Seeking a calm respite at the end of a busy Estes Park summer, my wife Lori and I hiked to Mills Lake recently. We started early, parking at the Glacier Gorge parking lot at 6:45 a.m. and hitting the trail. Because we could see our breath, we layered fleece and wore gloves, but we quickly heated up after a mile of gentle climbing through aspen and spruce.At Alberta Falls we pulled off a layer asa fellow nearby snapped a picture of the most popular waterfall in the Park.Just feet from the falls Lori spotted a fawn jump across the trail. Where was the mother? A moment later we spied her hiding in the rocks. We gave the mother some space as she leaped across the trail and followed her fawn into the woods beyond.At the junction of the Mills Lake turnoff, we dipped into a deep, thick forest that reminded me of a scene out of the “Lord of the Rings.” The temperature dipped 20 degrees and we grabbed our fleece from our packs. We walked across two new bridges, which replaced those washed out in May during the historic spring runoff.At 8:15 a.m. we walked across smoothed granite and Mills Lake opened before us, cradled by Longs Peak to the left and McHenry’s Peak and Spearhead to the right. The sun had yet to peek out from behind Half Mountain, so we settled on a rock outcropped that jutted into the lake and enjoyed the quiet solitude of a windless morning, Mount McHenry reflected in the still water. It was so quiet we could hear waterfalls cascade down a mountainside in the distance.Was the water from Shelf and Solitude Lakes?While we waited for the sun’s appearance, we spotted a splash of orange, yellow and green to the right of Half Mountain. “Look at the sundog,” my wife exclaimed.The sun came over the mountain and hit our faces at 8:55 a.m. We warmed up immediately, and with the sun on the water, we could see the trout swimming just inches from our boots.After an hour relaxing at the lake, we headed back down the trail. We reached our car at 11 a.m., reflecting on a morning well spent.
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