First Day at Elevation and Old Fall River Road

We enjoyed our dinner on Tuesday night and took in the spectacular show of the setting sun. We kept marveling at the solitude of the Hermit Park Bobcat Campground. The only civilized sound that reached us was from the occasional airplane. Mountain chickadees settled within arms reach of us to dine on juniper berries. Vaguely familiar birds turned out to be lifer Pygmy Nuthatches. Suddenly, two large vans with trailers proceeded up our road, with speakers at full blast. Dozens of teenagers jumped out, chanting, cheering and singing. The contrast to our recent serenity couldn’t have been more stark. Soon, several of the girls found Blue and squealed their joy at having a puppy to pet. Blue basked in the attention. The kids were at a sleep-away camp and had recently returned from a several day backpacking trip. I am sure I was much more obnoxious at times of my adolescence, but I hope that most of my camp song nights were far enough away from vacationing ears.img_8888Fortunately, we were exhausted enough that the poorly sung oldies (Britney Spears) didn’t keep us up much past 9:30. Which was a good thing because Blue woke us about 4:30.

We intended to get up early and try to view some wildlife anyway. So we eventually warmed to the idea of getting up. We loaded up and headed into Rocky Mountain National Park. One of the secrets we have gleaned from many years of visiting crowded parks is to take advantage of the difference in time zones and visit as early as possible. This is when animals (besides the humans) are most active. And the early morning light creates such a picturesque scene. This morning was no disappointment. We headed up the Trail Ridge Road. Nine miles of deeply-rutted gravel switchbacks lead to Fall River Pass at 11,796 feet. Along the way we were treated to breath-taking snow-fed streams that plunged over lacey waterfalls. Forests opened to meadows cloaked in the many hues of summer wildflowers. Most of our previous trips to mountains have been in late summer/early fall and we have always arrived too late to the botanical party. We were stunned by the rainbow of varieties in late July.img_8924

Blue enjoyed the ride as well and we wondered if her nose muscles would be tired from all the twitching. It truly seemed like she appreciated the vistas and if she took a break from sticking her entire head out the truck in order to gaze out the back window we always found that she was enjoying a particularly breath-taking view that we would have otherwise missed. Her general sense of excitement completely exploded when a herd of elk crossed our path. It took all of our collective strength to keep her in the truck. We were half tempted to let her try her paw at taking down a full grown elk, but thought it may be against general animal harassment policies of the park.

We were constantly amazed at the scenery, but Ted was unprepared for the cool mountain air. Strangely, the thermometer on Ted’s truck read 53 degrees the entire time from entering the park until we reached the pass – despite sun and shade and even as we climbed a couple thousand feet.

We topped out at a near 12,000 feet and began the descent to Estes Park. More spectacular views extended in every direction as the road twisted and turned. It was still mid-morning, but our extremely early breakfast wasn’t going to last us until noon. We returned to the trailer before embarking on our hike for an early lunch and quick rest. Shortly after eating we both realized the altitude was having a greater effect than we anticipated. Ted was having a hard time catching his breath, so we figured it would be best to descend to Estes Park. We noticed a dog park earlier in the day and thought we might kill two proverbial birds.

Blue loved her new high country friends. An amazing part of the park was a beach area for the dogs to swim. Unfortunately, we didn’t think this through until Blue and another dog swam well outside the fenced area. The other dog returned to being called, but Blue spotted two ducks and was going for broke. Our plans to take it easy in the high altitude were scrapped to run after our dog swimming after ducks. So that was pretty much the end of the dog park.

We were feeling better and thought we might tackle the four mile hike in our campground. As soon as we returned thunder and black rain clouds poured over the ridge. Oh well. If you can’t hike, you might as well nap! Blue resisted coming in the trailer at first, but eventually the flies convinced her to come in. She threw a bit of a toddler tantrum, and then, true to toddler style, collapsed into sleep.


It was another lovely afternoon for reading and sunbathing, but we again got hungry enough for dinner. We tried the Rock Inn Mountain Tavern mostly because of it’s dog-friendliness. Ted had the buffalo meatballs and I had a burger. Both were great. Ted then dropped me off to stock up at Safeway to re-provision while Ted took Blue for one more turn at the dog park. They got poured on, but I dealt with chaotic crowds in the store, so I’m not sure who got the worse deal. The rain stopped, but the skies were still gray when we got back to the campsite. It was perfect weather for a campfire.

The evening was much more tranquil than the previous one. The quiet was very conducive to an early evening and bed.


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