I've finally gotten to go through my pictures of our visit to Rocky Mountain National Park. I had been curious, after seeing so many awesome areas already, if the vistas we would see would be as awesome as we've been told. Well, if the amount of pictures I took are any indication, they were!! We had stayed in Estes Park the night before going into the park, and we planned on spending the day in the park, driving to the western side and spending the second night in the town of Grand Lake.
First was breakfast...a small diner in Estes Park called "The Egg and I"; shady parking lot for the dogs to rest in, and a good breakfast before heading out. But, before going to the park, we had an errand to run.I'd been told I had to go see the Stanley Hotel. This hotel's claim to fame is that it inspired Stephen King to write "The Shining". The hotel is said to be haunted for real, but that the ghosts were 'friendly ghosts". I did not go in to find out for myself, but here is the Stanley Hotel.
We started at the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center, where I picked up some information and talked over a days plan with a ranger. The rangers are very helpful. Being that the dogs were with us, and they aren't permitted on any hiking trails in the park, we planned a scenic driving route through the park. We began driving up Hwy 36 from the entrance station. This goes through an expansive wetlands meadow that was until recently a network of large beaver ponds, dikes and canals. In the late 1990's, for some reason the beavers abandoned the area. The dams decayed and the ponds drained, leaving behind a beautiful fertile meadow.
This mountain is known as Long's Peak
The 14,255 foot mountain served as a navigational aid for thousands of years. It's flat topped peak was a unique feature.
We then turned off Trail Ridge Road, electing to drive the more "exciting" Old Fall River Road up to the Alpine Visitor Center. The picture above is West Horseshoe Park, where a 500 foot thick glacier once covered this valley. As it inched along, it carved out this u-shaped valley. It began to dissipate 15,000 years ago.
Old Fall River Road is the first road to cross the northern Rocky Mountains. Started in 1913 before the area's designation as a National Park, the roadway was constructed by state prison inmates. Contractors finished the project in 1920. The road proved difficult to traverse (road 14 feet wide, grades a stiff 16% in spots, and 16 switchbacks with a radii of as little as 20 feet at times) and maintain ( avalanches would bury the road in the winter), and when the Trail Ridge Road was completed in 1932, Old Fall River Road became a scenic drive on the eastern side, and abandoned or built over on the western side.
Hairpin turns...would you believe we saw a Winnebago coming up this way? Complete disregard for the length limits clearly posted everywhere!
Be careful stepping out the door...that's a loooong first step!
At times it seemed as if the road was just coming to an end! Even though the road was a bit tight and nerve-wracking at times, the sights are awesome.
A short hike led to the Alluvial Fan....a dam built in 1903 at the foot of Lawn Lake, high in the Mummy Range, gave way, releasing 674 acre-feet of water into the steep Roaring River drainage. The wall of water ripped out trees, stripped the soil and sent 400-ton boulders tumbling down the canyon. Within an hour, debris had accumulated to a depth of 44 feet. A hiker was killed in the deluge, and waterfalls that used to spill into Horseshoe Park were destroyed.
Chasm Falls...usually a trail leads from here, but it is closed for maintenance...and there were rangers there, so I couldn't sneak too far in for a picture.
At the top! Old Fall River Road meets Trail Ridge Road here at the Alpine Visitor's Center. Time for lunch and a restroom break. Then we drove back down and did the Trail Ridge Road section that we missed. This road is much more improved :-).
Bull elk on the tundra
Glacial Cirques, and snow!
The Forest Canyon Overlook
and Pikas amongst the rocks on the tundra
Lava Cliffs, just below the Alpine Visitor Center, formed about 28 million years ago as a volcano erupted in the Never Summer Range.
Curious mule deer as we headed down the west side of Trail Ridge Road
Poudre Lake, the source of the Cache la Poudre River. This river flows northwest, and some may find the name familiar from the news lately...the Cache la Poudre River was one of the fire lines the High Park Fire firefighters were attempting to hold, to keep the fire from spreading further west.
Kawuneeche Valley...as we came lower out of the mountains the area became much more heavily forested, and lusher. The west side gets much more rain than the east side of the Rockies.
New life bird for us...Clark's Nutcracker...he was not happy with us stopping at this overlook, and was telling us in no uncertain terms!
We finally ended our day with a stop in the town of Grand Lake. Cute town, but we'll save that for another post! Hope you enjoyed the pictures, and you can view the whole set here. Have a very happy Fourth of July holiday, and stay safe out there.