Monday, July 21, 2008

Rocky Mountain National Park

On Sunday we went ahead and made the trek northwest to the Rocky Mountain National Park. If I have to mention that again, I think I will put RMNP, just so you know--haha.

We headed out after breakfast, so we were on the way by 7.45. There was an interesting lack of traffic in parts of Boulder, then we came upon massive numbers of bicyclists. We also saw plenty of bikers, by the way--all kinds of wheeled things going on. The bicyclists seemed to have some kind of race going on. There were three places along the road where the police stopped car traffic to let bicyclists cross the road without having to stop. There were huge numbers of mad bicyclists. We saw them (not all from the race) all day.

The drive to the RMNP was really nice. As we neared Estes Park, we spotted an interesting looking water spot, with mountains lurking behind, all very scenic. We stopped and Mike took some photos. There were a number of people there fishing, we spotted some ducks, some little ground squirrels, and I saw a couple of fish. The one was near the ducks, just swam right by, and he was in such shallow water, his top fins were sticking out of the water. It was really strange!

We drove on, and right there in Estes Park (the town) I looked to the side, and spotted a number of elk, lying in the shade, in a golf course! I thought they were deer at first, it was only later that I realized they were much too big and figured they might be elk. Mike found a photo very much like what we saw (he looked online when we got back) and it said they were elk. So, we were right. It was really strange to see them just lying there, with all the car traffic and so many people around.

We had a great visit to RMNP. I am not sure I can adequately describe it. There were mountains. There were narrow roads, with occasional idiots coming from the other direction who were unable to stay in their own lane. No close calls, but it was slightly nerve-wracking. Most people were able to stay in their own lane, thank goodness, or we probably would have headed back sooner. The scenery was fabulous. It was cool! The weather forecast was predicting 100 degrees or there abouts for the lower areas, like Denver and Boulder, and it was in the 70's at RMNP. It really felt lovely. We were amazed at the number of Europeans we saw at the different parking spots. They have the Alps and they come here to see the Rockies. Interesting! We went high up! We went part of the way along the Trail Ridge Road, which is just about what it's name says. If not actually along the ridge, it is as close as it can be. There was no shoulder at all. The road was curvier than lower down. And, while at a large parking area--- where we got to see some tundra areas---lightning was seen and thunder was heard. We decided, after a couple flashes of lightning in the distance, that caution was the wiser course. We had seen a good bit, we were on a level with snowfields (and maybe some baby glaciers) just across from us on other mountains, we had seen enough. And we were getting hungry! We decided to head back down. We were really glad we did. There was an almost endless stream of cars headed up, as we headed down. It all would have just gotten more and more crowded. Also, we got down to the lower levels and found it had rained. We really would not have wanted to face rain on those higher roads.

We had thought we would stop in Estes Park. They have a nice little downtown area, with tons of little shops, including two quilt shops. However, we got into town and the rain had started, and it wasn't just a sprinkle. It was one of those soaking rains you love if the lawn needs it, and hate otherwise. And there were no parking spaces to be found. We gave it up and headed back to Boulder. It wasn't raining here!

Oh, but bicyclists. We saw them all the way along the roads we followed at RMNP. They weren't part of the race group, just some of the ones who seem to get their jollies riding bicycles up mountains, I guess? The last elevation marker we saw was 11,000 something feet. I don't remember what the numbers were that would replace the zeros I put in. We were high up, in any case.

It was a good day. We took it easy the rest of the day, although we did make a trip to the Pearl Street Mall for a final visit to the Cheesecake Factory. Yum. There was some kind of a craft sale going on, although we didn't take the time to stop and look at anything before dinner, and when we came out, they were all almost done closing down. I did see that there were a number of people selling thrown pottery, and paintings (some really awful modern stuff and some really lovely), and I think some wood work stuff too.

So, a good day, we got out and saw things and it was all good.


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