Rocky Mountain Way
17 Oct 2007
|I did play Joe Walsh's Rocky Mountain Way real loud as I drove down into the gateway town of Estes Park where I am staying for the next couple of days, the Rocky mountains towering behind the town, which itself is at 7,500 feet, and a bit nippy. It is weird to go in a few days from pouring water over myself to avoid sunstroke in 100 degrees to having hail and snow whipping into my face. Getting through Denver in the rush hour wasn't too bad though, nothing like trying to do the same in a European city. And I passed a town called Hygiene on the way, which tickled me.
Downtown here is quite nice, but I couldn't afford that, so I am out past the edge of town. There is a big old hotel looming over the town called the Stanley Hotel, which is the one used in the film The Shining (a 'classic' horror film). They are having a Shining Halloween Ball soon. My room doesn't have a/c but it does have a heater and it sure needs it. It started snowing pretty much as soon as I left my motel, and an increasing wind added to the freshness. The snow mostly isn't staying so far, only in the high bits.
The bad news was that the Trail Ridge Road across the Park was closed and likely to stay that way. This effectively means I can't get to either the high plateau of the Rockies or the West side of the Park. Nevertheless, the East Side has a lot to offer. The Rockies National Park doesn't have the 'star turns' of the Grand Canyon and Yosemite, but it does have a lot of big mountains, forests and pretty lakes, all arranged in a pleasing way. So I drove around a bit, saw some wild elk, but mostly hiked some of the shorter trails, i.e. under 4 miles. I didn't want to get too far away from the road in case the weather turned really nasty. The trails were all over 10,000 feet, so I took it easy for a change, and all in all had a nice relaxing time, feeling the most mellow I have for a while.
I did some scoping of my Yellowstone plan, and there is a significant risk that much of the Park will be closed. Also, it does take a day to drive there, and there is nowhere really fabby inbetween to break up the journey. I'm not too sure what to do, but will probably ring Yellowstone tomorrow and try and get more detail on the current state of play.
I had buffalo stew for tea and a local Guiness, both of which were really nice. Elk next!
I did a lot more research on Yellowstone on the net in bed this morning. It has a very interesting website, and I am thoroughly keen to go, 600 miles of driving or not. The webcams there also reassure me that it should be driveable round the Park. I can't wait. I also rang home and reassured myself things were OK there. Now I'm off for a fried breakfast and more hiking in this winter wonderland!
It was a good day, very enjoyable despite the weather, two different but both great 6 mile walks. When I got in the Park not only was Ridge Trail Road closed, but the Rangers warned me that the road to the trailhead I wanted was covered in ice. Damn! So I made a a quick change of plans and went for a walk in the vally bottom at about 8,000 feet instead. It was snowing lightly, and windy, but a very beautiful walk though mostly forests. It was very relaxing.
That was the walk I was going to do if I had time left in the afternoon after the walk I had had to cancel. But in the hope the roads were less icy by that point in the afternoon I drove up towards Bear Lake. The roads had been gritted and some ice had melted, so iI just drove slow on the rest and managed to get to the trailhead I wanted at just over 9,000 feet. From there I walked up past Alberta Falls to Mills lake at over 10,000 feet. The snow was a lot deeper on the ground and the wind was much stronger, especially near the Lake where it was so strong it was taking my breath away and making the blown snow sting my face. It was very dark, stormy and atmospheric up there. All in all, a great walk that I did manage to get to do in the end, very magical and Xmassy amongst the trees and snow. I saw two coyote but haven't seen any beaver yet, though they are here. As also are wolves incidentally, there are 12 wild wolf packs in the Rockies.
And tomorrow to Yellowstone! Did you know there is about one earthquake a day there? And it is on top of what may be the biggest volcano ever and holds the remains of a truly vast caldera (bit left after volcano blows) 40 miles across! A whole section of the website is devoted to addressing people's fears in respect of when this might blow, but it as much as says that in the extremely unlikely event it blows in the near future you're dead anyway. Its a shame the driving is a little bit too much to allow me to detour a 200 mile round trip to the Devil's Tower, central to the film Close Encounters, but this was quite enough, and travelling has to involve leaving something out.