Wednesday, July 30th
An update: We had 3.11 inches of rain in the past 24 hours, and our new campsite at Dakota Ridge RV in Golden drains like a champ. We took the day off from touring in the bad weather, and had a brief outing to do chores and grocery shopping. I really do enjoy a good rainy day, listening to the rain drum on the roof, as long as I am warm and dry. : )
Thursday, July 31st
We set off in the rain for Rocky Mountain National Park. We figured with the rainy weather, we would have rain, clouds, and fog at higher elevations but today is our only chance to see any of the park this trip. We found one of the main roads into the park closed due to flood damage (historic flooding/mudslides September 2013).
We entered the Rocky Mountain NP at the Beaver Meadows Entrance Station and stopped at the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center…
Armed with information and my passport stamp, we figured we had time to drive Trail Ridge Road, making a few stops along the way to enjoy the views, smell the lovely pine trees, hear the rushing streams, and look for wildflowers.
The park felt crowded, with lines of cars poking along the road and few pull outs to let faster drivers pass. There were cars everywhere… parked along the roadsides for trails, in pullouts. I saw rafters, rock climbers, hikers, kayakers, bike riders… a lot of people enjoying the outdoors, no matter the weather. I can’t imagine how it will be this weekend, with great weather.
We had a picnic at the pavilion at Hidden Valley Picnic area…
We stopped at the Alpine Visitor Center and took a walk on the trail.
There were a lot of wildflowers in the alpine tundra.
we saw four cow elk in the woods…
Driving along Trail Ridge Road, we saw a lot of wildflowers growing along the roadsides and cliffs… Scarlet Paintbrush, Prairie Paintbrush, Bluebells, Tall Penstemon, American Bistort, Alpine Thistle, Daisies, Lupines…
and I saw a second Western Tanager (on this trip and ever!) land briefly in a pine tree. I watched a Clark’s Nutcracker…
We were driving in mountains with at least a half dozen peaks over 12,000 feet elevation. You could clearly see the timberline at 11,500 feet or so and the alpine tundra at the tops of the mountains. There were still a few small snow fields on the high mountains, although the meadows near the road were all clear of snow. We saw a few streams with great volumes of rushing water, and just a few small, thready waterfalls, seen from a distance.
It was getting late and we still had a ways to drive before reaching our RV park. Leaving Rocky Mountain NP, we drove through the Arapaho National Forest and the Arapaho National Recreation Area. We saw several lakes, including Lake Granby, all fed from the Colorado River. We saw a large crowd of stopped cars and sure enough, there was a large animal sighting down below. We crossed the road and walked near and could just make out three moose down in the willows. A bull moose, young bull moose, and one unknown (I only saw his rump). I never did see a whole moose, just bits and pieces of moose busy eating the green leaves. What a day though… three moose at once!
Further along Hwy 34, not ten feet from the highway, I saw 3 big horn sheep grazing on the hill, on the driver’s side of the truck as we drove past. No way to get a picture but I enjoyed the sight immensely!
The scenery along Hwy 34 South was spectacular on our way back to Golden…
It was a long day for John, driving 225 miles. If not for the closed roads, it probably would have only been 150 miles today. We got back to camp and relaxed before dinner, and started planning our route east. We leave with the caboose in the morning, with lots of new memories and plenty of photos!