Friday, October 23, 2015

mile(s) high

I really can't complain about having to travel half way across the country for a wedding when it gives me an excuse to visit beautiful Colorado! Earlier in October we flew to Denver for the wedding of one of Dan's college friends. On Friday, we met up with his friends in Boulder and explored the town until the rehearsal dinner at the gorgeous Chautauqua Dining Hall. Instead of staying in Boulder with most of the other wedding guests, we booked a hotel in Estes Park for easier access to Rocky Mountain National Park Saturday and Sunday. I'm not going all the way to Colorado without doing some hiking!

Saturday morning we drove into the park and followed Trail Ridge Road all the way up to the peak, stopping many times at the scenic overlooks to take in the purple mountain majesties and snap a few photos. From the Alpine Visitors Center near the top, we walked up a steep stone staircase (panting heavily from the altitude, not just because we are out of shape) to 12,005 feet above sea level!

cozy birdhouse | 12,005 feet up on trail ridge road in rocky mountain national park

cozy birdhouse | 12,005 feet up on trail ridge road in rocky mountain national park

We continued along the road a short way to the Continental Divide, the invisible line where water to the east drains to the Atlantic and water to the west drains to the Pacific.

cozy birdhouse | at the continental divide in rocky mountain national park

On our way back to Estes Park to get dressed for the wedding, we stopped again to photograph the beautiful Aspens in their golden autumn glory. The fall colors of the park are actually surprisingly limited as most of the trees are conifers.

cozy birdhouse | beautiful fall foliage on the aspens at rocky mountain national park

Although the scenery was incredibly beautiful, I did leave the park slightly disappointed Saturday afternoon because we saw NO ELK. I was promised elk!

Saturday evening we attended Paul and Colleen's beautiful outdoor wedding ceremony. After dinner under a white canopy, we danced outside, illuminated by stars, campfire, and globe lights strung from the trees.

cozy birdhouse | paul and colleen's wedding

Sunday morning, we woke up early for a day of hiking at the park (and determined to see some elk). Less than a mile past the entrance... BAM! Elk! We hopped out of the car to see a hulking male elk herding his harem along next to the road. He was quite vocal with funny trumpeting sounds when the ladies weren't moving fast enough for his liking. As they walked away through the trees, we joked that we could just turn around and go home, since I'd accomplished my main goal of elk sighting.

cozy birdhouse | elk at rocky mountain national park

We continued our drive along to the Bear Lake trailhead and started with a relatively strenuous (for us) hike to Emerald Lake, also passing by Nymph Lake and Dream Lake. It was incredibly windy, but we stayed warm enough when protected by the trees. We saw lots of little chipmunks and a curious little Stellar's Jay who came so close I could almost pet him!

cozy birdhouse | hiking at rocky mountain national park

cozy birdhouse | emerald lake at rocky mountain national park

cozy birdhouse | stellar's jay at rocky mountain national park

After our morning hike, we lunched on PB&J sandwiches (which we had to guard carefully from aggressive chipmunks) and then walked around Bear Lake. Finally, we finished the afternoon with a short trek to Alberta Falls where I finally caught a nice photo of a Gray Jay after many unsuccessful attempts on our morning hike. (These birds are also known as Whiskey Jacks, which I much prefer to the boring name Gray Jay.)

cozy birdhouse | gray jay at rocky mountain national park

Monday morning drove to the airport for our flight back home. On our way out of Estes Park, we saw a lone male elk out for a casual morning stroll along the sidewalk... a hilarious farewell for a great mini-vacation. I have to point out a downside of this trip though: Dan has now gained a state on me, since I had already been to Colorado but he hadn't!


  1. Great story and pictures, Caitlin! (Aunt Ruthann sent us a link.) We were all there in Estes Park back in '93, which I'm sure you were too young to remember. I remember being really nervous while driving up Trail Ridge Road. We encountered sleet at the top, so figured we'd better head down quickly before we got trapped up there. It was the 4th of July weekend and it snowed that night while everyone was soaking in the hot tub on the deck.

    We hiked some of the same trails, including the one past the lakes. I vividly remember the scene where you and Dan are resting on the dead tree, with the lake and mountains in the background. We really loved it there. So glad you had a chance to experience it again.


    Uncle Pete

    1. I remember parts of the trip, especially swimming at the pool in the snow on the 4th of July! I was surprised to see no snow during this trip, but I think it's about to start for the season. That was actually the last weekend that the road was open to the top!