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Published: March 23rd 2018
12th Jul: Before heading to Estes Park, we had a few errands to run in town and of course we had to have some brunch to set us up for our trip. My friend had picked a bakery and crepe place for us to eat at. I can't remember the name of the place now, but it was a great little place. The weather was beautiful, so we sat in their outside dining area and shared some stuffed crepes and baked goods. I really enjoyed the wholewheat crepe, I don't think I had ever had one before and it was yummy. Now that we were full it was time to start our mini-road trip to the Rocky Mountain National Park. We rove for about an hour, maybe a bit longer. The scenery was gorgeous, and so different to our drive to Wyoming. Here, the roads were winding and placed between high, rocky hills covered with trees. We stopped at the Colorado Cherry Company, as my friends really like this place, to buy some goodies for our trip. However, we were too early, when we got there, it was still closed. We only had about half an hour to wait, so we
chilled in the sun and went down to the river, the Big Thompson River, which was pretty fast flowing. A few other people turned up while we were waiting and when they opened we all headed inside. Since we got there so early, not everything was ready, but we got some jams and spreads to take away with us. I was looking forward to trying them.
We continued our drive among the tree covered mountains and looked out for our accommodation as we entered Estes Park. We soon found it and headed to the reception area to check in, we got checked in and the owner took us to our cabin. Here, disaster struck, there was somebody already in the cabin. It turned out that our booking was for the next day, what?!? Was it our mistake or the owner's? Anyway, they had no other cabins free so we set off to find somewhere else. The woman had recommended a place, a short drive away, so we headed there. They were full and when we explained what had happened at the accommodation we had booked the owner wasn't surprised. This made us think that it was the owner that
had put in the wrong date and not us, especially since it had all been done over the phone with no email confirmation. We drove back along the road leading out of Estes Park, looking for somewhere to stay. Everywhere seemed to have no vacancies signs up and we didn't want to fork out for a fancy, expensive hotel, but we didn't want to have to head back to Fort Collins at the end of the day, too. A stroke of luck meant that we got the last cabin in another place just up the road from where we were intending to stay. This cabin actually looked nicer, too, although it wasn't next to the water. Maybe the lady did us a favour by messing up our booking?
After claiming our cabin, we headed into the town of Estes Park proper and headed to the Safeway, to stock up on food for the dinner and the next day. We also drove to the visitor centre to get some information and the very helpful park ranger helped us plot a plan of action for the day. After heading back to our cabin to drop off our new purchases, it was
finally time to hit the park properly. I could definitely feel the change as we were now at a higher altitude. I had felt light headed and a bit breathless, when we had been at the visitor's centre. We didn't really explore the town of Estes Park, but it looked cute, and we would spend some more time there tomorrow. Now it was time to explore the Rocky Mountains National Park. The ranger at the visitor centre had given us a map and marked on where we should go that afternoon for an easy hike with beautiful views. We drove to the Glacier Gorge area of the park and found a parking spot easily enough. Straight away, I was surrounded by stunning views of the mountains and the trees, oh so many trees. I totally fell in love with the Rocky Mountain National Park and kept telling my friends that they had definitely picked the right place to move to. The trail started off pretty flat, before gradually climbing. It wasn't a tough trail but the altitude made it feel more challenging. It didn't take us long to reach Alberta Falls, which was a smallish waterfall. It was really pretty
and the water was gushing down it pretty fast. We spent a while chilling at the falls, before continuing on. The trail continued to rise, but gently and as we got higher, we were treated to more gorgeous views. i was amazed as there were just trees and trees, as far as the eye could see. I don't think that I have ever seen so many trees in one go in my life before. Also, since we had left our hike until a little later in the afternoon, the sun was going down a little. This mean that the light was really gorgeous and section of the mountains were beautifully illuminated, not that my camera was able to capture the true beauty of it. The light and shade on the mountains was really beautiful. I loved how quiet the national park was, too. It made a nice change from the normally busy trails in Korea and that people were out to relax and enjoy themselves, soaking up the nature as opposed to the race to the peak mentality that there often is in Korea.
The trail started to descend again and we took the path that lead to Mills
Lake. Once again, I was taken aback at how beautiful it was. The lake was surrounded by the valley, it was so beautiful and unspoilt. We spent a good while at the lake, just soaking in the beautiful scenery and the peacefulness of the area. It was really relaxing. We also took a tonne of photos. I could have happily spent all day there relaxing and reading a book. But we had to make our way back before the light really started to fade. The hike back didn't take too long and we came across a few people hiking in to the park with all their camping gear ready to spend the night or several. Personally, I wouldn't fancy it as I love my creature comfort too much. We drove back to our cabin and soon got dinner on the go. We cooked up a feast of steak and vegetables and washed it all down with some beers. The perfect end to a great day.
13th Jul: I had a really good night's sleep and woke up ready to continue exploring the Rocky Mountains National Park. We sat outside our cabin on the picnic benches in garden and ate
our breakfast. We had a little walk around the grounds and down to the river. The river was flowing pretty fast and the water was quite cold. I definitely didn't fancy a swim in it. After breakfast, we packed up the car and headed into Estes Park. It is a cute little town and we had a wander around the shops, I really liked the glass blowing place, unfortunately their products are not backpacker friendly. We came across a place, where you can get dressed up and have old fashioned photos of yourself taken. It looked like fun, so we opted to get one done. I can't remember how much it was, probably vastly overpriced, but worth it to have a fun memory of the trip. We had a right laugh getting dressed up like showgirls. Estes Park is home to the Stanley Hotel, which served as the inspiration for Stephen King as the Overlook Hotel in his novel, 'The Shining'.The hotel was built by Freelan Oscar Stanley an opened in 1909. The hotel is very grand and slightly imposing looking. It is bright white and it just gleamed in the bright sunlight. If only I were rich, and be
able to afford to stay in such grand places. We had a wander around the parts of the hotel that were open to the general public. We got to see the dining room that Stephen King ate it, that he found spooky AF. Since we were there on a bright summer's day, it didn't feel creepy at all. The main reception area was very grand. The upstairs area is reserved for paying guests. You can do tours of the hotel for a fee to learn more about its history and ghostly shenanigans but we didn't feel like it. In the basement of the building there is even a resident psychic to connect you to the other side.
After leaving the hotel, we headed back to the Rocky Mountain National Park. Whereas yesterday had been about experiencing the park through hiking, today was going to be a lot more lazy as we had planned to drive the Trail Ridge Road. Trail Ridge Road is part of US Highway 34 and is 48 mile stretch that traverses the mountains between Estes Park and the Grand Lake. It is known for its steep and winding roads, and stunning views. As we drove
along the road, we quickly gained ground and the views were amazing. I could see for miles and miles, the view was of mountains, the valley, and of course a million trees. There was a place to pull in, so we did and got out of the car to take in the view. We decided to perch on the wall and have a picnic, since it was such a gorgeous spot. This attracted some squirrels, who wanted some of our food. We made sure that they didn't get any, but we were really disheartened to see other people feeding them.
Back in the car, we drove higher. I could see patches of snow and ice on the mountains that hadn't melted away. As we drove further on, the traffic seemed to get worse. At one point we were in a traffic jam, as all the cars had stopped so that some animals could cross safely. We had come to a place called Forest Canyon Overlook and parked up so that we could take a little walk around. We were much higher now and you could see the point where the trees had stopped growing, as the higher ground is
too inhospitable for them to survive. We had gorgeous views across the tundra, looking at the mountain peaks. There were also a lot of deer roaming in this area. It was cool to see them up close, just going about their business, unconcerned by all the people nearby. I was also pleased to see that everyone was behaving respectfully towards the animals. Some of the deer had tracking devices around their necks, I wonder if the NPS were studying their movement or just keeping track of them. None of these deer had any antlers, but we did see one later one, lounging in the grass, that did have some big antlers.
Our next port of call was the highest point in the Rocky Mountain National Park. There is a big cafe and souvenir shop here, and since my friends had done the short hike to the top before, they headed into the cafe to grab a coffee, while I did the hike. It was pretty short only about 15 minutes and not too steep, there were lots of nice, wide flat steps, but the altitude had me stopping to catch my breathe on the way up. I was now
at an elevation of 12,005 feet above sea level, which is about 3,660 metres. Once again, the views across the tundra and of the surrounding mountains were gorgeous, so many shades of green. It was a bit cold and pretty windy at the top, so I didn't stay up there too long. I retreated to the gift shop to meet up with my friends. While I was in there, I saw some people, who, judging by their dress, appeared to be Amish. I wasn't the only one surprised to see them there. I thuoght that they shunned technology like cars, so I wondered how they'd gotten all the way to the top.
From here, the Trail Ridge Road wound its way down the other side of the mountain. Once we were back on what seemed to be the valley floor, we saw loads of cars pulled up along the side of the road, so we did the same. I think that someone had spotted a bear or some other kind of wildlife in the distance. We could see something moving down by one of the small ponds, but it was too far away for us to be able to
make out what it was. Still, it was cool to know that animals were able to go about their business protected by the national park. We drove on a bit further to the end of the Trail Ridge Road at Grand Lake. We headed into the town,which we weren't too impressed with as there wasn't much open. We headed down to the lake and sat on the jetty with our feet in the water. Then we headed back up to the Grand Lake Lodge, where we decided to get some dinner. The Lodge was really cute and I bet it would be nice to stay there. They had a nice looking swimming pool, which had gorgeous views of the lake. The restaurant was pretty busy and we sat outside and munched on some food. I can't remember what we ordered, but it must have been neither amazing or terrible, but just not very memorable.
Then it was time to drive back to Fort Collins. I'm glad the drive wasn't a long one. We did have one last encounter with some wildlife on the way back. We saw a deer with some huge antlers by the side of the road.
That was a perfect end to our road trip to the Rocky Mountain National Park. Back at my friends' place, it was time to pack up all our stuff as we were leaving early in the morning to head to Denver airport for our flight to New Orleans. I had a really amazing time in Colorado and Wyoming. These were two places that probably wouldn't have made it on to my Bucket List, if it wasn't for having friends in the area, but I am so glad that my friends moved here. There is so much natural beauty in this area, I really hope that I can return one day to explore some more.
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