Barb's Colorado Trip - July 2007
I drove to Minneapolis Monday July 23 and had a nice evening with Katie, who then took me to the airport Tuesday morning. The flight to Denver was on time and I met the 3 friends I was going to share a car with. Baggage was collected and we trekked out to the rental car site where we were held up by a long line and then a wait while they went to fetch our car - a brand new Chrysler Sebring. It held the passengers easily but one suitcase had to share the back seat!
We made a stop for lunch and then headed down to Colorado Springs and the Franciscan Retreat Center on Mount St. Francis. This batch of pictures includes some of the wildlife that wandered the campus, the Peace Garden and a view of Colorado Springs with thunderstorm in the background.
Francis Hall (back view on left; front on right) includes the main office and is the building that housed us; our meeting room was the Bonzel room a few yards away in Marian Hall (below left). From Tues - Thurs there were just 7 of us getting ready for the retreat program and doing some annual planning. Then Thursday the number jumped to 20 for the actual retreat itself. Here are board members dressed up for our "Princess Party" on Friday night (below right)!
Saturday afternoon during free time some of us went to the Garden of the Gods - a park that had been donated to the city with the condition that it remain freely open to the public. I imagine the city of Colorado Springs is not always happy about that provision! A sample of the sights, including a group picture of me and 3 of my friends.. (Do you see the climber in the last one?)
We finished up the retreat Sunday morning, a group of us (9) had a farewell lunch at TGIFriday and then my friend, Marcia, and I headed up to Estes Park for a couple days of nature and shopping.
On the left below is the view from our motel room (Rodeway Inn suite with sitting room and a kitchenette, courtesy of Marcia's husband who was concerned for our comfort)! Sunday night we had some leftovers for supper, sat in the hot tub for a while, visited with some folks who had climbed Long's Peak that day (I daresay they needed the hot soak more than we did at that point!) and then called it a night.
On the right above is, obviously, the welcome to Rocky Mountain National Park. Monday, late morning, we started at Lily Lake (below left) which is off the beaten track and usually not very crowded. On the right is (duh) Barb and Marcia at Lily Lake! Below those are a cute chipmunk who was hoping for a handout and some determined wildflowers peeking out from between rocks.
Then we hit the downtown Estes Park shopping! We browsed a lot of the shops and galleries - well, Barb browsed, Marcia shopped! LOL! We had lunch at the Wild Rose tea room which was very nice and finally, I think about 3:30 PM, when it was late enough we thought many of the hikers would be heading home, we went down to the more congested Bear Lake. The strategy worked perfectly and we had our choice of many parking places.
We walked around Bear Lake - here are Barb and Marcia posing with Long's Peak in the background and, on the right, a portion of Glacier Creek we passed along Bear Lake Road.
Then, as we continued back up Bear Lake Road, we passed the deer (left below) just hanging out along the road, and then up near the Moraine Park Campground we saw the telltale sign of cars pulled over along the side of the road. Of course, we parked, grabbed cameras and jumped out - amazing how wildlife sitings can restore one's energy level! There was a whole herd of elk out in the meadow. We watched for a while and took many more pictures than these two (top right and bottom left) before packing it in and heading back to the motel. We then passed a couple more elk just beyond the Beaver Meadows entrance (bottom right) but that was the end of the excitement for the day!
Having pushed Marcia to her limits on Monday, Tuesday was a slower day. First we visited the UPS Store with a big box of things she needed to ship home (some were from the retreat and some was... well, remember all that shopping?) Then we grabbed some snack and decided Tuesday would be a "drive through the park day." So we drove along the northern Falls River Road to Endovalley (where the paved part stops), then came back and drove out Trail Ridge Road (the highest maintained highway in the country - US 34) to the Forest Canyon overlook.
Below (left) is the Alluvial Fan - formed in 1979 when a dam broke and huge boulders and logs were washed down from the mountain. In the center is a view of the Alluvial Fan from Many Parks Curve - you can get a better idea of the "fan" shape it makes, much like a delta. On the right is a magpie that was just not interested in posing for us!
Above are a view from Falls River Road and then a portion of the stream at Endovalley Picnic area. While we were at Endovalley, Marcia made the acquaintance of a cute little chipmunk and a Stellar's Jay.
The rest of the pictures are from the trip up Trail Ridge Road. I'll spare you the details and "oohs" and "aahs" but here are a few highlights. On the left you see the road that we had already driven over to get as far as we did. I don't think it was as scary as it looks in the picture - it is all newly paved and seemed quite safe to me (but then I was driving... maybe we should ask Marcia). The one on the right was taken at a little pull-over. Yes, those are really bicycles there. The gentleman sitting there said he took a bike trip along Trail Ridge Road when he was 12 and he is now doing it with his son (next to him) who is 12. But he allowed it did seem a lot easier the first time! The tall stake that the bikes are propped on is one of many along this part of the road - they are placed alongside the roadway as markers of the "edge" when snow covers the road. (As you see, even at the end of July there were still snow patches up that high.) The higher portions of the road are closed over the winter but I suppose there are unexpected snowfalls, and maybe they try to keep it open for official use even when not open to the public.
I've found various estimates of the altitude at Forest Canyon overlook. We passed a "2 mile" altitude sign and the tree line is at 11,500 feet. We were clearly above that (see picture below right) so perhaps the site that said 11,716 ft is about right. Anyway, here are some pictures from the (literal) high point of our trip in the tundra.
Barb and Marcia at the top of the world!
The rest of the trip was all downhill (pun intended). We had supper at Hunter's Chop House that night - what a nice place and yummy food! Wednesday we drove back to the Denver airport and had allowed plenty of time to get checked in and have some lunch. My flight to Minneapolis was about an hour late and I actually landed right about the time the I-35 bridge collapsed. That is not near the airport, and not on the way from work to home for Katie and Dave. However, her phone did ring constantly that evening as "everybody" was checking on them. I called John as soon as we got back to Katie's, so he was able to reassure those who called him! After a nice visit and a good night's sleep, I drove back home on Thursday, August 2.