After waking up in the morning, I walked down to Fall River and did a short exploration of the property that our motel was located on. The first picture below is our motel room with our car parked in front.
After breakfast in our motel room, we headed south out of Estes Park on Colorado’s Route 7. We were going to be driving along the Peak to Peak Scenic Byway to the town of Nederland during the earlier part of the day.
Route 7 quickly snaked and climbed its way out of town, up the foothills of the mountains. Our route was to take us through the Roosevelt National Forest, running along the eastern edge of the Rocky Mountain National Park itself, with opportunities to visit sections of Rocky Mountain National Park where it lay close to the road we were on. It was unclear if we could actually stop at these areas since we did not have a valid pass for the day.
We made a stop at Lily Lake, which is a part of Rocky Mountain National Park. The parking area was along the main road, and there was no checking of entrance passes going on. We did the short walk around the lake before continuing on our way.
Further south, we took a detour from the main road towards Long’s Peak Trailhead, a part of Rocky Mountain National Park. We arrived to find cars parked along the sides of the road for a long stretch, even before we got to the entrance to the park. People had started their explorations early. This, plus the fact that we might have had to deal with park entrance issues anyway, made us decide to turn back.
Further along the main road, we drove past St. Catherine’s Chapel on the Rock.
Our next attempt at accessing the trails at Rocky Mountain National Park was at an area called Wild Basin. That was also not successful. There were long lines of cars at the entrance booths waiting to enter.
It was further south, while still we were driving on Route 7, that I got into a dangerous situation on the road. The vehicle ahead of us was driving very slowly, well below the speed recommended for this stretch of road. I sighted a place suitable for overtaking, and I moved into the opposite lane and accelerated. Unfortunately, it was only then that I saw vehicles on the other side of the road approaching in the distance, at the top of a stretch of hill. I had not noticed them at first because I was descending another hill before getting to the hill that the cars were on, and those cars had just come over the top. Fortunately, the Nissan Altima responded, and I was able to pass the vehicles, but with not much room to spare. The slow vehicle, now behind me, actually pulled off the road to let another vehicle that was behind it also pass. Phew! That shook me up for a little while. I do get myself into sticky situations similar to this every once in a while. One is not really in full control of every situation you face even though you may think you are. Life can be short…
We arrived at the turnoff for Route 72. This turn would keep us on the Peak to Peak Scenic Byway. The road started gaining elevation almost immediately. We were, once again, surrounded by forests after having driven through a clear area for a little while. We drove for a short distance through a canyon-like area with the Middle Saint Vrain Creek flowing downhill next to us.
The sign for Brainard Lake Recreation area appeared in front of us beside the road unexpectedly. It was a surprise! It was a quick, almost instantaneous, decision to take the road leading to this space. I was expecting to encounter the recreation area near the main road, but we ended up driving for some time on a road that kept climbing up the mountainside. We were not sure of what to expect in the end. We read along the way that this was also a place where a reservation was needed, but we kept going. Fortunately we found a free parking lot for hikers (Brainard Gateway Trailhead) that was located at the entrance, before the area that required payment for admission.We parked here. We did some investigationand decided not to attempt a hike all the way to Brainard lake. We would stretch our legs by doing a shorter walk.
The following pictures were taken on the way back from the lake.After the hike, we returned to the car and had our lunch while hanging out around in the parking area. I saw this bird next to one of the buildings.Is is called Steller’s Jay. I believe we sighted this bird on a few other occasions.
From this recreation area you can actually hike up the mountains into the Indian Peaks Wilderness Four Lakes Backcountry Zone. There are different rules there from those in the recreation area for use of the land, including for trekking and camping.
We headed for the Visitor Center to get some idea about the town.(The rest rooms for the visitor center were interesting in that the doors and locks were operated without having to touch anything!) We inquired with the friendly lady inside the visitor center about what there was to see and do in town if we had just a few hours to spare. She gave us enough information to get us going.
We took a walk along Boulder Creek.
There were aspen trees beside a certain section of the trail.
We walked to the water inlet to Barker Meadow Reservoir.There is a dam downstream of the reservoir that holds back the water to form this lake.In the first of the two pictures above, you can see the threatening clouds that were moving in from the west.
By this time I was beginning to get a kind of vibe from the town that my instincts related to the 1960s, the time of the hippies. It seemed to be a laid-back place. This feeling began when I first noticed the folks in the park beside the creek. They had parked their old vans by the water, were playing older music, and were indulging in some random artwork on random objects of different kinds. I was thinking that they would sell these to make some small change. The behavior had a certain ring of familiarity to it. The feeling persisted with other people we encountered. There was a certain casualness, a certain way of presenting oneself that seemed different from that of an eastern suburbanite. I wondered if this was generally a Colorado thing. I imagined people getting away from complicated lives and coming to live a simple life in the mountains. Perhaps some of it was my imagination, perhaps also some wishful thinking.
After the walk to the reservoir we came back to a small shopping area. Angela and I rode the Carousel of Happiness next to the shopping center and a main road.The carousel has some interesting history to it. It was built by a Vietnam Veteran as a therapeutic project using original parts salvaged from another historical carousel from 1917.The carousel opened in 2010.
After that, we had frozen yogurt and coffee from a small and offbeat establishment operating out of a repurposed railroad carriage. They also had miniature donuts that we did not try.
We departed Nederland in the rain – headed for the town of Boulder on Route 119. The road is also called Boulder Canyon Drive in this section. As we departed the area of Nederland, I took this picture of the dam downstream of the reservoir.It was still raining lightly and the skies were dark over the reservoir. In the distance, we could see the outlines for the mountain ranges that we were about to leave behind. The town of Nederland lay at the far end of the lake.
The drive on Boulder Canyon Drive was actually unexpectedly interesting. We kept descending from the mountains through spectacular canyons that seemed to go on forever. The creek cascaded down the mountain next to the road. There appeared to be quite a few places to pull over to the side to indulge in some outdoor activity or the other, but we were time-constrained because of a flight we had to catch later in the evening. There was a nice running and biking trail running for a long distance through the canyon next to the road. I could imagine myself running and/or biking through the canyon. What a great resource for the locals!
We drove through the town of Boulder, only stopping on the outskirts of town at a local park to pack away stuff into our suitcases to prepare for our flight back. We had assigned ourselves plenty of time to get to the airport and deal with any car rental issues that might be brought up by the rental company.
And then we joined rush hour traffic on our way into Denver. This was quite a change from the traffic in the places that we had been to the last few days.
Fortunately, the return of the rental car went smoothly, and we had plenty of time to get to the terminal before our flight. There was no inquiry about the car that had been damaged a couple of days earlier. We finished our left-over food for dinner after we got to a place on the concourse that was close our departure gate.
The flight back was uneventful other than the fact that there were an unexpectedly large number of young ones on the flight, and a baby that seemed to be objecting to the experience of flying for most of the duration of the flight. And then the kid seated on mother’s lap behind me decided to play with the food tray attached to the back of my seat by regularly banging on it!
The sun set behind us as we were in the air.We landed at the airport around midnight. I was so tired at the airport that I was only thinking about taking the shuttle bus to our parked car, and I forgot about our checked-in luggage. The others were fortunately more alert.
I got us back home safely.