Rocky Mountain National Park - Nov 12-13
Nov 13, 2011
|November 12, 2011
In the morning we got up, packed up (again!), had some oatmeal and I called my mum for a quick chat. We were soon ready to go and got on the road. We were heading to Estes Park, a small town on the edge of the Rocky Mountain National Park. We’d had some snow so far but we reckoned on seeing quite a bit more when we got up into the mountains. During the drive we drove through the town of Boulder which is home to the University of Colorado and there was quite a bit of traffic as we passed through the town because the football team had a home game today. Despite it being around 10am, the traffic was already building up and there were plenty of people heading to the parking lots for some early tailgating. The wind was really strong as we drove through Boulder and it was a relief when we reached the far end of town and the winds died down.
When we reached Estes Park we decided to head straight into the national park and make the most of the cold but clear weather we had this afternoon. We headed to the Fall River Visitor Centre and Elizabeth again felt sick because of the altitude. It wasn’t quite as high as we were before and so we headed into the visitor centre and had a look around. The rangers there told us that some roads were closed but a few were still open but that even those had some quite hazardous road conditions. It hadn’t been snowing earlier but it was now although it didn’t get really heavy until we climbed in altitude. The main route we were able to take today was the road to an area called Mini Peaks Curve and the road was fairly clear of snow but we still had to be careful of ice on the road. By the time we reached Mini Peaks Curve we couldn’t see very much other than snow so decided to have some lunch in the car before I popped outside to take some pictures. There wasn’t a lot to see as the views were shrouded in clouds and so we headed back down again. Elizabeth was feeling a bit better as she had become a bit more accustomed to the altitude. Around an area called Deer Mountain we saw lots of deer and even a steller’s jay.
From there we headed back into Estes Park and to Crags Lodge where we staying. Our little studio had a nice sitting area and kitchenette and so we brought in the food we had in our car and decided we’d try and make the most of the cooking facilities. We went back into town after that and did some shopping. We bought some rosemary mint soap for Elizabeth, stopped in a candy shop to try some interesting Durango Vanilla Cream Soda and Key Lime Cream Soda. We also picked up some bean and corn salsa, fudge, strawberry twists and an old style magnet. Finally, we stopped in a Western wear store and Elizabeth found a pair of cowboy boots she liked and we bought those for her as well as a Stetson cowboy hat for me!
After a trip to Safeway for dinner stuff we headed back to our little lodge and started dinner with some chips and salsa and our cream sodas. The bean and corn salsa was good but better when we added some hot sauce and the cream sodas were really, really sweet! For dinner we had hamburger steak with gravy, baked potatoes with cheese and ratatouille plus a cheap bottle of Barefoot Sauvignon Blanc we’d bought ages ago in California, which unfortunately was not very good. It was nice having a comfortable place to relax, too, and we ended up watching the original film version of The Producers on TV as we listened to the high winds swirling and blowing outside.
November 13, 2011
We decided to get up fairly early and head out to try and get stuff done before the predicted heavy snow came later on today. We got up at 8 and had some oatmeal for breakfast before heading for the park entrance again. We entered the park at the Beaver Meadows entrance and the ranger there was not very helpful. Other than telling us which roads were open, she just told us that we shouldn’t go anywhere without chains or snow tyres but as we had neither she didn’t have anything more to say to us. We decided to carry on carefully and we decided we would go the opposite direction from yesterday.
The area was called Bear Lake and we learnt that the road was closed at the top but open at up to around half way where there was a park shuttle to the top. A short way along the road we saw three coyotes walking along the side of the road and they were crossing back and forth and attracted a few cars along the way. There was one car with four Asians in it and they obviously weren’t used to driving in snow and ice as the skid marks behind their car as they stopped looked like they weren’t in very much control. I was sliding around a bit and we decided not to carry on so I found a turn out and carefully turned around. I wasn’t too worried about my driving but when you see other people driving too fast and skidding around it is a little disconcerting. The weather was still cold but it wasn’t snowing too much at the moment so we hoped that the park rangers would clear the roads in a short while and we could try again. As we came back the coyotes were still plodding around in the snow and we watched them until they ran off into the mountains. We stopped at the visitor centre here, a different one to yesterday, and talked to the ranger about the park. He told us there could be more chance to head to Bear Lake later as the weather was actually supposed to improve. Whilst we were there he received a phone call saying the Bear Lake road was completely open all the way to the top. We watched a video in the visitor centre about the park which was really interesting and with many of the pictures being from summertime it was quite a different landscape we were seeing now.
By the time we came out from watching the video we thought we should try again to go to Bear Lake and we were soon back on the road. The conditions were pretty windy and as we climbed to the higher altitudes the snow was really blowing around making it hard to see too far. Along the way we saw a couple of elk in a field by the road but we continued on to the lake. At Bear Lake it was really cold, snowing quite a bit and really windy but we decided to do a short walk to the lake. Elizabeth was feeling a bit light-headed but I persuaded her that some fresh air might help her so we took it easy. The lake was completely frozen and after a while walking Elizabeth felt better and found an ideal spot along the path to make a snow angel! We didn’t hang around too long as I could feel my fingers going blue and we were glad to be back in the warmth of the car.
Back on the way down, we stopped at Moraine Park where we had seen the elk before. As we drove a bit further along we actually saw two large groups of them and once we had parked up we decided to walk out across the field to try and get closer. Most of them were lying just beyond a rocky ledge and I quietly and carefully edged towards that. A couple of them stirred as I got closer but I managed to get quite close. Another guy who was following me down was not so careful and soon a few of them were getting up and moving away which meant more of them did the same. I got some great pictures but after a while I left them to it. A few more cars had arrived by this time and more people were coming down to where we were so it seemed a good time to get out of there!
After seeing a few deer by the visitor centre, we were back at the lodge by lunchtime and enjoyed a lovely warm soup and some excellent cheesecake. Elizabeth called her dad for his birthday and I relaxed watching football and got a bit more up to date with my travel journal.
In the evening we tried one of the beers we’d bought in Denver, the Breckenridge Brewery Agave Wheat which was made with agave nectar. It was really good and with our mixed up, hotch-potch leftovers from last night we had another nice quite evening. We’d not originally planned to come to Denver or Rocky Mountain National Park but it had been a really good few days and despite the cold we’d seen some great sites here in the park. Due to the change in plans we had a long drive tomorrow so having a quiet night was perfect for us!