Thursday, September 4, 2008

Rocky Mountain National Park

Wasting no time, we headed out to Rocky Mountain National Park. Driving up the Big Thompson River from Loveland, we came across this dam. I can spend a whole blog featuring the Big Thompson and the canyon it runs thru, but we were headed up to the top.

We did stop and walk along this dam and the rushing river for a few minutes to experience its aura. We will spend more time here on another day.

We drove right thru Estes Park and straight up the mountain. We stopped at 11,200 and took these shots. We are above the trees, and you can get the feel of the road that winds up here.

To the North, it seemed as though we were on the top but no we had another 1,000 feet to climb.

I was still stressing over that road on the side of the cliff.

Then we did get to the highest point on the road. There is no pull out at the very top, but just before you get to the very top, there is a place to stop and take in the feel and look of this experience.

It was very cold up there today, about 45 degrees, and the wind was blowing 25 to 30 mph. I spent some time out of the car and went to the restroom, and just stood there at 12,300. The beauty of the place over powers any of the other senses. Withstanding the freezing cold, and altitude light head, it still remains an exemplary experience.

Going down the West side, I found the sign marking the Continental Divide. It is called Milner Pass.

The information board explains the divide.

This little lake doesn't know which way to drain. I think it went down on the East but I wasn't sure.

As we have noted all over the Rockies, the pine beetle is killing all the fur trees. It was especially bad when we got down to about 10,000 feet. The view of the valley below would be drop dead gorgeous, if it weren't for the dead and dying trees.

The beetle boars into the bark of the tree and eats the bark from the inside out and kills the tree. It lays eggs and then next year, the tree is infested with that many more bugs. The winters have been quite mild by Colorado standards for the last few years, and that doesn't kill the beetle eggs. This has not been in the best interest of the trees. The forest is brown, not green. With most of Colorado infected, there is not much that can be done to stop the problem.

We went to the town of Grand Lake. This was a more rustic town, without the ski runs and the big name, like Aspen, or Vail. But it had quite a bit of charm, and we stayed and shopped for over an hour.

They had a town square with the usual public buildings, and the library.

Next we headed off to see Winter Park. We drove by the lakes of Grand, and Grandby. They were pretty, but the brown trees and the overcast, make the lakes seem dark, so I didn't photograph them.

Winter Park seemed to be an also ran ski resort. It is the closest ski village to Denver, and must have millions of visitors, but when you have seen Aspen, Vail, and Copper Mountain, it didn't measure up. I'm sure the skiing is just as fun, and the village is in the mountains at 10 K feet, but it lacked the striking beauty of the others. Again brown trees drag on the experience.

Since we were that far South, on the West side of the mountains, we drove on to I-70 and back into Denver over the same route we took yesterday.

That decision had some unexpected consequences. As we drove by Camping World, Loyce said she really liked the folding bikes, she had seen in Colorado Springs. So one thing led to another, and we are now the proud owner of a 20 inch fold up adult bike. It has a hinge in the middle of the main tube, and the handle bars and the peddals fold up as well.

Once we came home, tonight I assembled the bike and aired the tires. After a quick spin around the campground, I declared it a good purchase.

This was a really big day, so perhaps tomorrow will be a bunch slower. We will have to wait and see.

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