Monday, August 11, 2014
Above the Tree Line
Well, the temperature in the camper was a nice, toasty 66 degrees... until the propane ran out about 5:15 am. The temperature quickly dropped to 42 in the camper in less than an hour.
Yeah, for some reason I forgot how much propane we'd used our last few nights in Ouray a couple of years ago. There was much less in there than I thought. I know what we'll be doing before tonight.
We got up at 7:00 and dressed (very quickly!) and had a quick yogurt and granola bar and some coffee. Vicki doesn't like to eat early in the morning, but she had a piece of bread. The sky was perfectly clear. We'd had thunderstorms the last two days, and the rest of the week, especially Thursday -- had a decent chance of rain in them. Perfect day for a Trail Ridge drive.
I might tell myself I would rather have waited until later in the week, but it's kinda not true. I'm always jonesin' for some 'tude, and time above the tree line is precious. I really like to get up there as quickly as possible, and with a nice paved road that takes us right up there ... why not?
I stopped at the main stopping places for Vicki to see ... Many Parks Curve, where you can see Moraine Park, Beaver Meadow, Horseshoe Park, Horseshoe Falls & the Alluvial Fan, and even some of Estes Park ... then up to Rainbow Curve, then up past the tree line to Rock Cut and Sundance Mountain. We did the little 1/4 mile hike to the top of Sundance (one of the easiest 12'ers you'll ever do, and so worth it) and climbed up on the rock formations at the top. There was a small herd of elk grazing on the north slope tundra, and you could see Fall River Road winding up the valley below. A little pica popped out of the rock at the top of the mountain about 2 feet from where Vicki was sitting ... probably hoping she had something to eat ... but no luck.
The Alluvial Fan we could see below is one of my favorite places in the park to just chill. If you have kids, it's a must. Horseshoe Falls cascades from above into little shallow pools of water among rocks and boulders perfect for kids to safely explore while you sit at take it in. Unfortunately, about a week before we left, they closed it to start work on Fall River Road -- which they say will take about 2 years to repair from the flood damage -- which is extensive. The alluvial fan added to itself in the flood and the river changed course through it. There is at least 4 feet of rock, gravel, and boulders in the west parking lot and over much of the road. I'm sure they'll have that part ready by next summer. It's the rest of Fall River Road that will take a couple of years to fix. That's why we hadn't gone there. But I digress. Back up top on Trailridge....
Late afternoon I decided I wanted to look for Windy Gulch Cascade ... if it existed this time of year. It's only on a few maps, and it's less than 1/4 mile I think from the Fern Lake trailhead. If you look at a topo map, you can see that it probably only runs when there's snowmelt or during a rainstorm. It's where the runoff from a high mountain meadow runs into a cliff at the edge of Forest Canyon.
I climbed back down off the boulder using the same trees, but as I put my weight on some downed trees on the ground, one of them broke, wrenching my right shoulder, bonging my right elbow, and scraping my right shin. Guess the bike wreck wasn't enough, I needed a few more injuries to go with them.
Vicki shook her head at the blood when I got back. It was actually worse than it looked, but still wasn't bad at all.
We headed back to camp and had leftovers from the night before.
Perfect mountain weather day.