early morning adventures are inspiring -- I might just have to reform my leisurely morning ways. It's a miracle if we get out the door by 9:00 a.m. :-) Wonderful photos of the elk!!

  27. I love love love the photo of the elk fawn standing on the walkway looking back at you! The trees are amazing! I am a big fan of evergreens. So nice that you were able to have a quiet peaceful hike. Had there been lots of noisy people, you'd never have been able to hang out with the elk. How special was that! Beautiful scenery-keep having fun! XXXOOO


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