Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Rocky Mountain National Park

I've wanted to visit Rocky Mountain National Park since we moved to Colorado. I mean, I LOVE national parks, and this is one of the big ones! And it's not far away at all.

But, there was always some reason why we couldn't. Summers are always busy. And this is really a park to visit in the summer. We decided on the spur of the moment to take a weekend trip into the mountains to visit RMNP on one of the last weekends of August.

We drove up after the kids got out of school on Friday. We spent the evening exploring Estes Park and then went to bed. We got up early-ish the next day to head into the park.

There was a car show that we happened upon. I had to take a picture of this DeLorean. Really, would anyone remember DeLoreans if not for Back to the Future?


I am in love with the Stanley hotel. Isn't it beautiful? I LOVE historic hotels. Someday I want to stay here (though I think I'll not watch The Shining or take the ghost tour first). Anyway, I was curious, so I explored a little. The lobby is gorgeous. Someday Matt and I will come stay here. Someday...

We spent all day Saturday at RMNP. We hiked Bear Lake. The kids seemed to enjoy that until it started to rain and thunder. We saw a lot of chipmunks (one almost climbed into my lap), and the kids liked that. Henry would point at them and say "ch-mmmmnk!" The lake was so clear and pretty.
As we waited for the storm to clear out, we ate lunch and checked out Morraine Park. We saw this coyote as we drove through the campground. There were a lot of Elk. A herd was wandering through the campground, and another was in a meadow near the visitor's center.

We spent the afternoon driving Trail Ridge Road. It's the highest continually paved road in the U.S. I believe its highest point is 12, 183 feet above sea level. Here we are at one of the overlooks:


The view from one of the lower-elevation overlooks (click for the best effect):

At the Forest Canyon overlook. What makes this place neat is that you can drive to see the Tundra. At other national parks, that requires long hikes. Not here! (And yes, note the warm clothes--this part of the park is never above 50 degrees. Not even in the hottest part of the summer. At least we were here at the end of the summer--hardly any snow. It had all summer to melt. )

Just behind us is a gorgeous view of Forest Canyon. Looking down into the canyon, you can see thousands of green trees. It makes you feel like you're standing on the top of the world.


Speaking of the top of the world, while this is a fantastically beautiful drive, it's not necessarily for the faint of heart. Those with fear of heights might not do so well with the fact that in many places there is no guard rail, 6 inches of "shoulder" and then a 1000+ foot drop into oblivion. Ever hyperventilate at 11,000 feet? I wouldn't recommend it. :) Okay, I didn't really hyperventilate. But, the quicker breathing of nervousness makes for being rather light-headed at 11,000 feet.

But, it sure is beautiful up there.

I didn't get any pictures of the road as we drove, as I was a little too preoccupied. :) But, here's a video of some of the road that I found on youtube. At :39, you can see the part of the road that was both my favorite and least favorite. :) It's right near the highest point on the road. It has the best views, and the furthest drop. :) The video was taken just a couple weeks before we visited. At other times, there's more snow along the road.



We also checked out a couple visitors centers and dropped by the Sheep Lakes. We didn't see any sheep, though. And, the info booth at Sheep Lakes was closed for the season (that season being Fall--Fall comes early to the Rocky Mountains. The aspen were starting to turn. Only another month, I think, until they close Trail Ridge Road and the storms start.)

On the way out of the park, we stopped at the Beaver Meadows visitor center. As I walked out of the bathrooms, I stopped to read a sign about the architecture of the visitor center (designed by an apprentice of Frank Lloyd Wright). As I read, I heard a noise in the brush. I looked up and was surprised to realize that I was standing right next to a mule deer. Here he is:

We headed home after this, getting home around 10pm. It was a nice little weekend trip. We plan on visiting much more often!

2 comments:

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Rocky Mountain National Park features majestic mountain views, a variety of wildlife, varied climates and environments—from wooded forests to mountain tundra—and easy access to back-country trails and campsites.