Day 200 – Rocky Mountain Ramble

Day 200 – Rocky Mountain Ramble, June 30, 2011

I went to bed with a deer outside my window and woke up to
an elk just a few campsites away.  He was
enormous!  Little did I know that at the
visitors’ center situated just before the entrance of Rocky Mountain National
Park, I’d find a whole herd of elk, including babies!  What a way to start the morning.

I chose to explore the east side of Rocky Mountain National
Park this morning and turned south on Bear Lake Road just after passing through
the Beaver Meadows Entrance Station.  The
paved two-lane road descended into Moraine Park, a stream cut meadow blanketed
in wildflowers, before it began its ascent past a variety of trailheads nestled
in the pine forest.  VANilla carried us
past the park and ride where motor homes and trailers were required to stop as
the road hugged the mountainside as it zig-zagged to a dead-end at Bear Lake

Bear Lake Trailhead led to a variety of hikes from a mile in
length and beyond.  I chose a two mile
walk past Nymph Lake to Dream Lake.  I
followed the paved path, slowly sloping upward past boulders and in the shade
of tall pines, many of which have succumbed to the Rocky Mountain Pine beetle,
to first reach Nymph Lake.  Its crystal
waters reflected towering peaks crowned in snow.

After rounding Nymph Lake, I climbed the trail up to a rock
overlooking the lake.  The path continued
along a lovely creek as it slowly became covered by snow, at first just
patches, until I crossed the bridge to spend the final hundred yards trying to
stay upright. Two different paths crossed the snowy hill.  The dirtier one, which seemed most traveled, arced
over the small crest while the cleaner path,mostly flat, followed below the
hill and led to a few footholds chipped into the snowpack.  I took the less traveled, flat path as it
seemed like I had a greater chance of staying on two feet rather than cooling
my rear.

The view of Dream Lake was simply breathtaking, and sliding
across the snow to see it was worth it.
I’m certain I’m not the only one who thinks so given the image can be
found on the Colorado Quarter.  I
returned the way I came as I watched a family of four return via the arced
path.  Just as soon as the mother set
foot on the slope, I heard a shrill shriek, a bunch of laughter, and saw the
stout lady dressed in blue jeans and red T-shirt slide on her backside down to
flat ground!

After conquering the snow, I skipped down the path almost to
the trailhead where I turned to the right to follow a path to Alberta
Falls.  The first half mile descended
toward the creek and gorge through groves of aspen, while the second half mile
followed up the creek through pines until it reached the falls that tumbled so
hard over the massive stones that only white water appeared.

I only stopped at the falls briefly as Petey was not allowed
on the trails and was patiently awaiting my return to VANilla.  He and I spent the rest of the morning
driving around the park enjoying spectacular views of more than 70 peaks that
soar higher than 12,000 feet.  After
lunch, we returned to Estes Park and took advantage of 3G service while
thunderstorms came through in waves.

When the storms subsided, I took Petey for a stroll along a
dog friendly walk/bike path which led from the Estes Park Visitor Center, along
the river, past a nine-hole golf course complete with geese and golfers dressed
in tie-dye T-shirts and cowboy hats, through a bird sanctuary, and around Lake
Estes.  Shortly after returning to
VANilla, the skies unleashed again.  I
aimed VANilla toward our campsite where I spent another night.  ETB