As we were getting ready to figure out what we would be doing after lunch, an email came from Kyle Patterson (as she is our dependable source of all breaking news in Rocky Mountain National Park). “All trail and area closures related to the Fern Lake Fire in Rocky Mountain National Park have been lifted.” WOW! We both said at the same time.
It is not the best time (around 1:00pm) to start a hike on the Cub Lake Trail, especially on the first day of winter, which is the shortest amount of daylight of the year. It is because the sun is in the lowest part of the sky and at about 2:00pm, the sun goes behind the ridge and the Cub Lake Trail becomes mighty dark really early.
It was 12:30pm and by the time we went home and put on our gear and drove to the Cub Lake Trail, the soonest we would arrive would be 1:00pm and that is being really optimistic at best.
So off we went, got our gear and start driving into Rocky Mountain National Park. First problem, a really slow car in front of us on the way to RMNP (probably didn’t know where they were going?). Finally, they pulled into a road while another car pulled right in front of us. The new car was definitely driving into RMNP… and they were not going to miss any of the sights. Oh well, another slow car. Finally they pulled into the area, which we call chippy rock (overlooking Horseshoe Park). But ahead of us were another 5 cars that were from out of state and they didn’t have any experience driving on the icy roads. Slow but steady. We were never going to start at 1:00pm today and that is why we always start out really early in the AM to hike. No traffic on the roads.
Finally, we arrived at the Cub Lake Trail head, parked the car and noticed all the soot in the snow in the parking area. But the entrance to the trail head looked the same. It was a familiar beginning.
As we started walking, we were anticipating being the first footsteps on the trail. Disappointment! We were the second set of footprints! Oh Well. We knew that the conditions on the trail would probably be very deep drifting snow as well as barren trail. That is why we just wore our gators and didn’t bother putting on our snowshoes as there probably would a lot of places that you would have to take the snowshoes off. And we were right. As we went down the last drop to the floor of Moraine Park, low and behold! The first set of footprints had just turned around and returned. The snow was way too deep for that hiker! I guess now we can say we were the first to go this far on the Cub Lake Trail! Hooray. We had driven down the road toward the Cub Lake Trail and photographed that section of Moraine Park during the Fern Lake Fire, so what we saw from the Cub Lake Trail didn’t surprise us until we turned the corner and headed up toward where the Marmots sun themselves on the rocks. The fire had come directly down the Cub Lake Trail for sure. Were the Marmots in hibernation even aware that the fire burned right over their homes?
It was as far as our eyes could see (and we are not certain how far the fire burnt but the main trail was absolutely fine as the fire had stayed to the left of the trail). At that moment, the sun went down in back of the ridge and all the land in front of us turned dark. We could only proceed another 30 minutes or so. How far did the fire come down the Cub Lake Trail? We are not sure and that is to be discovered at another time and on another hike.
We had seen an old friend that had faced troubling circumstances and we didn’t know how we would react. The friend was the same and had the same feelings as before. It will just take a bit while to heal from this troubling circumstance. But we are sure that our old friend will be the same real soon. It’s good to see our friend return. Welcome back.