Our hike to Dream Lake.
I always do a lot of research prior to any of my trips. After looking at a ton of different hikes in the Rocky Mountain National Park, I decided to hike to Dream Lake. I knew the best time would be early morning. I’m a morning person so it isn’t hard for me to wake up, however in order to hike to this spot it was going to be an EARLY morning. I had not done the hike before so I relied on what I read. They said it was a fairly easy to moderate hike so I was like YES, we can do this.
I roped my dad into coming with me and I think I may have pushed a little too much (more about that later). We got up and left by 4 am because I wasn’t sure how long it would take and I didn’t want to go to all that trouble and miss the best photographic moment as the sun came up. The parking lot fills fast for this hike because there are several hikes you can choose and it’s a popular spot. There were some cars there but not a ton of people.
We arrived and it was still dark so we grabbed the one flashlight we had, not sure why we didn’t think to grab two. It’s also important to have layers in the mountains because it can be really cold and really hot depending on time of day and elevation. Luckily, I brought a warm down jacket because it was a chilly morning.
We started out slowly and then I started getting worried that we would miss it. So I started to pick up the pace and said come on dad let’s go, we can do this. This is the part I may have pushed too hard. It’s not easy hiking in the dark because you have no idea what the trail is like ahead of you and there is no scenery to look at along the way. So we huffed and puffed and it was a lot. Not only were we going up hill but we were gaining elevation which adds a level of difficulty when you are from Minnesota. Whoever labeled the hike easy must be used to the elevation which started at 9475 feet.
I knew we had to pass Nymph Lake before we got there but it was dark and I couldn’t completely tell where it was. There were a lot of roots and rocks on the trail that we had to keep an eye on so we didn’t trip and fall. After what seemed like forever we finally got to our destination and the sun hadn’t come up yet which was perfect. There was some light now as we approached blue hour so I was able to figure out where I wanted to stand to get my shot.
If you’ve ever been in an area with mountains you’ve probably heard of alpenglow. It’s an optical phenomenon that makes the mountains appear to glow in light pink or red hues. This occurs just before the sun comes up or just after the sun goes down. The red light waves in sunlight reflect off of the mountains back to you. It doesn’t last long but it is so beautiful! There is much change to the lighting from an hour before sunrise to an hour after. Each lighting situation can drastically change the scene.
I do have pictures with the alpenglow that I love but this image was taken after that. The reason I liked this image the best is because of the clouds and the reflection of them in the water while the mountains are still illuminated by the early morning sun. I also like how there’s patches of snow that almost mimic the cloud formations. The grasses and the rocks in the foreground added a layered effect leading you into the mountains. When we felt like we got all the shots we wanted we decided to hike a bit further to the next lake - Emerald Lake. This lake was also very pretty but the best light had already passed. This lake didn’t have as interesting of foreground so I was happy we stopped at Dream Lake for the best light.
To this day, this has been one of my favorite hikes. The biggest rewards come from overcoming tough challenges. My dad didn’t say anything while we were hiking but he told me afterwards that the hike up was tough but he didn’t want to tell me to slow down. He said it was worth the views though. Next time I’ll give myself and the people I’m with more time so we don’t feel rushed to arrive.
Details about the image:
Canon EOS 60D
ISO - 400
Dream Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado