We started the day by driving into the Park to drive Trail Ridge Road to experience the stunning scenic vistas, vast alpine landscapes and hopefully some wildlife.. It is considered to be one of America’s premier outdoor adventures. The drive is approximately 40 miles long rising to an elevation of 12,183 feet above sea level, where climatic donations, plants and animals are similar to those found near the Arctic Circle. For every 1,000 feet driven the temperature drops 3-5F, just as if you had driven 600 miles north.
We arrived at the first stop-off point, Sheep Lake, where we met and chatted with three Rangers, all volunteers. As you would expect, their knowledge of all things RMNP (Rocky Mountain National Park) was second to none. I have to say, the wind was blowing a hooley and it was very cold. We were so pleased we decided to wear our jeans today instead of shorts.
Apparently, there was a 10-year dry spell but the last two years it has been wet again meaning that Sheep Lake in particular again has lakes with water and lots of wild flowers have returned.
The views along the 40 miles are just spectacular, although some are rather scary. There are times where it’s just a shear drop over the side. They only opened the road after the winter snows last week and it takes six weeks to clear the snow to enable visitors to drive the route.
I took this photo through the windscreen so it’s not perfect!
Simon took a video on the way up the mountain.
On the way up we saw many brave souls actually cycling up!! Rather them than me! This is Adam, one such brave soul. It had taken him four hours to reach the highest point on the road. I wouldn’t like to be cycling down in the strong wind blowing today. One false move and it’s ‘goodbye Trail Ridge Road’ and ‘hello, 12,000 feet below’.
When we stopped at Horseshoe Park there was a family of three, the parents and a little girl of about five and she was stood on top of a short wall, just one easy jump before falling 10,000 feet to the valley below. I can tell you I felt sick. The parents didn’t have hold of her and she actually climbed over the wall and was stood on the rough terrain the other side. The wind could so easily have pushed her over.
Well, not one to hold back, I asked the Dad if he was happy that his young daughter was stood so close to the edge and he just shrugged it off. I also voiced my concerns to the Mum but I don’t think she understood English, let alone my concerns!
When we were up at 11,000 feet Si tried to get out of the car to take some photos but the wind at that point was so bad he couldn’t open the door so had to give up.
On the way up we saw a snow plough and on the way down and a little further up the road saw this ice cutter (a Sandra ‘special’ photo, taken on the move).
By the time we reached the Alpine Visitor Centre at 11,796 it was bitterly cold. We had actually packed winter jackets and gloves for our trip but where were they when we needed them the most ………….. back at the Inn of course!! Luckily, Si had a jumper, I had a fleece and we both had rain jackets so we were warm enough and we did have our wet shoes on. Another example of not enough planning on our part!!
This is how deep the snow is in places. Also, when we were leaving it started to snow so we thought we should make a quick exit back down before we were snowed in!
We decided to have some lunch at the Visitor Centre and Si was very pleased with his German sausage and I with my chicken noodle soup …………… until that is I decided to pour the remains of my soup all over my jeans! I tell you, the older I get the more stupid I get.
We were surprised to find that even at 12,000 it’s possible to encounter road works! Luckily, as it’s Sunday today, they were not working. The pole next to the traffic light sign is the snow pole they use to measure the depth. You can see this one is very tall indeed.
It suddenly occurred to us that as we were driving in the Rocky Mountains now would be a good time to listen to some John Denver so that’s what we did, listened to and sang along with his famous song, Rocky Mountain High. This is JD in Australia in 1974.
(I do not own the video or it’s content. Thanks goes to oicurapns for the video)
We didn’t see much wildlife on the drive, just this Clark’s Nutcracker and a Marmont.
Here are some other views of the Park. This first photo is of Long’s Peak, a squared-top mountain standing at 14,259. It can be seen from just about anywhere in the Park. For thousands of years it has been used as a navigational aid to travellers from prehistoric hunters to Ute people who also saw it as a sacred place.
Major Stephen H. Long led an Army topographic expedition to the region in 1802 and the peak is named after him.
Just a last special note to Sam at the Mammoth Springs Hotel!
Sam, if you read this, you will remember what happened with our bread plates? Well we had a similar incident last night but this time with our salad bowls! What is it about us that makes waiters want to remove our china before we’ve finished with it!! We thought of you and had to laugh.