Thursday, September 22, 2016

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

September 14 -17, 2016:

It’s another windy drive on route 287 south through Wyoming into Colorado. I have two GPS routes, one on the Garmin and one on the iPhone and am a little perplexed as to which route is best, I don’t really trust either one of them, but eventually go with the Garmin version.  These GPS directions often take you in convoluted paths, but you are never lost, well almost never.  

I eventually get on route 34 which runs along the Big Thompson River through a deep twisty canyon following a line of traffic through a construction area.  The River was beautiful and lined with fishermen, tourist cabins and camps.  I was actually happy to be traveling slowly through a construction zone as otherwise I would have been creating a backup behind me and pulling over when possible to let cars pass.

Approaching the front range of the Rockies

We arrived at the Hermit Hollow Campground a few miles outside of Estes Park, Colorado in early afternoon.  It’s one of several campgrounds operated by Larimar County, Colorado.  We originally hoped to camp inside Rocky Mountain National Park but found it fully reserved.  Hermit Hollow Campground is situated a few miles up a curvy gravel road, rough in places, at an elevation of approximately 8,400 feet.  It’s very secluded feeling as we have this camp loop all to ourselves at the moment, but most sites are reserved for the weekend.  It’s really quiet and dark, even with the current full moon and the park ranger told us to watch out for the bears as the road in front of us is one of their favorite paths.

A nice open campsite

We take a ride to downtown Estes park, it’s your typical tourist town, lots of restaurants, souvenirs, outdoors gear, tee shirts, etc, but still has a small town feel to it.,_Colorado

Nice landscaping on Elkhart Avenue

Lots of mountain gear

Also Salt Water Taffy

The historic Park Theater

The Wapiti Pub deck

The historic Stanley Hotel built by Freeman Stanley of
Stanley Steamer auto fame

 It’s a perfect sunny day as we start off into Rocky Mountain National Park on the Trail Ridge Road.  The park is definitely crowded this time of year with the changing colors of the Aspen leaves and the bugling Elks. This is a crazy road, actually the road condition is excellent, but the sights and change in elevation and weather as you travel is unique.  The road climbs from an elevation of 7,840 feet at the Beaver Meadows Visitors Center to it’s high point of 12,183 feet just prior to the Alpine Visitors Center.  At the higher elevations, dark clouds rolled in and we even had a brief period of snow.  At the Alpine Visitors Center, we warmed up with coffee and headed back to Estes Park.

In the valley where the Elk roam

A scenic turnout on the way uphill

In the arctic zone above the tree line

Into the clouds and snow flurries 

Alternating sun and clouds on the way back down

Our next adventure is on the Bear Lake Road which we first drive to the end, stopping at a few roadside pulls for photos.  Our destination was the Bear Lake trailhead at the end of the road.  The signs indicated the parking lot was full and they were correct, so we then backtracked to the Park and Ride Lot where we caught the free shuttle bus.
It would be an understatement to call this trailhead crowded, as the Bear Lake Trail and it’s connecting trails are probably the most popular trails in the park.  The Bear Lake Trail is fairly level through the forest to the Lake which is a beauty, we then continue around the lake and then head beyond to Nymph Lake which was equally scenic.  The wildlife, the ground squirrels and Clark’s Nutcrackers, along the trail have adapted to the presence of humans and come up to you without fear to beg for food.  We had seen this before with the squirrels, but the birds were a surprise.

In the valley

Great views

The Aspens are starting to turn

View at Bear Lake

Bear Lake trail view

Nymph Lake view

Nice reflections

We then took the shuttle to the Glacier Gorge Trailhead and took the trail to Alberta Falls.  As we are over 9,000 elevation and haven’t been hiking lately much lately that was enough exercise for us.

Trail to  Alberta Falls

View from edge of river gorge

Alberta Falls

View from the top of the Falls

Close up view of Alberta Falls

Estes Park has an Arts and Crafts Fair and the town is packed with people.  We go the fair for a while, it’s a good one with quality stuff, but the RV is overfilled now, we need to get rid of stuff.  We leave and take a ride Fall River Road to the Alluvial Fan Area.  We find a place to park and take a short hike across part of the bolder strewn Alluvial Fan.  This is a huge washed out area created by the failure of an upstream Dam after a period of heavy rainfall. The level of destruction is  pretty amazing and they have left it all natural to better illustrate the power of water.

Early 1900's view of the road in spring

View of the Alluvial Fan area washed away by the flood

The flood waters carried huge boulders
downhill like toys

I venture down the hill to Estes Park for a while on Friday evening stopping at the Wapiti Pub for a beer and to listen to a local performer.  It’s a interesting pub right off the main drag, mostly outside tables with gas heaters, a bar to the side and a stage.  The musician played from 7-9 mostly for the dinner crowd and was very good.  At the end of his set, someone requested a Jimi Hendrix song which was a stretch for his acoustic guitar, but he complied and got on a table for it.

The bar scene

Table top playing

We then leave the Park and drive south on route 7 to Lily Lake where we park and walk the trail around the lake.  This road is very scenic and known as the Peak to Peak Highway.  We also stop at the Longs Peak turnout for the view of 14,255 foot Longs Peak, the tallest mountain in the Rocky Mountain National Park.  Along the route is a historical marker for Enos Mills.  He is quite a story, he arrived in 1885, at age 15, from Kansas and built a cabin.  He worked as a cowboy, a miner, climbing guide, innkeeper, author, naturalist and conservationist.  He wrote well and proposed the creation of a National Park from Estes Park to Colorado Springs.  President Theodore Roosevelt supported the idea and in 1915 Rocky Mountain National park, of a reduced size, was dedicated.  The original homestead cabin remains and is open during the summer for tours.

Longs Peak view along the Peak to Peak Highway

View from the Lily Lake trail

It’s Sunday and the journey must continue, the next stop is Netherland, Colorado, 
Twinkles and Slick 

No comments:

Post a Comment