The morning started with the sighting of elk from our hotel room window. They were crossing a side street and somebody’s property.These animals own the place.
It had snowed overnight. After breakfast of some pastries we had bought in the supermarket, we headed out into the park. On the way we saw these elk bulls butting heads.Once in the park, we got a picture of ourselves at the entrance.Due to incomplete instructions from the ranger the day before, and because of plans being made on the fly, it took a while to get to the trail head that we finally decided to hike from. We started at the Park and Ride lot on Bear Lake road at about 8800 feet elevation and took the trail to Bierstadt Lake. The temperature was 30 degrees F when we started. We climbed through the snowy woods.It was tough! We reached a spot by the lake after a couple of miles, and an hour and a half of laborious climbing. It was a small lake, which had its own beauty in the snow. The altitude was supposed to be 9460 feet.We took a different trail down the side of the mountain to the actual official trail head for the climb to this lake on the way back to the car. The view of the valley as we switchbacked down the mountain was spectacular in spite of the weather.It would have been much more amazing if the skies had been clear. At the bottom of the mountain we turned east, and we walked on a trail that ran along the road, back to the parking lot at the Park and Ride location.Five miles of walking! The temperature had risen to 37 degrees by then.
After a lunch of peanut butter, carrots, and fruit, and a Clif bar for myself, we drove to Bear Lake. The lake itself is at a height of about 9600 feet. It was back to freezing temperatures – 32 degrees F – because of the altitude! After a short and quick walk around the lake,we hit the roads to head out of town. We had a 250 mile ride ahead of us.
We headed south past the town of Boulder, and picked up Interstate 70 at Golden, CO, the birthplace of Coors beer. There was only time for a stop to fill gas (petrol) and get a quick drink of hot chocolate.
Then began the most spectacular ride on Interstate 70 towards the place we were staying for the night – Parachute, CO. We crossed the Rocky mountains. The weather was all over the place during the ride through the mountains, but it was a notable experience nonetheless. That part of the ride started with heavy fog in a winding section of the road as we climbed into the mountains. I was not happy at that point. We then encountered rain and snow in some other sections, and in some places it looked like the sky was going to clear up. We crossed the the mountains through a tunnel above 10000 feet. It was clear on one side and we could see the snow covered mountains of the Rockies for the first time,and on the other side of the tunnel it was snowing so heavily that the surface of the road was covered with snow and traffic was moving more slowly. The weather kept changing. We went past the ski towns of Breckenridge and Vail. It started raining lightly once again as we drove through Glenwood Canyon at the western end of the ride through the mountains. We emerged from the windy section of the road at Glenwood Springs and the ski area of Aspen.
Glenwood Canyon was spectacular, with the highway hugging the vertical sides of the canyon, supported by various concrete structures, the Colorado river below us, and the Denver and Rio Grande railroad line on the other side of the Colorado river. (I may be wrong, but it is possible that Amtrak’s California Zephyr train from Chicago to San Francisco runs on this line.)
After another over hundred miles of driving past towns with names like Gypsum, Silt, and Rifle, we arrived at Parachute. We drove into the sunset as the skies cleared out a little bit.After dinner with margaritas at the Mexican place in this small town, we crashed out. This tiny place looks interesting. We can probably see everything there is in town in 15 minutes. The hotel room was remarkably affordable, and recommended to anyone coming this way.
Now it is on to Moab, and Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. The weather should be warmer from now on.