Have you ever wanted to sell everything you own and just "take off?" Travel the country's back roads, paddle down a meandering stream, experience breath-taking mountain views, walk among 100-year old trees, and just marvel at America's beauty? That is the dream that my partner, Betsy, and I decided to make a reality. This blog describes our adventure. The food we eat, people we meet, sights we see, and the enjoyment we find in traveling.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Rocky Mountain National Park

The splendor of the Rocky Mountains is wholly exhibited in the National Park that bears its name.  Created in 1915, the park has attracted nature lovers, outdoor enthusiasts, and common people who just appreciate incredible natural beauty for nearly 100 years.

Long before President Woodrow Wilson signed legislation making this a National Park and tourists started coming, the area was inhabited by many peoples.  Native American Indians, explorers, homesteaders, miners, hunters, and dude ranchers have all laid their claims to the area at one time or another.  The park pays tribute to these people through its preservation of historic buildings and interpretive centers scattered throughout the park.  There have been countless times Betsy and I have given thanks to the people that have worked tirelessly to set aside these treasured lands for the preservation and enjoyment of future generations like ours.

Plan on visiting the park for many days but if you have only one you must drive the popular, but equally satisfying, Trail Ridge Road.  This is the highest paved road in the United States which crests at 12,000 feet and brings you into the clouds, closer to the heavens, and leaves you marveling at the beauty that surrounds.  So set out on the road and be prepared to have the ultimate Rocky Mountain experience with majestic mountains, abundant wildlife, ecologically important habitats (like alpine tundra), and almighty views.  Once you arrive at the “top” of the road you will be at the Alpine Visitor Center where you can stretch your legs, have your questions answered by a park ranger, grab a bite to eat, and of course there is a gift shop for you to peruse.    

A yellow-bellied marmot was entertaining us on the side of the road.
On our way up the Alpine Visitor Center, we took the Old Fall River Road.  This is a hair-raising, gravel road that is only open a few months of the year and barely wide enough for our SUV.  The road is one-way so you are committed once you set out but driving through the towering ponderosa pines and hanging over rugged cliffs is well worth it.  On our way back down, we took the Trail Ridge Road and stopped at the many pull-offs to enjoy the scenery.  

Nearing the end of our journey we stopped because of a “road block.”  To our delight the holdup was caused by a herd of bighorn sheep with young lambs that had come down from the mountains to feed in the mineral rich pools.  Rangers and volunteers were very protective of the herd and we were offered limited access but with good reason (for both the sheep and us).  What a great day in the park!

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