Matt and I spent the night in Estes Park and had a friend shuttle us to the west entrance to the park. We started from the Kawuneeche Visitor Center just after dusk and bumped into a half dozen mule deer in the first ten minutes. Shortly after passing the North Inlet trailhead we had to make a slight off-trail detour for a couple of moose who were not interested in moving. The climb up the North Inlet trail was beautiful and we only saw a couple of campers and anglers. As we entered the bowl at the top of N. Inlet we heard bugling and looked to the south to see a bull pushing his harem across the south face. We refilled with water at the Hallett Creek crossing before entering the high alpine zone. We had beautiful weather crossing over the Continental Divide and started to see more hikers as we approached Flattop Mountain. The descent went well but we were starting to feel it by the time we got to the Bear Lake area. We stopped at Mill Creek, near the Mill Creek bc campsite, to filter more water and eat. The temps had started to rise and we drank a bunch before filtering more and heading off. I rolled my ankle about 20 yards from where we filtered and took a minute to asses. It wasn't as bad as many of my other ankle injuries so we headed on. We discovered that the Hallowell Park trail is used predominantly by equestrians and, combined with the East Troublesome Fire the previous year, is total moon dust. We stopped one last time at the Moraine Park Discovery Center to make use of the outside water fountain before making the last push to the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center. At this point in the day the temps were up and the automobile line to enter the park was backed up from the toll station almost all the way to the visitor center!
We finished in 7:17:24 and had a beer in the lot before packing into the car and driving home.