Yeong and I flew into Denver on Sunday, rented a car and drove northwest to Estes Park, the tourist town just outside the east entrance of Rocky Mountain National Park
, where we checked into a bed & breakfast
cabin alongside the babbling Big Thompson River. On Monday we drove into the park, up through the Old Fall River Road, to the Alpine Visitor Center, then further west and south down the west side of the Continental Divide to Grand Lake, where we parked at a trailhead and hiked 7 miles, round trip, to Cascade Falls -- a fairly flat trail, though at elevation 8500 feet. A pleasant hike through the woods, to a rocky waterfall slippery with moss.
Then back through the park, north and eastward, this time across the Trail Ridge Road, an amazing route that runs 11 and 12 thousand feet along the top edge of a mountain ridge, above the timberline, with spectacular views of neighboring mountain ranges to the south and north... through alpine meadows, with elk wandering through them and occasionally alongside the roads and pullout parking lots...
-- I'd been to Rocky Mountain Park once before, on a family camping trip when I was 15. We stayed then at the Moraine Park camping ground, and my most memorable image from that trip was that lodge at the top of the world that turned out to be that Alpine Visitor Center
, perched on the ridge at nearly 12,000 feet, above the timberline, looking out over the mountains to the east and west and north. (It was some years later the setting for a story about aliens coming to Earth to impart vast wisdom to earthlings that I imagined in some detail but, not being a writer, never wrote.) --
On Monday we did the south end of the park, the road to Bear Lake, with several short little hikes to picturesque lakes that were, compared to sites along the previous day's route, overrun by tourists. (I was bemused to see so many of these hikers obviously pooped-out by such modest exertions, even teenaged kids and twenty-something couples. I thought kids had all this energy...? Maybe not these days! It seems that even at my relatively advanced age, a teensy bit past the half-century mark, I'm in pretty good condition...)
On about our third short hike attempt, the clouds to the northwest grew darker, the thunder louder, the fire in the sky more frequent, and the fat splattery raindrops started to fall harder, and so we chose the better part of valor and withdrew to our rental car and lunch in Estes Park. It rained hard for an hour, then stopped, and sunny blue skies returned...