Monday, August 8, 2011


AUGUST 4, 2011:
On top of Mt. Evans!
Click HERE to view a sampling of today's pictures
          A little more relaxing and low keyed morning!  I woke up around 6:30 and finished reading a simple book I had brought along and then took my shower.  By 8 or so Rick and Jed were starting to rise.  We broke camp and were on our way shortly after 9am.  From Kremmling we continued west through more rolling open grassland, but with mountains appearing more and more in the distance.  We arrive in Granby and then drop south past the tourist town of WinterPark and its condos and ski area. Then we climb up Berthoud Pass at 11,315’. A long grade up with lots of twisting curves, but the Honda was awesome and then coming down we geared down and let the truck do the work, not the brakes.  We are really pleased with how the truck is responding to pulling the trailer.   The pass was awesome – I took a video of parts of it because it was just too hard to take pictures from the windows. 
            Shortly after Berthoud Pass, we dropped down to I-70 for a short distance to Idaho Springs and Route 103 to Mt. Evans.  We stop at the Visitor Center, make a few purchases, gather some information, park the truck and trailer, and load ourselves and some food into Jed’s car for the 28 miles to the top of Mt. Evans.  This road, constructed back in the 1930’s or so, is an engineering marvel - the highest paved road in America.  The first 14 miles to Echo Lake wind up and around through thick forest.  At Echo Lake we go through an entry  fee station and pay our $10 for the toll road to the top – another 14 miles.  Shortly after, we leave timberline (the last part was covered with bristlecone pines) and wind around barren tundra type hills covered with wildflowers and low growing vegetation.  The vistas to the southwest increase more and more and we appear to be way up above all these other peaks.   Miles of miles of mountain peaks! 
            The top of Mt. Evans is like Grand Central Station!  My goodness.  The parking lot is packed, but we manage to find a spot.  There used to be a restaurant and viewing spot at the top, only in 1979, a propane explosion blew the top off.  Now the shell has been cleaned up with interpretive displays inside. Denver University has an observatory at the top as well, but it isn’t open to the public. 
            We grab a bite to eat and then hike up the quarter mile trail to the summit of the peak.  A well graded trail, with plenty of people on top!  We are watching the building clouds with a keen eye, as there have been some lightning strikes in the distance visible.  It is cold up on top with a little bit of a breeze, but not overly windy.  Jed borrows the camera to take a whole bunch of panorama pictures – I end up the day with over 400 additional pictures on my camera from today!  Wow!  (Jed can’t find his camera since leaving Baker – he may have left it at home.)
Jed at Summit Lake
            As the peak is enveloped in clouds we head down the mountain, stopping for a brief hike at Summit Lake to view the wildflowers and explore what is beyond the end of the lake.  The Summit Lake meadows are vast with multiple cairns and puddles.  While we are hiking around Summit Lake, the clouds totally cover us – no sense in hiking around much more now!  But we got to experience most of Mt. Evans.  It is a pretty amazing place.  And we have been to the top of 14,264’!! 
            Jed drives us back down the windy road and we get back to the truck and trailer around 3:30.  We need ice, so Rick takes the Honda on to find Kelly Dalh Campground, while Jed and I head into Idaho Springs for ice and a couple of other goodies.  We thought we would meet up with Rick sooner, but alas….Center City was our undoing – construction, narrow windy streets, very poor directional signage, and as Jed says, “built at the bottom of a sharp ridge gulley” – a mining town.  Well, evidently Jed and I didn’t find the correct road through town (Rick says it took him a couple tries) and we ended up on a dirt road that was marked as the bike route to Hwy 119.  We knew we wanted to get to that road, so we stayed on the dirt road.  Figured this was NOT the way Rick probably came and hope he wasn’t waiting for us somewhere.  Around 5pm, we arrived at Kelly Dahl and found Rick waiting at the entrance station.  He had already found the site.  We had quite a great adventure, Jed and I!
            The campground is really pretty – the area has been cleared of all the bug kill trees.  Lots of tree stumps, but the ground is covered with low lying plants and wildflowers.  We are surrounded by wild geranimums, paintbrush, tiny penstemons, mariposa lilies, and what looks like black-eyed susans. 
Our Kelly Dahl campsite
            In opening and setting up the trailer, I discover that the sangria bottle has broken in the bin under Rick’s bed.  Oh dear!  The bottle is a mess of broken glass, Rick’s sweatshirt is totally soaked, the box holding Mom’s sun is all wet, but fortunately, not much else is that soaked.  Rick takes care of the clothing while I clean up the trailer floor.  Fortunately Mom’s books were in plastic bags, although a couple did get a little damp.  Hopefully she’ll enjoy the smell of sangria while she reads. 
            Dinner, a walk through the campground, Rick and Jed gather firewood, we walk out to discover a lake across the main road and watch a beaver or muskrat swim around.  A short time around the fire to chat while I download pictures and write this missive. (Which later had to be severely edited to remove all the typos from working in the dark!)  The air is cooling off!!!  Goodnight!   PS  The stars are awesome right now.  The skies have cleared and there isn’t a cloud showing, just starry starry night.  Hmmm didn’t John Denver write a song about Rocky Mt high and raining fire in the sky? 

Mileage today: 976 odometer, so 111 miles with trailer, not including the 56 Jed drove to the top of Mt. Evans and back. 

Click HERE to view a sampling of today's pictures. 
            Oh what a beautiful morning!  The sky is absolutely clear and the sun is shining!  I get up at 6:30 and look over the wildflower book for about a half hour.  Then up and outside to get the water heating for coffee and some reading.  Eventually we are up and ready to pull out at 9am bound for RMNP!!  What a glorious day!! 
Meeker and Longs Peaks
            It is about 50 miles up to Estes Park and the entrance gates to the park.  We pass through a number of small mining towns, now vacation villages for Boulder and Denver – basically a natural playground for the millions living just east of the Rockies.  Conference grounds of a wide variety as well as mega-mansions scattered in the hills.  Green meadows, and a few interesting rock formations.  Just south of the park, we pass Meeker Peak at 13,911 and just behind it the highest peak in the park, Long’s Peak, at 14,255’.   Longs Peak is the ONLY 14er in the park and the most northern 14er in the Rocky Mt. chain.  All the rest of Colorado’s14ers are south of here. 
            We bypass Estes Park as none of us feel compelled to travel through the megapolis of tourism there!  We pay our $20 (only two more years and Rick will be able tro get a Senior Pass and every park will be free from then on!!!!) and begin the uphill drive to the Alpine Visitor Center located at Fall River Pass – elevation 11,796 feet.  Just past Horseshoe Park, we turn on to the one way Fall River Road and travel 11 miles on a winding, hairpin turn, narrow road to the top of the pass.  The views are breathtaking!  Mountain peaks everywhere!  Snowmelt!  Flowers!  (Paintbrush, alpine avens, lupine, AND blue columbine!!!  I finally found it near the top of the pass!)  We stopped at a couple of waterfalls, one the site of a major flood in 1979 that killed three people. 
Blue Columbine
            This is NOT the quiet time to visit this National Park.  There are people EVERYWHERE!  Parking is often an issue.  At the alpine ridge trail we can’t find a spot, so continue, but then find a little spot off the road which ends up being a VERY scenic lunch spot!  We take a couple short hikes to Chasm Falls and along the ridge trail. 
            Arrive at the Visitor Center at the top of the pass around 1:15 and spend nearly an hour visiting the shop and looking at displays.  It also is Grand Central Station of people!!  Wow!  Hmmm….some of them appear to be the SAME people we saw up at Mt. Evans!
            The weather has gradually clouded over as the afternoon progresses and we don’t have nearly as much blue sky as earlier.  However, we NEVER are rained on during the day and never hear or see thunder or  lightning. 
Family at top of Tundra Trail
            At the Alpine Visitor Center at Falls River Pass we turn left on to Trail Ridge Road – the main artery through the park, and head back down.  The first 5 miles or so are all above treeline and look like a giant golf course of rolling green.  To the south we see ridge after ridge of snowy peaks.  So awesome. 
            At Mary’s Lake outside Estes Park, we find we finally have cell phone reception, so Rick pulls over so I can call Erik and Jed can call Todd to make arrangements for tonight and tomorrow.  Back down the valley road through Nederland (groceries for picnic tonight and Rick gets gas in truck) and into camp, where we cut up some of the wood, Jed and I play a game of Cribbage and Rick writes some postcards. 
            Kirsty and Erik are to arrive around 6:45.  Should be a fun evening! 
Rick, Kirsty, Kaila, Jed, and Krista
            Well….it is now two days later when I finally get back to business to finish my journal for today!  Kirsty and Erik, plus Christa, Erik’s niece, and baby Kaila arrived about an hour later than expected – at 7:40.  We had gone ahead at 7:30 and started cooking a dog each cause we were hungry!!  But life with babies is always unpredictable!  We had a great evening under clear skies and stars, eating hot dogs, chips, a GREAT tossed salad made with Kirsty’s own greens, and cooking asparagus on the fire.  All topped off with a round of s’mores!
            Kirsty and family left around 10:20 to drive back to Boulder.  Felt guilty – I’m sure Rick was asleep in the tent before they ever even arrived home.  We are set to meet again in the morning to take a hike up to Isabelle Lake.  I’m stoked!! 

Odometer at day’s end: 1106 - 130  miles without tent trailer on a drive into Rocky Mt. National Park.  
The blog is slow in getting posted due to the time it is taking me to sift through the pictures!  I'll try to catch up a couple days at a time!  

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