(Full disclosure: long blog entry ahead, proceed at your own risk)
|"Views from Lunch #2, 9/4/11, Estes Park, CO"|
Then we took a drive up, up, up the Trail Ridge Road to a series of scenic overlooks where we took dozens of photos and I learned how to drive on a two lane road, 9000 feet up, with no guardrails. This would come in handy the next day, but I get ahead of myself. The views were just amazing, and we passed through at least 4 different zones of vegetation. I have too many photos to share them all but one of my favorites is at right - it's the Alpine Tundra, but it looks like another world.
Back down the mountains we went, stopping to visit with some elk along the way, eventually finding our way to a fabulously yummy Indian restaurant called Nepal's Cafe, which, despite being a tad shabby and dirty, served amazing food and countered the mediocrity of the cuisine on our trip so far.
One thing that was evident about Estes Park on Labor Day weekend was that there are a LOT of families with kids there, and that can definitely cramp one's style. So, the next day, we set out for an early morning foray, on foot this time, into Rocky Mountain National Park. We were on the trail by 8:30 or so, and I personally did a lot of self-back-patting, because we reaped the rewards when we visited Bear Lake in the cool (and generally quiet) morning air. Only a mere 9400 feet in elevation, it's a very popular trail, and you can see why at left. Then we struck out for Alberta Falls and Mills Lake, about 2 - 2.5 miles one way, on our way to 10,000 feet (give or take a few). There were just too many gorgeous views, vistas, waterfalls and cliffs to mention.
Eventually, just when I was starting to wonder "are we there yet?", the lake popped into view. After some oohs and aahs, we trekked to a quiet lakeside rock to eat of our Comfort-Inn-created lunch of PB&J on pilfered bagels. I had my most meditative moment of the trip, sitting cross-legged at the water's edge, listening to nothing and everything and wishing I could just stay there forever. Here's what I saw:
|Views from Lunch #3, 9/5/11, Mills Lake, |
Rocky Mountain National Park
But alas, we had to head back, and so we did, stopping briefly when my ankle decided, as it often does, to roll on me, and I face-planted onto the trail. My friend, to her credit, didn't laugh (or at least not too loudly), and I did my best "nothing to see here, everything's fine" bit while attempting not to limp on. Down we trekked, and did some more self-back-patting as the trail filled up with families and kids, and by the time we got back to the trailhead, we were sufficiently sweaty, tired, and happy.
Food seemed like a good idea, and remembering that there was a restaurant at the top of the Trail Ridge Road, we decided to take the back route to the top, the Old Fall River Road, the first road ever to cross into the Rocky Mountains. It's a one-lane, one-way dirt road that is supposedly "safe" to drive, but I'm not ashamed to admit it freaked me out a bit. Ok, more than a bit. Huge ruts meant that you bounced and skidded and risked terminal damage to the undercarriage of your car, and the switchbacks were insane. And of course, there were no guardrails of any kind (the natives didn't need 'em, so why should we?). The views were spectacular, but I was gripping the wheel so hard that my muscles were sore the next day. It was worth it; I just won't do it again.
|Views from Lunch #4, 9/5/11, |
Alpine Visitors Center, RMNP
|Views from Lunch #5, 9/6/11|
Dushanbe Tea House, Boulder, CO