One approaches Rocky Mountain National Park from the east through Big Thompson River Canyon. Just driving up that narrow canyon with its fast rushing stream evokes the old West – except for a few too many cabins along the way.
The park was created in 1915, one of the earliest. Although there is plenty of camping inside the park, there are no lodges. However, we found plenty in the little town of Estes Park right outside the entrance. If you like small shops and restaurants, you will like just walking around Estes Park. And like us, you may see elk right downtown. The tourists love the elk, but I’ll bet the residents get tired of them.
As it was Sunday when we arrived, construction on the road to Bear Lake was halted. I suppose it will be finished in the summer. But the park gets three
million visitors a year, and I can’t imagine all those cars on the roads. On the way, there is a huge parking lot where one can get a free shuttle to the lake. It was completely empty and gave us a wonderful mountain view for a picnic lunch.
Arriving at the lake, we found that although the walk was only 256 feet, there was still snow and ice covering the path so deep that in places it covered the railings, benches and signs along the way. But visitors had found branches to use as walking sticks and left them stuck in the snow when finished. We were slow, but we made it – and there were people walking in flip flops!
On our way out, we stopped to walk around Sprague Lake where the path was clear except for a few yards. Nonetheless, when we got back to town, we bought Alie a folding walking stick – also a good cane to take on planes.
A ranger had suggested the mile and a quarter walk on Old Fall River Rd to Chasm Falls was just a gravel road, so the next day we decided to do it. He forgot to say it was uphill. It was a beautiful walk even if the altitude left us breathless (there are no steep hills in Florida). And Alie wasn’t going to let 43 years of arthritis prevent her going the last couple hundred rugged steep broken steps down to the falls viewpoint. Fortunately we also have those years experience coping.
On 15 July 1982, the Lawn Lake Dam failed sending 24 million gallons of water down the hill killing three campers and creating a huge “Alluvial Fan” of boulders, trees and other debris at the base of the hill before going on flooding Estes Park to a depth of six feet. Thirty years later, scientists are still studying natures remodeling. There were a group of college students visiting while we were there.
In the summer, one can take US 34, Trail Ridge Road, west out of the park. We just got to Rainbow Curve, a little over 10800 feet before the road was still closed from the winter snow. That night, we drove out to Beaver Meadows, one place where most man-made light is hidden. The stars were wonderful.