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Dream Lake

I first visited Rocky Mountain National Park in the winter of 2002-03 when visiting Colorado. I knew remarkably little about the Park then and I believe my first hikes (snowshoes, technically) were in the Cub Lake area and Deer Mountain. Beautiful areas, but not the most iconic spots in the park, either.

I moved to Colorado in January, 2004 and the Park quickly became a  frequent playground. Snowshoeing and later hiking on many days off. Then, as I got introduced to ice climbing, I discovered the world-class climbing that the park contained. Funny how you can walk by cliff faces one day and not think anything of it and the next be able to spot famous climbing routes dotted across them. 

I got to know the Park, from its seasons to specific trails, through day hikes, backpacking, climbing, and later, photography. It was the latter that really drove my familiarity with the Park. Revisiting the same area over and over hoping the light, weather, foliage, and more would all align to create a great photo.

I won’t say I took it for granted, but repetition does breed familiarity and with that some of the spark can be lost. I remember once watching tourists and their excitement as they first crested the hill and got their first glimpse of the view, and thinking how special that first experience is and how, despite getting to enjoy it far more frequently than them, I was a little jealous. 

No area of the Park was this more common than in Tyndall Gorge, home to some of the most picturesque alpine lakes in the Park, including Dream Lake.


I first visited Dream Lake, I think, in early spring of 2004 when a friend was in town visiting and I had visited it a handful of times in subsequent years, almost always in winter. 

My photography “hobby” later started in 2007 and got serious (obsessive?) in 2011. Due to moves and other life events, it wasn’t until 2014 that I revisited Dream Lake with an eye towards photography. 

Ever since, it’s a go-to for when I need to get out and maybe don’t have enough time to explore further into the park. 

Mid summer sunrises…

Spring days…

And from different angles…

I had long stints between visits in the past, but the recent closure due to Covid-19 was different. It’s one thing to not go, but it’s another when you’re told you cannot. Deprivation, however, only makes you want it more so when word came that the park would soon reopen, I already knew where I’d go first.


Last Thursday I got up early to make the drive in time to arrive at the Bear Lake Trailhead in time to hike in and arrive before sunrise. I was the first car in the lot when I arrived and I took off down the dark trail that I had hiked so many times before. Usually familiarity breeds boredom, but this time it was more like visiting an old friend. Recognizing bends in the trail, certain boulders, and even trees. Landmarks in my memory passed by one after the other every few feet of the trail.

I soon arrived at Dream Lake and scouted locations. Sunrise came, and while I didn’t get any clouds to add color to the sky, the sun’s warmth on the mountains carried the show on its own.The reflection in the near still lake provided the encore. 


Your experience with a place will never be the same as it is during your first encounter with it, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be as good. A little forced time and distance reignites the spark. It rekindles the excitement and reminds you how special of a place it is. Like they say about love, “absence makes the heart grow fonder.”

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