Monday, June 27, 2005

Trail Ridge Road

Saturday, June 11

Got up about 6:00. I was cold and wanted some hot food. I made some coffee, then some oatmeal and added the dried cinnamon apples. It was quite good -- could've been a little sweeter, but hot and "not disgusting" were at the top of the the priority list, so this was gourmet.

It had cleared up some, and I could see some of the mountains in the National Park to the East. Sun was glistening off of dew-covered vegetation. And the lovely considerate folks who had given me such a good night's entertainment began to stir about 150 yards to the north.

The same Butthead laugh was there, backed with less alchohol. A generator turned on. I wanted out of there, and I did it pretty quick.

I drove farther up the road into the National Forest .... something I should've done the night before -- and it wound up the mountain a ways along the side of the Stillwater Creek valley. I stopped at a point just under 10,000 feet and found a place in the stream that offered a bit of privacy and I went down there with my washcloth and towell to tidy up a bit. C-C-C-C-OLDDD water. But clean.

I had been a while getting up here and of course looking around at all the beauty in the Rocky Mountain morning, and it was proably around 10:00 before I left and headed for Trailridge Road, hoping it would be open. I had a pretty good hunch it would be.

Stopped at the West side visitors center, talked to the rangers, and bought a little keychain thermometer. The road had opened about an hour before I got there.

I headed up. It began to rain again, which was not what I had hoped for, but it didn't last long -- by the time I got up about 1,000 feet from the road entrance, it had stopped and there was a lot of sunshine and beautiful views of the Never Summer Range and the early stages of the Colorado River.

Naturally there was a lot of picture taking during this whole period.

The road winds up past the snowline to Milner Pass. Poudra lake was still frozen. Ran into people from Illinois & Kansas .... and from all over the world as well.

After the taking the standard "Pass" shot, I pressed on up past the treeline to the Alpine Visitors Center.

Just to the northwest of the Visitors' center is a footpath, still mostly snow covered, to a nearby 12,000 peak. I can't resist a peak so close, so I went there first. I had lots of company. It was partly cloudy, temperatures probably around 45-50 with a slight breeze. You had to wait your turn at the top for a "peak" shot, but lots of friendly folks were up there to take them for you, and I took a few for others myself. Everywhere I pointed my camera there was a fantastic view ... the kind a camera can never capture, but still there were plenty of interesting subjects to shoot and of course I did.

I wandered back down to the Visitors Center eventually, but I'm just not into stuff for the sake of stuff anymore and it was like a small version of the tourist trap at the top of Pike's Peak ... without the tram.

So again I pressed on to the Tundra Curves. Tundra is neat. These little plants get a few scant weeks out of the year to eek out some sunlight gathering/food making/storing and oh yeah, maybe 1/100" of growth before they're wolloped with a deep blanket of snow again until next ... "summer". And on any day of the summer they can be covered with snow as well!

After the Lava Cliffs (remnants from an ancient lava flow) and tundra curves you look over Forest Canyon, which eventually dumps out into Morraine Park. Right by the road near the "Rock Cut", there's public restrooms at 12,090 feet. Elevation proudly displayed over the window.

Right about here I got my first look at the flat top of Long's Peak for this trip... I was surprised to be able to see it. You forget that the park is relatively small compared to the scale of the features in it. Some of you may remember that I had planned to try to climb it this trip, but one look at it told me that it would NOT be this year. You need to do it in July, Aug, or maybe early September. Too much snow, and the Trough was full of snow probably deeper than I've ever seen if I'd dared to go up there ...and made it.

By this time I'm thinking I need to move along a little faster because I need to find a place to camp and I wanted to try to meet Brad Fitch at the YMCA of the Rockies. I knew I'd be stopping to take more pictures, but I tried to make them less frequent on the way down the other side.

I went through horseshoe park and out to the Beaver Meadows Visitors Center and asked about camping. They said they still had places open at Moraine Park, so I went and paid for a night and set up my tent in site 99. The campgrounds were nearly full -- not surprising for a Saturday evening. I cooked dinner and checked my voicemail -- there was a message from Brad. He was playing 5-7. By the time I got my dinner dishes cleaned up, though, it was about 6:30 and I decided against it -- though I did drive out there around 8:00 just to look at the place. It's very pretty.

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