Last Saturday, November 21st, Indiana got its first snowfall of the 2015-2016 winter season, a month ahead of its official kickoff. Three weeks earlier, I drove my wife up the side of a Colorado mountain just so she could throw a snowball.
Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:
Each year my wife and I take a road trip to a different part of the United States and see what sorts of historical landmarks, natural wonders, man-made oddities, unexplored restaurants, and cautionary tales await us. From November 1-6, 2015, we racked up a number of personal firsts. My wife Anne was invited on her first business trip to Colorado Springs, all expenses paid from flight to food to lodging to rental car, to assist with cross-training at a distant affiliate. Her supervisor gave me permission to attend as her personal travel companion as long as I bought my own plane ticket and food. I posted one photo for each of the six days while we were on location. With this series, we delve into selections from the 500+ other photos we took along the way.
If you take the next left after entering Rocky Mountain National Park via U.S. 36, the next ten miles of scenic winding road take you upward and onward to Bear Lake, sitting pretty at an elevation of 9,450 feet. To us lowlanders it might as well have been outer space. Up in the much thinner air, dehydration and lightheadedness will lay low the unprepared traveler and cut short any attempts at exploration. We made the most of the area while we could.
First thing we noticed as we neared the endpoint: snow! Our previous mountain encounters — the Rockies as well as the Appalachians — were disappointing parades of browns and greens, which we can see back home in any given interstate forest. This particular trip was our first time encountering actual mountaintop snow — both from a panoramic distance and up close and personal.
Not every square inch was covered. Browns and greens are inescapable, even on giant intimidating rocks that probably deserve at least a tiny snow-cap to call their own. It’s not their fault they’re not full-fledged mountains.
Bear Lake Road ends in a proper parking lot for convenient Bear Lake access. It has the same amenities as any other state park, except the restrooms had no water fountains outside. But there are paved paths leading to the closest trails, including one that circumnavigates the lake itself. Lots of signs educate any visitors who need practical advice and/or who don’t notice the slippery ice in their way.
Not far from the lot, Bear Lake looms large and looks like wall hangings brought to life.
…and of course, certain parties like to take photos of their spouses for safekeeping, future treasuring, and social media profile options. Also, all that natural majesty their spouse is blocking.
After a few minutes of climbing the parking lot’s incline and wandering the first couple hundred feet, all coming on the heels of our previous ten miles and two entries’ worth of Rocky Mountains, we came to the same conclusion: buying only a single bottled water for each of us was stupid and shortsighted and not nearly enough. I’d love to say we strolled the entire perimeter of Bear Lake and saw the greatest, cutest mountain animals of all time, but we were both out of water and feeling enough discomfort by this point that we knew we needed to call it a day and begin the winding, ten-mile scenic retreat back to civilization and supplies. Not to mention that our hotel room in Colorado Springs would now be ready for check-in.
But first: YAY SNOW!
…and then we fled downward to safety so the thin air would stop hurting our brains.
To be continued!
[Link enclosed here to handy checklist for previous and future chapters, and for our complete road trip history to date. Thanks for reading!]