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Rocky Mountain National Park
Monday, August 14, 2006 … X Camper Miles – Total 5,337
Chilly am, sunny & mild low 70s, beautiful for hiking

Today marked the end of our third month out. It seems like yesterday that we were starting out until we look back at our log to see all the places we’ve been!

We slept well on the new mattress we installed yesterday but it was 52 degrees in the camper this morning with an outside low of 42! (Temperatures drop about 3.5 degrees for every 1,000 ft of elevation. We’re now a bit above 8,000 feet in the campground compared to about 5,000 feet in Denver. So, we’d expect it to be about 10 degrees cooler than Denver.) Once again, the little furnace in the camper came in handy!

View of Loch Vale Lake
View of Loch Vale Lake

After breakfast, we hiked a number of trails in the Bear Lake area, totaling a little over eight miles. We had an elevation gain of about 750 feet followed by about 950 feet of descent with ups and downs along the way. We saw beautiful Nymph, Dream, Haiyaha and Loch Lakes as well as Alberta Falls. The lakes were all high country lakes, situated among peaks and all very different. The highest was at 10,185 feet. We pay attention to the altitudes because we still get out of breath hiking at these altitudes. Alberta Falls was very popular but we found it disappointing because you really don’t get a good look at the falls.

Pine Clings to Rock
Pine Clings to Rock

Dream Lake in Rocky Mountain NP
Dream Lake in Rocky Mountain NP

Afterwards, we got cleaned up and went into Estes Park. We made our contribution to the local economy with footwear (lavender Crocs for Sandy) and a few gift purchases. Later, we followed the pretty walkway along the river to Poppy’s Pizza and Grill where we had a delicious supper. They had a neat choice for Sandy of pizza toppings baked on a bed of grated zucchini. It was delicious! Along the way back to our car we enjoyed a free concert by a cowboy-singer duet in the local, downtown park.


Rocky Mountain National Park
Tuesday, August 15, 2006 … X Camper Miles – Total 5,337
Sunny, 70s, much cooler on top of mountains, thundershowers in evening

We think we’re starting to figure out the local weather pattern around here for this time of year. We have sunny mornings followed by clouds with scattered thundershowers in late afternoon or evening. Bill started the day with his traditional cappuccino stop and a pass through the post office to mail packages. It seemed odd to see people dressed in turtlenecks and cords in the middle of August!

Bee Works Clove rAlong Fall River Road
Bee Works Clove rAlong Fall River Road

Today we did a driving tour. There are two roads to the top of the park. We first took the Old Fall River Road, a 9-mile, one-way dirt road through 4 ecosystems up to the Alpine Visitor Center at an elevation of 11,796. Built between 1913 and 1920, it was the first east-west road across the park area. In its upper regions, the road traverses a large section of sub-alpine terrain … it is beautiful!

Near Transition to Artic Tundra
Near Transition to Artic Tundra

Snowfield Along Fall River Road
Snowfield Along Fall River Road

Near the top we saw a cow elk and her calf holding up traffic by walking right up the road. We stopped to make a snowball in a snow patch near the top. We also saw several yellow bellied marmots, found only in Alpine tundra regions and lots of picas doing their thing among the rocks near the Visitor Center. We walked up the path to the peak above the Center. At 12,005 feet, it is the highest elevation we’ve hit to date on this trip.

Peak Above Alpine Visitor Center
Peak Above Alpine Visitor Center

The Visitor Center, by the way, has a unique roof structure. It has a huge log framework bolted to the OUTSIDE of the roof. When we asked the purpose we were told that it is to keep the roof from blowing away during fierce winter storms, when wind speeds can exceed 150 mph! From the Center we picked up the paved Trail Ridge Road down to the park’s western side, named the Grand Lake area. Along the way we stopped for a few side walks, seeing more elk including a couple of magnificent bulls.

Log Frame Ties Down Visitor Center Roof
Log Frame Ties Down Visitor Center Roof

We stopped at the continental divide, near the headwaters of the Colorado River. On the path to an early 1920s dude ranch at the Holzwarth Historic Site we saw our first moose, a bull, in the distance. Along the Coyote Trail we saw a cow moose and her calf up very close. We visited Grand Lake Lodge, poised above one of the lakes just outside the west entrance to the park before heading back across the park.

Young Bull Elk in Velvet
Young Bull Elk in Velvet

Cow Moose and Calf Graze Along Stream
Cow Moose and Calf Graze Along Stream

Returning, past Alpine Visitor Center, we continued across the park via Trail Ridge Road, seeing beautiful views of the Alpine tundra. The road hugged the ridge area and was a bit of a nervous drive because of steep drop-offs with no guard rails. On our way down toward our campsite, at about 6:30 pm, we saw a bicyclist pressing UP the mountain at about the 11,000 foot elevation area! It is hard for Sandy and me to imagine doing this ourselves, but it actually seems to be a fairly popular ride! Rick Begley would love it!

After nine hours of touring, we arrived back at the camper about 7:00, just in time for the daily thunderstorm. It rained off and on the rest of the evening, so we prepared our dinner inside the camper. We had a chicken and veggie stir-fry with Thai Sweet Chili Sauce … mmmmm, good!


Rocky Mountain National Park
Wednesday, August 16, 2006 … 0 Camper Miles – Total 5,337
Sunny but clouded up fast, mid 80s, rain shower in pm

We started the day with a couple of hours of making notes in the log, recording expenses and hiking miles, etc. We briefly considered moving, today, to another campground to get showers and electric but heard that Dad’s Laundromat & Showers in a shopping center in Estes Park had nice showers and decided that the batteries would be fine for another day. The showers, at $4.00, were nice and very clean.

Don't Know the Name of the Flower But it Sure is Pretty
Don't Know the Name of the Flower But it Sure is Pretty

Bill then went to the public library to use their free WiFi internet access to post updates to the web site and to do e-mail. While he was working, Sandy checked out the shops in downtown Estes Park. For supper we had a sandwich at the Best Burger Place in town. The place was crowded but if that was the best burger in town, Estes Park is in sad shape! We got back to the camper about 8:00 and visited with Amanda and Joe from Colorado Springs who were camped next to us.


Rocky Mountain National Park to Lazy Acres Campground, Riverside, WY
Thursday, August 17, 2006 … 185 Camper Miles – Total 5,522
52 deg, again, in Tin Tent, bright sunshine, clearer today, high 70

It was time to leave Rocky Mountain National Park. We broke camp and were on the road by 10:00. We hauled the camper back over the mountain via Trail Ridge Road to the west side of the park. We walked Coyote Trail again, hoping to see a bull moose up close but weren’t that lucky. We then pointed our rig north, headed, generally, toward the Yellowstone area.

Trail Ridge Road Winds Through Sub Alpine Tundra
Trail Ridge Road Winds Through Sub Alpine Tundra

Small Ponds Dot Sub Alpine Meadow
Small Ponds Dot Sub Alpine Meadow

The area west and north of the park is big wide valleys with irrigated fields growing feed for cattle. We followed SR-125 north for a few hours, passing through the tiny burg of Rand. We stopped, there, in the middle of nowhere, at a nice-looking little store. It was actually quite a charming gift shop. The owner pointed us to several camping areas including a nice National Forest camping area several miles out a gravel road. We checked it out but decided to continue north for a while longer. Then, just as we were trying to decide where to stop for the night we noticed a sign for Lazy Acres campground, just across the Wyoming border in Riverside. It turned out to be a modest, family-owned campground that was very nice. We set up camp and headed out to explore the Encampment River area, finding a group of motorcyclists camped there. We’d noticed the group along the road earlier in the day and stopped to talk. The riders live in places scattered across several states and pick a place to meet for a camping weekend each year. Nice group!

Camped at Lazy Acres
Camped at Lazy Acres

The weather took it’s usual turn, clouding up with some light rain. When it cleared, we grilled a pork tenderloin and had it with sliced fresh tomatoes and steamed broccoli for dinner.