I thought I had been to Odessa Lake in the past… but if I have, I sure don’t remember it. In the summers of ’13 and ’14, I rode with a gal who lead livery riders all over the park. We rode places that she didn’t take livery riders, and I thought Odessa was one of those places… However, I didn’t remember any of this at all! It was a rocky, technical, did I mention rocky? ride!
We actually viewed three lakes. The first one we encountered was Lake Helene. Next was Odessa, followed by Fern. It is possible to hike to Fern Lake via the Fern Lake Trailhead and The Pool. However, I don’t think the Fern Lake Trail right past The Pool is horse-friendly.
As I have mentioned in previous blogs, finding the right place to park a horse trailer in RMNP is becoming increasingly difficult. One of the few places in this area of the park is the Park & Ride located off of Bear Lake Road. If we parked there to begin our ride to Odessa, it would have added 4-5 miles to our trip. (Not to mention the fact that a ranger said a bear was haunting that connector trail!)
To work around this, Alan dropped the horses and me off at the Glacier Gorge trailhead, and then backtracked on Bear Lake Road to the Park & Ride. Next, he rode the shuttle back to the trailhead and we headed off from there. We reversed that process after our ride. A ranger told us that we could actually be dropped off at the Bear Lake Trailhead, although we’d have far more tourists to deal with at that location.
There is a short connector trail from the Glacier Gorge Trailhead to Bear Lake. The trail leaving the Bear Lake parking lot is known as the Bear Lake-Bierstadt trail. There is a stock trail separate from the hiking trail… and it isn’t in very good shape. Fortunately, it isn’t long before you reach the Flattop Mountain Trail, and then the Fern Lake Trail. The Flattop Mountain Trail was part of my journey over the Continental Divide in 2014.
Even though we started early, as usual, by the time we drove to the park, messed around with parking the trailer, and got on the horses, it was pushing 9:30 AM. I really like to be off the mountain by 1 PM in case the storms roll in. It was cool but sunny. As you will see from the photos, there is still snow in the mountains. We were over 10,000 feet by the time we reached the lakes.
The first lake you encounter when riding Fern Lake Trail clockwise is Lake Helene. That is the only lake we rode down to. Horses were not allowed all the way down to Lake Odessa and we were not inclined to go that far in cowboy boots!
We rode just far enough to peer down at Fern Lake. There is a great deal of fire damage around Fern Lake and this trail going counterclockwise from the Fern Lake trailhead only reopened recently.
As I mentioned initially, this was one rocky ride. There are a couple of long boulder fields! Look closely at the photos and you will see that the trail narrows, while the large boulders infringe on the space horse and rider can occupy. At one point I said to Alan, “I am thinking about dismounting and walking in front of the horse, what do you think?” “I am good with that!!” was his immediate reply! Interestingly enough, we didn’t feel the need to do that going uphill on the same trail, only downhill.
We have had a great deal of difficulty finding a competent farrier who will come to our mountain, or someplace close. We have some good leads for next summer, but this summer was a bust. Poor Sadie lost a shoe on this trail… not a good place to be barefoot. At least it was a back shoe.
By the time this blog posts, we will be at 4-J Big Piney horse camp for a week. After that, we will spend the month of October on the road at a few different places. September includes my high school reunion in Indianapolis, as well as a long haul from Colorado to Arizona to Kansas. See you next week!