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Category: Rocky Mountain NP

Rocky Mountain National Park, Day 4

August 3rd

It’s 6 am and Julie has to use the bathroom. She gets out of the tent quietly and I drift back to sleep. Suddenly, I hear the zipper pull quickly and I sit up. Julie gives me this crazy look and tells me to get out of the tent quietly.

It turns out there are a couple of Elk right next to our tent… and I mean RIGHT next to it. Here is a shot of one of them walking up to our van. My camera does not do well in this low-light so I had to try to steady it. It was so awesome. We loved the Moraine campground and had been here 13 years ago when we were last in Rocky Mountain NP. You can’t get much closer to nature when you are car-camping than this!

Julie dreams of climbing Long’s Peak someday… but not today… not today.

We woke up and got moving shortly after the Elk incident and made our way back over to the Bear Lake area to do the Alberta Falls hike. This would give the girls a better taste for hiking on a real trail and see a cool river/waterfall at the same time.

When we were leaving the parking lot after the hike we ran into Cowboy Brad. Turns out, he is a park ranger during the day. The girls were so excited and he asked if we were coming back to see him that night since he was playing again. I’ll give you one guess where we were headed that night?? Brooke had a crush on him.

The weather looked questionable and we were not sure about having a 5 yr old go horseback riding for a couple of hours, but we did it anyway. How many times are you going to get a chance to do something like this? The stables that are right next to Moraine campground were very well run and the staff were excellent. We had a great ride and the weather held.

And here we are, ending our awesome trip with Cowboy Brad and dancing the evening away.

Rocky Mountain National Park, Day 3

August 2nd

Day 3 we started the morning by packing up camp at the KOA and heading into Estes Park. We were not able to get all our nights in the park because we decided to go on such short notice, but Julie was able to get us in the Moraine campground for 2 nights so it was time to move. Since we couldn’t claim our campground until later in the afternoon, we drove up to Bear Lake, which is one of the most popular hikes in the park because it’s beautiful and easily accessible.

All the guide books/online sites/and rangers told us to park in the mega parking lot a few miles from the trail head and take the big shuttle bus to the top. This would have been sound advise since there are only 100 or so parking spots (estimation) and they fill up really really early in the morning. But who are we to listen to EVERYONE that we asked about this… so we drove up to the top and BAM! Got a spot. Nailed it!

So if you are going here, I would recommend at least trying. There are very nice rangers stationed in the parking lot and they will not let you just wait for a spot to open or keep driving in circles. One trick I didn’t try, but would probably would have worked, would be to tell the ranger your kid has to use the bathroom so you can wait a little longer for a spot to open…. it’s worth a shot because that damn tram ride up did not look like any fun.

The trail is just a big circle around the lake. Nice, easy hiking and paved most of the way. I could tell the girls were itching for something a little more adventurous but that would have to wait until the following day. For now, it was great to just enjoy the weather (3rd day in a row of fantastic weather) and take in the beauty. Brooke did happen to find a snake that all of us missed except her. How cool is that? She was so proud.

One thing you can kind of see in this shot of the girls are some dead trees. This is one of the saddest things we saw on the trip. Rock Mountain NP has been devastated by  a mountain pine beetle epidemic. It’s very, very obvious when you drive through and on TRR. Not a whole lot they can do at this point, but you can just imagine all the green and how awesome it must have looked before the beetle arrived.

Mountain Pine Beetles

That night, we went back into Estes Park and went to hear Cowboy Brad. This guy plays free concerts in the main square a couple of nights a week. He is great family entertainment and seems like a really nice guy. He played songs just for the kids and some great classic western music. He got the whole family hooked on John Denver for the next couple of months. Rocky Mountain high baby… rocky mountain high.

Rocky Mountain National Park, Day 2

August 1st

For day 2, we planned on spending the morning driving up Trail Ridge Road and then heading back into town in the late afternoon to spend the evening in downtown Estes Park. We had one more night at the KOA so we had to head back into town at some point.

A short ways up the road, we found a really nice pull off that had a view of Long’s Peak. The girls jumped out of the van and before Julie could get her bearings, the girls were climbing up and over a rock pile.

Once we caught up, we got this snapshot thanks to the self-timer and mini-tripod (JOBY). Places like RMNP are made for kids to get out and run around. It’s true freedom and with so much space and not too much fear of them getting hurt, it’s great to let them do some exploring on their own and find cool things.

Starting up the drive on TRR, there were two things that became clear very quickly.

  1. This is BIG COUNTRY. The air is clean and the mountains are big.
  2. There are some frickin’ insane people that bike this road and want to share it with cars. Does it look like there is room on this road for you??? This just makes for a dangerous situation for not just the bikers but drivers too. There were LOTS of bikes on the road.

View of Trail Ridge Road as Julie and Maddie climbed up the back way to this hiking path. It was very cold and windy. Above the tree line was very exciting for everyone and with the weather you can easily see why little grows up here. There were piles of snow, even in late July, right off the road.

You can see where this USGS survey marker is in the map below:

[googlemaps http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?ie=UTF8&hl=en&msa=0&msid=104267311669100252934.000484dba2dddf444ac85&ll=40.363604,-105.606422&spn=0.100861,0.235433&t=h&output=embed&w=425&h=350]

We stopped at the visitor’s center/gift shop that they had at the top for a few minutes. This was a cool place and it’s only open for a few months out of the year. They have some pictures inside of what the road looks like during winter and needless to say, the entire building we were standing in and what you see in this picture is not visible during winter months. Another fun activity while at the visitor’s center was to watch the people driving up the old Trial Ridge Road, what is now called Old Fall River Road. People who chose to head up this way did NOT seem happy at the top. It looks very stressful and the men driving looked like they had taken a physical beating on the way up… still, I enjoyed watching.

We drove down the backside of TRR to have lunch and go on a short hike to…. wait for it… the Colorado River. That’s right, up here the river is just a shallow stream and you can walk in it. Julie took this opportunity to look for a few choice rocks, of course, and loaded up her pockets to the point where her pants couldn’t stay up.

On our way back we stopped at the main Visitor’s Center for the park near the entrance and got a call from Julie’s uncle who rode up to see us for the afternoon so we bailed on any afternoon plans and went fishing on Lake Estes. There is a place on the north side of the lake, near our campground, where you can rent boats of all types. This was a real highlight for the kids as they got to drive the boat around while the adults just relaxed. Now that I think about this, we were probably violating a few rules about the age of boat drivers, but who cares… it was fun.

That night, while shopping in downtown Estes Park, Julie got a cowgirl hat. She said she didn’t want one, but hey… we are in Colorado… you need to get a hat. So we made our way to Craftsmen In Leather and picked out a very cool hat that you will see in upcoming pictures.

Rocky Mountain National Park, Day 1

July 31st

We were pretty beat when we finally arrived at camp in the late afternoon. As we pulled into the Estes Park KOA, we were feeling good… until we opened the door to the car and realized our campsite was next to a stable, the Sombrero Ranch Stables. You can clearly see this in the google maps view of where the KOA is but we didn’t know where the campsites were on the grounds before we left. NOTE TO SELF: Julie is not fond of the smell of horse crap.

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We decided to make the best of it and just setup camp and then head into town to do some grocery shopping and grab some dinner. We also made a stop at this very cool and EXTREMELY CHEAP gear store that is right across the road from the KOA named the Estes Park Mountain Shop. We ended up with some new gear… and here’s the shocker… it was North Face.

Rocky Mountain National Park, Intro

In June of 2009, we decided to make a trip that the girls and Julie were taking to visit her brother in Kansas a little longer. I flew in to meet up with them on July 30th and we drove to some town just east of the Colorado border on Thursday night. The following day we stopped at Julie’s uncle’s place to in Golden, CO and then headed up to Estes Park. We knew we wouldn’t have much time in the park, but decided that three and a half days in the Rockies were better than three and a half days in Illinois and that was all it took. This was going to be the national park #2 for Julie and I in 2009 (we did Volcano’s N.P. in March).

On the way up, we got to drive through Boulder, CO. Instead of going around the town, we went right through the middle to check it out. I’ve never seen so many bicycles in one town. Everything seemed very laid back and mellow… shocking.

This map highlights key locations from our trip including the campgrounds we stayed at and hikes that we took.

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