RMNP Day Trip
And you are off the next morning bright eyed and bushy tailed, your sidekick in the passenger seat. Can you even remember how to get to RMNP? Yea, just follow the signs west to Estes Park from Loveland on 34. Driving through the Big Thompson you start to get excited! Your toes start to tingle from excitement....or from the fact that your 15 lb belly seems to be cutting off the circulation in your small toes in your left foot. You readjust.
Estes Park comes into view. You can see the Stanley Hotel to the north (if you don't know already, the Stanley was Stephen King's inspiration for "The Shining") and, further up you look and yearn for Lumpy Ridge (for all you climbers out there) . Wow, Estes is hoppin'! You drive straight through town and head toward the north entrance of the park for Trail Ridge Road.
If you had kept driving the main road around the park you would have come to Trail Ridge Road up 34. If you hadn't taken that random first right turn off the main road and followed your nose lost in the smell of aspens, rain soaked wood and grass mixed in the mountain air you never would have come up to that dirt road that heads 9 miles up into woodlands through subalpine forests to the alpine tundra, one way. You never would have found Old Fall River Road, which was built between 1913 and 1920 and was the first motor route to cross RMNP. You never would have experienced a road that not very many people seemed to be on or the rugged ridge line that rises above you.
You never would have stopped for that marmot in the middle of the road that you named Frank; or stopped for that overheating car and asked the dudes if everything was ok, and when they told you "yes" you wouldn't have offered them some beef jerk just 'cause. You wouldn't have made note of Chapin Creek Pass having camping by permit for a future family overnight hike. As you leave tree line and hit over 11,000 ft above sea level, you wouldn't have seen the waterfalls coming off the northeast face of Sundance Mountain or the Mummy Range to your right and had that miraculous feeling of being so small! The Alpine Visitors Center comes into view through the clouds, it's been raining along the way but up here it's a slushy rain. You look over the vast landmass of Sundance and are amazed by the lush green of the mountains! As you crest, pulling up to the Visitors Center you rush in to empty your tight bladder your baby has been hopping on for the last hour or so. The gift shop is vast and packed with visitors from all over the world and outstanding gifts for loved ones or just for yourself. Yet, no bathroom in this building. Uh oh.
Old Fall River Road meets up with Trail Ridge Road at the Visitors Center and it's the only way down. But because you didn't take Trail Ridge Road up you don't have to go back down the way you came, and the new sights keep coming. In doing so, your friend spots the defined poop sticker stuck to the "butt" of the pedestrian crossing road sign. She burst into laughter and begs you to turn around and you both get out of the car, acting like tourists, having to get a picture.
It's the random moments in the journey that make it worth it! It's not always about knowing where you are going and what and how you are doing it. It's about letting yourself get lost in those moments with your friends, or alone, as long as you get lost in them. And in RMNP, it's easy.