Tuesday, September 17, 2019

The New West - The Rockies

And it was down the road through more high plains. (Here a hint of the immensity of view from the dumpster area of a rest stop in southern Wyoming.)

We continued in this visual vein all the way to the border, specifically the northern Colorado border on the way to Fort Collins. In a mere quarter mile, the terrain changed, as though engineered by the state, to scrub pines, granite boulders, and hills. It was a prelude to the Rockies in truth, but also a prelude to the college-town-with-big-box-stores that is Fort Collins. There is no evading "town", though there is as much charm in the cachet-laden downtown walking mall as there is charmlessness in the outskirts with their check cashing stores, worn bodegas and struggling strip malls.

But soon enough we were entering Estes Park, the scenic gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park, which, as the ranger in the visitor center informed us, is the third most-visited NP after Great Smoky Mountains and the Grand Canyon, take that, Yosemite. And on a Monday, well-subscribed, but not claustrophobic.

A must for the visitor is a trip to Bear Lake, which can only be driven to directly on a morning, by the crazed tourist who got up at 5 for breakfast to make sure they got a parking space before they were snapped up. We were unwittingly adept, since we ended up in the vicinity in midafternoon, when those who itch to see bull elk bugling have concluded that the creatures are too enervated to muster a vocalization.

Muster, in fact, they did, as our shuttle passed them, and a bit later too. But between we made our way to the shuttle-handy Bear Lake:

But surprised ourselves, especially being over 9000 feet, by covering a couple of miles more to get to Nymph, Dream, and Emerald Lakes, several hundred feet higher. In the throes of altitude adjustment, there was a bit of walking a shallow molasses pool to each step, but there was plenty of compensation.

We went high on the hog for dinner after such an undertaking, smoked salmon and stuffed trout, and thanked our lucky stars.

Next day was time for covering some ground in the park, in particular making our way to the tundra world in the vicinity of the Alpine visitor center. We had plenty of company making our way up the road through high arboreal areas, then above treeline.

We were not entirely prepared for the force of the wind, and felt like were were going to get blown down at one point.

We did see one plump marmot with his fur in serious disarray. And some Asian girls getting pulled around by their hair by the wind, wisely writing it off as a bad job after perhaps 100 steps.

Then came a frustrating set of attempts to find a viable picnic spot. If there was parking, there was rain. If there was no rain, there was far too much wind; when a wind-sheltered spot emerged, the drops fell.

Back to the room then for lunch, then out to the river walk in Estes Park, then a local brewery, where a suspiciously rigged game was set up near a view of the local sky tram.

(the note on the machine indicates that the management must witness an accurate launch of the quarter.)

Then dinner at a remarkably busy restaurant strategically placed to bag all of the park-exiting traffic. All good, really.

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