This was a glorious, glorious day.
Because of the various time changes and time zones, we were awake at 4:30 am--and when you're awake that early, why on earth WOULDN'T you go watch the sunrise?
My original hope had been a sunrise hike to Sprague Lake--but I was pretty sure my mom couldn't handle that, and it was honestly so dang cold that I was not sure how pleasant it would be. This ended up being the coldest day of our trip. So, we drove into the park while it was dark, slowly winding our way up the roads. They started off clear but as the elevation crept up, they acquired more snow and ice. I felt fine and comfortable, but my mom was really freaked out by the roads, which was endless amusing to me--we are both originally from Buffalo! Come on, now!
At some point, heading up to Bear Lake, the sun hit the top of Hallett Peak and its surrounding peaks. We pulled off to the side and just watched the sun travel down, lighting up everything in orange and pink. The wind was whipping the snow over the mountains in such a way as to make it look like someone was pulling a translucent sheet over them, all rosy with the sun's glow.
We made it to Bear Lake, and the parking lot was basically empty--and icy. We scooted over to the Bear Lake trail head, poles at the ready, and made our way around the lake. It's a short, flat hike, but oh damn was it COLD. the wind would whip across the ice and throw its daggers into your face. The beauty was unreal though--in many spots, we were the first people to cut a trail through the snow. The sun was just now starting to hit the lake and dance through the trees, and it was silent and lovely and empty.
We scurried back to the car to warm up and eat a bagel, and drink some hot tea from a thermos I packed. This time, we strapped on microspikes, and headed out on to the Alberta Falls Trail. It was packed with snow and we were clearly the first people of the day on it. We traveled down the trail for about a mile, before my mom decided that she wanted to head back. So, we didn't get to see the falls, but we did have a nice two mile hike there. It was a really beautiful trail, packed with snow and silent, with pines towering overhead and glimpses of the glacier canyon beyond. Throughout this trip, I really encouraged her to just say when she was ready to head back--I didn't want to get in over her head and her abilities. So back we went to the car to warm up, and to head to Sprague Lake.
Sprague Lake was so beautiful and possibly the coldest place of it all. It's so open and lovely, but that wind whips off the mountain with nothing to block it and just slams into you. The lake was frozen over, and in some spots, probably frozen enough to walk on, though we wisely decided not to test it yet. Around we went, marveling at the gorgeous views and how rapidly winter was closing in on the mountains.
After a quick drive around Moraine Park--just so that I could show my mom where we were going to hike tomorrow--we headed back to our cabin for soup. We ate some food and slurped some soup and hot chocolate, warming up and relaxing.
Because we are gluttons for cold punishment, we drove over to Lilly Lake. The flat path around the lake seemed ideal for Mom, plus it's got some great mountain views of Twin Sisters. So around we trundled, all bundled up, stopping for pictures and to throw ice onto the iced over lake and to sit on the benches and admire the view. I took far too many pictures of Twin Sisters and promised them I'd be back to see them specifically.
We headed back into town to pop in a few shops and browse. Mom found a taffy shop and bought salt water taffy--then we ordered barbeque from a restaurant and grabbed it as take out. We brought our glorious BBQ back to the cabin and ate like we were feral wolves, and watched The Bodyguard.
At some point, we realized how dark it was, and decided to drive to the end of the road and look at the stars. It's so incredibly dark that you can see the spiral arm of the Milky Way with your eyes.
I think we slept like rocks, exhausted from all the walking and hiking.