Rocky Mountain National Park

Trip Start Sep 02, 2009
Trip End Oct 01, 2009

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Flag of United States  , Colorado
Tuesday, September 15, 2009

After dropping off Janis at the Denver International Airport on the 15th, we stopped to refuel and pickup groceries for the next two days. Just before getting to Rocky Mountain National Park, we made a quick stop in Estes Park for a coffee. Estes Park is a charming little town with numerous gift shops and places to eat. We entered Rocky Mountain National Park around 4:30 p.m. Just upon entering the park, we spotted a male elk with his harems. We parked the car and watched their activity for the next 10 minutes or so. This was the closest and most fascinating encounter with elk we had thus far. We then headed to Morraine Park, a very large, but beautiful campground. Not quite hungry enough to start preparing dinner, we went on a quick hike up some rocks to get a better view of the park. And what a spectacular view it was! The jagged Rockies are really a sight to see. Panderosa Pine and Aspens, which are currently yellow, cover the mountainside. Ground squirrels and chipmunks scurried about our feet and the bugling of elk could be heard in the near distance. After taking in the views, we headed back to camp to make dinner. I bet you can what our menu included…hotdogs, corn on the cob, and salad, our standard camping meal, but still as yummy as our first night. Then after doing dishes, which Niko did, it was off to bed. It was surprisingly warm in the Rockies for being so high in elevation. Most of the park is well above 10,000 ft.

We woke up at 8:30 or so on the 16th and had cereal and hot tea. Before we knew it, it was 9:15 and we had to get going. We had planned to go to one of the park's rangers programs, a nature walk that left from the Morraine Park Visitor Center. We hadn’t anticipated the walk being so long to the starting point, but we made it there just seconds before the walk began. Our group included many elderly people and a group of elementary students. The walk itself was not strenuous or long, but filled to the brim with history and interesting facts about the climate, plant life, and wildlife found within Rocky Mountain National Park. I am really glad we went on the walk. It was very educational. For instance, we learned that 300,000 years ago there was a sea where the Rockies are today. The shifting of the continental plates forming a mountain rage. During the Ice Age, glaciation formed the mountains before us today. Albert’s Squirrel is commonly found in the Rockies. Albert’s Squirrels are grey or black in color. They live in the Ponderosa Pines, which are very fragrant (if you actually go up to them they give off a vanilla/caramel smell). The squirrels eat up to 70 pinecones worth of seeds when preparing for the cold winters. And bears eat up to 20,000 calories! We also learned that most of the pine that we were looking at would be gone in the next few years due to the Mountain Beetle. The Aspen would then take the place of the pines. It would be many years later that you would see pine begin to grow here once again. Part of the reason why the beetles have become such a problem is because they have prevented forest fires too extensively. Forest fires are very healthy for ensuring the diversity of parks. The 1989 fires in Yellowstone have taught scientists much about this subject.

After our walk, we headed back to camp to get our vehicle. We decided to take the Trail Ridge Road, a 9 mile one way dirt road up to one of the highest peaks in the park. This road was the only road up there until the 1930s and then it was two ways! I couldn’t imagine that considering how narrow it looks today. It was a beautiful drive. We stopped several times to look at the numerous waterfalls and breathtaking views of the mountains, waterfalls (including Chasm Falls), and valleys below.  At the end of the dirt road we went to the Alpine Lodge where we stopped for a  hot beverage. It was pretty chilly up there. We were at 12,000 ft or so in elevation. On our way back, we decided to go to Estes Park to call Janis and see how the interview went (we didn’t have cell reception anywhere in the Rockies). After talking with Janis we decided to stop and play a round of mini-golf at Small Town: A Nice Place for Nice People. It was only $2.50/person, so why not! Niko won the game, but there was a 19th hole. If you got a hole in one you won a free game I was the first to go and guess what… I won! Then it was Katrin’s turn. And she won too! We got to write our names on the hall of fame, which was fun. Niko unfortanely did not win and decided to watch Katrin and I play another round. When we got to the 19th hole, I missed terribly. A man watching said that was a terrible shot. Here take this ball. If you make it, I’ll pay for the next round. Boy, you should have seen his face when I got a hole in one! Haha! He could not believe it! We decided not to play again. We went back to camp and began dinner. We made pasta on the bbq pit! It was so good! We had our pasta with red sauce with corn on the cob and salad on the side.  We then went  to bed.
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