ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK
Rocky Mountain National Park marks the start of our West Coast portion of this trip. What began as a one year road trip has slowly been pushed longer and longer. As long as we have money in the bank, we are going to push it until we are ready to dig our heels in a place. At this point, however, we both were not drawn back in to the comforts of settled life teased by our winter jobs at Keystone. No, life on the road is where we want to be.
Just outside of where we had lived the last six months was where we spent our first few nights back in the trailer. Moving out of the apartment took longer than expected, as always, but we still got to Rocky Mountain National Park around 5pm with just enough light to snag a campsite. There was still some snow on the ground in the lower elevations, but not nearly as much as we were expecting. We only set aside five days on the east side of the park just to get our system ironed out and get glimpse of what this park was all about. We intend on at least visiting Colorado in the future, so it was nice to not be pressured into seeing everything in this short trip.
Driving into the park you have to pass through the town of Estes Park. It looked like the wild west of Sweden. Both Eric and I were immediately in love with the surrounding lands having large red rock canyons in the foreground, and granite snow capped giants in the background. We drove through the entrance gate with mouths hung open, gaping at the insane beauty just in the front country. The next day we spent talking about how we could live in Estes Park, with our head in the clouds about having it all. Unfortunately, that bubble was popped when we spent a day in town to get a better idea of what Estes Park really was. Although beautiful, it is pretty much a retirement area for people who can afford 1 million dollar ranches, and those who can't live in the standard close together apartments. There is one high school, and a fair amount of poverty on the outskirts. If I got a dream job of an ecologist for Rocky Mountain National Park, it would be a great place to live, but was not the idealistic town we built up from the first impression.
The park itself, however, was! We spent most of the time exploring the popular front country hikes and drives that were not under snow, but quickly came to the conclusion we could spend a lifetime exploring this land. We were treated to bunches of elk chillin' all throughout the meadows, new birds, and spectacular mountain views. Throughout the grassy lowland we saw people fly fishing in what seemed like their own personal section of the creek. The hike to Dream Lake was one of the prettiest sights I have ever seen. Another reason we know we will be back to this park is the fact that we saw back country skiers get off the mountain as climbers were hiking in. There are just so many ways to experience this land that even two weeks here would not be enough.
We were also treated to some terrible weather. Extreme weather patterns are expected in the high country of the Rocky Mountains due to elevation, slope, and exposure. These patterns can change rapidly without warning. In the transitional seasons (spring and fall) is is hard to know what you are going to get here. The spring is often referred to as the windy season for much of the Southwest, which we planned on as we go south, but we were not expecting 30 mile an hour winds so early. Very quickly we were reminded why we upgraded to our trailer. Watching other groups of campers attempt to hang hammocks, set up tents, and even have fires was extremely entertaining and gratifying to know we did not blow so much money for nothing. Sitting comfortably in our Tab (called Sierra), we lounged listening to acoustic guitar on the Bluetooth speakers while other campers were freezing their asses off trying to enjoy camping in a windblown tent. We have had that camping experience enough to know it ain't fun. I'm 30, I don't have time for that crap now. When we awoke in the morning, a lot of people had given up throughout the night, and left. We were so happy that camping would not be ruined (as much) by weather this year.
Don't get me wrong, I still love tent camping, but when you live in it full time you can feel like you are being chased away by bad weather constantly. We are more encouraged to backpack now that we have a refuge from the elements when we car camp.
On our way out we were still very excited about our future time here around Rocky Mountain, and it was a huge benefit to our list for living in Colorado full time. Not to mention we would also be close to my sister Lauren (and would have to drag the rest of the family soon there after if we moved.)
See you again Rocky Mountain National park!
10/10 would watch elk in a field for hours again.
Song: AGT – Mountain Man