Being Mrs. Pierce

Life as a wife, hiker, wanna-be chef, book-lover, traveler, and now, mom-to-be

Colorado Bend State Park: Gorman Falls June 13, 2017

Filed under: Hiking — skpierce12 @ 9:35 PM

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Yesterday morning we ventured out for our second hike of the summer.  The day’s destination was Colorado Bend State Park.  Twice last year we visited the park, but it was this third trip in which we made the hike to the park’s most famous site: Gorman Falls.

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We headed out on the trail at 8:45 AM, as we wanted to beat the heat.  The weather was in the 70s and rather humid but also partly cloudy and breezy, which is about as good as it gets for a hike in Texas in June.

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The first part of the Gorman Falls trail was a combination of open grasslands and oak groves.

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A lovely vista presented itself as we hiked toward the falls.

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James was a little too sleepy to fully enjoy the view.

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The path was rocky, so we had to watch our step as we trekked down the trail.

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Once we passed the 1-mile mark, we could hear the falls in the distance.  Suddenly, we were upon them!

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The trail first led us to a view of the upper part of the falls.

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By then, James was wide awake and very intrigued by the falling water.  We couldn’t get a good picture of him in front of the falls because he kept squirming around in order to look at the water!

After taking in the upper part of the falls, we carefully descended the rocky hill to the base of the falls.  Holding on to the metal railing was necessary to prevent slipping down the rocks.  But what a reward awaited us!

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Taking in the beauty of the falls was especially memorable because we were the only ones there.  What a rare experience that is at a popular hiking spot!  We were able to be still, listen to the water and other nature sounds, and take our pictures without jostling or interruption.

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We also took a family selfie.  Clearly James needs further instructions on smiling for the camera.

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He was more interested in playing with his daddy’s hat strings.

The hike back to the trailhead was mostly uphill, but it was easier than we’d feared on the way in.  We hiked the 3-mile out-and-back trail in an hour and a half.

We then drove to the other side of the park for a picnic lunch in the day use area by the river.

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We spotted a turtle making his way across the picnic area in order to reach the river.

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After eating, we showed James the murky Colorado River up close.

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James was more interested in getting my hat.  James likes hats – unless they are his own.

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Our morning at Colorado Bend could not have gone better.  The falls are well worth the moderate hike it takes to see them!

 

Enchanted Rock State Natural Area: Loop Trail revisited June 11, 2017

Filed under: Hiking — skpierce12 @ 10:22 AM

For our first hike of the summer, John, James, and I made a return visit to Enchanted Rock to hike the Loop Trail.  John and I hiked the trail last year while I was 6 months pregnant, so it was fun to revisit the hike with baby James in tow.

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I carried James in our Ergobaby, which I have loved.  James likes being in the Ergo as long as I keep moving, which means we don’t linger at sights like we used to.

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After some quick pics at the pavilion, we embarked upon the Loop Trail.  Someday we’ll hike the Summit Trail together, but it’s going to be when James is able to hike up it himself.  He’s already weighs 20 pounds, after all.  That’s a lot of baby to carry around!

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We hiked counterclockwise around the loop this year, so we began by crisscrossing Sandy Creek.  Unlike last time, the creek area was deserted.  We would encounter few hikers on the entire trail; it seemed most of the park visitors set their sights on reaching the summit.  The park was the least crowded I had ever seen it in general.  I’m sure the summer temps had something to do with it, although we also were there on a Thursday morning.

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We set out on the trail around 8:30 AM.  The forecast had been partly cloudy, but the morning would be bright and sunny.  We were glad we made the early start, as most of the trail is unshaded.

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James fell asleep early in the hike, so he missed seeing the rear view of Enchanted Rock with the “slip and slide” rocks.

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We did not divert to Moss Lake or the scenic overlook this year, as the morning was warming up quickly and James was hungry after waking from his nap.

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We briefly paused to take in the rock outcroppings and hill country vistas near the end of the hike, but we all were tired and hot.

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Especially James.

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Overall we thoroughly enjoyed hiking the Loop Trail again, and I’m positive it’ll be one of our go-to hikes in the future.  We decided we prefer to hike the trail clockwise, as it’s a slightly easier hike than the counterclockwise version.  We also decided that we are out of shape and that we have a lot of training to do before hiking the Canadian Rockies next month!

 

Colorado Bend State Park: Tie Slide Trail June 9, 2016

Filed under: Hiking — skpierce12 @ 2:38 PM

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After hiking the Spicewood Trails at Colorado Bend State Park over spring break, John and I had looked forward to returning to the park for the hike to Gorman Falls.  Yesterday we set out early for Colorado Bend, but upon arrival we learned that the Gorman Falls area was closed due to flooding from last week’s rains.  A park ranger suggested that we hike the Tie Slide Trail, which leads to a river overlook that would give us a view of the falls.

 

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Now 7 months pregnant, I am more limited on difficulty and length of hikes.  Texas Parks & Wildlife rated the Tie Slide trail at a moderate level of difficulty, and combining it with the connecting path to the Gorman Falls Trail would have us hiking a loop just over 3 miles in length.  So after thoroughly spraying ourselves down with sunscreen and insect repellent, we headed out on Tie Slide.

 

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It was in the low 80s when we parked at the trailhead, but the humidity made it feel much warmer.  Luckily about half of Tie Slide is under shade from oak and cedar trees.

 

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The other half of the trail winds through open meadows, which at this time of year were dotted with yellow and orange wildflowers.

 

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We hiked about 2 miles before reaching the river overlook.  We gratefully took a breather and caught some cooling breezes from our vantage point above the river.

 

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The Colorado River was not at its most picturesque, as it was especially brown and muddy from the excess rain last week.

 

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But Gorman Falls indeed could be seen–and heard–in the distance.  I had to zoom in quite a bit in order to capture more than just a small white blur in the background.

 

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We soon continued our hike, taking the connecting trail between Tie Slide and the Gorman Falls Trail back to the trailhead to turn our hike into a loop rather than an out-and-back.  The scenery was much the same as before: a mixture of small bunches of short trees and wildflower-strewn meadows.  Throughout our hike, the elevation remained fairly level, which confirmed the moderate difficulty rating that the trail had been given.  We completed our hike in about 1.5 hours, and we were glad to get back in the car with the AC turned up.  It was not yet noon, but the outside temps had already climbed into the 90s.

 

While we enjoyed our excursion at Colorado Bend, we continue to look forward to making the hike to Gorman Falls.  The glimpse we got from afar convinced us that the falls will be more than worth seeing close up.

 

Enchanted Rock State Natural Area: Loop Trail May 13, 2016

Filed under: Hiking — skpierce12 @ 8:07 PM

Living in the Texas hill country has its perks, such as witnessing the wildflower displays in the spring, avoiding traffic jams and smog, and being less than an hour away from Enchanted Rock.  Regarding the latter, John and I have talked and talked about hiking up Enchanted Rock over the past two years, but we kept picking somewhere else to go when it came time for a hike.  Leave it to us to finally make it there when I am six months pregnant!  This meant, of course, that we avoided the famous Summit Trail and took to the 4-mile Loop Trail instead.  What initially felt like a consolation prize, however, turned out to be one of our favorite hikes in Texas.

 

It was cool and sunny when we embarked upon the trail on a recent Saturday morning.  It would warm up considerably as the morning turned to afternoon, and the Loop Trail offers little shade for much of its length.  The posted warnings to carry enough water with you were well founded.  John had left his sunglasses at home, so he borrowed mine.  They made him look especially manly for the hike.

 

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We hiked clockwise around the loop, and the trail quickly took us up an incline as we began our trek around Little and Enchanted Rocks.

 

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I loved the wildflowers we encountered along the trail, especially as they acted as a delicate contrast to the rough and tough granite outcroppings nearby.

 

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All of the cool rock formations had me thinking about my geologist dad.

 

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At the one-mile mark, there was a short diversion to a scenic overlook, and we had our first clear view of both Little and Enchanted Rocks.

 

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After another 0.6 miles, we took a second diversion, this time to Moss Lake.  We were pleasantly surprised by the prettiness of the lake as it reflected Enchanted Rock behind it.

 

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Back on the Loop Trail, we enjoyed more signs of spring.

 

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The views of the surrounding countryside were lovely, as well.

 

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The Loop Trail is the best way to get a 360° view of Enchanted Rock (as compared to a 360° view from it).

 

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After passing between Freshman Mountain and Buzzard’s Roost, the trail borders Sandy Creek for the last mile of hiking back to the trailhead.  Many of our fellow hikers had stopped to wade and splash in the creek, but we were too tired, warm, and hungry to follow suit.

 

The hike was fairly easy, with only moderate inclines to tackle.  I am not sure I would want to make this hike in the full heat of a Texas summer, but it was very doable on a beautiful, sunny spring morning.  I can’t wait to hike it again someday soon with Baby Boy Pierce in tow!

 

Colorado Bend State Park: Spicewood Trails March 8, 2016

Filed under: Hiking — skpierce12 @ 9:53 AM

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Spring has arrived early in Texas, and the warm temperatures and bright, roadside bluebonnets have encouraged John and me to shed our lazy winter selves and get outside.   Luckily our spring break is early this year, so we made a day trip to Colorado Bend State Park on Sunday as our official spring break kick-off event.  It was a tad chilly and drizzling when we left home and cloudy and windy upon reaching the park, but the weather conditions were not enough to deter us from our plans.

 

John had visited Colorado Bend about ten years ago, but it was my first time at the park.  Upon his recommendation, we selected the Spicewood Trails to make up our morning hike.  While the park’s trail guide rates the paths as challenging, John knew the elevation gains and drops were not significant.  Despite it being our first hike since trekking in the Rocky Mountains last August and my first hike as a pregnant Mrs. Pierce, we felt we could handle the trails.

 

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The Spicewood trailhead.  John joked that I was trying to show off my belly while he spent the day trying to hide his.

 

The hike begins on a flat trail that parallels the Colorado River.  Kayaks and fishermen were about, although the persistent winds cleared the river as the day went on.

 

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We then headed north on the Spicewood Springs Trail, which is the bigger draw of the two Spicewood paths due to the waterfalls and pools that crisscross the trail.

 

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The water crossings are fairly well marked, and we learned that as long as you spot the yellow marker on the other side of the creek before attempting a crossing, you end up right where you are supposed to be.  One time we missed the marked crossing, but it was not too difficult to get across slightly further upstream.  John led our way across each time, and most of the crossings had stones and logs upon which to step.  Only once did John’s foot sink deeply down into the water, but his hiking boots kept his toes dry.

 

I utterly loved the sights and sounds of the small pools and waterfalls along this trail.  No sooner had we left one lovely spot, than we could hear another just ahead.

 

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The colors at the park this time of year are muted grays, tans, and greens, which made for a quiet, calming environment.

 

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We passed a few other hikers on the trail, but for the most part we were alone with nature.

 

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Spicewood Springs Trail meets up with the Spicewood Canyon Trail, and it was the latter that we hiked back to the trailhead.  Spicewood Canyon traverses the hills above the creek, and much of this leg of our hike was spent amidst dense, shrubby trees.

 

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Towards the end of the Canyon Trail the view opened up to the springs below that we had crossed just an hour or so earlier.

 

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We took in a few more sights from above before descending down to river level and back to the trailhead.  It took us a little over two hours to complete the 3.8 mile loop.

 

We rested and ate our picnic lunch near the river, and with continuing gray skies above and tired legs beneath us, we abandoned our plan to hike to Gorman Falls in the afternoon.  It may have been wimpish of us, but at least we now have even more of an excuse to return to Colorado Bend in the future!

 

Grand Teton National Park: Sawmill Ponds Trail August 5, 2014

Filed under: Hiking,Travel — skpierce12 @ 1:58 PM

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During our recent Wyoming trip, my husband and I hiked around Phelps Lake on a Friday, white-water rafted down the Snake River the following day, and then went horseback riding the day after that. Our double date with two horses named Rex and Whiskey was set for 2 PM that Sunday afternoon, so John and I fit in the easy, 1.4-mile hike at Sawmill Ponds late that same morning.

 

The Sawmill Ponds trailhead sits at an overlook off the Moose-Wilson Road. We stopped at that same overlook the morning of our Phelps Lake hike and had seen a cow moose and her baby wading in the water. Hoping for additional moose sightings, we decided to return and walk the short, out-and-back trail.

 

When the trail began, the walkway was wide and easily navigable, thanks to the crowds that pause at the overlook to spy on moose in the wetlands below. Few people (and no moose) were present when we set out on our hike, however, and we would not encounter anyone else (of the human variety, at least) until we returned to the parking area.

 

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Shortly after beginning our walk, John noticed movement in the distance. Using our cheap binoculars, he found two brown spots far away in the trees. I found the same spots using our camera. Our best guess leaned towards elk, which would prove to be the case as we hiked nearer to them.

 

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The trail followed the edge of the cliff that overlooked Sawmill Ponds, a series of small water bodies created by beaver dams.

 

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Most of the trail was in full sun, so we paused for a minute by this tree to cool off in the shade.

 

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There were actually two trail options for hiking above Sawmill Ponds. We stuck to the cliff edge path to better spot wildlife, but another trail (the remains of an unpaved road to and from an old landing strip) existed away from the edge. That trail was wider with less brush to scratch your shins, but it also cut off much of the wetlands from view.

 

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Back by the drop-off, we came around a slight bend in the trail and immediately saw this dark figure in the grass below. What you see is pretty much the only view that we had of this hungry cow moose. Not once, on either the out or the back portion of our hike, did she fully lift her head away from her lunch.

 

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Slightly disappointed in our wildlife sightings on the trail so far, John kept the binoculars poised and ready as we hoped for more.

 

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We paused often on this hike to scan the landscape beneath us. When I tired of fruitless gazing, I turned to the mountains behind me for entertainment.

 

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Just as we neared the end of the trail, a group of brown blurs came into view. With a little zooming courtesy of the binoculars and camera, we found ourselves in a staring contest with a small herd of elk. We felt confident that two of these elk were the two brown spots we had seen at the start of our hike.

 

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Even though we were quite far away, the elk remained wary of us for as long as we were in view.

 

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When we had our fill of elk stalking, John and I turned around and made our way back to the trailhead. We were still hoping to catch sight of a bull moose, but our grass-happy cow moose was the only one willing to cooperate.

 

We completed the Sawmill Ponds hike in under an hour, and we were glad to have done it–even with the lack of wildlife activity. Had we ventured out earlier in the morning, we might have had better luck. I would recommend this hike to anyone interested in a short, easy hike with wildlife-viewing potential. Just remember to bring your bug spray!  Those mosquitoes love the wetlands.

 

Grand Teton National Park: Phelps Lake Loop Trail August 4, 2014

Filed under: Hiking,Travel — skpierce12 @ 3:47 PM

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After three days of hiking and sightseeing in Yellowstone last month, John and I drove south for our week-long stay in Grand Teton National Park. On our first full day in Grand Teton, the four of us enjoyed a lazy morning at Jenny Lake Lodge and then spent the afternoon floating down the Snake River courtesy of Barker-Ewing. The following day, John and I woke early in order to venture out on the trails in the Laurence S. Rockefeller (LSR) Preserve. We had debated which trail to hike first in Grand Teton, as we wanted to revisit last year’s lovely Jenny Lake hike but also desired to explore new terrain. In the end, we selected the Phelps Lake Loop Trail. It had similar features to the Jenny Lake Loop (easy-to-moderate hiking, stunning lake-mountains-trees scenery, 7 or so miles in length), but would allow us to take in novel sights in the southern portion of the park.

 

Driving to the LSR Preserve, we came upon a horde of cars and people at an overlook off the Moose-Wilson Road.  Haphazardly-parked cars and gawking, camera-toting tourists were clear indicators of the presence of wildlife.  Most of the time we drove on by, but we knew that moose frequented the area so we stopped, grabbing our camera on the way out of the car.  Sure enough, a cow moose was wading and grazing in the wetlands below the overlook.  We snapped our photos and returned to the car.

 

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As I glanced back for one last look, a baby moose was carefully making its way through the water to join its mother!  I was glad we had stopped.  On our float trip the day before, we spied a bull moose chowing down in the brush along the river.  We had now fulfilled our moose quota for the trip: bull moose, cow moose, baby moose.

 

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We arrived at the LSR Preserve early enough in the morning that we didn’t have to wait for a parking spot (thank you, lady ranger at the Moose Visitor Center, for that tip). We grabbed our hiking pack and bear spray and hit the trail.

 

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On the way to the preserve’s trailhead, we paused to get up close and personal with some cascading water.  The snow-fueled mountain stream was not near as chilly as I had expected.

 

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At the trailhead, John helpfully pointed us in the right direction. We would take the Lake Creek Trail up to Phelps Lake and the start of the Loop Trail.

 

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Not surprisingly, the Lake Creek Trail followed the path of Lake Creek.

 

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The path also could have been named Rocky Road, thanks to the many rocks protruding up from the otherwise-dirt trail. I needed to keep my eyes on the ground beneath me, but…

 

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…this was not easy to do when the mini-rapids of Lake Creek kept gurgling my name!

 

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As the trail neared Phelps Lake, John pointed out the specimens from which we should choose this year’s live Christmas tree.  Were it not both illegal (to cut down) and impossible (to fit inside our house), the perfectly conical shapes of these beauties would make for an impressive holiday display.

 

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We snagged our first view of Phelps Lake as Lake Creek Trail met up with the Phelps Lake Loop Trail.  We would hike clockwise around the lake.

 

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This metal boardwalk above a grassy wetlands area took us slightly away from the lake but gave us a scenic view of Mount Hunt.

 

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Much of the trail, however, kept us near the shoreline of the lake.

 

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We knew the LSR Preserve had its share of bears (hence the bear spray), but this marmot was the largest animal we came across while on our hike.

 

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We detoured slightly away from the loop trail in order to visit Huckleberry Point. This was the closest I got to getting in the lake, although the clear, pristine water did look very tempting.

 

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The trees closed in on the trail at several points in the hike, providing altering shade and light.

 

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A unique feature of the Phelps Lake Loop Trail is the variety of walking surfaces to be found within it. Already we had tread upon rock-filled paths, metal boardwalks, and smooth, soft-pack dirt surfaces. Wooden boardwalks were our next surprise.

 

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As we skirted the opposite side of the lake from where we’d begun, the trail moved up and away from the lake shore. The insect presence kicked up a notch as we came across a sea of wildflowers.

 

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Up until now I’ve been full of praise about this trail, but one word of warning: large boulders teeter along the path, so you may need to hold them up for your hiking partner(s). Eat your Wheaties, folks.

 

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Oh, and wear long pants. Unless you come armed with a machete (which is probably frowned upon by park rangers), you will have to wind your way through an area of lush vegetation that is attempting to reclaim the trail.

 

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But once you survive these travails, you’ll be rewarded with the sight and sound of the babbling creek that feeds into Phelps Lake.

 

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This grove of aspens was rather pleasant to look upon, as well.

 

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A small strip of beach then beckoned to us, but a small family had already claimed the area for wading and we did not want to intrude upon their fun.

 

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From this side of the lake, the sun shimmered splendidly off the water.

 

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As we neared completion of the loop, we kept the lake in view on our right through the trees.

 

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I especially loved the soft, reddish soil that made up the walkway on this section of the trail.

 

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We took the Woodland Trail back to the LSR Preserve trailhead, and I took the opportunity to have one last bit of rock-related fun.

 

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We hiked the 7-mile trail in 3 and a half hours, averaging 30 minutes per mile. Other than the inclines on the Lake Creek Trail and one section of the Loop Trail, the hike remained fairly level and easy. It turned out to be a comparable hike to the Jenny Lake Loop, as we had anticipated, and it had the benefit of being less crowded. While the Mount Washburn hike was my favorite of this trip, the Phelps Lake Loop would remain my favorite in the Grand Tetons.