Have you ever set out on an adventure and got more than you bargained for, but in a good way? That happened to me on our hiking trip to Twin Owls, a loop hike in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Ward and I left Fort Collins at eight in the morning and traveled to Estes Park, Colorado. With smiles on our faces and moleskin on our heels we set out on what we thought was a long but moderate adventure. Well ha, it turned out to be a challenging 15.1-mile hike. Even though, I was well aware of a slight burn in my legs throughout most of the day the scenery was spectacular. Tall, strong aspen groves, majestic ponderosa, and wild roses were some of the sights we were treated to on this nine hour hike. The adventure was awesome; I have to share it with you.
Ward is co-authoring two pocket guidebooks of must-hike trails in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Naturally, The Twin Owls Loop was one of the trails that made the list. There are two Trailheads to choose from. We started at Lumpy Ridge Trailhead, but if you go just a bit north you can also access the trail from McGraw Ranch Trailhead.
Our first stop along the way was Gem Lake. The lake was clear, placid, and beautiful. The sun glinted off the calm water, and everything was so peaceful. I could have spent the whole day basking in the sun.
As we were huffing and puffing up the very vertical trail, Ward and I met a gentleman nicknamed El. After we caught our breath and introductions were made, El told us he was from Omaha, Nebraska, and was staying in Estes Park so he could hike some trails in RMNP. When Ward asked him his age he said, “I’m in my seventies, and I plan on doing this for another 10 years.” Hearing that come from El was an inspiration. El also talked about a few hikes on the top of his bucket list. One he was most adamant about was the El Camino de Santiago in Spain. He mentioned his son’s interest for this walk had increased since he had seen the movie, The Way. We were happy to tell him that every September Walking The World travels to Spain and hosts this spectacular walking tour.
El was kind enough to let us take a picture of him. If you didn’t know that’s me on the left and El on the right.
After Gem Lake the trail was gentle and took us through a gorgeous forest interspersed here and there with patches of meadow. There was so much to see! Stunning aspen groves, huge golden ponderosa pine trees, wild roses, raspberries, and much to my surprise, two snakes!
When we reached the trailhead for Bridal Veil Falls, which is a side trail from the main Twin Owls Loop we took a rest in the shade, ate, and drank plenty of water. The secret to staying happy on the trail is to Eat Eat Eat and Drink Drink Drink. I went further and coined the new phrase Eat Eat Eat, Drink Drink Drink, and Walk Walk Walk. Readers – remember this phrase when I become rich and famous!
You can read more about drinking (water that is) in Ward’s free e-book, The Dayhiker’s Guide to Adventure Travel. We would like you to have a copy of Ward’s free e-book. Simply visit our website at www.walkingtheworld.com, click on the Facebook link, and “like us.” You will be able to download it instantly.
So, back to Bridal Veil Falls. Ward and I decided to stow our packs and only take our water bottles up to the top of the falls. The hike was only 1.2 miles up to the falls for a round trip of 2.4 miles. The trail was very steep, and I tried to keep up with Ward’s long legs. The higher we went the more smiling faces we saw. Everyone remarked on the beauty of the falls and that it was, “well worth the hike.” Panting and red faced, I clung to these words of encouragement.
As we came closer to our goal I could not help but enjoy my gorgeous surroundings! The vegetation was incredibly dense and the trees grew impossibly close. A bubbling crick made me pause; I longed to rip off my boots and submerge my feet! I kept pushing on, and was rewarded at the top with a fabulous view of water gushing over a rocky ledge.
Bridal Veil falls impressed me. As I stood in awe of the falls, cool mist rolled off and stuck to my skin. I have a small fear of heights, but with a little encouragement, Ward got me to ascend another twenty or so feet. I was rewarded with a view of Rocky Mountain National Park that would just not stop. All I could see for ages was wilderness “untrammeled” by man.
Back at the trail junction of Bridal Veil Falls, we made the decision to finish the loop rather than return the way we came.
The next section of the trail showcased beautifully old aspen huddled together in the dark forest by the trail. The trail was suitably named Dark Mountain Trail. This 1.7 stretch was the most challenging section of The Twin Owls Loop. It was incredibly uphill with little downhill reprieve. The quiet that surrounded us was like a thick wool blanket. If we stopped, nothing could be heard except for our own heavy breathing. At the crest of one hill, the sight of a doe and her fawn pleasantly surprised us.
Thankfully, the rest of the trail was downhill from there! The remaining 3.8 miles, now called the Black Canyon Trail, were either downhill or flat. At this point my feet were beyond hurting. This section offered a rolling landscape and some sprawling private property (lucky them).
The rock formation that surprisingly enough looked like Twin Owls rose out of the rock on the left side of the trail. With these two sentinels by our side, we finished the last half-mile of the trail. Ward caught his second wind, and I chose to trail ten feet behind him.
As we walked toward the car I drug my feet like my boots were made of iron. I gratefully tugged off my boots and sat back basking in self-accomplishment. I had just hiked 15.1 miles – I was pretty dang proud of myself! In the end the adventure was great, and the bargain was well worth the effort.
Walking The World
Marketa Jancar has been interning with Walking The World since July 2012. She attended college at Colorado State University, and loves hiking and swimming.