Sunday, October 25, 2015

Twin Owls Loop - Rocky Mountain NP

Rocky Mountain National Park is about an hour and a half from Denver. It is 415 square miles in size, located in the Front Range between Grand Lake and Estes Park. The park straddles the Continental Divide, with towering mountains like Longs Peak rising above fantastic glacial valleys, mountain lakes, green meadows, and aspen woodlands.

Black Lake (lower center) from Longs Peak

 I've hiked many miles through RMNP over the last few years and before 2015 I had camped there twice, in the Moraine Park Campground - along with a hundred other people. However, in the spring and summer of 2015 I hiked over 155 miles in the park and camped three times in the backcountry, by myself (scary).

Longs Peak from my campsite at the Boulderfield

I prefer to hike and camp with other people but this summer I ended up going solo more often than not. Since my car is a piece of poo, I usually get a rental car to drive into the mountains or over to Utah, but cars can be expensive on longer trips with many gas tank refills. Consequently most of my trips this summer were short and close by. Luckily, I have one very beautiful national park just a short drive away.

  Finch Lake in Wild Basin of RMNP

I made it a goal to hike to every named lake that is accessible by an established trail in RMNP, so most of my trips in the park this summer were to various lakes. For this post, I will show my most recent adventure in RMNP - Twin Owls Loop, including Gem Lake. 

The elevation profile at the bottom of the map only represents the red half of the hike. The yellow half of the trail shows how far I got before the batteries in the GPS died and needed to be replaced. More on that when I review my D-Tour GPS device. 

This hike was a 14 mile long loop around Lumpy Ridge which included the iconic rock structures called the Twin Owls. At the midpoint of the loop there was a 1 mile side trip option to Bridal Veil Falls which I elected to do. Below is the Twin Owls Loop entry from my hiking log.

Bridal Veil Falls

10 October 2015

Today I went up to the Lumpy Ridge Trailhead in RMNP and did the Twin Owls loop. The rock formations making up Lumpy Ridge are strangely shaped and reminiscent of the squashed granite formations in the Lost Creek wilderness. The Lumpy Ridge granite is closer to grayish white and seems to erode differently than the orange Lost Creek granite, forming a lot more cracks and large domes, cones and spires.
The hike started on the side of a long meadow that afforded a beautiful view of Longs Peak, the highest point in the backbone of the park. I took the clockwise direction around the loop, walking west past the front of Lumpy Ridge beneath rock formations such as the Book, and the Pear, Sundance, and of course the Twin Owls before winding up and around the mountain through Black Canyon to the north side of the ridge. From there I made a side trip up to Bridal Veil Falls, which were cool but not particularly dramatic under an overcast sky. Maybe it would be better in the spring when there are less dead leaves and more water is flowing. I went back down to the Cow Creek trail and followed that all the way to the east end of the ridge and then up on top of the ridge where I traversed along it until reaching Gem Lake. The lake was lovely and shallow, tucked into an eroded amphitheater of granite. I saw it had no inlet or outlet, but instead is sustained by snowmelt and rainfall. It was close to dusk so the lake looked mostly black but I imagine on a sunny morning it would look clear and beautiful. From there I hiked what felt like a very short distance back down off the ridge to the trailhead.

Gem Lake

I love Rocky Mountain National Park for its wildflowers and wildlife, its vistas and miles of trail and for the great diversity of habitats that you get to experience in one vast and wild place. I feel exhilarated to explore new areas of the park and I haven't found one that I didn't like. The Twin Owls Loop area is really different from Bear Lake or East Inlet valley, and if I were a climber I bet I would consider that place to be akin with Shangri La, but overall I give Lumpy Ridge and the surrounding trails a 3 out of 5, so far. I like the solitude, the fall colors, good mix of climbing and descending, the views of Longs Peak and the other mountains, and the inclusion of Bridal Veil Falls and Gem Lake. There are some campsites along the trail but none seemed particularly fun. At this point I get most excited for a hike that is physically challenging, mentally engaging, and rewards me with dramatic views, solitude and wonder.  Adventuregasm!

Gem Lake provides a short but fun hike for the family up to a lovely little alpine tarn, with a different character from some of the more austere lakes in the park. 

The Twin Owls Loop is a nice option for a mildly strenuous but moderate length hike and provides a unique view of the park's more easy going side. It would also be appropriate for a beginner backpacking trip.

I'll close with the GoPro video showing parts of the hike and focusing on the water flowing throughout the area, and Gem Lake. **all my videos look WAY better if you view them directly from YouTube my YouTube channel: Exoskeletron on fullscreen**

Sunday, October 18, 2015


Hello! Welcome to Sunbeast Adventuregasm - Hiking Adventures in Colorado and Beyond! 

This blog will be a collection of stories, descriptions, pictures, videos and some product reviews from all the hiking that I do here in Colorado and in the dramatic and stark surrounding country of the West. 

Who am I? Just a random person living in Denver. My name is Ross and I am 30 years old. I've lived in the Denver metro area for about 7 years but I was born and raised in the Fox Valley of Wisconsin. 

Hiking, backpacking and camping are my passion, and while I do not consider myself a photographer, I do bring my GoPro Hero, and my iphone on most hikes so I can document my adventures. I also carry with me a GPS device so I can track how far I've hiked (and find my way back if I get lost). So far I've hiked about 350 miles in 2015. 

I anticipate that most of my posts will include a description of the hike along with what I liked and didn't like about it, pictures, video from my GoPro, a map and profile of the trail from my GPS, and perhaps a product review if I'm using something new or have an issue with something I've used on the hike. I will try to upload most hike info soon after completing a hike, but I will also be putting up content about previous adventures. 

So, look for more posts to come, and thank you for visiting! Here's a video from one of my adventures last year: