Rocky Mountain National Park

Trip Start May 06, 2010
Trip End Oct 14, 2010

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Flag of United States  , Colorado
Saturday, September 18, 2010

I went to the Rocky Mountain National Park today.  It became our 10th national park in 1915.  Most of the early national parks were created around unique geological features - the thermal features at Yellowstone, the granite cliffs and waterfalls in Yosemite, the Giant Sequoia in Sequoia and Kings Canyon, the lake at Crater Lake, etc.  There's no obvious reason why Rocky Mountain National Park was created.  The main impetus seems to have been local people who lobbied to have an area stretching from Wyoming to Pike's Peak made a national park.  I was told by a ranger that the portion chosen to be a national park was an area where no gold had been found and it wasn't considered very valuable.  While the park is very scenic, it's probably not the prettiest part of the Rockies.  They could have made a better choice but at least some of the Rockies were saved from further development.

My first stop was the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center, one of five Visitor Centers in the park, where I watched a movie about the park and talked to a ranger.  A number of movies are shown at the various Visitor Centers.  The one I saw was long on scenic shots and short on history and facts about the park.

I then drove west and over the mountains on the Old Fall River Road, which is an old gravel road.  It meets up with Trail Ridge Road, a newer paved road, at the Alpine Visitor Center.  I continued on Trail Ridge Road.  My intention was to go to the Grand Lake area.  Unfortunately, a wildfire got out of control along Trail Ridge Road and the started turning people around and trying to get people out of the area.  I was already aware that there were wildfires somewhere in the vicinity since the normally clear air was rather hazy and you could sometimes smell smoke.  It wasn't a good day for photography.

I drove back up Trail Ridge Road to the junction with Old Fall River Road and continued east over the mountains on Trail Ridge Road out of the park and back to Estes Park.  This included the highest point on the road at 12,183 feet, which they say is the highest paved through road in the country.  This portion of the road is through alpine tundra, which starts around 11,500 feet, so you're well above tree line and get tremendous views although they would have been much more impressive without the smoke.  It was well after dark by the time I got back to Estes Park.

Tomorrow I'm going to visit the southern portion of the park.
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