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Rocky Mountain National Park

2021-06-07 – Springtime in the Rockies caravan… Day 12 – Fruita, CO

Today we return to the Colorado National Monument to see more of its beauty…

On our way to the entrance we crossed the mighty Colorado River…

The Colorado River is the major river of the southwestern United States and northwest Mexico. Its headwaters are in Rocky Mountain National Park where La Poudre Pass Lake is its source. It flows southwest through the Colorado Plateau country of western Colorado, southeastern Utah and northwestern Arizona, where it flows through the Grand Canyon. It turns south near Las Vegas, Nevada, forming the Arizona–Nevada border in Lake Mead and the Arizona–California border a few miles below Davis Dam between Laughlin, Nevada and Needles, California, before entering Mexico in the Colorado Desert. Most of its waters are diverted into the Imperial Valley of Southern California. In Mexico its course forms the boundary between Sonora and Baja California before entering the Gulf of California.

We re-entered the Colorado National Monument.

On August 25, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed the “Organic Act” creating the National Park Service, a federal bureau in the Department of the Interior responsible for maintaining national parks and monuments that were then managed by the department. The National Park System has since expanded to 423 units (often referred to as parks), more than 150 related areas, and numerous programs that assist in conserving the nation’s natural and cultural heritage for the benefit of current and future generations.

The National Park Service manages all of the various “units” – Parks, Forests, Monuments, Historic Sites, Lakeshores, Recreation Areas, Scenic Trails, and several other designations. The first parks were Yellowstone (1872), Sequoia (1890), Yosemite (1890), Mt. Rainier (1899), Crater Lake (1902), Wind Cave (1903), Mesa Verde (1906), Glacier (1910), Rocky Mountain (1915). Colorado National Monument was established in 1911. The different desinations have to do with how they are created. National Parks are created by acts of Congress. National Monuments and most other designations are created by the President via Executive Order. Thirty States have National Parks; the States with the most parks are: California (9), Alaska (8), Utah (5), and Colorado (4).

We began our visit with a ranger talk in the picnic area where we had had dinner last night…

We learned about the geology of these magnificent cliffs and canyons, plus a little of the park history. The man behind the creation of the Colorado National Monument was John Otto, who settled in Grand Junction in the early 20th century. Otto was the first white man to explore the area.

Prior to Otto’s arrival, many area residents believed the canyons to be inaccessible to humans. Otto began building trails on the plateau and into the canyons.  As word spread about his work, the Chamber of Commerce of Grand Junction sent a delegation to investigate. The delegation returned praising both Otto’s work and the scenic beauty of the wilderness area, and the local newspaper began lobbying to make it a National Park. A bill was introduced and carried by the local Representatives to the U.S. Congress and Senate but a Congressional slowdown in the final months threatened the process. To ensure protection of the canyons President William Howard Taft (who had visited the area) stepped in and used the highest powers available to him via the Antiquities Act and presidential proclamation to declare the canyons as a national monument

John Otto was hired as the first park ranger, drawing a salary of $1 per month. For the next 16 years, he continued building and maintaining trails while living in a tent in the park.

For many years during the Great Depression, the Civilian Conservation Corps. built roads, tunnels, trails, and other features of the park. The CCC left in 1941; the major Rim drive was completed in the 1950s.

Following the Ranger talk we visited the Visitor Center. I liked the fact that it is built from the native sandstone…

After we had seen a few exhibits in the Visitor Center we drove the Rim drive for 23 miles, all the way to Grand Junction. We saw 23 miles of rocks.

Here I liked the walls made from the natural sandstone… These walls are several hundred feet long, and they occur at many of the pull-outs along the Rim drive…

After we left the park we drove through Grand Junction again. We found truck fuel and DEF. Tomorrow we will return to Fruita for some final grocery shopping before we enter the wilderness of Dinosaur National Monument, Flaming Gorge Dam, and the Grand Tetons National Park…

It was 97 degrees again, but we have good, clean power, so both AC units are running in the Airstream… At 5:00 we took a walk around the lake in the park.

We also saw the Colorado River again, adjacent to the park…

Unfortunately, we walked out of the park and around the outside of the park, and finally had to go totally around the park and walk in the maim entrance…

After a short break we joined other caravaners for happy hours. We returned to the Villa, and an enjoyable time was had by all…,

2021-05-29 – Springtime in the Rockies caravan… Estes Park, CO – Day 3 – Rocky Mountain National Park

Today was a real thrill. Today’s drive was what Rocky Mountain National Park is all about. We drove from the RV Park (elevation 7,729) to the Alpine Visitor Center (elevation 11,796), passing the high point in the road at elevation 12,188…!

I took about 5,000 pictures. I’ll try to condense them down here…

There are several ecosystems visible from the road – forest, snow, rocks, tundra… It changes at every turn…

In the photo above we can see outside the RMNP. The entire Park is surrounded by National Forests…

At the Forest Canyon Overlook, the pathway was totally covered with snow. We decided to skip this path… We are at elevation 11,700, and we can feel the effects of the altitude…

We are now above the tree line. Nothing but tundra consisting of tiny plants, miniaturizing themselves as a way to survive…

Below are the Lava Cliffs…

Here we see the Gore Range – mountains reaching as high as 12,928′.

We have arrived at the Alpine Visitor Center, elevation 11,796. My Hemoglobins are starving! There is about 14′ of snow on the ground…

Our drive back “down” was exciting! We are driving on the edge of the world!

And then it started to snow!

The rest of the drive down was uneventful. Near the park entrance we saw these funny looking animals…

We believe they are either mule deer or elk?

Quite serendipitously we stopped by the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center. I noticed the detailing…

Something seems familiar… I Googled it…

Beaver Meadows Visitor Center, also known as Rocky Mountain National Park Administration Building, is the park headquarters and principal visitors center of Rocky Mountain National Park. Completed in 1967, it was designed by Taliesin Associated Architects, and was one of the most significant commissions for that firm in the years immediately following the death of founder Frank Lloyd Wright. It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 2001.

Who knew!

So that concluded our time in Rocky Mountain National Park…

We had a drivers’ meeting to discuss our drive to Colorado Springs on Monday – Memorial Day. There are three pages of detailed driving instructions to travel the 145 mile route… Colorado roads must be amazing! (Apparently 20-30 miles of the 70 are under construction, so we are taking back roads…!

This evening, after the meeting, we returned to Bird and Jim, a local restaurant (“Colorado Cuisine”). This time we brought friends… We enjoyed craft cocktails, Smoked Pheasant Chowder, Short Rib Sliders, Colorado Trout, Beef Tenderloin, and something they called the “Carnivore Plate” – Elk Tenderloin, Lamb T-bone, and Wild Game Sausage. And a bottle or two of wine.

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2021-05-28 – Springtime in the Rockies caravan… Estes Park, CO – Day 2 – Rocky Mountain National Park

Today we enter Rocky Mountain National Park.

Rocky Mountain National Park is located approximately 76 mi northwest of Denver in north-central Colorado, within the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. The park is situated between the towns of Estes Park to the east and Grand Lake to the west. The eastern and western slopes of the Continental Divide run directly through the center of the park with the headwaters of the Colorado River located in the park’s northwestern region.[6] The main features of the park include mountains, alpine lakes and a wide variety of wildlife within various climates and environments, from wooded forests to mountain tundra.

The Rocky Mountain National Park Act was signed by President Woodrow Wilson on January 26, 1915, establishing the park boundaries and protecting the area for future generations.[3] The Civilian Conservation Corps built the main automobile route, Trail Ridge Road, in the 1930s.  In 1976, UNESCO designated the park as one of the first World Biosphere Reserves. In 2018, more than 4.5 million recreational visitors entered the park.  The park is one of the most visited in the National Park System, ranking as the third most visited national park in 2015.  In 2019, the park saw record attendance yet again with 4,678,804 visitors, a 44% increase since 2012.

The park has a total of five visitor centers, with park headquarters located at the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center—a National Historic Landmark designed by the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture at Taliesin West. National Forest lands surround the park on all sides.

Today is the beginning of the summer season in the park. To control the crowds you must make a reservation to enter the park. We had procured a 9:00 am entrance time to go to Bear Lake, an alpine lake with a lovely walking/hiking path around it. We waited in three lines of cars for over 1/2 hour before we finally arrived at the entrance station.

Once in the park we again saw these magnificent mountain peaks…

Once at Bear Lake we had friends take our picture… While the temperatures were in the mid-60s, the wind was freezing…

The lake is mostly frozen over. The path around the lake is mostly snow, slush, and ice, with rare patches of dirt, mud, and rocks.

This is what the path looked like most of the way around the lake:

After completing the Bear Lake loop we drove a short way to Sprague Lake; this is Glacier Creek, which feeds into the lake.:

Spraugue Lake is named after Abner Sprague, one of the original settlers in the Estes Park area. Sprague built a homestead in Moraine Park in 1874 that eventually grew into a hunting and fishing lodge and dude ranch. He dammed the creek to create the lake so his guests could enjoy fishing and boating. The lodge operated from 1910 to 1940, preceding the actual National Park.

We enjoyed watching the ducks dive for food…

The lake offered great views all around. It was an easy 3/4 mile, with no ice and snow underfoot…

We don’t know what animal hatched out of these eggs… Maybe Elk? Moose?

After our time in the Park it was time for lunch! Bird and Jim’s serves “Colorado Cuisine”. Local ingredients, and creative recipes. We enjoyed a Smoked Pheasant Chowder and Short Rib Sliders…

After lunch came a nap; then we had our first GAM – a “Get Acquainted Meeting”. We will have five of these, giving us all an opportunity to get to know each other even better…

After the GAM we walked around the pond, and returned to the Villa.

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

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