Rocky Mountain National Park - Trail Ridge Road
For our first full day in the mountains, we decided we'd take it a little easy and let our bodies acclimate to the high altitude. Since I got pretty winded walking to the top of a parking garage in Boulder, I was all for the
Unfortunately, it wasn't quite as restful as we thought it would be... but I'll get to that later.
First, I got up to take morning photos from the rock and also my only self-portrait.
Yes, it's just a shadow, but it's MY shadow.
Chad made bacon, Jenn made eggs and Andy made some killer potatoes which we ate out on the rock. (Um, I think I made toast or contributed in some other sort of minimal effort way.)
After breakfast, we all got ready to head out while Andy got busy falling in the icy river. Moral: Don't try jumping from rock to rock in the river with 2-year-old, treadless gym shoes.
Unfortunately I didn't catch the event on film, but now you'll know why Andy is wearing inappropriate footwear in all the rest of today's photos.
We all piled in the Sebring with the top down. Poor Chad somehow folded all 8'4" of himself into the backseat. (That measurement is totally accurate.)
We headed off to Estes Park which is the most popular entrance to RMNP and pretty touristy. That's where the hotel that was used in The Shining was located.
We saw more pretty stuff along the drive.
We finally got to the park after getting gas and reveling in a few minutes of cell phone service. Once through the gates, we started on our trek up to Trail Ridge Road, the highest paved continuous road in the United States that runs across the north side of the park.
First let me give props to Andy for not killing us. There were a few moments on that twisty, mountain road when I could see the white, painted line crumbling off the edge of a cliff that could mean certain death and got a wee bit nervous. Luckily, Andy got us through it all safely. Thanks, babe! Being alive is GREAT!
(Especially with views like this...)
Not long into the park, we met this handsome fellow:
Meet Dapper Dan, the Elk Photo Whore of Rocky Mountain National Park. At the time, we thought we were just extremely lucky to get so close to a big male elk. (Yeah, we had the top down and he was right by the road, folks. We're talking almost petting distance here.) Later when we were chatting up a park ranger, we found out we'd met Dapper Dan whose favorite pastime is hanging out by the road and posing for photos from oooh-ing and awww-ing
Jenn, the biggest wildlife lover of us all was in heaven. Then at this overlook,
we met a couple of these guys:
We didn't feed them, I promise, but it was obvious someone had since they were so tame.
More breathtaking mountain views, blah blah blah. I know it's probably boring, but trust me when I say I'm narrowing it down to the bare bones for you people. I think I took 300+ photos this day.
To our surprise and Jenny's delight, it turned out to be something of a wildlife extravaganza day as we saw a huge herd of bighorn sheep a ways up the road.
I think someone's been taking notes from Dapper Dan.
The ranger told us we were extremely lucky to have seen one sheep let alone 15, since there are people who've "lived in the area 20 years and never seen a single one."
It was pretty cold and snowy at over 2 miles above sea level, so Andy couldn't resist mercilessly firing a barrage of icy snowballs at Jenn. (Hey, as long as he wasn't throwing them at me, I had no problem with it. And okay, maybe he just sort of lobbed one in her general direction, but that doesn't read NEARLY as well.)
Andy then started playing with the color swap on my camera.
I like to call this Blood Mountain, or maybe Our Vacation: The Apocalypse. What do you think?
After too much time in the car, we decided that it was time to test our legs and lungs a bit and attempted one of the hikes by the ranger station.
Yes, that's snow we're walking through and Jenn, Chad and I were all in sandals.
Wasn't I just saying something about Andy and unpractical shoes earlier? Foot, meet mouth. Icy feet ain't no thang for this tough crew, though, and we kept on truckin'.
The trail wasn't too long, but it was deceptively steep.
Our lungs were all pretty freaked out at the idea of exercise over 12,000 feet. Wheezing at the top, I was pretty proud of how fast we'd made it up. Then I turned to Andy and found him gasping for breath with dark purple lips. He hadn't been drinking any grape kool-aid, so I was pretty freaked and we all waited for his body to become re-oxygenated before snapping some kicky photos at the top.
The thumbs up was celebrating our first mountain climb as well as Andy's incredible will to live.
I think we have a winner for Christmas Card 2008.
But just in case, here are a couple alternates.
Yes, I realize EVERYONE takes these same type of lame photos at the continental divide. I just don't care.
We saw more elk grazing on the side of the road after coming down out of the mountains. But by the end of this trip, elk had kind of become the new mountain. Sure, they're pretty and cool, but they're freakin' everywhere in Colorado so they start to blend in.
We also saw a female moose, but she kind of looked like an elk, just bigger, so I won't take up space with a photo. Just trust me, we saw her. If you don't believe me, I can send you the photo, but it's really nothing to get too excited about. She's no Dapper Dan.
We celebrated getting to the other side of the park at Grand Pizza.
Home of the delicious Moose Juice.
I'm pretty sure this was just Chipotle Tabasco sauce with a label plastered on top, but I'm a sucker for food products with moose on them. (Brian, I totally wanted to get you some moose juice, but Andy vetoed the idea. If this makes you weep with despair, blame him.)
One interesting pizza-eating phenomenon we discovered in Grand Lake is the practice of putting honey on the crust. I'm glad we found this out while ordering, or I would have been terribly confused when the honey bear condiment bottle landed on our table with the pizza. Bad things could have happened to good pizza there.
Honey on the leftover crust is actually awesome. It's like a little dessert after your slice.
We drove back over the mountains, we drove back over the mountains, we drove back over the MOUNTAAAAAAAAINS, to see what we could see.
Or just to go home, really. (Can you tell it's getting late? The length of this post is really getting to me.)
At home we had a champagne toast to celebrate not careening off the side of a mountain to our deaths.
Oh, and the eternal love, happiness, bliss, diamond ring blah blah blah of these two kiddos.
Around the fire, we formed an amazingly perfect storm for the ultimate s'more. I roasted the most deliciously brown (not burned!), gooey-all-the-way-through marshmallow. Jenny had the best idea ever to make them with Mr. Goodbars instead of nasty plain Hershey bars. Andy took the assembled s'more and placed it on an aluminum covered fireplace ash shovel over the fire to melt the chocolate a bit more.
You may hire us for campfires, bonfires, grill outs or silly bourgeoisie city parties. We also know how to start a kickass game of charades.
You get no spoiler for the next day since I'm pretty sure I've now alienated my only 3 readers by rambling on so long. I'm sort of thinking of throwing in the towel myself since this is pretty much my vacation blogging opus.