Sunday, September 25, 2011

Glorious Days at Rocky Mountain National Park (Estes Park, CO)

Saturday (Sept. 17) arrived at Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) and so did our very good friends Bill and Rena.  Remember they live just south of Tucson and were fellow volunteers in Spearfish. Well, once they arrived we never stopped going!  We all agreed that because of each other's presence we crowded far more into our RMNP experience then we normally would have planned. Consequently, I'm going to spare you the day to day account of our activities and just summarize the highlights. Warning though, this post covers 6 days in one of our nation's most beautiful and diverse national parks ..... there's going to be lots and lots of pictures!!

First, we hiked 4 of the 6 days we were together.  Our hikes typically took us to around 11,000 feet of elevation.  We saw beautiful mountain lakes,

waterfalls and streams,

and endless awe inspiring views that made all the effort quite worthwhile.

We enjoyed picking out the birds (see previous blog entry), the hardy wildflowers,

and all the unique little oddities that makes nature so interesting.

Mule Deer(?) Carcus

Hummingbird Nest
More bones
At the Continental Divide
Twisted Tree

Another one

Unusal Rock Formations

We hiked across areas of tundra, heavily wooded mountainsides and open ROCKY terrain.  It was all breath taking  and extremely satisfying! 

And oh did we see the wildlife.  One day in particular we watched the elk do their thing,

saw numerous deer,

later spotted a coyote 30 yards off the road,

and lastly saw 2 male moose, with full racks of antlers, head butting each other for dominance.  The moose were maybe 20 yards away!  Bill and Rena said after 35 years in Alaska they had never seen such a moose sighting.

Other animal sightings during the week included additional moose (mama and baby),

a mother bear with two cubs (too fast for a good picture),


and marmots,

as well as a ptarmigan (almost hidden) ,

a gopher in action digging his tunnel,

and one small snake.

Another time we laughed and laughed as we watched this squirrel showing off and then eating until his cheeks looked like they would just burst.

Bill and I wrapped up the hiking with a humdinger.  We hiked to Flattop Mountain then another half mile to Hallet Peak.  That totals 10 miles  round trip with an elevation gain of 3250 feet topping out at 12,725 feet!!!  It took us 7.5 hours.  It really gave us the sense of being on top of the world.  Quite exhilarating! 
I even took pictures!  Here's a few:

While Bill and I were hiking, Debbie and Rena visited  the Stanley Hotel, built by the Stanley Steamer fellow in the early 1900's, enjoyed some Estes Park shopping,  and did their own 3 mile hike around Estes Lake.  At one point their path was blocked by a large male elk.  After seeing him chase after a guy who got too close, they waited patiently until he decided to move on. 

We also spent a lot of time driving most all the roads of the park. These outings also included hiking, wildlife sightings and more views.  We attended  ranger/volunteer led programs about the elk rut, beavers, a two hour nature walk and a two hour bird walk.  All four programs were extremely well presented.  Part of what made them so good was the enthusiasm of the presenters.  The birding dude was a professional photographer.  The nature walk was led by a delightful female ranger who had been in the park since 1981.  A quirky ranger told us all about the beavers. The elk presentation was put on by a rather young volunteer fellow who was really quite funny.  What they all had in common was their love of the park!

The last two evenings we were here we drove to a location not 10 minutes away from our campground to watch beavers.  Now, as some of you may know, for whatever reason, Debbie has always had a burning desire to see beavers in the wild.  Mission accomplished!  This stream was full of beaver dams, a huge lodge or hutch and 8-10 beavers.  On the first evening we watched as a beaver began gnawing on a large Aspen tree maybe 12 inches in diameter.  When we came back the next day the tree was down and neatly lying across the stream.  Too impressive!! The beavers put on an endless show that included cleaning themselves, eating like pigs, dragging limbs and mindlessly frolicking.  We couldn't have asked for a better show!   Unfortunately, beavers are most active in the evening which did not make for such great pictures, but here's a few.

We also played some cards and had most of our evening meals together.  This included a trip to our beloved DQ for blizzards!  I hope I have conveyed what a terrifically great time we had at RMNP with Bill and Rena.

Bill and Rena at RMNP
Thanks again for a great time Bill and Rena!!!!
I'm hopeful you can relate to what I've shared but I'm not optimistic that I've adequately described the pleasure of our visit to the RMNP!



  1. Been following your adventures in the RMNP area and totally enjoyed your descriptive writing and beautiful photos. I will definitely put that area on our "to go" list. Thanks.

  2. The Stanley Hotel was built by a great, great uncle of mine. Which it was a closer relative, I'd love to get a discount there.