Day 16! Rocky Mountain National Park

We’ve had a very full day and managed to see a lot of wildlife for a change.

We started out with the sight of Mr and Mrs Duck crossing a main road together but unfortunately didn’t have the camera handy.

At Milner Pass we again crossed the Continental Divide!

Continental Divide

We decided to go back to the Trail Ridge Road today, to the valley, to look at the Holzwarth Historic Site. As we passed over the summit It wasn’t quite so cold and it didn’t snow.

In 1917, John Holzwarth Sr. staked a homestead claim in the valley with the intent of building a cattle ranch. After the Fall River Road through the park opened in 1920, the ranch was re-developed  into a popular resort known as the Holzwarth Trout Lodge. The Lodge is now part of the park and preserved as a historic site. The Holzwarth homestead depicts the rustic, unpretentious dude ranching of the 1920s.

Buildings from the Holzwarth Ranch

Buildings from the Holzwarth Ranch

A summer National Park project to restore the ice house


Prior to the homestead another valley settler, a miner Joseph Fleshuts, homesteaded 160 acres with the intent to live on the land for at least five years. Life must have been hard because in 1911 he abruptly abandoned his cabin and was not heard of again.

Sand at Joseph Fleshuts’ Cabin

Homesteaders, miners and trappers were not the first people to inhabit the valley. Ute Indians have hunted game and gathered plants there for more than 6000 years. The Arapaho came later in the 1800s. Members of both tribes still return to a place that was once their home.

On the way to the Homestead we passed over a raging river which we discovered was the Colorado River headwaters.

Sand at the Colorado River headwaters

Si at the Colorado River headwaters

After that we visited Sprague Lake as the Ranger we met yesterday had told us that a moose and her calf had been seen there. The Lake stands at 8,710 feet and is just a 0.5 mile walk round the lake in very easy conditions and it was beautiful. The lake was built early in the early 20th century to provide trout fishing for guests at a resort owned by local pioneer Abner E. Sprague. The lakeside retreat is long gone but visitors still flock to this beautiful place. We saw a young girl of about seven having a fishing lesson from her father.

Sprague Lake

We were very lucky to see a moose but alas no calf. He didn’t seem bothered by the hordes of humans taking his photo as he enjoyed his lunch.

Moose at Sprague Lake

Moose at Sprague Lake

Our last port of call for the day was Bear Lake. The Bear Lake area stands at 9,475 feet and is only a 0.6 miles hike. It has jewel-like lakes with breathtaking back-drops, ice-cold crystal-clear streams that cascade down spectacular waterfalls, great forests of pine, spruce, fir and aspen, soaring mountains summits, amazing wildlife and colourful plant life.

Bear Lake

As Sprague Lake had been an easy walk we thought Bear Lake would be the same but alas it wasn’t. Most of the trail was covered in very deep snow. Lucky for us we had taken our walking sticks with us.

We met some ladies on our walk and one of them was was telling us how her sons went to the college in the very town we live in! The world is very small indeed.

Here are some other photos we’ve taken today of the Park.

No recycling today!

Road Works ahead!

Rocky Mountain National Park panorama

Rocky Mountain National Park panorama

Rocky Mountain National Park

Holzwarth Valley and the Colorado River

On the way back we rounded a corner and there in the middle of the road was a fawn, without its mother. It looked lost and wasn’t sure which way to go. We sat and waited for it to make up its mind. In the end it went back into the forest to find its mother. We also saw another Marmot clinging on to a rock at about 11,000 feet. He seemed very at home. We also saw mature elk.


Buck elk

Buck elk
















We were very lucky to be able to visit the Estes Park and Rocky Mountain Park area because last September the whole area was devastated by historic floods. Homes and roads were just washed away and businesses devastated and although everything is more or less back to ‘business as normal’ there are still signs of the devastation to be seen.

Tomorrow we leave Estes Park and make for Colorado Springs. A fairly short drive for a change, just 2.5 hours. For those who may remember the television show Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, it is our intention to climb Pikes Peak but luckily for us we won’t have to climb it as she did, by foot, we can either drive up or go on a cog railway. As our previous experience of a cog railway was not that pleasant, I think it’s safe to say we will be driving!

6 thoughts on “Day 16! Rocky Mountain National Park

  1. Malcolm and Mary – Malcolm worked for LWT. Mary worked for TRL. They live near Camberley in Surrey and did achieve their life long ambition to visit New Zealand. They have two daughters Laura and Hannah and two grandchildren Zach & Safi. Having done the big trip they then went to Canada, which was amazing. Scroll down it’s all here. They have visited Venice that they both so fell in love with in 2009 again. And recently returned to Lefkada for one week in glorious sunshine. Where next? Well, Canada is calling again in 2019; this time including Alaska. So stay tuned if you enjoy the ups and downs of travelling.
    Malcolm Treen on said:

    Springwatch is on here at the moment and although they have a cuckoo in a reed warblers nest, your pictures I reckon are giving them a really good run for their money. Love the Elk. Very similar one on the wall of the snug bar in the Crown & Whippet!!!! Truly amazed at the amount of snow. Travel safe.

    • Simon says ‘thanks’ Malcolm. He’s very happy that three of his photos have appeared on Flickr Explore, two of them in two days! You can imagine how big his head is! I wonder if our Elk posed for the one on the wall of the snug bar. Yes, we were rather amazed at the amount of snow too.

  2. I hope that look the first Buck Elk is NOT for you Si. Boy, he sure looks like he means business. I hope that fawn finds his way back to his Momma! Great pics, Si!

  3. The photos are just amazing! I can’t believe how much snow they get, and it probably NEVER goes away! By the time its melted it probably snows again! Thank goodness you packed your winter wear 🙂

    • Thanks Nat. Yes, there was a lot of snow and as you say, some it stays all year. Thanks goodness for that winter wear!

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