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Travelogue -- Rocky Mountain National Park

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Second National Park of the Todyssey! Rocky Mountain National Park!

After our lovely stop at the Jawed's on in Cheyenne on July 7, we took their advice and headed for Estes Park as a jumping off point to tour the Trail Ridge Highway in Rocky Mountain National Park. In typical fashion, we got the Estes Park rather late, around 8:45, and we were the last people to get a spot at the KOA there before they closed for the night. 

The people working at the KOA were as nice as can be, but honestly we didn't love staying there. They cram the RVs in like sardines in a can and there's no privacy or anything to make you want to hang out outside your own camper. We were hungry, but we didn't feel like getting all involved with camp cooking, so we just ate some snacks and made a plan for Friday.

Friday morning, we woke up nice and early and decided to get a jump on things in the park like we did at the Badlands, as the info we read informed us that Rocky Mountain National Park is the 3rd most visited National Park in the country. We had already ignored their advice to plan in advance, so we figured the least wee could do was get into the park as quick as possible. 

This picture above is from the first stopping area when we drove onto scenic highway 34, the Trail Ridger Highway, our first glimpse of the big mountains. We also saw prairie dogs playing the meadow here. I would have loved to chase them, but Diane and Todd told me I had to be on my best behavior or I wouldn't be allowed out of the Big Rolling Crate in the park. I wanted to see the mountains and sniff all the mountain dirt and rocks, so I was good.

The park is truly amazing. Just like Niagara Falls, the sight brought tears to Diane's eyes. The road is INSANE! It's hard to imagine what it took to built that road, winding its way up to an elevation of 12,000 feet, clinging to the side of a mountain. It was a white-knuckle drive for Todd the whole way. Often, the steep sides of the mountain fall sharply away from the road and the drop is hundreds of feet. There are no guard rails and often no shoulder. Sometimes you are on the outside going up, and sometimes you are on the outside going down, and it is scary. Diane isn't afraid of heights (although we're learning just how many thousands of things she is afraid of on this trip), but she couldn't look down.

When we drove up into the zone called the alpine tundra, we saw the last remaining snow drifts on the slops of the mountain. 

It's so weird to be in sandals and shorts and snow! Lower down on the mountain it was in the high 80s and sunny and hot, but up where it was slightly overcast, very windy, and chilly.

At the high point of the road, Diane and Todd were able to walk up a path to the Trail Ridge Peak at 12,300 feet. I'm very jealous that they saw a marmot up there. I wasn't allowed to go on the paths. Park rules.

We were initially planning to drive across the continental divide, but once we reached the Alpine Visitors Center, we'd all had enough of the crazy driving and felt we'd seen as much as we could possibly take in, so we turned around and headed back towards Boulder, our next stopping point.

Here are a few more pictures from the park:

It's a good thing Todd and Diane figured out how to drive the truck in the mountains. Without our lessons from the Black Hills, we never could have made it through the park. But now that we know to climb and descend in low gear, everything is going great.

A really nice local lady who took Diane and Todd's picture at an overlook gave us some advice about where we might go next, so we took her suggestion and headed towards Boulder. On the way, we saw kids tubing in this stream and stopped for a quick dip.

Afterwards, we called the state park that had been recommended to us to see about camping, but they said they were a day park only, so we tried plan B: The Boulder County Fairgrounds, which Diane found online. They normally allowed RV camping and it's only $15 a night if you don't need a hook-up. But we got there and learned we should have done more homework, because there was a festival and therefore no camping. 

It was already around 5:00 and as it was Friday night, we knew finding a place to stay was going to be tough. We probably need to plan ahead better for weekends. Weekdays are easy, but on the weekends, everyone wants to go have fun.

Some quick research lead us to believe we'd find good dispersed camping about 8 miles from Boulder in Roosevelt State Forest near Gross Reservoir, so we provisioned and headed off into the canyons.

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