Colorado and Utah by Car – Day 3 (Rocky Mountain NP and Onward)

The morning started with the sighting of elk from our hotel room window.  They were crossing a side street and somebody’s property.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThese 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.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOnce in the park, we got a picture of ourselves at the entrance.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADue 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.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt 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.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe 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.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt 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.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFive 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,OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAwe 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,OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAand 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.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter 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.

Colorado and Utah by Car – Days 1 and 2 (Denver to Rocky Mountain NP)

The first day was a travel day.  Left later in the evening for Denver. The flight and the arrival at the hotel was uneventful.  But the hotel was a surprise!  For a very reasonable price we had ended up in a fantastic place.  Here is the atrium of the hotel, seen before daybreak.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter Sunday Mass, we headed for Rocky Mountain National Park.  Nice drive.  Drove up from the mile-high city of Denver into the town of Estes Park.  We knew we were in Colorado when we saw this.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe found Estes Park to be an extremely touristy and crowded place, although we did get a nice view driving into the valley where it is located.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA When we reached the visitor center for the park, we were in for a disappointment.  The Trail Ridge Road and the Old Fall River Road that crossed over the ridge of the mountains to the west were both closed due to snow, and it looks like they will be closed for the rest of the season since more snow is expected today.

We drove as far as we could on on the Trail Ridge Road.  As we got higher, above two miles in altitude, we began to experience rapid changes in the weather.  The skies would be clear one moment and the next moment we would be enveloped in fog.  We even began to see signs of snow.  The drive ended at Rainbow Curve, beyond which the road was closed.  The mountains would appear and disappear in the distance.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt is the autumn season here, but the primary color other than the green of the evergreens is yellow.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt is rutting season for the elks.  The bulls coral their large groups of “ladies” and go at it making loud bugling noises to manage the whole situation.  Elks are all over the place and tourists are also stopped everywhere to look at them.  The animals can come pretty close and stop traffic when they cross the roads.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe are experiencing both real and imagined issues with breathing because of the altitude.  We should be fine.  We are taking some medication.

It is supposed to snow today, but we are going to try to do some walks today before we head for our stop for the night, Parachute, Colorado.  So far things are not going exactly as initially planned, but that is is fine.  What are you gonna do? Our middle name ought to be “Flexibility”.

As I type this in the morning in my hotel room, I looked out of the window to find some elk crossing the main road.  I will post a picture in the next blog.

Fair warning that they blogs are being generated on the fly with minimum additional editing at this time. I might fix things later.