Sunday, August 08, 2010

Rocky Mountain National Park

Previous years in RMNP, I've lucked out without reservations and been able to stay in Moraine Park, which I think is the cream of the crop as far as campgrounds go in the park.  But we were staying at a very popular time, where we had to stay in a first-come first-serve campground.   The lady I had talked to a couple of weeks before said that Sunday morning is an excellent time to get a campsite there if you arrive relatively early, and since we'd slept in Estes Park and had a quick continental breakfast, that was not a problem.

We got to the park, paid our fees, and drove directly to the campground.   What we didn't know is that you have to sit and wait within earshot of the ranger booth.   She said it could be noon. 

Mark sent the kids off to the edge of the forest to tinker and play while we waited.  The plan had been to put our names in and head off to the Lawn Lake Alluvial Fan or head up to Bear Lake, but that was out of the question.

The campground looks like a moonscape with most of the trees cut down due to the pine beetle infestation.  Where the trees were still up generally the campsites were closed.  But the veiw of Hallett and its surrounding peaks was spectacular if you could tune out the surrounding campground, which the human brain is surprisingly adept at doing. 

We expected a couple of hours.   It was more like 25 minutes.   Site 66 came open, and we sputtered off the whole 1/8 of a mile from where we were parked.   Well, after we found the kids.

Apparently they took "edge of the woods" as a mere guideline and had wandered farther back and played with some downed trees and such, but somehow Mark got them back.  

At the campsite, we set about setting up our respective tents and bedding, putting the food in the bear box and the beer in the truck.   That's right. "The beer.... is in ... the truck".   The phrase KC renfest folks utter to get out of character at the end of the day.

We had everything set up by around 11:30 am.   Ate lunch.  I popped my hat on and switched to Full Mountain Mode™.  And headed off to the Lawn Lake Alluvial Fan. Tragic as the event that created it was, it is a great place to take kids (supervised) to play.  Hell, it's a great place for adults, too. It was a beautiful day for it.

Mark and I stuck our feet in the cold water and whipped out the cameras while the kids climbed over rocks, navigated their way across Roaring River, sat on rocks in the middle of the river (as did we) and climbed the rocks along the edge of the waterfall.  The place was full of people.  A lot of parents with kids.  A little boy about a year and a half or so was busily transfering rocks from one pool of rocks to another.   
We stayed there a couple of hours and then headed down to Moraine Park and the meadow through which the Big Thompson River flows.  The kids waded in.  Mark and I played with our cameras.  I got my 500mm mirror lens out and played with it ... the first time I've had a real chance to.  It's difficult to focus.  Cassie found a spot in the middle of the "river" near a small island and was digging a big hole in the sandy, silty mud.   A group of kids were swimming and floating in the pretty darned cold water (though Mark & I have bathed in colder!)

Cassie was jealous of the swimmers, but we didn't have towels or clothes we didnt' care about.  So after a couple more hours of frolic we headed back toward the campground, stopping at the Moraine Park museum where I knew I could get some chapstick and maybe a souviner or two.   Cassie bought some postcards ... one of Alberta Falls, and asked if we'd be going there.  I said sure, we could.  It's only about a mile from the Bear Lake trailhead.

Then we went back to the campsite where Mark had brats in mind for dinner.     Got ice and wood at the head of the campground.   Mark and the kids cut up various foods for dinner. We started a fire, cooked food, ate, had a beer or two.   Mark played his guitar for a bit and I eventually hauled mine out, but I was feeling too shy in the open campground to sing and besides... I was frankly too short of breath for any breath control.

Our neighbors seemed to be a family with two little boys. They were whiney (don't think at least one of them got enough attention from Dad, so he whined for what he could get) ...  but they got quiet after dark.

It got dark.  We cooked s'mores around the campfire.  Talked, and turned in around 9:30 or so, not really knowing what the plan was for tomorrow.   We knew we wanted to do Bear Lake and Alberta Falls, maybe.  And we'd promised the kids the top of a mountain on the trip.   The weather would decide for us.

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